Friday, 27 February 2009
I’ve been doing some thinking this week about Viking-appropriate breakfast foods. My favorite breakfast at events is still dark bread with cheese, fish, kraut and hard boiled eggs, but there’s only so many times you can eat that, and some people fear fish. So…
Roasted barley flour + skyr: mix some roasted barley flour into skyr or non-fat yogurt, then top with honey (if desired, roasted barley flour is pretty sweet) and fruit, preferably berries.
Fried oatmeal: leftover steel cut oats cooled in a pan, sliced and fried in butter/lard/bacon grease/whatever. Would be good with butter and honey, or savory with bacon/sausage or fish (kippers maybe).
Scrambled eggs with dill and smoked salmon + some dark bread
Thursday, 06 December 2007
Yesterday I was reading an article on the NY Times about Hanukkah recipes, and
decided to whip up some latkes for dinner, since even picky eater girl loves a
good latke. I grated a couple of sweet potatoes, salt, pepper and cinnamon
(Vietnamese cassia) and mixed with 3 eggs and maybe 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.
They fried up beautifully on the cast iron griddle, and were a big hit as
usual. I like the sweet potato better than standard for these, as they are
easier to cook and the sweetness works well with the cottage
Anyway, I had hit upon this plan relatively early in the day,
and was wondering what to make to go with them, when I remembered the forlorn
can of pickled beets in my pantry at home. Borscht! Vikki favors a good cold
borscht, so I made it so. I tossed two small diced yellow Finn potatoes and
about 5 cloves of garlic into 3 or so cups of chicken broth, and cooked until
the potato was soft, then cooled it down with ice. When it was cool I added the
juice from the pickled beets, as well as the beets themselves (chopped), salt,
pepper and the juice of one lemon, as well as about 4 more cloves chopped raw
garlic, and some fresh dill. To serve, I added some sour cream (low fat) and
some homemade sauerkraut which was very chunky and crunchy. I'll definitely be
doing this one again. It was fantastic. Sweet, sour, crunchy, beety goodness
with just enough bite from the garlic. When we were first married, we lived up
stairs from a nice Russian lady who really liked Vikki and was always bringing
her food. This was a lot like I remember her cold borscht, only hers was
clear. I used Pacific Foods organic chicken broth which was not clear, and I'm
not much for the skimming. But the flavor was pretty close, I think. If only I
could find some good dark rye...
Tuesday, 04 December 2007
I love leftovers. There are an infinite range of possibilities for reusing stuff. I surveyed the fridge last night, and decided to kill two leftover birds with one stone. I took the last of the kahlua pork and some leftover greens cooked in coconut milk and used them to stuff enchiladas. I drained the greens, and filled each enchilada with some pork and greens, rolled them up, and topped them with some Tex-Mex style red chile gravy. Basically instead of the New Mexico style red chile and water enchilada sauce, this is more like standard gravy (begun with a roux and everything) with lots of red chile, cumin and garlic. To top it off I (or rather the 9 year old) grated a bit of Tillamook extra-vintage white cheddar, which proved just the thing. 30 minutes at 350° and all was good. They were a bit hit, and I'll definitely be playing with the chile gravy some more. It would be just the thing for a good CFS.
Thursday, 03 May 2007
I've been having lots of fun with fermentation lately, thanks to some very cool books like Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. I'm on my second batch of fermented beans, and the 3-4 batch of sauerkraut now.
This morning it all came together in a fine breakfast. I took a "hand made" corn tortilla from Trader Joe's, heated it up with some cheddar cheese, then layered on some of the fermented beans (made with pinto beans and garlic this time), some cortida (Latin American-style sauerkraut), some pickled jalapenos, and some piima cream. Simple, fast, and oh-so-tasty.
Next up... I've got some gingered carrots and some turnips and beets bubbling their way toward pickle-hood on top of my fridge. A few more days until they are ready.
Thursday, 05 April 2007
I had some little fingerling potatoes that I needed to use up (nice yellow ones) and decided to pair them with some purple kale and some lovely Pacific cod (wild caught in Alaska).
I oven roasted the potatoes with some salt and olive oil at about 400 until tender, and chopped them roughly. Separately, I sauteed some onion and garlic in olive oil, then added the chopped purple curly kale until it was all tender, and added that to the potatoes.
To finish up, I fried the cod in coconut oil until it was cooked through and lightly browned, then broke it up and mixed with the veggies, then at the last minute added some lemon-infused olive oil, sel gris, and some Balinese "long pepper", which has a very nice floral, peppery scent.
The result was a big hit with the whole family. The soft cod contrasted nicely with the tender-but-firm kale. Vikki suggested that next time I serve the potatoes on the side, largely because I was a bit off on my ratios, and the dish ended up a bit potato-heavy. Maybe only half the bag of fingerlings next time...
Monday, 12 March 2007
Another new Viking recipe I've been working on...
Saute some leeks in butter, along with diced carrots and rutabegas. When just starting to soften, take off the heat. When they are cool, mix with some sour cream.
Very reminiscent of the modern Scandinavian beets in sour cream. The rutabegas come out very sweet, and stand in well for the beets, which aren't Viking period.
This was a big hit with pretty much everyone, including a number of avowed root-vegetable-haters. It went well with the barley bread.
I'm going to be experimenting with dairy products as the Viking Age Scandinavians would have made/used/consumed them over the coming months. I've been making a soft fresh cheese curdled with vinegar for years, but I think that's probably not the most accurate.
For the first experiment, I made my first batch of skyr this week. Skyr was once purportedly made all over the Viking world, but has only survived to the present day in Iceland, where it has remained daily fare. We don't know how closely modern Icelandic skyr resembles Viking skyr, but it's such a simple process that I don't imagine it's changed all that much.
To make skyr, you bring non-fat milk up to around 185 deg. and hold it there for 5-10 minutes, then let it cool down to slightly warmer than body temperature, around 108. Take your culture (I've seen references to using sour cream or buttermilk, or yogurt of various kinds. The Vikings would have used some skyr from the last batch. I read a couple of references to the use of s. thermophilus and l. bulgaricus, which happen to both be in "Greek" or "Bulgarian" style yogurt, so that's what I used. Greek Gods brand to be specific.) and mix it with a little of the warm milk, then add the result to the rest of the milk, along with some rennet. I used Junket brand from the grocery store, but will soon be trying cheese-making-grade rennet, and I'll report on the differences. Then let the milk sit for something between 6 and 24 hours. I've seen various suggestions. I let mine go about 24 hours.
The milk-mass should start to pull away from the sides of the container, and you'll see clear-yellowish whey around the sides and over the top of the curd. That's good. Scoop out the curd with a ladle or spoon into a sieve or colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth, or better still, a nice clean piece of muslin fabric. Let it sit until most of the whey has drained out, and it starts to firm up to somewhere between firm yogurt and soft-serve ice cream.
Store it in the fridge when it's done. The result I got was not very sour, and has a very pleasant texture. I've used it in crepes, and with granola so far with great success.
Save the whey, which you can use in soups of porridge. I have more whey experiments to try too. The 16th Century Icelanders let the whey ferment until quite sour, and then used it as a refreshing drink, and also as a medium for pickling meat, eggs, and vegetables for long storage.
Wednesday, 07 March 2007
Over the next few weeks I'll be (finally) coming back to the Viking food topic. I just finished entering a big competition with a research paper on reconstructing Viking cooking, and I've learned a lot over the last 6 months.
After getting feedback from the competition, the paper needs some serious editing, but once that's done I'm going to try and make it available.
In the meantime, I've been experimenting (as part of the research for the paper) with recreating some Viking bread, like those found in cremation graves in Birka and elsewhere. One of the finds from Birka clearly shows prick marks on the surface, which hints at them being intended to keep a long time. The prick marks are (I assert) similar to those on modern pilot bread. They are intended to increase the surface area so that the bread will dry out completely, thus keeping longer.
In recreating them, I looked at some chemical analysis of the bread remains that suggest that most of them were predominantly made from barley, although oats, rye, flax, green peas, and a little wheat also appear. They contain comparatively few fats, again suggesting that they were intended to keep.
I made mine with about half barley flour, and half a mixture of oat flour, ground flax seed, rye flour, and (in some) green pea flour.
The resulting mix should be about 2 cups. Then I added a bit of salt, and mixed in some liquid until a stiff dough comes together. I tried different combinations of water, honey, buttermilk, and goats milk. Personally, I liked the goats milk ones the best. I kneeded mine for a while to make sure everything was as together as it was going to get, then divided the dough into two pieces.
The pieces were then flattened into rounds. Most of the archeological evidence suggests 8 -12 cm. across, and 1-2 cm high.
Then I pricked the surface, and baked them at 300° for around 30 minutes. This results in a fairly soft bread good for eating fresh. You'd have to bake them either quite a bit longer, or at a higher temp to get the to dry out hard.
The resulting breads were very good with cheese or green pea spread.
Thursday, 01 February 2007
I had some leftover BBQ brisket (I'm a big Texas style BBQ fan) that I needed to use up, so a batch of frijoles borrachos (drunken beans) was just the thing.
I cooked up some pinto beans until they were mostly soft, then in a separate pan fried up some onions, garlic, a few pickled jalapenos, some chili powder, ground Mexican oregano, salt, and ground cumin.
When the beans were done, and the veggies soft, I threw the veggies in with the beans, a beer (hence the borrachos part) and a bunch of chopped brisket.
That cooked down until it was saucy but not soupy, and some chopped cilantro went in at the last minute. Served with quesadillas, it was a bit hit.
Boy, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. There's probably something I can do to fix that...
I've been craving the food of my youth lately, i.e. hippy vegetarian food. I've been dragging out my original vintage copies of Moosewood, The Vegetarian Epicure, The Tao of Cooking, etc.
In that spirit, I made a batch of tofu "egg" salad.
Mash up some firm tofu, and add mayonnaise to your taste, a little curry powder, salt and pepper, celery, and a handful of cashews. Tastes just like egg salad (only without all the egg peeling and cholesterol) and makes great sandwiches or cracker spread.
Tuesday, 17 October 2006
Once again, I had some winter squash that needed using up, and I happened to recently come across a reference from the journals of Lewis and Clark about a stew they were fed by the Mandan/Hidatsa while wintering at Fort Mandan. They referred to stew of pumpkin, chokecherries, beans and dried corn. I thought that sounded good, so I gave it a try.
I added some stew beef (buffalo would have been better) and a few spices, but otherwise pretty much stuck with the basics as described. I used parched sweet corn, pinto beans, dried cherries, and butternut squash, and added some dried sage and salt and pepper, plus a dash of balsamic vinegar, as it was a bit too sweet for my taste otherwise.
I started by browning the beef, then added the dried pintos and water to cover, and simmered until the beans were nearly done, then added the dried cherries and parched corn, and cooked until the beef was starting to get tender, then added the chopped squash, and cooked it until it was soft but not mushy.
Served with green salad and cornbread, it made a nice Fall dinner.
Thursday, 05 October 2006
I had half of a lovely Amber Cup squash to use up, so last night I tried Saffron Trail’s Parsi Dhansak, which is basically dal with pumpkin. My favorite part was that you pressure cook the pumpkin with the dal, and it all came out done just right. Very easy to get right. I didn’t have any methi, so added some cilantro instead, which I thought came out well.
I love winter squash, but it’s one of those things that I just never think to cook. I bought a bunch of beauties at the farmers market last weekend, so I’ll be experimenting with some more squash recipes in the next week or so. Over the weekend I made a squash soup (with the other half of the Amber Cup) with some apples, pears, onions and fresh sage. I added just a touch of balsamic vinegar at the end, since it was a little too sweet with the fruit. The balsamic cut it just enough. I topped each bowl of soup with some fried sage leaves (fresh sage leaves fried in oil until crisp) which make a really attractive garnice, and they’re tasty too.
I’m thinking Morroccan-themed pumpkin & tomato over couscous tonight. Report to follow…
Wednesday, 20 September 2006
I had some rutabegas I needed to use up (doesn't everyone?) and decided to try the traditional Scottish version, "bashed neeps". Basically, you cube your rutagegas (turnip? swede?) and boil until tender, then mash with some salt, pepper, a touch of mace, and plenty of butter.
These made a great side dish with some of New Seasons' pork bratwurst cooked in beer (Fat Tire) with some onions. Much more interesting than mashed potatoes, and less starchy. The rutabegas have less of a "turnipy" taste (IMHO) than the white turnips, so might have a wider appeal.
Monday night I had to use up some turnips ( ) so I made some "armored turnips" which is a medieval recipe. Cube and boil the turnips until tender, but still firm, then drain and add some butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ground ginger, then stir in some cheese. I used parmesan. Very tasty, and a quick and interesting side dish.
Wednesday, 06 September 2006
I have a great and abiding love of almost all things leafy and green, but possibly my favorite prepration is Southern style 'greens' with some kind of pork product. I had some collard greens I needed to get rid of, so I got some bacon and set to work...
I chopped up the bacon, and fried it with a couple of chopped onions until the onions were soft and the bacon had started to harden up a bit, then added the greens. I discovered lately that WinCo has pre-washed and cut up greens of several varieties, which makes them sooooo much easier to use. I dumped in half a bag of collards, and a full bag of mustard greens, and stired them up with the bacon and onions until they started to wilt a bit.
On top of the greens I tossed in some chopped garlic, a splash of sweet vermouth, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper, plus just a bit of sugar (I used Rapidura, 'cause I like it).
After that, I just let it all cook down for about 45 mintues to an hour, and served it up with some leftover jambalaya. Made for a great easy meal. The sugar and the complexity of the vermouth and bitters really played well with the mustard greens, which can be a bit strong, but ended up in this case not notable different from the collard greens, which was just about perfect.
Monday, 21 August 2006
I was down in Northern California last week, and had a chance to check out some of the fantastic produce they have there-abouts. We even made it to the San Rafael farmer's market on Thursday, which was truly amazing. Beautiful produce, much of it organic.
Anyway, I got to cooking one night and made an eggplant/tomato dish that worked out pretty well.
I started by slicing up some eggplant from Whole Foods into probably 3/8" slices, which got soaked in salt water, then drained, dipped in oil, and baked at 350° for about 1/2 hour until they were tender.
I layered about half of the eggplant in the bottom of a backing dish, then laid out some onions and red sweet peppers that had been grilled on the barbeque, then more eggplant on top.
Then it got topped with a mixture of chopped heirloom tomatoes, garlic, salt and fresh basil. Over all that went some grated asiago cheese. Then it was back to the oven, under the broiler just until the cheese melted.
Wednesday, 09 August 2006
Last weekend my son and I headed up to the Indian Heaven wilderness with some friends, and had great fun doing it. Food-wise, we brought stuff to keep up going, but that didn’t weigh very much. For lunch, we had tortillas (low carb for me, white flour for him) with either PBJ or vacuum packed tuna fish. We tried both the whole “gourmet” tuna fillet with lemon and cracked pepper, and regular old plain chuck tuna. Both were good. The whole fillet was a bit dry eaten cold.
For breakfast, we had Nature’s Path “Optimum Zen” instant oatmeal, which was fantastic. It’s seasoned with ginger and cinnamon, and includes roasted soy nuts and dried cranberries. Very tasty, light weight, and a good nutritional balance. The second day we had rice crispies with freeze dried strawberries and bananas. We used Organic Valley powdered milk, which was much less penetential than the powdered milk I remembered from my childhood. I think it seemed more finely powdered than I remember as a kid, and so dissolved better.
For dinner, we had one Mountain House entree (sweet and sour pork, our favorite) and then ramen with freeze dried veggies and tofu. That came out very well, and was a big hit.
We also tried some “corn chowder” which I found at New Seasons. It’s basically dehydrated yellow pea soup with corn and red peppers. Not quite “chowder” but very tasty and filling, and convenient in a “just add water” kind of way. The also had curried lentil, and green split pea varieties, which we haven’t tried yet.
Rounding out the pack was some tea, hot chocolate, and s’mores makings (with organic, fair traded chocolate, of course).
I brought a bit too much food, which is probably better than too much, but it was still nice carrying a less heavy pack on the way home.
Saturday, 03 June 2006
I had to go back for more garlic spears today. To try something completely different, I got a boneless chicken breast, cut it up, and sauteed in coconut oil, then added the last of the lovely carrots, and cooked until just heated, then added the cut up garlic spears.
Once those were just about done, I threw in some Thai “chili and sweet basil” sauce, which is mostly chili, basil, salt, and some soy beans. Next went some bean thread noodles softened in boiling water. Just before serving, I threw in a dash of soy sauce, and some chopped fresh mango.
Once it was off the stove and in a bowl, I added some very thinly sliced, raw red onion, and some pickled turnip. I had some Chinese style “wulin vegetables” but Thai pickled veggies would be good too.
The result was light, not too spicy, and well rounded. I just couldn’t resist the urge to take advantage of the garlic spears before they disappear.
Friday, 02 June 2006
Last night at New Seasons I noticed that the garlic spears have appeared (yay!) so I had to come up with something to showcase their mild, garlicky goodness. While browsing around, I found some truly fabulous looking carrots, so those ended up in the basket as well, along with some frisee/curly endive.
I sauteed the carrots in coconut oil until they were starting to get soft, then added a little salt, cinnamon and galangale, and just a dash of balsamic vinegar. The garlic spears went in next, followed by the frisee, and just as the frisee was wilting, I tossed it all with some whole grain spelt rotini. Quick, full of fiber, and very tasty. The galangale gave it a very nice smell, and the slow sautee of the carrots along with the cinnamon really brought out their sweetness, which played nicely with the slightly bitter escarole.
Garlic spears are one of my favorite heralds of Spring, and since their season is even shorter than asparagus, it’s worth picking some up if you see them.
Thursday, 01 June 2006
I decided to enter a cooking competition at an SCA event this weekend, the theme of which was “30 Viking raiders have shown up at your farm, and if they like your cooking they’ll leave in peace”. A worthy theme. The only thing I didn’t like was that the one sentence comprised the whole rules. Not very specific. I took second to a dish made with (canned) tomato sauce. Go figure.
Anyway, I decided to make a barley pilaf using only ingredients that appear in the archeological record in a Viking context, using techniques and equipment that they had available (again based on the archeological record). I set up my brazier and tripod with a nice charcoal (real, not briquettes) fire and over it hung a big cast iron pot. Into the pot went butter, onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and apples. When those were starting to carmelize, I added probably 2 cups of pearl barley (hulless would have been better, but too expensive) and enough water to cook the barley.
When the barley was al dente, I added salt to taste, and some chopped watercress. The result was pretty good, and I think probably represents the kind of food that Vikings were eating day to day.
I had intended to serve it with some chicken cooked with strawberries, watercress, and horseradish, but sadly the chicken wasn’t done on time, and the strawberries went bad in the cooler overnight, so I just cooked the chicken with some apples, onions and watercress and served it up for the evenings pot-luck feast. Pretty tasty.
Thursday, 18 May 2006
I had to crank out a quick dinner last night so we could make it to Vikki’s CERT final, but I didn’t want fast food. Luckily I had some Chinese broccoli (gai lan) in the fridge, plus a nice fresh block of firm tofu.
I sauteed some garlic in peanut oil, then fried up the gai lan until it was just starting to get tender, then tossed in probably 2 T. of hoisin sauce, and a little ginger paste, maybe 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and the tofu (cubed). As soo as the tofu was warm I dished it up with some white rice.
The whole process (since the rice was already cooked) took maybe 20 minutes, and was quite tasty for a quick meal.
Tuesday, 09 May 2006
Last night I found myself wondering what to do with extra chicken livers. Not a typical conundrum, to be sure, but that’s neither here nor there. Over the weekend, New Seasons has a huge tray of gorgeous organic chicken livers at the meat counter, and we couldn’t resist. My wife and I are both chicken liver fans, and our son likes them too, as long as they are properly wrapped in bacon. So we had a (moderate) pile of rumaki for brunch on Sunday, with good, thick nitrate free bacon. I’m really loving my new oven (we moved recently) and one of its best features is the broiler. I discovered that I had to turn the rumaki half way through to deal with the thick bacon, but everything worked out well.
In order not to completely overdose on rumaki (easy to do) I only used about half the livers, which brings us to where I started this. Too many livers.
Anyhow, I decided that the best course what pasta sauce. Chicken liver gives a very nice texture to tomato sauce, so I sauteed the livers with some ground beef until everything was well browned, then let the whole mess cool a bit and hit it with my trusty hand blender until it resembled course liverwurst. Then I put it back on the heat, and added garlic, tomato sauce, some diced tomatoes, a bit of white wine that wasn’t getting any younger, and finally seasoned with some oregano, basil, and a fair dose of black pepper. After most of the extra water had cooked off, I tasted it for seasoning, and decided to add some salt, a bit of thyme, and a small hit (maybe 1 1/2 T) of pomegranate molasses. I’ve used that a few times in spaghetti sauce, and it makes a less harsh souring agent than vinegar.
The whole came together well. The taste of the livers was evident, but not strong at all, and it added a very nice texture to the sauce. Definitely something I’d do again.
Friday, 05 May 2006
I had some leftover daikon radish from the mooli parathas the other night, so last night I decided the rest was bound for soup. I chopped the daikon into large-ish chunks, and threw them in with some chicken broth and sliced shiitake mushrooms. When the radish was starting to get tender, I tossed in some meatballs made from ground pork, seasoned with some garlic-ginger paste, cilantro, green onions, and a little salt and soy sauce. Right at the end I added some fresh spinach, some green onions, and just a little soy sauce.
It came out really well, light but satisfying.
Wednesday, 03 May 2006
One of my buddies at work and I frequently hit the local Indian (Swagath, @ Orenco station) buffet for lunch, and his all time favorite is what he refers to as “green stuff”, or saag paneer. I’m a big fan too, but couldn’t remember having tried making it at home. I finally took the plunge a couple of days ago using Indira’s recipe from her truly excellent blog, Mahanandi, which has become one of my favorites. I particularly liked her recipe for being easy, and relatively low in fat. Lots of saag paneer recipes involved heavy cream, yogurt, ghee, etc. I found that the cashews gave it a very nice body without being heavy at all, although I should have ground them finer than I did. I’ll know for next time. I made the paneer from scratch, which isn’t hard, and I had all the stuff, as paneer is very similar to the kind of cheese my wife makes regularly for SCA events.
I served it up with some methi paratha I had stashed away in the freezer, which went pretty well with the spinachy goodness that is green stuff.
Yup, radish bread. Last night I tried making mooli paratha, as described in loving detail by Saffron Hut. I won’t try to capture her recipe, read it for yourself, but the synopsis is that you grate a big daikon radish, mix the grated radish with some spices, then use the mixture to fill whole wheat flat breads. They were delicious, and the recipe was very thorough and easy to follow. It took less time that I would have thought, and rolling out the breads wasn’t hard at all. I tried some aloo paratha a while back, and had a very messy time with potatoes shooting hither and yon, but the mooli was much easier to work with.
I also tried working with fresh coconut for the first time. Cracking it open was much easier than I had feared. A couple of stout whacks with the back of a cleaver did the trick. Grating it was a much different story. I don’t have any sort of coconut grater, so I had to break the shell up into small enough pieces that I could grate off the meat without the curvature becoming too much of a problem. I can certainly see why a specialized tool is called for. The fresh cocunut was well worth it. Completely different from the dried stuff I’m used to. I used it in two different dished to go with the paratha.
For the first, I boiled some channa dal until it was starting so soften up, then added the water from the coconut, about 1/2 cup of the grated coconut, some garlic, salt, tumeric, coriander, and 1/2 an onion, plus some curry leaves, and cooked it until was almost dry. It had a very nice texture. The channa dal didn’t mush out, each one remaining relatively intact but tender.
The other was a yogurt salad with chopped radish, tomato, cucumber and some green chili and cilantro, seasoned with salt, a little garam masala, and maybe 1/2 cup of grated coconut. Quick and easy, and very refreshing. Next time I might try it with some chaat masala instead for a little brighter flavor.
My son informed me that we’ve been having far too much Indian food lately so tonight I’m thinking maybe some Korean food.
Friday, 21 April 2006
In an effort to sport more pictures, I documented the Spring vegetable salad I made for dinner this evening. I was at New Seasons, poking through the veggie aisle when I spotted these gorgeous “French Breakfast Radishes” and I had to have them. Of course, then I had to have some other stuff to go with them. I started out with some sliced red onion, which I let “pickle” for a while in some fresh lime juice, sel gris, and a little crystalline fructose (a good low-glycemic sweetener).
To that I added the lovely radishes
followed by a very nice Pinkerton avocado
and a nice hothouse tomato.
Oh how I look forward to the heirloom tomatoes of Summer… The farmer’s market starts up in Hillsboro next month, but it’ll be a while before we see any local tomatoes.
The salad got finished off with a little more sel gris, and some pepper.
I see that I need to work on my food-photographing techniques. At least they’re marginally in focus.
One last pic. I served the salad with some asparagus sauteed in ghee, and then sprinkled with lemon juice, sel gris, and a mixture of tarragon and “grains of paradise” which I just happened to have lying around. I got inspired by the asparagus with long pepper over at Tigers & Strawberries, but I had “grains” not long pepper.
To round things out, we had bread and cheese, and for dessert, a “strawberry papaya” filled with vanilla ice cream. Sadly, the camera battery was dead at that point, so I didn’t get a shot of th every amazingly orange papaya. I have another one for tomorrow, and the battery's charging, so hope for the best.
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
Vikki’s birthday was last week, so over the weekend we invited some friends out to my Dad’s place at Black Butte Ranch for a weekend-long birthday party and lying about fest. Since my favorite thing to do while lying about is cook (and eat) I had tons of fun making way too much food.
Saturday’s breakfast was every kind of toast in the world (we must have had at least 5 varieties) and Parsi Egg Curry, which I learned to make from my Dad, who learned it while living in Singapore back in the day.
Parsi Egg Curry
- start sauteeing some onions, ginger, and diced hot pepper, I usually use serrano or jalapeno. You can leave out the chilies if you like
- while those are softening up, beat as many eggs as needed with a goodly amount of ground coriander, a bit of tumeric, salt and pepper. I’ve occasionally used ground ginger too, in lew of fresh, but it’s not as good
- after the eggs are all beaten, stir in some chopped fresh cilantro
- when the onions et al are soft, add the eggs, and cook however you best like your scrambled eggs
- serve with something sweet. Works great with coffee cake, raisin bread, toast and jam, etc. The sweet makes a great contrast with the spicy eggs. My Dad always served with a cream-cheese and fruit filled, yeast risen “Russina coffee cake” and corned beef hash. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Dinner on Saturday was dim sum. I made the fillings, and everybody pitched in to help wrap up char shiu bao, pot stickers, shui mai, and spring rolls. Dim sum makes a great dinner party theme, since everyone can be involved in preparation and cooking, and it’s too much work for one person.
Saturday night, I put some steel cut oats in the slow cooker, and by Sunday morning we had some very nice oatmeal, which we topped with freshly made apple crisp and dried blueberries.
Sunday lunch was pretty much whatever was left over, since we had to clear out the fridge.
Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Over the weekend we were entertaining some out-of-town family, so I decided to whip up some chicken fried steak (or chicken fried chicken for our one non-beef eater) for breakfast to mark to occasion. I’ve been experimenting with CFS for a while, and it’s been getting progressively (IMHO) better. Having never seen a CFS until I went to college, I have some catching up to do. I got some pretty decent quality cube steak, and coated them with flour-then-egg-then-flour, where the flour had some salt, pepper, and (my favorite) a little poultry seasoning added. Fried up in very hot canola oil and kept warm in a low oven, they were ready and waiting for the sausage gravy. I tried some Jimmy Dean “bold” sausage for the gravy, which was pretty darn good. In a perfect world, I prefer the fantasic bulk sausage from New Seasons, but you make do with what you have (in Sisters, OR). I used whole milk for the gravy (might as well go all out) and again added a touch of poultry seasoning. Plain rubbed sage works great too. The whole thing worked out pretty well. And since we’d polished off quite a helping of biscuits and gravy and poached eggs the morning before, I was pretty sure it would be a crowd pleaser.
I was in the mood for quick and simple last night, so I took stock of what I had on hand and picked up a few extras, and the result, BLT’s with the addition of guacamole, and some tomato soup. Just plain good.
I used my new favorite sandwich bread, the “Rockin’ Rye” from Dave’s Killer Bread, toasted. One side got a little tofu mayonaise, the other a coating of some pretty good Costco-issue guacamole. Inside was the usual bacon (again, Costco issue. Not the worlds best, but pretty good) some organic iceberg lettuce, and some flavorful is a bit still organic tomatoes. I long for summer heirloom tomato season…
Accompanied by some “Creamy Tomato Soup” from Pacific Foods, it made a darn fine, quick dinner.
Friday, 17 March 2006
Since I’ve been testing out my new iPod the last couple of days, I’ve been checking out some podcasts (the new iTunes/iPod support for podcasts completely rocks), and I found one that I totally dig. It’s called “Eat Feed”, and it has all kinds of food related content, including recipes and (best of all) food history. I listened to their latest show this morning, which focuses on winter-time “comfort food” but also has an interview with author Jackie Williams, author of the very good books (I’ve read them both) Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail and The Way We Ate: Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900. Ms. Williams had some very interesting things to say about eating in the Northwest in the latter half of the 19th C. Very cool stuff. I had no idea that people in Washington State were exporting oysters to the California gold fields in 1850.
Anyway, if you’ve got any way of playing MP3 files (iPods included) check out the Eat Feed podcast.
Wednesday, 08 March 2006
So I had this leftover pork, and needed to do something with it, so I decided it was the perfect candidate for pozole, which has got to be one of my all time favorites. I made it a bit differently than I usually do, and the results (IMHO) were pretty darn good.
I started with some chicken broth (I like Pacific Foods organic), a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, and a big (24oz?) can of Mexican style hominy. That was followed with a chopped onion, and the leftover shredded pork. For seasoning, I added one dried California chile (that I pulled out whole before serving) and some Mexican oregano. Make sure you get Mexican oregano for this. It’s a different plant from the Italian kind, and tastes quite different.
That all simmered until the onions were transparent. I served in big bowls with plenty of space for fresh garnishes. I used cubed cheese (Cassero in this case), diced avocado, and shredded lettuce.
Tuesday, 07 March 2006
My lovely wife got me a new slow-cooker the other day, and I was itchin’ to try it out. Luckily, my buddy Greg turned me on to his pulled pork recipe, and it was just the thing. And it couldn’t be simpler (best kind). Basically, you put some pork, some onions, and salt/pepper in the slow cooker and cook the dickens out of it.
In a little more detail, I put the pork (I had a picnic roast) and 3–4 sliced onions in the cooker with salt/pepper and maybe a 1/4 cup of water, then cooked on low for close to 24 hours. After that time, shred up the pork with a couple of forks, slather with BBQ sauce of your choice, and go to town. I serverd over sourdough hoagies with pickled jalapenos. Baked beans would have made a good side, if I’d have thought of it.
Friday, 03 March 2006
This one was a big hit. I was being lazy, and it turned out for the best.
I started with a box of Pacific Foods’ beef broth, added a can of diced tomatoes, and some Costco frozen Italian meatballs. Once that was all hot, I dumped in a bunch of spinach (I like the prewashed baby spinach) and just barely wilted it. At the last minute, I tossed in some torn up fresh basil, which gave it a really nice smell. Served it up with a loaf of New Seasons’ fabulous Como bread, and all was good.
Thursday, 02 February 2006
I was cruising New Seasons last evening, and was inspired by some nice looking greens, so came up with something to host them. I was thinking about the northern Italian dish whose name I can never remember involving buckwheat noodles, cabbage, potatoes and cheese.
I got a bag of red fingerling potatoes, and set them to roasting at 400° coated in oil, salt and pepper. Then boiled up some pasta. I used organic whole wheat gamelli. While those were cooking, I sauteed some broccolini and some kale (the really skinny, dark kind, usually labeled “dinosaur” or “lacinto”). When everything was cooked, I added the pasta and the taters (chopped) to the greens, and tossed in a goodly portion of fontina cheese. Stirred up enough to melt the cheese, and it was good to go.
Very tasty. The kids were down with it too, probably thanks to the cheese.
Monday, 30 January 2006
My wife wanted to host a “tea” at an SCA event this past weekend, and so I needed to whip up some finger sandwiches (since that’s what you have at tea). I went with the standard egg salad and cucumber and cream cheese, and for something different I tried making a chicken salad for some of the sandwiches. It turned out to be a really big hit, and since it was so easy I wanted to pass it along.
I used canned white meat chicken (whatever brand they have at Costco, I didn’t notice), added some manyonaise (I use Nasoya brand tofu mayonaise) some salt, a healthy dose of Penzey’s sweet curry powder, and some raisins. That’s it. Beat everything together and spead on bread. I was kind of surprised that it was so popular. In a perfect world I’d have added some chopped celery, and some roasted cashews, but I didn’t have those things.
Wednesday, 30 November 2005
I had some leftover green beans from Thanksgiving, so last night I decided to try my hand at something that I always loved as a kid: greenbeans and spaetzle. Of course, the ones I loved as a kid were the frozen Birds-Eye variety, so I figured I could do better than that. If you’ve never had spaetzle, they are little tiny noodles/dumplings made by dropping little bits of batter into boiling water. Mine came out a little larger than pea-sized, and tasting basically like egg noodles.
I also had some leftover ham, so I decided to work that in too. I cubed some of the ham and sauteed in in some butter in a heavy pan. Meanwhile, I blanched the greenbeans for 3 minutes in boiling water, then took them out and ran cold water over them. The recipe for the spaetzle came from Jeff Smith’s “Our Immigrant Ancestors” which is a great cookbook with a smattering of dishes from all over the world.
The spaetzle started with 2 eggs, 2 T. of olive oil, and 1/2 cup each of water and milk. Blend that up (I used a hand blender with a whisk attachment on it) and then add 2 – 2 1/2 cups of white flour, 1/2 t. of salt, and 1/4 t. of baking powder. You end up with something like thick pancake batter. Now comes the tricky part if you don’t have the right equipment. I have a groovy little spaetzle maker I got from Lehman’s that makes it super easy. If you don’t have one of those, I’ve also used a metal colander (messy) or a big potato ricer (hard to get them even). If you don’t have a special tool, the colander is probaby your best bet. Put a couple big scoops of the batter in the bottom of a colander while holding it over a pot of boiling, salted water. Then rub the spoon around the inside of the colander (use the back of the spoon) to get the little balls to drop through. When the spaetzle float, they’re done.
I added the spaetzle and greenbeans to the ham, and brought everything up to temperature. Salt and pepper to taste. It was quite the hit. My daughter even ate the greenbeans, despite their green-ness.
Monday, 14 November 2005
This worked out really well…
I started with some baby shiitake mushrooms I happened to have (little ones about the size of button mushrooms) and some leftover corn on the cob, so I worked from there.
I got a red bell pepper, chopped it, and sauteed in olive oil until they softened up a bit, then tossed in the mushrooms, and the corn (cut from the cobs). When that had heated up a bit, I added a box of Imagine Foods new Creamy Sweet Potato Soup, and maybe another 1/2 box of water.
Seasoned with salt, white pepper, a little thyme, and some ground mace, which worked really nicely with the sweet potato. I had intened to sprinkle the tops with some green onions, which would have completed the color balance, but I totally spaced it. Next time.
It came out really well. Just the thing for a cold and blustery night.
Tuesday, 25 October 2005
I’m a huge fan of meat pies, but in the past I’ve had limited success. Last weekend I finally hit the jackpot though, with (IMHO) the best chicken pot-pie I’ve yet made.
I started by melting about 4 T. of butter in an oval casserole (love my LaCruset) on the stove, then added a chopped onion and let it brown a bit. That was followed by some celery, chopped carrots, and mushrooms. When most of the water had cooked out of the mushrooms I threw in about 4 T. of flour, cooked briefly, and added around 3 cups of chicken broth and maybe 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and a can of peas (fresh or frozen would have been better, but that’s what I had), and leftover chopped chicken, and brought it to a boil for a bit on the stove. I seasoned with salt to taste, some black pepper, dried sage, and a little thyme. It looked a little thin, so I added a little cornstarch and water until it thickened a bit.
The oven, meanwhile, was pre heating to 425°.
The I whipped up a quick batch of biscuits with about 2 cups of flour, 1 t. of salt, 3–4 T. of butter (lard would have been better) and cold milk until it came together. I dropped the dough in biscuitty shaped on top of the chicken mixture and popped the casserole in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the biscuits were well browned.
It worked out really well. Not too runny, but not gluey, nice crunchy biscuits on top, very flavorful. Hopefully the leftovers will work out well too.
This weekend I got a couple of little cans (about the size of small cat food cans) of pre-prepared Thai curry paste. The recipe on the can said use the whole can with two cups coconut milk, et. al. for a green curry. Great, said I, I never have enough time to make my own, so lets give it a go. I figured that such a thing would be scaled for howlies, rather than Thais, but how wrong I was. I made up a batch last night with tofu, Thai eggplant (the little green ones), bamboo shoots and some canned straw mushrooms.
The flavor was fantastic, but it was so hot that even I was a bit put off, and I consider myself to be a pretty dedicated chile-head. Wow, it was hot. My wife found it almost inedible, and the kids wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
Ah, well. Now I know. I think these may have actually been a Thai brand (I didn’t look that closely). Taste Of Thai makes some pre-made curry paste that’s a bit more moderate.
Tuesday, 27 September 2005
I went out to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island last weekend, and when faced with the wealth of fabulous produce decided I must make borscht. The had some lovely beets, and it just sounded really good. A perfect fall soup.
Anyway, I started out with some stew beef and some ham, browning each a bit, then added an onion or two and some garlic and browned some more. Then I tossed in a can (big one) of crushed tomatoes, since I like borscht on the tomatoey side. I also added about two extra cans of water at that point. Then came a carrot, and some celery.
That simmered for around an hour, until the beef was starting to get pretty tender. Then came beets, which I had previously baked until they were tender (about 1 1/4 hours at 350°) and chopped, one diced apple, and a bunch of fresh shell beans (maybe 1 1/2 cups worth). Simmered another hour, then added salt, pepper and dill weed.
I served it with a big bowl of potato and cheese pirogi, and some sour cream. Not only was it pretty darn tasty, but there was plenty left over for another time.
Thursday, 04 August 2005
These worked out well as a taco filling…
I took some “country style” boneless pork ribs, slapped them in a 9 X 13 baking dish, and sloshed them with a mixture of
- lime juice
- olive oil
- garlic paste
- Mexican oregano
- a dash of cumin
- a fistful of cilantro
- a tablespoon or so of soy lecithin (keeps it from separating, I use Bob’s Redmill brand)
I hit the sauce briefly with the hand blender so it was a smooth consistency.
Baked in the oven at 375° for about an hour, sliced them up across the grain and used for tacos.
Tuesday, 26 July 2005
My wife has been goat-sitting for some friends-of-friends the last couple of weeks, which means we’ve been getting a bunch of goat milk. Over the weekend, she decided to make most of the supply into farmer’s cheese, which left a big pot of whey left over. We didn’t want to just throw it out, since not only is it tasty but quite nutritious, so we decided to make soup.
I threw in some barley, and let it cook until the barley was soft, then added a can of diced tomatoes, a bunch of dried basil, and some pepper, plus a bunch of pre-made frozen meatballs (yay, Costco) and a couple of handfulls of pre-washed baby carrots. My total involvement was about 5 minutes, with maybe an hour total cooking time (mostly for the barley).
The result was quite tasty, with a distinctly sweet taste from the way, and a very rich, velvety texture. The slight sweetness mixed with the tomatoes made me think of Spaghetti-O’s, only good.
The only thing I like better than easy food is easy food made from ingredients I already had.
Thursday, 14 July 2005
Last night I finished up making the snacks for the party this weekend. I've read several times that there are numerous examples of the Vikings using pea flour in their bread, and I had to try it.
I used my hand-cranked grain mill to grind split peas into fairly fine flour, then mixed it with barley and oat flours and proceeded as I described for the other breads. The result is quite tasty, and the pea flavor is not really evident, which is interesting.
The last thing I made was some root vegetables in sour cream. Beets with sour cream is a common modern Scandinavian dish, but I didn't have any evidence for beets in a Viking context, so I used diced carrots and parsnips. I sauteed them until semi-soft, then added sour cream, salt, cumin, and mustard seed (whole). Pretty good on the crackers.
I'll post some info on sources soon, I don't have them on my just now.
Wednesday, 13 July 2005
More snacks to add to the pile. I made two sets of flatbread so far, which basically come out like big crackers. These can be used to spread things on, such as the already made cheese, pea spread, etc. Or herring, since who doesn’t like a good pickled herring?
There have been a few oven-like hearths found in the Viking context. See Thora’s excellent summary for more info. I think that bread, however, was probably more often cooked on the “frying pan”. There are several examples from the archaeological record of long handled frying pans, which are essentially flat, sideless disks of metal attached to a long handle. Flat, crackerlike bread would be very easy to cook on such a pan, by placing it over the open fire until the bread had dried. Another possibility is the flat soapstone hearth. Modern Finns still use (in some places) flat soapstones that sit next to the open fire. You lay out your “cracker” dough, thinly rolled, on the soapstone until it starts to set, then take of off and prop it up next to the fire, with the top side facing the heat, until it’s dried hard. Traditionally these breads were made round with a hole in the middle so that you could hang then on a string or pole in the rafters over the fire, where heat and smoke would keep the bugs off them making them last nearly indefinitely.
I cheated, and made mine in the oven, since I didn’t have time to set everything up over a fire. I modified a modern Swedish flatbread recipe. I don’t think they’ve changed all that much, and it jives with the ingredients and techniques that were available in period. I used 2–3 cups of mixed flour, part dark rye, part oat flour, part barley flour. Wheat doesn’t grow well in Scandinavia, so rye, oats, and barley are much more commonly found. There are also several instances from the archaeological record that include green pea flour. I really want to try that out, and may tonight, but haven’t so far. Anyway, I mixed the flours with about 1/2 cup of melted butter, maybe 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda, and enough buttermilk to make a very stiff dough. In period, baking soda (calcium bicarbonate) as we know it wasn’t available, but they would have used hartshorn, which behaves quite similarly. Hartshorn is ammonium bicarbonate, which is derived from burning deer antlers (hart’s horn). It is still available from specialty stores, and is still used in baking in Scandinavia. Supposedly (I’ve never tried it) it produces lighter bread/cookies than baking soda, and produces a very strong ammonia smell during baking, which isn’t present in the finished goods.
I let the dough rest for 20 minutes or so, then rolled it out on a greased cookie sheet and baked at 375° for 20–25 minutes. After they were cooled, I left them out overnight to continue drying, since they should be crisp. Putting them in a very low (200°) oven for a while would probably also help. To roll them out, I used a modern Scandinavian rolling pin that is studded, so the resulting bread is textured on top. I’m guessing in period they’d have probably rolled them out using a smooth stick, then pricked them with something fork-like to get the desired texture.
I was asked a while ago to make some “Viking snacks” for a vigil party (it’s an SCA thing) that’s coming up this weekend. The goal is stuff that can be eaten with fingers, and can be roundly divided into bite-sized thingies. I started on the cooking last night, and wanted to share both the thought process and “recipes”.
On the thought process side, it goes something like this:
- the Vikings didn’t use “recipes” as we understand them today, or if they did, they didn’t write them down, since most of them couldn’t write anyway.
- We do know from the archaeological record what cooking tools (and hence techniques) then had at their disposal
- we do know from the archaeological record what ingredients they cooked with, since there’s physical evidence
- nobody likes to eat food that’s gross
- we do know from the Sagas and from later written sources that the Vikings were fond of certain tastes (sour being big).
So what I made last night was:
- Some pea spread for putting on crackers/flat bread. Split peas (which are common from Viking digs) cooked until pasty, tempered with some walnut oil (walnuts also prevalent) and spiced with salt, fresh dill and horseradish. Essentially all the ingredients mentioned hereafter were common in the Viking context. For a great summary, see Thora Sharptooth’s Viking Age Foodstuffs. Most Viking hearth finds have been relatively large, open fire-pit style affairs, using pottery or the occasional metal pot that can be hung over the fire. This dish lends itself to that style.
- Two batches of soft cheese. There are a number of finds of cheese strainers from Viking digs. These basically look like flattish colanders, sometimes with the inclusion of a loosely nalbound “net” of horse hair or other coarse material. I used 1 gallon of milk, brought up to 185°, then mixed with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of vinegar. You can use just about any acid you want. I’m guessing they’d have used cider or malt vinegar, since those would most likely have been available. I used red wine vinegar, since it’s what I had. The resulting curds get placed in cheese cloth to drain until it’s as hard as you need. One batch I made for spreading on bread/crackers, and seasoned it (after cheese cloth but before draining) with salt, cumin and fresh dill. The other batch I mixed with a little sour cream and honey, to use in the following dish
- Stuffed prunes. I got some pitted prunes, and stuffed them with the honeyed cheese from above and some toasted hazelnuts. Prunes were very prevalent in the Viking context, both local and continental species, which suggests that they were importing prunes to meet demand. Hazelnuts are also very common. In some places hazelnut shells make up the largest component of food remains found. I could probably find the reference if anyone is interested.
More to follow as I continue to cook.
Monday, 11 July 2005
Over the weekend we were having a family dinner that I needed something not too hard for, and I decided on caponata. It’s one that my Mom taught me as she learned it from her Grandmother. It’s an Italian dish (I think from the South, but I’m not sure). It does take a little time, mostly because of lots of chopping, but it’s certainly not hard, and the results are great. I’m trying to decide what to do with the leftovers, which only get better.
I started with two medium-sized eggplant, diced. I cooked them in olive oil until they started to soften up a bit, some salt at this point helps. Then I added some chopped onion, two chopped red bell peppers, garlic, oregano, and just a touch of pesto (I didn’t have any dried basil, or that would have been my first choice).
Once that’d sauteed a bit, I added about 3/4 cup golden raisins, about as many green olives, and maybe 1/4 cup of capers. Then about 1/4 of balsamic vinegar. The trick is to balance the raisins and the onions against the vinegar/capers/olives to get a nice sweet and sour. In times past I’ve added a touch of honey, but in this case the onions and raisins were enough.
Just before serving I tossed in two sliced zucchini, and cooked it until they were just softening.
Very tasty, and really easy. Better the next day. I served it with some polenta cooked with some aged fontina cheese. The relative plainness of the polenta worked well against the caponata.
Thursday, 30 June 2005
Last night I was looking for something quick for dinner, and my wife reminded my of “Garden Burger Stroganoff”. It originally came from some veggie cookbook I can’t currently remember, and we’ve been making it in one variation or another for many years.
While heating up water for pasta, I sauteed some onions and garlic with 3–4 medium sized portobello mushrooms until everything was squishy. Then came salt and pepper, some dried thyme, and just a little red wine. I cooked it until most of the wine was gone, then added about half a pint of sour cream (Tillamook reduced fat) that had been blended with about 1/2 a tablespoon of corn starch. Flour works here too, but I didn’t have any white flour. That will thicken up nicely. Just before serving I put a couple of Garden Burgers (actual Garden Burger (tm) variety) in the toaster until they were crispy, then chopped them up and added them to the mixture.
Serve over noodles. I used some soy-based spaghetti, ‘cause that’s what I had, but egg noodle are probably preferable.
Very simple, and quite “hearty”. The whole thing can easily be done by the time the water has boiled and the pasta is cooked.
Thursday, 26 May 2005
Last night I wanted something with vegetables, so on reviewing what I had on hand I decided on some quick stir fries. The first one started with a bag of “brocco-slaw” which you can pick up in most grocery stores. It’s basically shredded broccoli stems, with some carrot and purple cabbage for color. It makes a great stir fry, and it’s zero work. I through some oil and garlic in the wok, fried the garlic briefly, chowing all the while. (Chow is the technical wokking word for “tossing quickly so it doesn’t scorch”.) Once the garlic had browned, I tossed in the bag of broccoli bits and chowed them until they softened up a bit. I added some soy sauce, oyster sauce, and a little toasted sesame oil. Once everything looked pretty much “cooked” I added a cubed block of firm tofu, and heated it through, then served (with rice).
The second dish was one of my quickie favorites, spicy stir-fried cucumbers. Peel a cuke or two, cut them in half length-wise, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Then chop them into bite-sized pieces. In the wok, heat up some oil, then throw in the cukes. Add some soy sauce, your favorite chili paste (I use a Chinese garlic/bean/chili paste) and maybe a dash of sesame oil. Chow until the cucumbers just start to soften a bit, maybe 3–4 minutes. We don’t usually think of cucumbers being cooked, but it’s a very simple and very tasty way to use up some cucumbers you may have on hand.
Tuesday, 17 May 2005
Having had pretty decent success with bean-and-beef dishes, I decided to try it with a pork shoulder roast last weekend. It came out pretty well, and couldn’t get much easier.
I soaked about a cup of “cranberry” beans overnight in water to start with. You could use whatever bean you have handy…I had cranberries. Pinto or calypso, or Anasazi beans would also come out well. I love heirloom bean varieties, and have tried a bunch. I really like the ones with groovy names, like Rattlesnake, buckskin, etc. You can find tons of them at Bob’s Red Mill in Portland. But I digress.
Once the beans were soaked, I threw them in a Dutch oven with the pork shoulder roast (mine was about 3 pounds), a big can of Mexican-style hominy (posole) and a packet of “red enchilada sauce mix” I picked up at New Seasons. Threw in enough water to cover, slapped the lid on and brought it up to a boil on the stove top.
After it boiled, I moved it to a 350° oven for 3 hours. At the end of the 3 hours, I threw in salt to taste, and about 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar to bring out the chiles in the enchilada sauce mix. You could also use canned enchilada sauce, in which case I’d leave out the vinegar and some of the salt. Back in the oven for another hour, and it was ready to serve.
I served each person a hunk off the roast, and some of the beans/posole from the pot. You could also shred up the pork and mix it all together.
Low effort, and both tasty and filling. I’d like to try it with green sauce some time, either from scratch or just canned. I think tonight the leftovers are going to find their way into burritos.
Thursday, 28 April 2005
I’ve tried this one twice now, and not only is it way easy, but it comes out really well, and makes for great leftovers. If you don’t like pork, however, turn back now…
Start by sauteing some onions, garlic, celery, carrots and some herbs (I used dried basil this last time I think). Once they are golden, throw in some Italian sausage and some country-style pork ribs. When they are brown, add about a cup of wine (red or white) and cook it down to being almost dry.
Then add another cup of water, cover, and simmer about 1/2 hour. Then add some tomatoes. I used a big can of “crushed tomatoes” from Muir Glen. I also threw in some pickled peppercorns. The basically just cook in until the ribs fall apart. Maybe 2 hours.
Very tasty, low stress, and the leftovers are great. I just took the leftovers, added some extra tomato sauce and served it over pasta. Mmmmmm. Porky goodness.
Monday, 04 April 2005
We had some friends over this weekend for Vikki’s birthday, and she made a big batch of rumaki for everyone on Sunday morning. For those who haven’t had the experience, rumaki are basically chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. There are numerous variations, including some with a soy based sauce on them, but we go for the purist version.
The number one biggest thing is to get good chicken livers. It’s not easy these days, but check out your local organic or whole foods grocery, or if you have a kosher deli/grocery, that’d probably be a good source too. I’ve made them with commercial livers from a big grocery store and they can be pretty gross. Keep in mind that the liver is the part of the body that filters out all the stuff that’s not good for you, and big commercial chicken farms feed chickens lots of stuff that’s not good for them. Suffice it to say that you can really taste the antibiotics. Anyway, get organic free range chicken livers if you can find them. They have a much milder and more pleasant taste.
Cook the livers until they just stop wiggling. You don’t want to over cook them! To assemble, wrap up a water chestnut slice with a piece of liver about the same size in about half a strip of (uncooked) bacon and toothpick it together. Put the finished rolls under the broiler until the bacon is crisp.
We like to serve ours with hot Chinese-style mustard for dipping. Well worth the effort. For the liver-squeamish, we usually make some with green olives instead of the livers, which are also quite tasty, though maybe not quite so sublime.
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Quiche is one of those things that I pretty much tend to forget about. Not something that springs to mind. I don’t find myself answering the age old question “what should I make for dinner” with “why, quiche, of course”. But in that last couple months I’ve made a few quiches and I’d forgotten both how easy and how tasty they are.
Last night I ended up making two, since frozen pie crusts always come in two for reasons I’m unable to fathom. Turned out it worked nicely. One for dinner, and leftovers for breakfast.
I fried up some chopped “cottage bacon” we got from New Seasons (sort of halfway between your average bacon and the “Canadian” variety), then added some chopped onion, and sliced white mushrooms. I got a pair of whole wheat frozen pie crusts, and into them went some broccoli florets (raw). When the bacon, etc. was cooked, I dumped it in over the broccoli and added some shredded Tillamook cheddar. I happened to have some eggs to use up (blown out of their shells for Russian Easter eggs) which is what prompted the quiche project to start with. For each quiche I used 4 eggs, and added probably 1/4 – 1/3 cup of heavy cream. That just got poured over the top of the vegetables, and away they went, into the oven at 375° for about 40 minutes.
Much easier than I remembered. I’ll have to start putting quiche into rotation more often.
Thursday, 17 March 2005
Last night I decided to make some quick Indian food, and here’s what I came up with…
One of my favorite Anglo-Indian cookbooks (I can’t think of the name just now, but it’s the kind that Costco sells for like $6 with lots of color pictures) has a recipe for “Tarka Dal” (sp?) that’s my standby favorite for a quick week night dinner, especially since I usually have all the ingredients on hand. You just boil 1/3 cup moong dal (split, skinless mung beans) and 2/3 cup red lentils in 2 1/2 cups water with a chopped onion, some garlic, some ginger and a little tumeric. On occasion I’ve added a chopped green chile like a jalapeno. Boil until the beans are soft and mush together, then add 1/2 tsp or so of salt and still/mash well. Just before serving, in a separate frying pan, fry some brown mustard seeds and some nigella seeds in oil or ghee until they start to pop, then toss in some dried red chiles (or not) and some chopped tomato. Last night I used some of those little grape tomatoes, since I had them. Once the tomato is soft, stir the oil, seeds and tomato mixture in with the dal and serve. Very tasty and super easy.
To go with, I made some Rogan Josh. Again, super easy. Brown and onion and some stew beef, throw in about a cup of plain yogurt, 1/2 cup or so of water, and some Rogan Josh paste or powder. I use powder from Penzey’s, which is fabulous. I usually add some extra fresh ginger, garlic and cardamom, ‘cause I like it that way. Cook until semi-dry and the beef is tender.
Throw the above over some basmati rice, and you’re good to go.
If you like Asian food, or in fact anything with rice, and you don’t have a rice cooker, go get one. Indispensable if you cook a lot of rice. It always comes out right, and never burnt. Even the cheap National brand ones are pretty good, but if you use it a lot it’s worth shelling out the $100 for one of the good ones. I have a Zojirushi that I love. It has settings for brown rice, sticky rice, etc. Even a “paella” setting, which works pretty well. If you like rice, you’ll LOVE a good rice cooker.
Friday, 11 March 2005
I love simple. Especially when it involves tofu. This month’s Saveur has an article on street snacks of Sichuan, and one of the dishes is called “flower bean curd”. I tried it last weekend, and wow, was it good. Basically you just heat up some soft/silken tofu in hot water, then slap it in a bowl. Over the top you pour some
- soy sauce
- chili oil
- black vinegar
- Sichuan preserved vegetables (I used preserved turnips)
- roasted soy beans (I had peanuts, so used those)
- ground Sichuan pepper corns (really hard to get. I used the Japanese equivalent, called sansho)
- the recipe called for chopped green onions, which would have been good, but I didn’t have any
Enjoy. Very tasty, quick and filling. Since the stuff gets pored over the top, each diner can decide how spicy they want it.
Monday, 28 February 2005
I love a good gumbo. There’s not much better than a rich hearty bowl of gumbo with plenty of greens and some andouille. Personally I prefer mine with okra, but since my wife is an okra-phobe, I usually make file gumbo at home.
This weekend I undertook the gumbo from one of my favorite soup books, The Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Cookbook, by Crescent Dragonwagon. It’s a great book, and a truly fine gumbo, but it definitely takes a commitment. You have to separately make a roux, saute some vegetables, and mix up a spice paste in a food processor. Once all three of those are done you start the soup proper, into which goes a mess of greens. Once the greens are cooked, you throw in the other stuff you’ve already prepared. What comes out the other side is then your gumbo “base” which for my family actually makes three batches of soup, so I freeze most of it.
To make the soup, you throw in some of the base with more soup stock and your meat of choice, be it andouille, chicken, crab, shrimp, whatever. This weekend I stuck with andouille. Our local New Seasons carries a great nitrate free smoked andouille that was perfect for gumbo.
It’s a good 2–3 hour undertaking, but well worth the effort. Everyone pretty much licked there bowls, so I call that a success.
Thursday, 13 January 2005
I was contemplating what to make for dinner last night and finally decided on some Ethiopian food. I had a bunch of hardboiled eggs left over from a party over the weekend, which put me in mind of Doro Wat, the Ethiopian chicken dish that often includes hardboiled eggs. On top of that, I had a batch of berbere in my freezer that wasn’t getting any younger. To go with, I made some Ethiopian lentils, was was a snap since I pretty much always have some quick cooking red lentils around.
For the chicken, I sauted (in ghee) some red onions and chopped Anaheim chiles until soft, then through in some garlic and ginger, followed by a generous (probably 1/2 cup) of the berbere. When that heated up I added around 1 cup of red wine and another of water, and threw in some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and cooked in until the chicken was tender. Then I added some shelled hardboiled eggs and brought it up to temperature. The part that’s a hassle is making the berbere, so whenever I do I tend to make a double or triple batch and freeze what ever is left over.
The lentils went about the same. Red onions, Anaheim, garlic and ginger, about 1/4 cup of berbere, 2 cups of split red lentils (the kind you use for Indian food) and water to cover and then some. Cooked until the lentils were falling apart. Remember as with any pulses or beans, don’t add any salt until they are soft, or they never will be. Salt to taste at the very end.
Not too shabby for a weeknight if I do say so myself. I’ve got a little berbere left over still, which is just crying out for some lamb this weekend
Thursday, 06 January 2005
I have no idea how they got into my house, but I recently discovered a jar of pickled green peppercorns in my pantry, so I decided to use them.
I’ve been reading Dangerous Tastes: the story of spices by Andrew Dalby (which is a very interesting book, BTW) and he mentions that once upon a time preserved green peppercorns were very popular in Europe, but that they’ve mostly been replaced by the dried form we’re used to. Anyway, it got me interested, so I put some in a spaghetti sauce last night, which came out quite well, I thought.
I started with some onions and garlic, then added the green peppercorns, maybe a 1/2 tablespoon or so, and healthy amounts of basil, oregano, and some fennel seeds (which I love in spaghetti). Then in went some celery. When it all cooked down, I threw in some meat balls, and a few tablespoons worth of capers. It went over pretty well with the family too. Ivan even wanted some for breakfast this morning, so it couldn’t have been too bad. I’ve been using Westbrae Natural’s whole wheat spaghetti, which has a very nice texture. Their spinach spaghetti is also really good, but Gwyn tends to freak out over the green noodles, so there are days when it’s just not worth it
So if you happen to come across some pickled pepper (not pickled peppers, mind) give them a shot. They added a very nice, mellow peppery taste without much heat.
Tuesday, 28 December 2004
Sunday morning I made a big batch of this egg dish called Parsi Egg Curry, or “ekoori”. My Dad learned to make it when he lived in Singapore in the 80s, and it’s been an extended family staple ever since. There are various versions, but this is how I made it
Saute the following until soft:
- chopped onion
- fresh garlic, minced
- fresh ginger, minced
- fresh chiles, minced. I usually use jalapeno or serrano.
- this time I used fresh tumeric root, minced, since I happened to find some. Very groovy stuff. Turned my hands totally yellow, but very good flavor.
- ground tumerix (if not using fresh)
- ground coriander (don’t be shy. I used maybe 3 tbl.)
- ground black pepper and salt to taste
- fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Then scramble and toss in some eggs. Cook as you would scrambled eggs.
It goes really well with pastries and some kind of breakfast meat. Growing up we always had Russian coffee cake (yeast risen, heavy on the cream cheese and blueberries or peaches) and corned beef hash. This weekend I served linguica and raisin bread, which worked out well.
Enjoy. It’s really easy to make, and very flashy as a brunch dish.
Wednesday, 22 December 2004
I had some left-over ham in the fridge, so last night I whipped up a batch of split pea soup. There are few things better on a cold winter night than a good split pea soup. I went pretty simple:
- 2 cups green split peas
- quart of chicken stock
- an onion
- caraway, tarragon, and pepper
- diced ham
- chopped carrots and celery
cooked the peas in the stock with the onion until soft, then added the spices and ham. About 30 minutes before serving, added the carrots and celery.
About a year ago, I went out on a limb and used beef broth, and added some baby spinach. My kids declared this to be “weird” split pea soup, and ever since have checked to make sure I’m making the “regular” kind. So much for experimentation.
Friday, 17 December 2004
In honor of Hanukkah I decided to make some latkes a few days ago. Being a low-glycemic kind of guy, I fear white potatoes, so I went with sweet potatoes instead. My kids went completely nuts for these. They ate them way faster than I could cook them. (I thought they were pretty good too.)
- 2 sweet potatoes (I got "yams" which are darker in color. "Red garnet" maybe?), grated (I used the food processor).
- 1/2 an onion, grated
- 1/2 cup or so cottage cheese
- 3 eggs, beaten
- salt, pepper, and a little allspice
- 2 tbl. or so barley flour
Mix it all together and fry into pancakes. I used unrefined peanut oil, which went well with the sweet potatoes.
Friday, 12 November 2004
One of my very favorite soups has got to be caldo gallego, a Spanish soup (from Galicia, hence the name) which consists of sausage, potatoes, kale or other hearty greens, onions and white beans. A similar soup appears in Portugal, where is is called (I believe) caldo verde. I made some last night, and since my buddy Greg asked for the recipe at lunch today, I thought I'd go ahead and post it.
start with broth. I use Pacific Food's "Natural" beef broth. It has a great flavor, and no added junk.
- onions (chopped)
- kale or other greens: I like "lacinto" or "dinosaur" kale, which has thin very dark leaves. I've also used oak leaf kale, regular curly kale, or collard greens to good effect. I've seen some recipes that call for turnip greens, but I find them too bitter.
- sausage: the best bet is if you can get real Spanish chorizo (the hard kind, not the squishy Mexican kind you often see in markets here). Since I don't have a regular source for those (although occasionally if I'm in Seattle I stop by the Spanish market at the top of the Pike St. hill climb) I use a hard smoked andouille that my New Seasons carries. I've also used Polish or Keilbasa, but it's not as good.
- Potatoes: I actually have started substituting tofu instead, being opposed to simple carbs, but I've used white potatoes or yellow fingerlings (the absolute best if you eat taters).
- white beans: navy beans are nice, or great northern. I think I used great notherns from Westbrae Natural last night.
Bring to a boil and cook until the kale is softened up enough to eat. Goes excellently with some extra tabasco dashed in at the table (if you like that kind of thing).
Monday, 08 November 2004
Last night I tried out a pork roast after a style that my friend Lori showed me. I used a medium sized, boneless pork shoulder roast, browned it in a cast iron dutch oven, then poured in some beer (Ommegang Belgian Abbey-style from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY) salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, just a little cinnamon. Popped it in the oven at 400°.
After an hour I threw in an onion, and a Mutsu apple. About an hour and a half after that I threw in a bunch of chantrelle mushrooms, and put it back in for another 45 min - 1 hour. Total cooking time was about 4 hours. It came out really well. Served along with a lentil and rice pilaf, and some green salad. Worked out very nicely.
Monday, 18 October 2004
I love squash season. There are so many great things you can do with them, and they are really easy to cook. The hardest part tends to be cutting them up to clean them. The worst offender in that arena that I know of is the kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. Little green guys. Hard as a rock. I've resorted to hatchets.
Last night I went with the common (and often under appreciated) green acorn squash. I cut them in half and cleaned them, then baked them until very tender (put them face down in a pan with 1/4 or so of water in the bottom, 350° for about and hour and a quarter) then turned them over and brushed the faces with a mixture of
- almond butter
Then put them back in the oven (turned off) until the rest of the food was ready (mushroom barley soup and corn on the cob). It worked really well. The squash came out very creamy, and played will with the almond butter. I used just enough honey to make it sweeter than just almonds, but not too sweet. It got rave reviews from the family, so I guess it's a keeper. Hazelnut butter also works really nicely.
Monday, 20 September 2004
I tried something new this weekend that I thought I'd share. I was cooking over an open campfire, so it didn't turn out quite the way I'd been shooting for, but was still pretty good.
My wife had made some cheese earlier in the day, so we had some leftover whey, which makes a great base for soup, so I added to the whey some onions, a couple of nitrate-free ham hocks, some turnips, and about half a dozen Italian prune plums (all chopped). I let that simmer (or as close as possible on a fire) then added some beef broth and some lentils.
I think everything boiled a bit more vigorously than I had intended, so by the time it was done it was more casserole than the soup I was going for, but still quite tasty.
Thursday, 03 June 2004
I think I'd have to say that Lebanese food is some of my very favorite, especially when the weather turns warm. Last night I decided it was Lebanese food weather (it's in the mid 70's, which is pretty nice for Portland this time of year).
So, I cooked up some
- Fried eggplant with pomegranate sauce: fry up some slices of eggplant in a fair amount of oil until tender, then drain on paper towels. The sauce is pomegranate molasses mixed with some chopped garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper, drizzled over the eggplant slices. Puts eggplant in a whole new light. I've served it to people who swore they didn't like eggplant (my sister in law :) ) and had them come back for seconds.
- Cucumbers in yogurt: just chopped cucumbers in yogurt (use laban if you have a Middle Eastern grocery around, or drain the yogurt for best results) with garlic, dill, salt and pepper. I mixed in some Italian parsely and just a touch of Spanish smoked paprika with fine results.
- Lamb patties: I was lazy at this point, and just mixed up some ground lamb with some of Penzey's "Turkish Seasoning" and chopped garlic, then pan-fried them. Would be good as kabobs too.
- Whole wheat pita. I got some "Bible Bread" from Garden of Eatin'.
Wednesday, 28 April 2004
Looking out the window at the fabulous weather (~60°, bright blue sky) I'm totally craving a nice Waldorf salad. Here's how I'm fixin to put it together:
- Apples, diced. I'm thinking some organic Pink Lady and Braeburn I have on hand.
- Walnuts. organic, of course
- Celery, diced, also organic
- Raisins, organic Flame
- Soy mayonaise (I use Nasoya brand. It's a bit sweeter than regular mayonaise, but not greasy and way fewer calories)
- a dash of lemon juice, applied to the apples to keep from browning, also nice flavor enhancer
- maybe just a hint of Penzey's real cinnamon
The problem now is that I can't figure out what to serve it with. BBQ chicken maybe? It's certainly a nice day for BBQ. Burgers? Hmmmm.
Friday, 23 April 2004
Sorry there hasn't been much in the way of new content here lately. I'm pretty swamped with life right now, and haven't had a lot of time for food. Unfortunately. I did take the time to make a giant bowl of cereal for dinner last night, which was really good, and just what I was craving. It's what my son calls "healthy breakfast".
- fruit (whatever is in season. right now mostly apples and pears, sometimes a banana, but in the summer time berries, peaches, plums, you name it)
- raw grain cereal. I use Bob's Redmill Muesli, which has several kinds of raw grain flakes, some sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.
- extra nuts (often I use walnuts, but lately I've been using organic raw cashews)
- milk, soy milk or yogurt (soy or dairy). I've tried kefir a few times, but found it too sweet. I use mostly unflavored or vanilla soy yogurt.
- extra rasins (if I've a mind)
- flax seed oil (for extra omega-3s and a nice texture)
- sometimes I add whole flax seeds for a nice crunch
good for you, filling, and relavitely low on the glycemic index.
Wednesday, 14 April 2004
I have a deep abiding love of Persian food. Especially those dishes that combine meat and fruit. It's a combination that's pretty common in Middle Eastern cooking, and was once common in the West during the Medieval period.
Earlier this week I tried some lamb stew (khoresh) with apples that came out really well.
Sautee some onions, and brown some lamb stew meat, then add water to cover and set them to braise with some cinnamon, just a little cumin, and black pepper.
When the meat is tender (an hour or so) sautee some cut-up apples (I used ghee for grease, and used half Braeburn and half Pink Lady apples). Add some lime juice to keep the apples from browning, and maybe a little sweetener if they're too tart.
When the apples are just tender, throw them in with the meat, and add salt to taste.
Goes well with chelow, a Persian saffroned rice.
Friday, 06 February 2004
feeling lazy last night, but still wanted to eat real food for dinner. I
happened to have a lovely head of organic broccoli, so I went through the
pantry/fridge to see what went with broccoli. I came up with some organic
whole wheat pasta (which has really come a long way. The whole wheat
pasta of my hippie youth was much more like punishment.), some blue cheese (Point Reyes Blue)
and some walnuts. A little olive oil and salt and pepper later, I had
some lovely pasta with broccoli, walnuts and blue cheese. Even better, I
have a steamer that sits on top of a good sized pot, so I cooked the pasta in
the bottom and steamed the broccoli over the pot, but minimum fuss and extra
tasty. Two big sellers on a busy weeknight.
Wednesday, 04 February 2004
that this is rather stream-of-consciousness, but the rhubarb got me thinking
about stuffed dates.
possibly the most decadent dessert product I can think of, or at least that I
mascarpone cheese (I’ve tried this with whipped cream, but the
mascarpone is WAY better)
of your choice (I use honey or agave nectar, powdered sugar also works)
- True cinnamon,
although regular grocery store cinnamon (which is really cassia) can be
used, but doesn’t have the same floral quality
- A touch
of either rose water or orange flower water. I’ve used both,
and tend to prefer the rose, but some people don’t like it
some fresh (NOT DRIED) dates, split them down the long axis, take out the pit,
and fill the resulting cavity with the filling. Especially if the dates
are really fresh, these will just melt in your mouth (and go straight to your
backside). The best dates I’ve ever had were labeled as “Black
Sphinx” dates, and they were truly sublime, like little bags of date
flavored jelly, but since I’ve only ever seen them in stores twice, I
usually go for medjools instead. You can use dried dates, but it really
won’t be as good.
also seen some recipes for dates stuffed with almond paste but I haven’t
Tuesday, 03 February 2004
not sure how, but some how or another Jason
went from chicken livers to rhubarb, so now I’m thinking about
fine pie, especially with strawberries or blueberries. I’ve also
had good luck with strawberry/rhubarb crisps or crumbles. Up the topping
over what you’d use for apples, since rhubarb gives off a lot of
absolute favorite rhubarb thing is a Persian lamb (or beef) and rhubarb stew (or
“khoresh”). Truly amazing. Take some cubed lamb or beef
and brown it with onions, then add some cinnamon, preferable true
cinnamon from Penzey’s or your
favorite serious spice source. Add water or stock to cover and then
simmer until the meat is tender. Then add some cut up rhubarb, and lots
of parseley, like a bunch worth or more, and some fresh or dried mint and salt
& pepper to taste. Cook until the rhubarb is just tender, then serve
up with Persian saffron rice.
amazing. It’s worth getting the good cinnamon for, and some quality
mint. I use dried Bulgarian spearmint, also from Penzey’s.
some other really great Persian meat/fruit combinations, like chicken and
pomegranate, and beef w/ peaches. Check out Najmieh Khalili
Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
for all this and more. It’s my favorite Persian cookbook. I
have a couple others that I can’t think of titles for right now.
Maybe it’ll come to me.
OK, I’ve already gotten one semi-snide comment about the chicken liver and smoked pork pie. As I said, I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I thought it was really quite tasty.
And as long as I’m here, let’s talk about chicken livers. My parents aren’t fans, and so I’d never really had any exposure to the little death bombs until I was in my teens. My stepmother’s family is big on rumaki at New Years. If you haven’t tried them, they’re worth the effort: sauté some chicken livers (do yourself a favor and try to get organic ones, for the sake of your own liver) wrap them up in some bacon with a piece of water chestnut, and broil until the bacon is done. Best served with some Chinese-style hot mustard. For the faint of heart, green olives make a fine substitute for the livers.
My son, who is 8, loves rumaki with a passion. This turned out to be the first time in many years that we didn’t spend New Years with my stepmother’s family, so he begged me to make him some myself. I’ve got to say, cooking chicken livers is pretty nasty, but they tasted great.
I’ve been wanting to try making some Jewish-style chopped liver, and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The grocery store we frequent (New Seasons Market) only has large quantities of organic livers every once is a while, and I haven’t gotten the timing right yet. Maybe for Passover. I’m not Jewish, but when it comes to food, I try to hit all the holidays regardless of denomination.
Wednesday, 21 January 2004
Back in my wayward youth in the far off 70’s I was raised pretty much exclusively on hippy vegetarian food. Seeing as I grew up (through my elementary school years) in Marin County, CA, and it was the 70’s after all, that seemed to me the norm rather than the exception. I’m talking old school hippy vegetarian, the likes of the original Moosewood cookbook, and lots of things involving tofu, wheat germ, and (heaven forefend) carob.
The result of such an upbringing was that when I went away to college, I thought things like chicken fried steak and chipped beef on toast were exotic and fascinating, but that’s another story.
Occasionally I miss those old standbys of hippy vegetarian comfort food, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with peanut butter balls. For those of you who aren’t into such things, peanut butter balls basically consist of some peanut butter, with some other binding agents and something to dry them out enough so that they don’t stick to the hands of children or nostalgic adults. Back in the dim time, dry milk powder and wheat germ were popular additives.
When you’re done, you get little balls of peanutty goodness, just bursting with protein, some fat, and just enough sugar (usually honey) to make them attractive. A great snack for kids on the go, since they’re full of energy and not full of sugar and starch.
Anyway, I’ve been experimenting a bit, and have come up with a pretty decent combination of stuff.
- Peanut butter (my personal favorite is Maranatha organic)
- I’ve also tried adding some sesame butter (also Maranatha brand) and almond butter with good results
- Wheat germ (adds fiber and has a nice texture)
- Flax seeds (a nice crunch, and lots of Omega-3s)
- Barley malt (a nice mellow sweetener, and lots of vitamins)
- A little honey or agave nectar (a low-glycemic alternative to honey)
- Dry whey powder (protein, nice filler, I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
- Instead of whey powder, I’ve also used soy grits (about the texture of fine cornmeal) which was good but adds a very slight bitterness
- I’ve also tried substituting some flax seed meal for some of the wheat germ, which adds some nutrition and didn’t seem to affect the taste.
- Raisins (my favorite are organic “flame” raisins)
Mix all that up in a bowl, check the consistency (should be like playdough) and roll into little balls. I’ve tried rolling the balls in either wheat germ, or coconut, which makes them less sticky. My kids especially liked the coconut.
A quick, nostalgic (at least for some of us) and healthy snack. Mmmmmm, good
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