# Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It’s been a weird time for me food-wise lately, so I haven’t had much to say.  I’m doing an SCA feast this weekend (North Indian/Mughal) which should be big fun, and I’m hoping to get some pictures.  Luckily most of it can be cooked ahead of time and frozen. 

I’ve gone back on the low-glycemic wagon, so expect to see more on nutrition as the days go by. 

I’m also doing some experimenting with lightweight backpacking, so I’ll probably have some pack food experiences to report soon. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 7:20:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, June 03, 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.

Saturday, June 03, 2006 3:33:42 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, June 02, 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.

Friday, June 02, 2006 7:16:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, June 01, 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, June 01, 2006 8:58:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I love turnips, especially the baby ones, so I had to try the Mughal style baby turnips as described by She Spills the Beans.  This one’s definitely a keeper.  I loved it, and my son did too.  I really liked the depth of flavor, and the spicy-sweet combination combined with the bitternes of the turnips.  I didn’t have any spinach, so I substituted some romaine lettuce that needed to go, which worked out pretty well I thought.  I served it with some heat-and-serve bhatura from the local Indian grocery, which were a bit hit.  I’m thinking collard greens would also work well here.  I’m not usually a fan of mustard greens, but they might actuall work in this dish.  Hmmm.  An excuse to experiment. 
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 5:49:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, May 18, 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.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:50:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Last night, Vikki and I taught the first version of a class on “survival cooking” for our local CERT program.  We talked about scenarios to plan for, what kind of food to store in case of emergency or disaster, and how to cook it once you find yourself there.  If you are interested, the handout from the class (with references) is here.  The class went quite well, and we got to eat the fruits of our labors. :-)  The biggest learning I came away with is that Datrex brand survival rations are much tastier than I would have thought. 
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:46:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Old Foodie has a great bit about tomatoes and the law that’s a good read.  I’ve often pondered the distinctions between fruit and vegetable and how we mangle them.  Also how the difference and distinction are culturally based.  We tend to use rhubarb (for example) mostly in sweet dished with fruit, but in Persian cooking it’s used in stews (khoresh) with beef or lamb.  Which is fabulous, BTW.  It’s also interesting the think that tomatoes have legal status.  I wonder if that’s still true…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 8:47:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

Over the weekend I tried making a few new (to me) snacks.  I made a batch of dahi vada from Kitchenmate.  I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough (mea culpa) and so ground the onions and chilis with the urad dal mixture.  I think this led to the batter being too wet, and I couldn’t get it to make donut shapes without completely sticking to my hands, so I went with just plain lumpy shaped ones.  However, they were still a big hit.  My son liked them so much he begged for the leftovers to take to school for lunch.  Always a good sign.  I can definitely see the usefulness of a “wet grinder”.  I had a hard time grinding the dal in my food processor, and I don’t have a blender.  Could be the next kitchen appliance purchase. 

I also tried a batch of ponganalu, using Indira’s recipe.  These came out really well, and were a really big hit with my wife, who also really liked the accompanying peanut chutney.  I didn’t have a ponganalu pan, but I had one that I bought for ableskiver.  Turns out to be pretty much the same thing, and it worked beautifully.  Again, since I don’t have a wet grinder, I wimped out and used idli rava and urid flour, but hopefully the results are similar.  Definitely something I’d make again.  Very easy and tasty.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 5:59:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]

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.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 4:52:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]