25 July 2011

Roasted Summer Squash and Cherry Tomatoes

On my way back from buying random bottles of beer with interesting labels, I stumbled upon a produce store I didn't know existed. Everything looked delicious, it wasn't too expensive, and their plums where ready to eat. I picked up some cherry tomatoes, avocado, and summer squash with the intention of making a sandwich out of it for dinner. Then I lost track of time playing Dungeons of Dredmor and just ended up eating a sausage. No loss, but it did mean I had more time to contemplate what I would do with the veggies for lunch the next day. Polenta seemed like a good call - roast the roastables, eat it with polenta and beans.
Turns out, it was a pretty good meal. I used paprika and cumin, with a hint of cinnamon, on the squash and just salt and dash of cheese on the tomatoes. The polenta really needed some more flavor - more cheese, onion, garlic, something. I used 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of dry polenta, and maybe 1/8 a cup of cheese. Double that amount of cheese, at least. I would also recommend slicing the tomatoes in half before baking, as 425 degrees for 15 minutes was not enough to char them. Maybe I was just impatient and hungry, but recipes I looked up said it would only take 10 minutes at that heat. Also be very careful biting into them; the embarrassing outcome of squirting tomato juice? Much more painful when they are fresh from the oven. Seriously, it hurt.
Roasted Squash and Cherry Tomatoes
Summer squash for N people
Cherry tomatoes for N people
Olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a baking sheet lined with foil. Slice the squash into circles. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and sea salt. Put in a slice of squash, rub both sides, then rub it against a fresh piece of squash to evenly distribute the oil and cut down on how thickly coated the squash will be. Place on foil; repeat for all slices (rubbing half in the oil and rubbing the other half against an oiled slice). Afterwards, put an equal amount cumin and paprika in a bowl and sprinkle it (or rub it) over the tops of the slices.

Put in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove it, flip over the slices, and season the other side. Add a little cinnamon if you wish, then put it back in the oven. While the squash is baking, in the olive oil and salt bowl, toss the tomatoes. After the squash has been in the oven for 25 minutes, up the temperature to 425 and put the tomatoes in the oven. Cook for at least 10 minutes longer; the squash should brown and hopefully the tomatoes will as well. Sprinkle some grated cheese (like Parmigiano-Reggiano) over the tomatoes and it will melt in.

21 July 2011

Dirtbag's Delight (First Pass, IPA Edition)

First off: long span without a post. It's not that I haven't been cooking or that I don't like my readers. I've just been very lazy the past few weeks. I've cooked a few meals - the most recent of which didn't even have kale in it (though I did cheat and use broccolini, but it was stir fry and not cooked in the oven). I've failed miserably - if cooking teriyaki sauce from scratch follow the directions. Yes, you do need that much sugar and soy sauce. It is disgusting and you are probably better off not knowing. I've partaken in some delicious cookies, though I didn't cook them. You should, though. Quite good. I even made some bread and didn't show you any of it. But I do return, triumphantly, with a delicious loaf.
I wanted to create some bread for climbers, hence the name and ingredients. "Dirtbag" isn't the best of words, but for climbers it means someone who may live out of their van and spend their days climbing and being cheap on food. A standard meal might be a can of beans, or a loaf of bread and a block of cheese. So - a loaf inspired by this life style. It has everything you'd need during/after some hard work: bread, cheese, beer, and nuts. You could even put peanut butter on it, if you dared. For an experiment, it was quite good. I did have some spillage, as you can see. I even poked holes in the bread to let it air some, but this was not very effective. Instead of going for a spiral, kneading in the cheese would probably be a better option, though you will be left with a much softer crust.
I used a standard bread base (Lean Bread from Artisan Breads Everyday) and built on that. I wanted to be a bit conservative, so only half the water in the recipe was replaced with beer. Taking it higher could work, but I would worry about the crumb keeping and about the yeast/salt/flour ratios being off. I added a small amount of walnuts; not because I didn't think more would work, but rather that it was all I had left. It was so small a percent, in weight, that I didn't think I needed to counteract it with wheat bran (maybe put some in if you go over 25% flour weight in nuts/seeds/non-wheat flour). The amount of cheese was a guess, just putting on enough to cover the surface area I had available before rolling up the log. As mentioned above, consider not doing a spiral or finding some other way of keeping the cheese in.
Dirtbag's Delight (IPA Edition)
Makes 1 standard loaf (feeds 8-10 people for a snack, fewer for a meal)

340g unbleached bread flour
127g cold water
127g beer (I used BrewDog's Punk IPA)
~30g walnuts, very coarsely chopped (could probably up this to ~45g without trouble)
7g salt
4g instant yeast (could probably go down to 3g and give it two nights in the fridge instead of one)
maybe 4oz finely cubed cheese that melts (I used about 2/3 of a 6oz block of sharp cheddar)
The night before baking, in a bowl combine the flour, salt, yeast, and nuts then mix. Add in the water and beer, stirring with a wet wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, until the bread is an even consistency. It should lightly stick to your finger if you push it with a little pressure, but the finger should pull away mostly clean with little stretching of the dough. Let rest for 5-10 minutes in a covered bowl. Then stretch-and-fold the loaf 4 times, waiting 10 minutes between each iteration. Especially on the first iteration, the dough may rip - be careful to not let this happen. It should be very firm and resist the stretching quite a bit by the final iteration. Put the dough in a covered bowl in the fridge and let sit for at least a night.

The day of baking, about 2 hours before placing the bread in the oven, remove the dough from the fridge. Flour a work surface and your hands. If making a spiral, pat the dough into a rectangle that will roll up into a loaf and spread the cheese over the surface, then roll up the log, smooth the seam closed, and gently roll into the desired shape. If kneading in the cheese, gently work the cheese into the dough mass, then proceed to shape it as you see fit. Let the dough proof on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered, for at least 1.5 hours.

Preheat your oven to ~500 degrees and place the bread in after waiting for the proofing time. Reduce heat to 450 and cook for 15 minutes before rotating, then cook for another 15-25 minutes. The internal temperature should be in the 185-195 degree range before you call it done. Let the bread cool a bit before slicing. Eat.

11 July 2011

Market Lasagna, Sauceless

Quick question: are you thinking what I think you are thinking? Why make a sauce-less lasagna? Is sriracha the savior of any meal? Are my glasses too hipster? Maybe not the last two. Maybe that is just me. Maybe not. I'm not here to settle those questions, though, just the first one. You may want to make a lasagna with no sauce because, say, you are using a lot of liquidy ingredients and fresh noodles (which won't soak up as much liquid). Or, because no one makes a can of pasta sauce in anything approaching a reasonable size and you hate wasting food. You might have other reasons; I'm not one to judge. But, should you ever decide to make one, I've got some tips.
First: choose a bunch of delicious vegetables. We went with zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms (all fresh from the farmer's market, hence the name of the dish. Second: get some heirloom tomatoes with a lot of flavor. You aren't using a sauce, but that doesn't mean no tomatoes. Thirdly: cheat a little and using something like a sauce; in our case, pesto. Finally: use fresh (read: soft) pasta sheets.

The general gist of our lasagna was slicing and sauteeing all the mentioned vegetables (except tomatoes) and making about 1/2 cup of pesto from scratch using a mortar and pestle. We then made 3 layers of pasta sheet, veggies, bit of grated cheese, pesto. On top we put sliced tomatoes and more cheese, plus a few extra leaves of basil for kick. Cooked for about 40-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Was rather delicious, if not filling in the least. Also rather messy, as you can see from this (horribly taken, horribly fixed up) photo below.
If doing again, I would very much recommend putting another layer of sliced tomatoes about halfway through the lasagna as well as adding some more protein - going with a real lasagna cheese like ricotta or cottage instead of shredded Parmigiano, or by simply adding some meat/tofu/seitan/whatever. The cheese would help it maintain its shape and fill you up, and an extra layer of tomatoes would give it a consistent flavor through instead of "holy shit this is great" tomato bites next to "this is pretty good veggie sautee" non-tomato bites.

03 July 2011

Intercontinental Peas and Carrots

By way of Japan. More specifically, my completely distorted perception of Japanese cuisine. It has been hot by SF standards, so standing in front of the stove is definitely not on my list of things to do (unless said stove is actually a grill, and outdoors where the wind neutralizes any warmth). I had my fill of middle eastern food yesterday in the form of falafel for lunch and kebab-ish chicken for dinner; I definitely didn't feel like making tabouleh despite it going well in warm weather. So, what to do? Onigiri!
Onigiri is a favorite of mine at sushi restaraunts; take a ball of rice, put something pickled (ume) or salty (salmon) in the center, wrap in nori, eat with hands. Can't get much simpler than that. In my laziness, I visited the standard grocery store. Now, this place stocks a fine selection of yuppie fare - more kinds of vegan and organic dips and chips than I can think of; a fine selection of cheeses and beers; locally sourced pre-made meals. You know, the standards. But what it doesn't stock is anything much pickled - my options were ginger (check), kimchi (no), asparagus (really?), and carrots (check). And what better to go with carrots than peas? Not from a can, mind you, but diced sugar snap peas. Plus (feel good about yourself indigenously sourced support the local population) purple jasmine sticky rice.
I did some quick searching for sushi rice instructions; it seems the "magic" is to pick the right kind of rice (sushi rice, but honestly anything sticky will do) and add in a vinegar/sugar/salt mixture after cooking. None too hard. The hardest part, it turns out, what forming a ball around the peas and carrots. I eventually gave up and simply mixed the peas and carrots into the rice, then formed that into balls. A very messy process, but they kept their shape.
Pea and Carrot Onigiri
Makes ~6 onigiri
2/3 cup uncooked sticky rice
enough water to cook said rice
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
<10 sugar snap peas, diced
<6 pickled carrots, diced
1 sheet sushi nori
pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and furikake for garnish (soy sauce and wasabi too?)

Cook the rice per instructions - for sticky rice, this usually means rinsing it until the water runs clear, soaking it for a bit, then cooking it in some water until it is done. When the rice is done, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt together until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Technically, you should do this over heat but I don't know how much it matters as I skipped that part. In a non-metal bowl, turn the vinegar mixture into the rice until it is evenly spread. Place the rice in the fridge temporarily to cool.
Slice the nori into 6 (or more) strips. You'll want a sharp chef's knife - slicing along the nori is a risky proposition, as it will likely rip. Instead, rock the knife along a straight line with some downward force; the nori should cleanly split along the line. After letting the rice cool to "warm" instead of  "ouch ouch ouch I burned my hands", mix in the peas and carrots. Wet your hands, and form the mixture into 6 balls. Wrap each in two strips of nori. Garnish with sesame seeds and furikake, serve with other condiments on the side and optionally some cold, pre-seasoned tofu. Try and eat it with your hands, but you'll probably fail - nori isn't that easy to chew through.

01 July 2011

The Schwartz, apparently, is not with me

Rather, Yogurt and I don't get along when cooking. Today, I bring you a failure. Do not try and cook this at home. I won't even give you a recipe, only a basic description, so the casual browser is not confused. This isn't the first time I've failed with yogurt. E and I attempted to cook some Indian food going off of half-remembered recipes; it used Greek yogurt and it tasted awful. Nearly the whole of the meal was a complete failure - a runny-and-chunky sauce with raisins and almonds served over charred spanish rice with a glass of horrible red wine. The spinach was pretty good, though. It was a traumatic experience, but not enough.
Pancake looks pretty good, non? Tastes like shit, though. Problem, that. Pancakes shouldn't taste like shit. It isn't entirely the yogurts fault, mind you. I also decided to add the smallest amount of fresh ground clove I could manage as it goes well with cinnamon and I figured the bitter kick it provides would also pair with the bit of bitter in yogurt. I used a single fragment, ground via mortar. Instead of getting sweet, sweet love between a yogurt and clove, I got an all-out orgy of acids and bitters in my mouth. I was forced to hose the place down with a mixture of honey, banana, and generous gulps of water. Also, the pancake was far too thick. This one below was after the first; I added some more almond milk to thin out the batter and hopefully hide some taste.
Guess what? It didn't work, not at all. On the plus side, my coffee was pretty good and the banana was just-ripe. To catalog my failure, and give you an idea of what not to do, this is a brief description of how the mess happened. I have a vegan pancake recipe I adore, which I wanted to cook. I did it with spelt flour (100% spelt instead of a buckwheat/pastry mix) and I tried a substitute of 50% yogurt for 50% of the almond milk. Doesn't really work, especially with greek yogurt. Next time, if there is a next time, maybe 25% russian yogurt for 25% of the milk? Maybe I'll just give up an stick to yogurt in bread.