Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Liisa!

September 1st is Liisa's birthday but we celebrated last Saturday night. For my fabulous daughter only a homemade cake will do. So, even though I'd rather cook than bake, I spent the afternoon making a chocolate cake recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

I have favorite recipes that I know by heart and practically cook with my eyes closed, but as a baker I'm still a beginner. By the time I was done there was flour everywhere, butter on my shirt, butter on the coffeemaker and even cocoa on my face. Maybe it was because I only have a hand mixer & I used a light metal bowl. I said I was a beginner. But hey, the cake was delicious! Happy Birthday, Liisa!

Monday, August 24, 2009

watermelon lemonade

Liisa, Mary & Zach were here this weekend to get out of the city heat & relax in the burbs. It was a weekend of swimming, board games, listening to classic vinyl ("the hills are alive....with the Sound of Music!) and watermelon lemonade.

Liisa found the recipe in one of her & my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen.

Here's what you need to make a pitcherful:

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups pureed watermelon
1 cup simple syrup *
1 cup sparkling water
1 cup vodka

*Simple syrup is just equal quantities of sugar & water heated until the sugar melts. I used a cup of sugar and a cup of water and had enough syrup for 2 batches of drinks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Black Bean Soup. I Guess.

Mom got me this Bittman vegetarian book, so the first recipe I tried was this black bean soup. I was/am in the position of knowing nothing about cooking, so I've been messing around with this a lot.  Chop an onion, brown it, add some cumin & chili powder (I'd been substituting red pepper flakes, since I didn't have any chili powder. I also learned that it is definitely NOT a one to one ratio, so I use a little lot less than a tablespoon of red pepper flakes), and some garlic. Then you throw the beans, stock or water, and whatever vegetables you feel like. This time, I had a couple tomatoes, some celery, and some green pepper; I'd been using potatoes a good bit, and then I was going to use peas, but I realized that it was probably too much starch, so I'm trying to throw more real vegetables and less bread-disguised-as-vegetables.  This is also the first time I'm using chili powder, so I'm interested to see how it turns out.

Green Pepper & Goat Cheese Scramble

The secret to this is to scrape the brown bits off the skillet and sprinkle them on top, once you're finished.

no-lettuce salads

I know I should eat more salad. But there is something about lettuce that makes me feel like I'm just eating grass; just doing something I'm supposed to do because it's good for me. And my contrary nature rebels against that.

I'm not the only one in the family that feels this way. Dave says lettuce is "just too much blank space" and is "hard to keep on your fork."

So earlier this summer Liisa sent me a recipe for chopped salad and I made a great one when I was out in California visiting that branch of the family: just tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, parsley, oil & vinegar, salt & pepper. So crunchy.

And since July Liisa and I have really been enjoying Mark Bittman's 101 Simple Salads for the Season.

My favorite has been #39: roasted corn, chilies, cherry tomatoes, queso fresco and lime juice. Cutting fresh corn off the cob may seem like a chore but it doesn't really take that long and the result is so worth it. I've used feta or parmesan when I haven't had queso fresco and good old chili powder in place of the chilies. I even made it with fried cheese or queso de freir and jalapenos. Before summer is over why not get a few ears of fresh corn and make the best no-lettuce salad ever!

the farmers market

One of the many pleasures of summer in DC is the Saturday morning farmers market in our town square. It begins in late June and runs through the end of October, and Sasha and I shop there every week. Today the temps were cold--55 degrees!--and there was a blustery wind, but that didn't stop the locals (and tourists) from purchasing their locally grown fruits and vegetables. In my shopping bag today: blueberries and carrots--there's a "Bittman salad" in my future--corn, rainbow Swiss chard, and spinach.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

first tweet

From David "David Murray" Murray:

Something from my twitter: "Spent a half hour reading my cookbook. I'm REALLY excited to make miso, udon, & onigiri. REALLY excited. Like, I can't sleep."

the pleasures of pancakes

I've been making home-made pancakes for my son at least once a week for several years now. At this point he has helped me so often, he's all but taken over the process by himself. My recipe calls for whole wheat flour and non-fat dry milk which makes them healthy AND tasty. Here's how I do it:

Spray the griddle with cooking spray and set on burner at medium high to warm up while you....

Place your flour sifter in a large mixing bowl. In the sifter, put:

1 scant c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. white flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
Sift these ingredients into the mixing bowl.

In a large (2 cup) glass measuring cup, mix
1 c. non-fat dry milk

Add to the milk:
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg

Mix liquid ingredients with a fork and add to dry ingredients. Mix well, but not too much. There will be a few small lumps in the batter, and that's OK.

Even though I've been making these pancakes for years, I always start with one "test pancake" to see if the griddle is hot enough. The batter should sizzle just a bit when it hits the griddle. I like to make silver dollar pancakes, because they're easier to flip. You'll know it's time to flip the pancakes when the tops stop looking glossy and little bubbles appear.

I cool the pancakes we don't eat on a baking rack, then store them in a ziploc in the fridge. Microwave for a few seconds the next day, add butter and syrup, and you're on your way to another healthy, delicious breakfast. (I like to add some ham or cheese on the side for protein, as well as a glass of juice. And coffee, of course!)

make some jam!

Growing up in northern Michigan, I can remember my mom making jams and jellies every summer. It seemed hot, labor-intensive work, which is probably why I never attempted jam myself until a friend challenged me to try it last summer. We made freezer jam in her kitchen, working as a team. And it was easy! Just get some fruit, sugar, canning jars and Sure-Gel. Follow the directions from the Sure-Gel package EXACTLY (particulary in regard to the amount of sugar needed) and in about an hour you'll have created a batch of "summer in a jar". Summer is short--fall will soon be here, so make some jam!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

birthday pie

A friend of mine has a large rhubarb patch in her garden, so we've been treated to pie, jam, and rhubarb bars this summer. I made this pie for a friend's birthday because it's her favorite. I used the recipe from "The Joy of Cooking" for the crust, substituting butter for lard. My 7-year-old son rolled the dough and crimped the edges. And I remembered to brush it with milk and a sprinkling of sugar to make the top brown nicely.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cast Iron Skillet

Lately I've been thinking that my family really needs a food blog. Not necessarily a recipe blog because a lot of us are not reeaally recipe followers. For me a recipe is just a starting point. And anyway, when I see a good recipe I don't usually have all the ingredients. So I like to look in the refrigerator and cupboards and see what inspires me. It usually works.

I'm also not a gadget freak. I think if you can't make it in a cast iron skillet or a big old casserole it's too complicated anyway. Even writers in the food section of the greatest paper in the U.S. ( o.k. my husband works there but I still think it's the best) agree with me.
Maybe I'll pack a cast iron skillet next summer for the cabin in the Porcupine Mountains. Too bad I can't bring my own gas stove.

So hey family! How about it?