Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh noes (and other blog news)

Lefty Cooks has been a bad ole' blogger. A series of major/minor events have derailed my already spotty posting. While I must admit to drawing on the cooking skills of my neighborhood businesses, such as a vegan African cafe, an old-skool "since 1968" Italian owned pizzeria (the only time I felt like that I was going to be robbed in my neighborhood was the day I walked home with a piping hot, 14" pie. I would rob me), and the 24 Jamaican jerk chicken/curry place. But I have been doing some cooking, but in bits an pieces. Alot of repeats: Frankfurter gruene soss (for all those potatoes from the farm share), lentil salads, sauteed cabbage, etc.

Mr. LC and I have been stuck in my parents' sprawling suburban house for the past week. On Tuesday, we made an Indian feast for my mother's birthday. Thursday, we made scrambled eggs with lox. On Christmas, there were delicious Korean hot sauce noodles. Peppermint bark was attempted (minor fail). Today, I made the much requested pancakes for my parents, who eat fruit and veggie smoothies for breakfast everyday. I used Heidi Swanson's best pancake recipe, which some adjustments. This recipe is great because it uses my favorite King Arthur's white whole wheat flour, which is great because it's nutrient dense, full of fiber, but finer and more delicate than a traditional whole wheat. I also love the buttermilk, but I added more water so the batter would spread better. Finally, the vanilla is just my preference. If you feel like going restaurant style, switch out most of the sugar for malted milk (drool).
Heidi Swanson's Favorite Pancake Recipe (minus blueberry syrup), from, with Lefty Cook adjustments
Makes enough to feed my hungry father, uncle, boyfriend, and self
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teas. baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups buttermilk -or- make your own*
1/2 c. water (or however much you want to thin out the batter, which is thick)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted (melt in the pan skillet you are going to use)

*I used 2 c. whole milk, with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for each cup, or lemon juice, and about 1/4 c. of yogurt, all mixed together, let sit for about 10 minutes until thick and curdly

1) Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2) Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bigger bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients, but don't overmix or worry about making it perfectly lump free.
3) Warm up some butter (I use the stick directly on the pan and then wipe it up with a paper towel, because I'm classy) on the skillet over medium-high heat. When water sprayed on the skillet starts to dance, you're in business. Ladle 1/4 c. out at a time. Cook until the edges start to get dry and flip. Repeat until done. Batter can be refridgerated for a day (but not more). You can also keep the pancakes warm by heating up the oven to 200 degrees, and putting them in a pan.
Serve with real maple syrup (the kind that stores in the fridge), berries, apple butter, or banana slices.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Someone is thankful for buttermilk

Since 2002, I have only been at my family's house for Thanksgiving once. While they mind, I don't care as much. I mean, I miss them, but mostly I like to get together and create connections with new people during Thanksgiving. I went to an interesting Canadian Thanksgiving one year and had amazing, foodie-prepared Vancouver food (drool), and I've had these very quixotic, collective gatherings of twitchy graduate students (I kid because I love) with really interesting food results. Mostly, I just like getting together with people and eating, and enjoying company, something that my TT'd ass does less often than I should.
I was fortunate enough to get invited to two Thanksgiving meals, but I went to the one held by a colleague in a close by neighborhood. It was a vegetarian feast- with seitan veggie shepherd's pie, two amazing salads, real mac and cheese (caramelized perfectly in the oven), and two pies. One brought by Lefty Cook.
I made this amazing sweet potato buttermilk pie, closely following Deb's Smitten Kitchen recipe. I think I used just a little bit less sugar, and I skipped some extra butter she put in. I didn't really understand the egg separation and beating, though. She recommended that we separate the yolks and whites, and then beat the whites to soft peaks. I did that, and the end result was a really puffy pie, that finally cooled to regular proportions.

Puffy pie: fresh out of the oven

I have no complaints with the end results, and neither did the rest of the Brooklyn Thanksgiving party. (The host was amazing and gracious, the company and conversation wonderful, and we played Trivial Pursuit. I was the good natured loser).

Sweet Potato, Buttermilk Pie:

before pre-baking

Deb's Flakey, All Butter Crust:
1 1/4 c. of all-purpose flour (more for dusting the counter) I used King Arthur white
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted, straight from the fridge butter (in memory of MN, I used Land o' Lakes)
about 1/2 c. cold water, with some ice cubes in it

Mix together the flour, butter, salt, and sugar with a pastry cutter. But if you're low rent like me, just a knife and fork and incorporate (not cream) the butter in the flour. You should be making little crumbles. When everything gets to be about the sizes of small peas, then start adding water, about 1 Tbs at a time, and mix with a wooden spoon. You may need to add more than a 1/2 cup, but do it a little at a time. Too wet sucks (I made mine too wet). Also, don't add the ice cube.
When it can be made into a ball, wrap it up with saran wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight).
Preheat the oven to 325.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin (I just bought mine the night before at a Morton Williams in midtown) on a clean, floured surface. When it gets the right thickness (about 1/8"?), carefully place the dough in a pie plate and trim/crimp the edges with a fork. Wrap the crust in foil on top, and place beans or posh pie weights on top of the foil and bake for 12 minutes. (This step is hard but if my fool self could do it, so can you.)

Low rent pie crust weights

Remove beans, pierce a few times with a fork, and bake for another 10-12.
(if you have extra dough, which you probably will unless you pie pan is deep, save the dough to make into little leaf art patterns on the pie. Or just feed it to an artist or something).

For sweet potato filling/custard:

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
1 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, pinch of cloves, and some ground ginger)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons all-purpoe flour
3/4 cup full- or lowfat buttermilk
1 pre-baked pie crust (bought or made)
Vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop 2 medium sized sweet potatoes. Steam in one of those basket steamers (place in a larger pot with about 1 1/2 of boiling water) about 15 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.

Then smash it all up with a fork (or a potato masher, but this is the Bed-Stuy version)

Measure out 1 1/4 c. of sweet potato puree. Eat any extra. Add the spices, sugar and salt.

Beat the 3 eggs, then add to the sweet potatoes. Add the flour a little at a time until well incorporated. Add buttermilk and mix until smooth.

Pour the sweet potato custard into the prebaked crust. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the center is firm and set, 35 to 40 minutes.

(in oven)

Remove and cool completely. Serve with vanilla Ben and Jerry's (both of these items made the commute from Bed-Stuy to Crown Heights).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whole Wheat, molasses and pumpkin cake/bread

Too frickin' hungry to take a picture first

I've been baking alot at the new Bed-Stuy apartment. The problem is that when you eat alone and bake, you tend to accidently eat 1/3 of the damn thing by yourself in the first day. No problem, though. This is mildly healthy.
I adapted this from a Betty Crocker Cookbook's pumpkin bread recipe. Usually when I screw about with a receipe to make it healthy, it ends up tasting like crap. Somehow, I escaped that fate.
I just used a cheap-o can of Libby's pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). You could use fresh pumpkin but I would be sure to simmer it down so its not so liquidy. I already used about 1/4 of the can making crappy, pumpkin pancakes (massive FAIL) on Saturday and I was excited to use the rest. But as a result I had to adjust the measurements of the rest of the ingredients. I've adjusted them back, though, as I imagine in the future, I'll have the whole can.
Oh, and the molasses is kinda rich in Iron and something else, which aint so bad for a sweetener. The resulting cake is hearty, moist, dense, not too sweet, and with a distinct blend of molasses and pumpkin. drool.

Lefty Cook's hippie-fied healthier Pumpkin Bread
supposedly makes about 24 pieces, but I don't believe it for second

1 can of pumpkin
1 1/4 c. molasses (unsulphured, robust stuff)
2/3 c. olive oil (the recipe called for veggie oil, but I don't keep canola or veggie oil. I think the olive oil just added to the flavor)
2 1/4 teas vanilla
4 large eggs
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 teas. baking soda
1 teas. salt (I would reduce this for the future)
2 1/4 teas of pumpkin spice (or 1 1/2 teas. of cinnamon, about a 1/4 teas each of ginger, cardamom, cloves, or a combination)
1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350
mix pumpkin, molasses, oil, vanilla, eggs in large bowl. Stir in dry ingredients, except nuts. Then stir in nuts. This will be a very dark batter from the get go.
Bake either in two 8' loaf pans (59-60 minutes), 1 9 inch (for 70-80 minutes), or if you left your loaf pan in your old apartment, bake it in your dang bundt pan. When the chop stick comes out clean, it's probably done.

My last csa drop of the regular season was last Tuesday. Never fear, however, the Winter Share starts in December!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Kitchen

Lula's preferred method of the intra-borough move

For various reasons, not really the money saving type, I have moved out to a 2 bedroom apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant this past weekend. Moving is always stressful, and doing it in Brooklyn was doubly so. There's still some minor repairs that need to be done, but at least I could finally unpack (today, exactly 7 days after moving in). The landlord is a bit much, but over all a sweet lady.

It's huge (NY huge):

Living Room

Bigger Bedroom (which we're making a study)

Bedroom (OK, it's tight, but the view is gorgeous, and we're skinny)

But of course, my favorite place is the kitchen. I had my own living area and sleeping area (very lux, for a roommate situation) before in Crown Heights, but now I don't have to share this 6'x11' kitchen with anyone (well, kitty and boyfriend). Any other place, this would be "tiny" but I think it's huge. And we're stick a narrow table and a couple barstools in their later on. It will be epic. Narrow awesomeness.

The Brussels Sprout branch is more beautiful than flowers
(and I appear to have a U of Illinois color scheme- entirely unintentional)

This floor is nuts.

my pantry (no sharing)

Great sunlight

I put up those utensils myself

First Baking Project: Bitman's faster No Knead Bread (half whole wheat)

I'm in love

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lefty Cook's Empire State of Mind

Lately, living in NYC has been a challenge and a half.

However, soon I'll move to Bedford Village (a mini-neighborhood in the larger section of Brooklyn). I'm psyched, because:Mookie approves

I dream of Brownstones

It's one of the oldest, culturally rich neighborhoods in Brooklyn

Bobby Kennedey dug Bed-Stuy

Fast commute to midtown (and Harlem)

Notorious Guardian Angels

I've been swamped since coming back from many trips this semester (and I would like one more Minnesota trip before the fella moves out here permanently).
After coming back from Germany, I lusted after Frankfurter Grüne Soße. It's nothing fancy, like a runnier, less rich pesto (or a non spicy salsa verde) made with more herbs. Traditionally, one can buy the herbs ready bundled for making green sauce in grocery stores during summer. I unfortunately don't have access to sorel, borage, water cress, chevril, and salad burnet. I could probably hike all over town to find them in little European stores, but it's nearly Novemer people. I just used what I had in the house.

Frankfurter Green Sauce a la Crown Heights:
Blend together:
4 cloves garlic
3 chopped green onions (hairs chopped off) Note: the Germans are not so into raw aromatics like Lefty Cooks. Feel free to exclude if you're going to engage in social activities soon aftewards
1 bunch each of parlsey and cilantro, any green herb hanging around (basil is probably too strong)
1/2 avocado (optional, I had it hanging around)
water to mix things up
1 cup plain yogurt or low fat cottage cheese
salt/pepper to taste
vinegar or lemon juice to taste (or stone ground mustard)

Directions: Whir it all up in a blender. Pour over boiled potatoes and egg halves.

This tasted good the next day, and I poured it over roasted potatoes (sprinkled with upstate NY raw smoked cheddar). It also went well with black beans into soft tacos 3 days later.

This isn't cooked, but it's still worth sharing. Cheddar Caulflower, hanging out with its cousin white cauliflower, about to get slow roasted at 400 with olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Pride of Long Island.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Latino Pumpkin Pie from scratch

Neighbor Rollin said to me the other day, "The old lady is occupied tomorrow" (in so many words). "Would you like to-"
"- make a pumpkin pie from scratch?" I interjected.
He seemed OK with this. But he forgot that I was obsessed with this, and on Friday evening, I ran upstairs to with a cut up curcurbita, which the young woman at the Park Slope Key Foods told me was like a "Spanish pumpkin" that her ma uses all the time in cooking.

First we made a pate brisee. Or as Mark Bittman calls it, a flaky pie crust. You have to basically mix 1 cup and a bit of flour (cold) in a cold bow, with about 3/8 c. of butter (also very cold) cut into chunks, mixed with 1/4 teas of salt (doesn't have to be cold) and about 1/4 c. of very cold water. You cut the butter into the flour until its a crumbly mess, and then you add about 1 very cold Tablespoon at a time, and mix. When it just about barely holds together, stick it in the fridge for about an hour.

In the meantime, we ate this crazy mess of vegetables that I had laying around (from the CSA) in an Asian style sauce with quinoa:
Not appetizing to look at, but pretty decent tasting. A ginger overload

Next, we roasted the curcurbita in a pan, covered with tin foil, (cut into reasonable chunks) for about 45 minutes, until tender. We passed this through a blender, which was fun but it was very wet and I kinda freaked.

We pressed the dough out on the marginally clean table, and molded it. Stuck it in 425 degree oven for partial pre-baking, with Goya kidney beans as the pie weights (and a few fork stabs for good measure):

after about 20 minutes, voila:

We measured out 2 cups of the cooked curcurbita (very sweet), added less than 1/2 c. of hippie sugar (honey would have worked), a scant bit of salt, 2 teas. of cinnamon, 1/4 teas. of nutmeg (freshly grated), bit of cloves (also fresh), 1/2 teas of ginger powder, 2 eggs, and 2 little tins of unsweetened condensed milk:
And it took forever to cook, 15 minutes at 425, and then 45-60 minutes at 350 (you can check and if the crust is browning, tent tin foil over the crust only). It should be done when its puffed up a bit and the knife come out clean.

I wasn't able to stick around for the whole thing, because I had a phone date with Blokey but lukcily Rollin took a photo of the finished product:

(next time, more pate brisse, and a taller crust, because the crust was shallow and we had to bake some of the pumpkin filling in a separate ramekin. boo).

Fall Roasted Veggie Indian-Style Salad

Warning: this does not look pretty.
But it tastes good and is fool proof. No measuring.

Preheat oven to 450.
In a large pan (13 by 9) or a 10" cast iron skill add a combination of the following:
1-2 medium thinly sliced potatoes (sweet or otherwise)
1/2 parsnip, thinly sliced
handful of washed and sliced (stems cut off) fresh brussels sprouts
1/2 head of cauliflower or broccoli, cut into florettes
handful or so of greenbeans, ends trimmed and cut in 1/2
handful of sliced onions
3-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Toss with olive oil (under its fairly well incorporated)
Roast for about 35-40 minutes. It should look like this:

In the mean time, make the yogurt Indian-style dressing:
Mix about 3/4 cup of plain yogurt with whatever Indian style spices you have on hand. I mixed about 1 teas of garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and several generous pinches of cayenne. I mixed in some Apple Cider Vinegar (because I didn't have lemon juice) and a bit of salt to taste. I also roasted some slivered almonds, because I like a little crunch in my roasted veggies.

Mix it all together. Top with the crunch element (not required). Also you could go Asian style with yogurt, soy sauce, honey, and peanut butter. But my bloke ate all the peanut butter, and this was pretty good (if freaky looking).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Germany and riffing on Bittman

I went to Frankfurt a couple weekend ago for a lovely, nontraditional wedding. I ate more sausages than a reasonable flexitarian should. Oh, so many potatoes, cheese, tradition Grüne Soss, delicious-crusty-brown German bread. I can't believe how much I ate. Amazing. All totally worth it. It was a wonderful trip, even if my German is sheiße. I did manage to take photos of some of the local Hessian delicacies.

Apfelwein, local apple wine, comes in a traditional blue and white ceramic pitcher
(Adorable German lady is not included)

You mix it with seltzer water (Mineralwasser mit Kohlensauer- literally with Carbon-sour)

Handkäse mit Musik (special stinky Hessian fresh cheese. Served with "music"- oil, vinegar and raw onions.
As the groom said, one makes the music after you eat it)

But now I'm back, and I was so busy with teaching and then the blokey visiting (and we did alot of eating out), that I haven't had a moment to cook. But today I got my huge bags full of CSA veggies, rolled my sleeves up and went to work.
But not without inspiration. I stumbled across this Bitten Blog post (Mark Bittman's food blog). It was linked onto a recent blog entry. Bittman talks about this amazing lentil salad he had in France- so amazing that the rest of meal is less satisfying. There's no recipe, just a method, and the key ingredients are lentils, mustard, and bacon. So on the way home, I picked up organic, sulfite free bacon and harder lentils (still Goya brand, but not flat ones). I got a typically ridiculous cornucopia of veggies today, including a few gorgeous green, yellow and red baby tomatoes and heirloom-looking peppers. And an incredibly fragrant stem of rosemary (which Blokey calls "pine needles). I had my work cut out for me.
I did keep the original intent of Bittman's method, but I didn't cook everything together (because the beans were soaking before I got ready to cook).

Bittman inspired lentil salad and Rosemary flat bread
(served me for dinner and plenty leftover for lunch)
Cooked lentils (about 2 cups)
3 strips of bacon
5 baby tomatoes (2 medium sized ones)
3 Tbs of finely minced onions
2 small bell peppers- red or yellow- chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
dijon style mustard (not sweet)
salt and vinegar as desired
Also possible: grated carrots, sliced celery, cucumbers, chopped arugula

about 3/4 cups each of white and whole grain flours
1/2 package of active dry yeast
warm water
olive oil
sea salt
fresh rosemary spring, chopped
finely diced romano cheese for sprinkling

For flatbread
1. Mix the yeast with warm water (about 3/4 c.) in a small bowl. Let sit.
2. When it gets kinda bubbly, add the liquid to the flour. Mix it all up.
3. Add about 1/4 c. of olive oil. Knead about 5 minutes. Add white flour if its too sticky. Add more than half of the rosemary
4. Let sit while you start the lentil salad.
5. Preheat oven to about 375-400
6. After about an hour (it won't rise much), divide into two balls. Then flatten them down to between 1/2" to 1/4" of thickness, and sprinkle remaining rosemary on top. Add sea salt and grated romano cheese as desired.
7. Bake for about 15-25 minutes until the cheese browns (or not. Mostly it should start to smell like bread).

for salad:
1. Cook the bacon. Don't throw out the grease.
2. Dice into smaller pieces. Add the bacon pieces to the lentils, and then add the grease. Mix.
3. Add all the greens and veggies.
4. Add a generous amont of dijon. Mix it all up. Add salt and vinegar to taste (I didn't, but it may have made it better).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

mental break

Ah, the agony of the manuscript process. I know that I am a lucky girl to even be at this stage, but it's still a slog of a process.
I have been cooking a bit (and plan to make a huge mess of rice and mung beans tonight to get me through a long weekend of compulsive writing, only to be broken up with an acupuncture visit- yeah, I'm one of those Brooklynites, it seems). Here is my impromptu Monday dinner, Mondays being one of those evenings when my commute brings me to my grimy door at 9PM, starving with a voice cracking from 4 hours of shouting about political science to very bored NYC kids (bless them).

"Quick and Cheap" Untenured Professor's Green Fettuccine Faux-Carbonara
(30 minutes prep?)
would serve 2, but I ate it all, again

1/2 pack of Rice noodles (I used fettuccine, you can use whole wheat too)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 zucchinis, slices and cut in half (thin half moons)
5 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 handfuls of roughly chopped arugula
2 Tbs of chopped fresh parlsey
1 egg
2 anchovy fillets, chopped into little bits (will make the cat sniff you afterwards)
salt, pepper to taste
juice of one lemon
Hungarian Paprika (optional)
2 Tbs of pesto sauce (I made some with my farmer's market bounty weeks ago, but I guess the store bought kind is OK, no soybean oil)
Olive oil (1 1/2 Tbs?)

1. Boil the pasta according to directions
2. In a bigger pan, over medium heat, cook the garlic, about 2 minutes. Add the zuccini and cook (this will take about 10 minutes- you can chop other things during this time). Add the mushrooms after 5 minutes (they take less time).
3. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add the pesto and parsley. Maybe add some water. Beat together.
4. Drain the done pasta. Add the anchovy bits to the finished zucchini, then add the pasta and arugula. Mix with one of those pasta sporks (if this is hard, add a little olive oil). Be sure that it's not on the heat anymore, but everything should still be hot.
5. The fun part- quickly add the egg/pesto sauce in the hot mixed up pasta/zucchini mixture. It should pretty quickly "cook" and make everything kinda sticky.
6. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. You could garnish with cheese but I didn't have any. I threw on some Hungarian Paprika at the end, to give it more color.

The cat, my legs, and very full belly