Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nervous Prof's Begining of semester healthier banana bread

(I wasn't able to wait to take a picture before tucking in)

I was gonna post the new no-knead, barely measure Danish style "health" bread (whole meal, low yeast, honey, nuts, muesli, etc) based on the lovely Ganda of Eat Drink One Woman recipe, but I never photographed the bread before Blokey ate it all! gah!!
So instead, I present to you what Lefty Cooks does when nervous, especially about the start of a new semester: cooking and baking galore. I am documenting my dinner, which consisted of me throwing EVERYthing left over from the CSA share (turnips, kohlrabi, summer squash, potatoes, cilantro, chinese broccoli) and made it all Indian flavored mess: Bombay potatoes, Indian spiced chinese broccoli with squash, oven roasted (well, burned) kohlrabi and turnips fries, with Indian seasoning, and an interesting, tomato free chana masala (I substituted low fat yogurt for the tomatoes, and it turned into a kind of cheese); plus brown basmati and fake chapati/naans.
This morning, when I found out that Blokey finished off the health bread, I was hungry like a hippo, but tired and desiring more sleep. But the semester deems that I can't wait up at 10 (or 11, or noon) anymore, so I bleary eyed searched for a recipe to modify (make vaguely more healthy). This is adapted from the much abused Betty Crocker book. Luckily, it is relatively cool in Brooklyn and I found 3 really brown bananas and got to work.

Professah of Love's Banana Health Bread
Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream together:
1 stick (1/2 c.) of softened butter (or if you're impatient, cut it into small squares and it will soften faster. Please for the love of all things good, do not microwave. Earth Balance works too)
1/2 c. natural sugar (or any sweetner, i used some honey too)
Beat until well incorporated. Next add 2 eggs, 1 teas of vanilla extract, and 3 mashed up, very squishy bananas.
Continue to mix. Then add 1/2 c of butter milk (or add about 1 Tablespoon of natural vinegar or lemon juice to milk/soymilk)
Add 2 1/2 c. of whole grain flour, 1 teas of salt and baking soda. Mix together until just wet.
Add 1/2 of chopped nuts (I used almonds- for omega 3s)

Add to a 9" greased pan (or muffin tins), bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (I went 1 hour 15, and it was slightly burnt). In a muffin, i think its about 20 minutes, but it should crack on top.

Because I used whole grain (I used Hodgson Mill's organic whole wheat, but spelt would be yummy too), it was a little drier and crumblier than usual. And I maybe over cooked it a bit. My photog skillz are still rushed, but here is a picture for you:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chickpea and other leftover mess

Sunday Dinner: Serves 4 hungry fools (or two for dinner, and plenty leftover)
cooking time: about half hour if you're a multi-tasking fool

Lefty Cooks is a neurotic, oft-stressed young women, and-- as a result of her continued participation in the academic world-- has been prone to various chronic (cure-free!) disorders of the stress-related variety. This summer, which should have been all laughter and jokes, was another instance of said problems. However, Lefty Cook remains deeply suspicious of the industrial medical establishment (and has very cheapo health insurance), and has been treating herself with a combination of mummy-provided acupuncture and internet provided advice (the latter is strongly not recommended).
One of the top strategies of natural healing is avoiding certain foods. And then cycling them in over time and observing the body's reactions. So far, no tomatoes, alcohol, coffee or chocolate (until I get better). Which makes for creative cooking challenges. Like last night's pesto pizza biancas (with CSA and farmer's market basil, CSA Asian eggplants, and a huge CSA mesclun salad).
Today, I really wanted Indian food, but Indian food is really tomato based. I looked online and searched for a chana masala recipe with no tomatoes, and found this. The recipe calls for dried mango powder, which probably makes up for the lack of tomato sweetness. So I thought what does a creative cook do? I saw the HUGE bunch of farmer's market carrots and started to grate them, and added them to chana masala after cooking the spices.
The problem is (and there's always a catch), tomatoes start to give off juices very quickly and then break down, making up a key aspect of the liquidy gravy. Carrots don't. Their juices (if any) get quickly evaporated, and the carrots, even when finely grated, tend to just lump together. I kept adding water to encourage some kind of gravy-like result, but in the end, they never got together well. I ended up with rather boring and bland chickpeas, but the carrot parts were very fragrant.
I also made a cabbage dish, Indian style, adapted from this recipe. This was very good but I'm glad that I don't wear white, as the turmeric-y cabbage is a sure-fire stain creator. I did a few substitions as my Indian spice collection remains wanting.
Finally, I had leftover half whole wheat/half white flour dough sitting around from the pizzas. I think I read somewhere once that you can fake naan by throwing yeast dough onto a hot cast iron skillet. Unfortunately, this was that trendy no-knead artisan bread in 5 minutes a day business, so it was hard to stretch thin and spread on the skill. It was still quite edible.
Lucky for me, the blokey is very tolerant of cooking experiments. My food doesn't always turn out perfect or well, but we had a really good meal, with plenty of leftovers. (Adding yogurt to the mix made everything better)

Step one: start the rice (i made 1 1/2 c. of white basmati)

Lefty Cook's "Ow my everything hurts" Indian-style chickpea curry, with cabbage on the side.
pre cooking: grate 4 carrots (finely), chop up 1 onion, 5 cloves of garlic, and 1/2" of ginger root, core and quarter a 1/2 a cabbage, and cut into strips

2 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans)
4 finely grated carrots
butter or oil olive
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2" ginger, grated
1 1/2 teas cumin
1 1/2 teas turmeric
1 teas of coriander
1 1/2 teas of garam masala
1 c or more of water
salt and lemon juice to taste
cilantro (chopped) as garnish (1/4 cup) optional

sautee onions in oil/butter for about 2 minutes, medium heat, until they soften. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until they brown. Add spices (except garam masala), and stir/cook for another 4 minutes. Add carrots, cook until they soften (about 5 minutes), add cup of water, and wait until it starts to become incorporated. Add chick peas. Add more water if it all looks dry. Boil off some of the water (5 more minutes) and then sprinkle chana masala, lemon juice, and salt (adjust seasoning to your liking). Remove from heat and sprinkle cilantro on top.

In the meantime, while you are cooking the chickpeas, cook the rest of the onion and garlic to the pan and cook (in oil or butter), for about 3-4 minutes over medium high heat. Add about 1 1/2 teas of coriander and 1 teas of turmeric, and cook another 2 minutes. Throw all the cabbage and stir and cook. This will take you about 5 minutes before it wilts. Salt to taste (don't over cook- you don't want mushy cabbage)

Funky Naan-style bread
oil/butter for pan
some old bread dough, laying around
cast iron skillet

Heat up the skillet over medium high heat, with oil/butter in the pan (don't use to much, it's not donut bread). When it seems hot, take a handful of dough, try to stretch it as thin as you can without breaking, and throw it on the skillet. When it seems kinda solid looking (like a pancake), flip it over. It should be kinda browned, and then flip again when the other side is over. Spread some butter over it if you're inclined.

Serve curry and cabbage over rice. Stuff it into the bread if you're feeling chapati adventureous, and garnish with plain yogurt.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ital dinner

(the most exotic ingredient, the Scotch bonnet peppers, the lower left corner).

I live in Crown Heights, which is a really cool [not corny, gentrified, or expensive] neighborhood just east of Prospect Park on the gorgeous, scenic Eastern Parkway. Olmsted and the other dude, who did Central Park and Prospect Park, supposedly designed Eastern Parkway (and it anemic brother, Ocean Parkway) after the Champs-Élysées. But this ain't no tour guide blog. I love my neighborhood because of the Carribean community who lives here, with their music, accents, style and of course cuisine. (Does this sound like some thing a shitty gentrifier might say? gah!)
I went to a famous Jamaican restaurant the Islands with JK when she visited in February, and I was considering a vegetarian option, but she gently mocked me in her adorable "I'm so English" accent and instead we gorged ourselves silly on curry goat and shepherd's pie. About a month ago, I was too lazy to cook, so I got some curry goat for me and the only veggie option available for Blokey, called "Stew peas." The curry goat was less appealing this time around, but we scarfed down the Stew Peas and cabbage and rice. I vowed to learn how to make this fragrant coconut-milk based bean stew in the future.
Traditionally, like many bean dishes, Stew Peas are made with ham hock or other meat flavoring, but I was lucky to find an Ital recipe online (Ital is the vegan lifestyle of Rastafarians. Their food is amazing although I don't know how healthy it is, since they tend to go crazy with sugars and oil. I dig Imhotep for good, fast cheap Ital in the neighborhood). I was able to use the beautiful potatoes and the long green onions I got from our CSA this afternoon. The other ingredients are from local groceries.

Ital Stew Peas (adapted from
serves alot of frickin people (invite your neighbors and create good karma). I'll guess about 6 hungry hippos

1 bag of dried* beans (I used the many bean soup mix that Goya makes)
2 whole scotch bonnet peppers (I cut the tops off). Alternately, you could use a habenero, or maybe those light green ones)
¼ cup water
3 c. coconut milk (that's approx 1 1/2 cans)
3-4 bay leaves
12 pimento grains (allspice)
5 whole or halved cloves of garlic
3 scallions (the white parts only, with hairy bits chopped off)
1 onion chopped
3 sprigs of thyme (I used 2 pinches of dried stuff)
½ teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon natural sea salt (caution, this is SALTY, so please season to taste)
2 potatoes cubed
3 carrots sliced

Rice for serving
1/2 head of cabbage and 1/2 onion (for optioned cabbage side dish- which they always serve at Islands)

1. Soak the beans (I put them in a pot covered with water, heat to boil, take off the heat, add the lid, walk away and a few hours later they are basically soft). Drain off the soaking water.
2. Place coconut milk, bay leaves, scallion, pimento grain, whole garlic and pepper in the pot.
3. Slowly boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the peas are tender.
4. Season by adding the onions, crushed garlic and thyme.
5. Add carrots and potatoes
6. Let simmer for 20 minutes (until potatoes are done).
7. Remove the scallions, bay leaves and hot pepper before serving.

In the mean time, add 1/2 onion (diced) in a large, deeper frying pan with 1 Tbs of butter. Add half a head of roughly chopped cabbage. Stir fry until tender. You can season with a bit of salt, pepper and thyme, but since this will complement a vary well spiced and seasoned stew, there's no real need.

Serve stew with cabbage and cooked rice (I used white basmati).

That's Blokey's hand in the picture. And our dingy kitchen floor. Blokey claims its as good as the Islands, but I don't know about that. I bet it tastes better tomorrow.
Ow, I ate too much and now my tummy hurts. It's that good.

*Please do not use canned beans. Even though Mark Bittman has changed his stance on this dusty cupboard staple, they will turn into mush in this soup. Plus, they are super salty and this may overwhelmed the spices.

Summer Baking

is a stupid thing to do, but when you bake in the late hours, because you've mostly adapted to the owl-like schedule of your live in blokey (like a good, accommodating Azian grrrrl), it's maybe not so crazy.

I baked a pound cake and a some whole wheat bread for a bake sale at the CSA and my own toast-gratification in the past few weeks. The pound cake was mostly Betty Crocker, with a quick soymilk substitution because that's what Bloke likes in his fair trade directly from the African Farmer coffee. I think I tend to just slightly overbake my goods, but no one has complained thus far to me.

3 c King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks of butter (1 c.) softened
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. soy milk


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan (I picked my up in Chinatown for a song), 10-inch angel food (tube) cake, or 2 loaf pans.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt; set aside

Beat sugar, butter, almond extract and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 5 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk on low speed. Pour into pan.

Bake 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (50 minutes for cake pans). Cool 20 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Bake sale was today, in support of the low income grants for the Crown Heights Community Supported Agriculture organization.


The bread is a varaiation of "Volkorenbrood", a really dense, hearty whole wheat Dutch bread (which I believe translates into Whole grain or Wholemeal bread). I have been experimenting with Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread and Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (although the second one has been a challenge since I lack sufficient refridgerator space in the shared apartment). Lately, I've been desiring a good, non High Fructose Corn Syrup filled toast bread, and found this recipe on (which can really be a good resource). I was also impatient and did not want to "no knead" and wait forever for the bread.

It was pretty good. I don't know if I kneaded it long enough (you're supposed to be able to stretch it out into a window without the dough breading as indication that you've kneaded enough, but it's hard to tell with whole wheat dough). The bread was dense like that hard core German stuff you see in the deli. It made excellent toast and went well with eggs, jam, and butter. Highly recommend (if you have aggression and would like to work the deltoids in a food-related way).
Vollkorenbrood (adapted from recipe on

4 cups whole wheat flour

2/3 tbsp salt

1 1/5 cups water

1 1/2 tbsp live yeast

Additional 1/2 cup lukewarm water

olive oil

Proof the yeast (in a glass container, you "wake" it up), in the 1/2 cup of water. Wait until it bubbles. Next, mix the yeast/water mixture with flour, salt, and 1 cup of the water in a large mixing bowl. It should be kind of tacky and wet. Knead for 15 minutes (or use a dough hook on a Kitchen Maid mixer). I hand knead by pushing the ball of my hand into the ball of dough, and the fold it back, rotate it 90 degrees, and push down again. You can add up to 1/2 c more of water (I used about 1/4 cup). Knead until you can make a window (which means that when you hold up a small amount of dough, you can stretch it out like a window between your fingers that you can see through, without the dough breaking). The kneading process activates the gluten, something that would get activated during a longer rising period.

Next, form the dough into a ball with the dough and wrap it with a warm, damp non-terry cloth towel (I used a cloth napkin). Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes (it should about 1/3 larger). Remove the towel, punch down the dough with your fist, and then form it back into a ball, wrap in the tea towel and again allow to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. Take the dough out from the towel and shape it into a the for form the pan. Place the dough in the pan and cover the it with the warm moist tea towel and allow the bread to rise for another 30 minutes until it has increased by 1/3 in volume. I like to cut the bread with a cross pattern on top and dust with more flour (not necessary with sandwich bread).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When you're about to bake the bread, place the pan in the oven, and throw in a cup of water (this will create steam). Reduce temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds "hollow" when you knock it. Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking: the American Spectator Sport

Apologies for not updating this blog. I got sick and had to watch my food consumption for a while, and SpectralCat was very understanding. We've got some great veggies from the CSA but mostly I just stir fried it with eggs in the mornings upon realizing that a newer shipment would soon come in. Am convelecsing at the parents' house for the rest of the week, and hope to have new cooking adventures documented soon. I've done some hard core bread baking, and overdosed on quinoa (pictures to come). The semester starts in a just four weeks, and I hope to get lots of culinary and academic acheivements by then.
In the meantime, I read Michael Pollan's recent NYTimes article about the death of cooking in American homes. Very interesting article trying to determine the reasons for why corporations/for profit institutions have taken over cooking in the United States. Like a good researcher, he explores the possible arguments: namely is the a demand driven or supply driven phenemonon? He starts out his observation: why are Americans watching food shows (Iron Chef for fellas, Rachel Ray for the ladies) but unwilling to spend 30 minutes a day in food preparation? Pollan points out that one's health is strongly linked to home cooking, as lower income families the engage in home food preparation are healthier than higher income ones who do not. While MPoll is hardly a ranting leftist, his healthy suspicious of the commodificaiton of food productiond drives his answer. Rather the "conventional" explanations that increased women in the workforce or the lack of leisure time in America (we work on average 2 weeks more than our European counterparts, 4 weeks more than we did in 1967), Pollan argues that the creation of prepared/ready to eat/food sciency products largely took off the 1950s, a time when traditional gender roles were still quite entrenched. Perhaps a military Keynesianims- one that supported industrial agricultural and war time production- created this supply-side transformation.
States Pollan, Those corporations have been trying to persuade Americans to let them do the cooking since long before large numbers of women entered the work force. After World War II, the food industry labored mightily to sell American women on all the processed-food wonders it had invented to feed the troops: canned meals, freeze-dried foods, dehydrated potatoes, powdered orange juice and coffee, instant everything. As Laura Shapiro recounts in “Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America,” the food industry strived to “persuade millions of Americans to develop a lasting taste for meals that were a lot like field rations.”
I appreciated as well Pollan's sensitivity to the role of gender. While women have traditionally been the ones who engaged in the labor of food preparation, the issue of feminism and cooking remains a fraught one. He even notes how Simone de Beauvoir had an ambiguous relationship with the kitchen. On the one hand, it represents partriarchal domination, yet on the other hand, it can be a creative and fufilling endeavor. Perhaps this move towards commodification of food production has been worsened by our collective inability to deal with the care question. As couples move towards more equal partnerships, the lack of cooking skills (by either gender) has led to the "best solution" of take out and ready-meals as the compromise.