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).