Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carrot madness

Our farm share keeps giving us so many carrots. We haven't even eaten half yet. They are beautiful and delicious, but man, there are loads.
Today I was going to make a ginger-carrot salad, but we didn't have any non-wilted parsley. So instead, I thought I would do carrots as hasbrowns, but at the last minute decided carrot latkes. Evidently, this is not an original idea, but I did make this up as I went along. It kind of shows, but the recipe was still decent.

Lefty Cook's improvised carrot laktes (a recipe in process)
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 eggs
3 cloves of garlic chopped
salt and pepper
some flour
olive oil for frying

Method: Mix the first 4 ingredients together. Luckily, carrots are much drier than potatoes so there is no need to squeeze out liquid.

Next, mix up ingredients. Add a handful of flour to help create a "batter." (I used less than this but maybe 1/4 cup is in order).
Heat up about 1 Tbs of oil in a pan over medium heat. When it is warm, drop large spoonfuls of batter on the oil, and allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes, and flip. Careful that you don't burn (I kind of burned them). They are done when the pancakes are dry and golden brown.

The pancakes were pretty good, but somewhat crumbly. There needed to be more eggs. Some grated apple in the batter would have improved them. Also, some Greek yogurt would have been the perfect condiment. This recipe made about six 5" pancakes.

I also made a huge lentil salad, which I've made before, (lentils, chopped mustard greens, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar, feta) and then grated another huge carrot into it. I think I cooked more than a 1/2 bag of lentils and there aren't any leftovers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yellow Split Pea soup (and tomato drama)

When I eat out almost all the time, my body rebels. Nothing works right and my skin gets icky, my body is tired, and forget about being regular. Augh- grease, sugar, salt overload!
So when I got back from New Orleans, where I ate too much delicious Cajun food, I was dying for something not deep fried, full of meat, or chocked full of sodium. I bought a bag of yellow split peas, made yummy soup, and felt better right away (and ate it for lunch the next day, and breakfast the following day). Yep, blokey and I went through a whole bag of yellow split peas in about 2 meals.

Yellow vegetarian split pea soup
One bag of yellow split peas
2 onions
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 bay leafs
1 c. of tomatoes (can be boxed or canned)
salt and pepper to taste
butter or olive oil
water or stock
oregano, basil, whatever herbs you have on hand (parlsey would have been nice too)

Pick over the split peas. Soak for 8 hours or do what I do, which is to put it in a pot with water, set it to boil with the bay leaves inside, and let it sit an hour.
Next, saute first the onions and fat together in a larger soup pot over medium heat. After 3-4 minutes (softer, smelling yummy), add the carrots. Let that cook and stir for about 3-5 more minutes. Add the potatoes, let that cook for a few more minutes.

Strain the peas and add to the pot with the carrots and potato mixture. Add water or broth until it covers over the stuff inside. Increase the heat to high until it all boils, then simmer and cover for about 20 minutes, until every thing is soft. Feel free to add more bay leaves (I love me some BL).

After the 20 minutes, add some tomatoes. Blokey and I are using Tetra Pak boxed tomatoes now. Evidently, canned tomatoes, because they are acidic, leach ickiness from the can into the tomato. The resin lining of cans "contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity." Uh, ick? If I am going to get those problems, I want it to be because I ate a lot of deliciousness. Since we eat a lot of tomatoes, we've decided to make the haul up to Fairway more to get these. They can also be bought at Trade Joes or Whole Foods, I believe (just not the TJs in NYC that I visit). This is also a good reason to consider soaking beans and forgoing canned soup (does anyone eat that anymore?)

These Pomi tomatoes are not joking around. Nothing in there but tomatoes.

I don't know why I didn't take an after photo. The soup looked like this, but more orange and uniform in color

We ate the soup with roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes. Our CSA dumped another 20 lbs of potatoes and carrots on us. I need to focus on consuming those soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sexy valentine's day cinnamon bun WIN!

Happy Valentine's Day/V-Day/Lunar New Year/President's Day Weekend from Lefty Cooks!

OK, they're not that sexy or particularly groundbreaking, but I came in to this "reuse pizza dough" recipe with low expectations. I mean, if amazing and talented Cathy Erway had a pizza dough cinnamon bun fail, I was aware that I would likely also face challenges.
First the bad: they didn't stick together so well, and the cast iron skillet was a bitch the clean, and I ate too many.
Then the good: crispy on the outside, soft on the outside. Just the right amount of sweet that you can control. I used ingredients already on hand. And partly whole wheat, so it's practically good for you.

I used the remaining 1/3 of the pizza dough from last night. There was one bit I took that seemed have a bit of garlic in it, but that didn't detract from tastiness at all.

Leftover pizza dough cinnamon swirls
better than Little Debbie
1/3 of the pizza/bread recipe (day old)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
2 Tbs of butter, melted

Soymilk glaze
1 c of soymilk
3 tables of sugar (or more if you'd like)
splash of vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough fairly thin, but not translucent thin, into a rectangle. You'll want to shape it so one length will get rolled up and the other length (longer one) will get cut into rolls.
Mix the cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. Spread onto the dough, fairly evenly. Leave some space between the edges, as it will spill out.
Carefully up the dough, from the long end.
Slice into pinwheels. Place on a cast iron skillet or a pie plate/10" cake pan.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes (until golden brown).

But before putting them into the oven:
Warm up soymilk until almost boiling in small saucepan, medium heat. Add the sugar and vanilla. Add more sugar if you'd like (taste it first). Stir and watch the pot, you'll want it to reduce and simmer to a thick sauce.

Take the buns out of the oven. Spoon the vanilla glaze on top of each roll. Pop back in the oven for a final 2 minutes (careful that you don't scorch). If you have any left over glaze, add some more to tops after you take them out.

Writing break!

I am finally done with a second paper for a conference that is coming up. I can't wait to see my buddies from graduate school (the presentations make me nervous, so I just won't think about them today).
When I write, the process takes over my life. I dream about my arguments. I get snippy, achey, tired, and easy frustrated. I feel stupid and question my life choices. It's during these times that I should make an effort to take care of me, but it doesn't always happen. "Exercise" goes to the wayside, and I often don't cook. I eat, but I don't even take proper meals. Bad professor!

where non-genius stuff happens

Last night, I was almost done, and I realized that I needed to cook. Blokey has been patient and kind, as usual, reading drafts and discussing my ideas with me along the way (it's been a long way). So I made one of his favorites: homemade pizza (he prefer's Lou Malnati's over mine, but I can forgive him for his Chicago prejudices) with salad.

Arugula salad pizza

For the dough, I used this recipe: the bread without a timer . I didn't useit all, so I have about 1/3 of the dough in the fridge, for a snack later.

Additional ingredients:
Fresh mozzerella (I got mine from Fairway)
Pecorino Romano (also from UWS Fairway)
Coarse ground corn meal

For the Sauce:
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
about 3/4 teaspoon of salt (but careful with this, my tomatoes weren't salted)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 smaller onion, diced
dried basil
a pinch of cayenne

Saute the onions in the butter over medium heat until it is softer (2-3 minutes). Add the garlic. Stir. After another 4-5 minutes (everything should be golden brown), add the tomatoes. Now add another Tablespoon of butter (you know you want to). Simmer with the lid over lower heat for about 10-15 minutes. Add pepper, cayenne and dried basil to taste (fresh would be better, but it's February)

Preheat the over as hot as it will possibly go (Broil for us. Our heat was down last night so it was welcome).
Pull off a chunk about 1/3 of the dough from bread and rolled it out, then stretch it by hand to desired thickness/thinness. I made it thicker than usual, because Blokey likes it thicker (damn you, Chicago culture).
Sprinkle the bottom of your cookie sheet (ideally a baking stone). Place the streched out dough on top. Add sauce and cheese (we went heavier on the mozzerella, because the percorino was quite strong) and other toppings if you have them around.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, but keep a close eye on it. When the edges are golden and the cheese is bubbly, it should be done.

While it's baking, whip up the salad:

4 oz. of arugula or other mixed greens
1/2 Tbs of dijon
1 Tbs of olive oil
1 clove of garlic chopped
juice of half a lemon
splash of apple cider vinegar
salt, peper and oregano to taste.

Whisk up the ingredients for the dressing then pour over the salad.

When it's done, place the salad on top of the pizza and eat. Somehow the fresh arugula and drsesing on the fatty, carby goodness is a great combination.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fairway! and Bread!

There's some kind of dire snow situation going on here on the Eastern seaboard, but the moderating Atlantic winds have evidently killed off anything interesting from aculumating here. I'm supposed to finishing up (more like starting) these conference papers, but I'm also cooking and eating! And baking!

First is a ridiculous meal that blokey and I shared on Wednesday. It comes from Joan Schwartz' "Macaroni and Cheese: 52 recipes, from simple to sublime." A lovely colleague lent the book to me, and we actually ate the Swiss Mac and Potatoes during Thanksgiving. I've been dying to reproduce it since. This past week was my first week of the spring semester (only 15 or so weeks to go), and I was knackered on Wednesday evening. So of course, I walked up to Fairway and bought the necessary ingredients.

This was possibly a mistake. Low sodium and low fat swiss lorainne? This is what happens when you shop sleepy.

The Colavita was yummy. And not too pricey (thanks Fairway)

Dood, give me cheese and carbs over booze any day.

Swiss Mac with Potatoes (adapted from Joan Schwartz)
total time: about 1 hour
serves 4
1/2 lbs of elbow macaroni
3 small potatoes, sliced 1/2" thick
2 c. of grates Swiss (you could ask the deli for 1/2 lb of medium sliced too)
2 eggs beaten
1 1/2 c. of milk

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter a 9"x13" pan (I used something a bit smaller, so I bet you could too)
Cook the macaroni until al dente (8 minutes) and boil the potato slices just about 8 minutes (so it pierces with a fork but is still firm). Drain both. I then sliced the potatoes into dices.
Layer macaroni, potatoes and cheese in the pan (cheese should be on top). This should be about 2 layers.
Mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour of the top of the pan.
Bake for 30-45 minutes until everything carmelizes on top (that's a long range, but I like it browner, others might not).

pink potatoes from the CSA drop (looks ham like)

Final product (I think that white stuff on the middle is egg white. Note to self, beat the eggs better next time)

Next, let's talk bread. We've been eating this bread all day. It's mostly whole wheat with added fiber via flax seeds, very little kneading, and very flexible time wise. I also adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen as well (I'm very devoted to her blog). She calls it "Bread without a timetable." There's no denying that her photos are beautiful and professional, but I think our loaf looks just as nice.

It's not that easy but it's not that hard either, and you can pretty much forget about it over night. And it uses very little yeast, which is great in my book. I'm made some adaptations (like the water bath), though, because I like a crispy crust.

"Writing Conference papers" bread
Time: about 30 minute of effort total, 30-45 minutes of baking, and hours when you should be thinking, writing, thinking.
1 1/2 c. of all purpose flour, unbleached
2 1/4 c. of whole wheat flour (I think I will play with the proportions next time)
1/2 c. of warm water
1 c. of milk (or water)
1 teas of honey
1/4 teas of yeast (you can up this 1/2 teas if you're not going to be waiting over night).
1 generous teas of salt (you can up this a bit if you'd like. I thought my bread was a little bland)
1-2 Tbs of ground flax (the recipe called for wheat germ or bran, but this worked as really well)

I had to proof my yeast first, so I mixed the warm water with honey and the 1/4 teas of yeast (did this with 2 packets). After 10 minutes, it should be beer smelly (if it's just honey smelling, move on to the next packet and try again).
Next, mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Then add the water and the about a cup of milk, although you may want to add more water if you need to. This should be on the wetter side, but not a mess all over the bowl. Knead a few minutes until well incorporated.
Flour the dough, put it back in the dough, and cover with a damp towl/cloth napkin. Put in a draft free place overnight (I stuck it in the oven).
Then, go back to work, lazy academic!
In the morning (or afternoon, which is when I often wake up), punch it down and let it rise once more. This was about 2 hours for me (you can do it slightly less).
after the second rise

Then shape into a "baguette". Deb's webpage has great instructions. I just sort of rolled it out with a pin, then rolled it up, tucking in the seams. Place on the baking sheet (or for me, the reused lasagna tray cover).
Cut in 4-5 slits with a knife on top and flour it. Flour it again.

Turn on the oven to 550 degrees (yes!). In the meantime, boil some water, and stick it in an overproof pan (I used a 9" cake pan).
Just before sticking the bread in, place the water bath on the lower rack. Place the bread on the middle rack. Shut the door.
Water bath in action. Note the brand new oven thermometer.

The water brings the heat down and makes a steam bath. After about five minutes, lower the heat to 450. Bake for another 20.
Check and see if it's done (is it hollow sounding when you tap it?) If not, keep it in the oven at 425 for another 5-15 (mine was done after the first 30 minutes).
Wait for it to cool, and eat it with cheese.
Here's a better view of the crumb and the thickness of the upper crust. And my office floor

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lots of cooking

I have two unfinished conference papers harassing my bad academic conscience. But I still try to cook as a way to get over my guilt (I mean, the papers take forever, and I do need to relax sometimes).
The semester started this week, and we've been busy in the Lefty Cooks household. Blokey is teaching two classes, and I'm teaching three, although none of these are technically new preparations, teaching classes (especially when you're feeling nervous having just met the students) takes a lot of time and energy. And I only do it 4 hours, 2 times a week.
So when I do get home from my 12 hour days (including the transit time), I am ready for simple and delicious. I've been in love with the simple tomatoes, butter, and onion sauce featured at Smitten Kitchen, but I've seen reference to it elsewhere as well. It's about 3 ingredients (4, if your tomatoes don't have salt), 45 minutes of simmering, and then pure deliciousness.

Note about ingredients: Deb recommends that you use San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. However, the tomatoes that she uses (and that I found at Gourmet Garage) are not actually San Marzano tomatoes. They are delicious canned tomatoes, but real San Marzanos must be labeled "D.O.P." or Denominazione d'Origine Protetta. This pretty and simply designed can has U.S. grown tomatoes and are distributed by some New Jersey based company. I think "San Marzano" is just a deceptive brand name.
But anyway, the sauce was still good. The half stick of butter probably contributed. It is so simple, that it doesn't require a formal recipe. Simmer a 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and their juices in a saucepan over medium (and then low) heat, covered, with 1/2 a stick of real butter, and a small peeled onion, chopped in half.

Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes during the 45 minute simmer.
Serve over freshly cooked pasta. We used linguine.

I've also been a corn bread kick. Our friend had us over her place a few weeks ago for a cooking party and we made a mess of chili, and all I could think afterwards was "my that would be nice with cornbread."
Blokey and I only have coarse ground corn bread (for polenta) and whole wheat flour, but I blended the "Yankee" and "Southern" cornbread recipes (I defy you, regionalism) and made this very nice pan ful to eat with black bean chili a few days ago.

The crumb is pretty big, but it's very hearty and yummy.

Non Mason-Dixon oriented Buttermilk corn bread (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 1/2 c. of corn meal
1/2 c. of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. buttermilk (I didn't have the full amount so I used so low fat yogurt mixed with water too)
2 teas of baking powder
3 Tablespoons of sugar (this is the Northern influence)
3/4 teas of salt
1/2 teas of baking soda
2 "Flax" eggs (2 Tbs of ground flax, and 6 Tbs of warm water, mixed together until it created an egg like paste)* [you can just use eggs, but I didn't have any on hand and it turned out really nicely] Another Yankee influence
3 Tbs of melted butter (not too warm. I melted it in the 10" cast iron skillet so I didn't have to grease any pans)

Preheat to 450. Mix all the ingredients together and beat for 30 seconds. Pour into the greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until "golden brown". Serve warm with chili.

We also made Mark Bittman's cabbage salad:
It goes something like this:
Halve, core and cut a 1/2 cabbage into strips (we used 1/4 of a white cabbage and 1/4 of gorgeous red one from the CSA share). Grate some peeled carrots in. Add salt and drain in a colander for about an hour. Add some parsley or dried oregano to taste. It should be softer but not soggy after draining. Toss with apple cider vinegar. Add more salt if necessary. (We didn't use any olive oil, since our meals are so fatty in general. You can also use black pepper).