Thursday, February 13, 2014

Asian Cube Steak

Tangy and spicy, this recipe is amazing. 

Cube Steak is cheap and easy to make.  This cut of red meat should be cooked "wet", and here is an interesting fact: the Cube Steak was the original "hamburger", before finely ground meat patties could be made.  For an old-world hamburger, grill a Cube Steak, soak it in some condiment and put it on a single slice of hearty whole-grain bread with saurkraute.

My go-to for cube steak is to just serve it with German Spaetzle dumplings and an herb-laden brown gravy whipped up from scratch.  That is a good, easy meal and one I've never much thought of replacing.  However, due to a recent move, and a short supply of condiments, and little motivation to hit the grocery store, I had to get creative with what I had- mostly Asian stuff.  My concocutre did not start off smelling too good, and I was just hoping it would be not-disgusting.  Well, it was excellent, keeping my streak of off-the-cuff recipes that turn out well going.  I might have a new staple dinner when I crave some cheap red meat.

Ingredients: (brands I used in parentheses)
1 lb Cube Steaks
3 tbsp Hoi Sin Sauce (Sun Luck)
1 tsp Chinese Hot Chili Oil (Dynasty)
3 tbsp Classic Wok Oil, with garlic, onions, ginger and safflower (La Tourangelle)
2 tsp Tamari Extra Dark Premium Soy Sauce (San J)
Few pinches Signature Asian Seed Rub (Private Selection)
A pinch each of: onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, and ground ginger

Start your meat in the pan with nothing but the Wok Oil.  Add in everything else after they brown, stir well, flip the steaks regularly, and keep it all on Medium heat for about 7 minutes.  Then enjoy.  You are welcome in advance.

P.S. This is fairly hot.  If that is not your favorite style of food, then reduce the Hot Chili Oil by half.  If you want it really hot, then double to 2 tspn.  But just remember a little goes a long way.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Healthy Desserts

The world's greatest pecan pie is finally perfected, and I'm giving it to you free of charge.  Also a couple other "healthy" dessert ideas tacked on at the end.

What a nice guy I am, right?  Well it took me 3 attempts but here is a healthy, delicious artisan dessert for your next special occassion.  No corn syrup, no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or compromises.  Tons of natural flavor, and made with only ingredients known and available to Mesopotamia centuries ago.  I named it Canaan Pie because it is made with milk and honey, and in the Bible, Canaan was the name of the land of milk and honey.  Makes sense, eh?  I made this for "Thanksgiving in Zion National Park" with a big hiking and canyoneering group, and it was sort of a big hit, though I burned one of the pies.  Sadly, that one got sampled first, and by more people.

Part 1: Recipe for Canaan Pie:

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup kamut flour
1/4 cup barley flakes
1/8 cup slivered almonds
1/2 stick butter
1 whole egg
2 tbsp oil of your choice 
Water as needed
Standard bleached baking flour as needed

12 oz whole pecans
2 whole eggs
1/2 pint heavy cream
10-12 whole dried figs
1/4 cup currants
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp molasses
Cinammon, nutmeg, and allspice
1/8 cup plum butter or pumpkin butter (optional)

Directions for crust: 
Spelt and kamut flours are more difficult than typical wheat flour, which is part of why the wheat we use won out.  For breads, they can be heavy and resistant to rising, but in a pie crust it doesn't matter.  These traditional whole grains will give a dark hearty crust.  Mix the 2 cups flour with water and oil, and blend in your egg, and the butter (melted, or just dice it cold if you like extra work or don't have a microwave).  I did this all by hand with a teardrop spatula.  Add water and white flour as needed until you've got a good dough that is behaving itself.  Add your barley flakes now and mix them in.  This way they don't pulverize completely.  Grease your pie pan and press the dough down into it, evening with fingers.  This is not going to be a delicate dough, so you can manhandle it and it shouldn't tear.  If it does, repair is easy.  Once you've got the crust laid out well, press the slivered almonds in gently, and somewhat evenly- again, this is done in a way so as not to crush them up too much.  You want your guests to know this is a special crust, hand-pressed with almonds with care.  Sprinkle lightly one last time with white flour to help prevent too much seepage into the crust by the fillings.

Directions for filling:
Dump 'em all in a bowl.  Stir them up.  Pour them over your crust and stir them up again.  Try to make things even so one piece isn't all fig or another piece all pecans.  But not much can go wrong here.  I assure you.  You can do this.  The optional pumpkin or plum butter will not change the flavor much, but it will change the color from a gold to a faint orange (pumpkin) or mahogany (plum).  I suggest halving your figs.  Do pull the stems out, even if you leave them whole.  I suppose if you fail to do THAT then something will go wrong here.  I shouldn't have assured you of success so soon.

Directions for baking:
Bake at 350 F in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, watching closely.  You lose flavor if it singes, so pull it when the top is getting browned.  Not all ovens work exactly alike.  Will set and thicken as it cools.  Main thing is, those eggs gotta be cooked.  Serve hot or cold.  Good both ways.  

Wow!  A new leaf- an actual recipe with directions, and not so much chatter.  Perhaps there is hope for this abandoned vacant ghost-blog after all.  Enjoy.  (Sorry I don't have pictures.)

 Part 2: Recipe for "Concrete Energy"

I'm pretty sure I wrote about this a long time back.  Let's not think how far back.  But it has a new name, so I will write it more concisely with proper detail.  This is a chilled snack made with granola and a "Honey Bunches of Oats" style cereal. The two are "cemented" together with a 50/50 mix of honey and PB.  Its high calorie, and a great on-the-go treat.  

12 oz granola
12 oz Honey Bunches of Oats (or your favorite generic option)
12 oz smooth peanut butter
12 oz honey

Can you remember all those numbers?  You can tinker.  Mix the dries in a bowl while you heat the peanut butter and honey over a light simmer on the stove, stirring often.  Once they are consistent, taste them and add more of one or the other as you prefer.  

Pour your glue over the cereal and mix together with a plastic spoon.  Let sit a minute while you grease a 9X12 glass baking dish.  Pour the mix in and pat it as evenly as possible, smoothing the top.  Cover and refridgerate several hours.  Cut it into squares and eat.  Keep it cool or it will come apart, but as you practice, you'll get better at it and there will be less crumbling. 

This was a very popular item at the same "Thanksgiving in Zion" event.

Make sure you exercise before you eat this, or you will get fat.  And die of a heart attack.  Reading that last sentence legally counts as a disclaimer.  Don't look it up, just trust me.  Would I lie to you, here at this little blog?

Part 3: Reposted: Chocolate Tofu Pie

Don't forget about this one if you like somewhat healthy desserts:

Its super simple:

1 lb silken tofu
9 oz dark chocolate (melted)
Whipped cream
Raspberries (or other fruit)
1 pre-made Graham Cracker Crust (or make your own- may I suggest the kamut/spelt crust from above)?

Just blend the melted chocolate and tofu in a blender or food processor.  Pour into the pie crust, and decorate the top.  No one needs to know its good for them until they are half finished with a slice, praising you around a full mouth!  Over 15 grams of protein per slice.  Less than 30 minutes start to finish!

Part 4:  "Oat the Door" Bars (newly renamed):

Just use the basic dry formula and the basic wet formula for unflavored, or change the recipe as noted for each flavor listed below.  These make great snacks for hiking or taking to work.  I haven't made them in over a year, and I do not know what is wrong with me!  This is a good reminder.  I was thinking of them because a friend just got the dreaded "high cholesterol" diagnosis, and is morosely crunching away on store-bought granola bars on her breaks.  Oats help reduce cholesterol and these keep for weeks in the fridge without preservatives, and are way better than anything you can buy.  Not THAT much work to make either.  Once you get the hang of them.

Recipe and Directions:

Dry: To be mixed by hand with a big spoon in a big bowl
2.5 cups of oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or replace some of the wheat flour with a couple tablespoons of soy flour which has more protein)
1-2 tbsp of flaxseed meal (omega 3 fatty acids)
Some cinammon
Some allspice

Wet: To be heated on low in a pan
4 fluid oz corn syrup (I have been using light but I think dark might be better)
4 or so oz margarine or butter
1/3 cup sugar or brown sugar (depending on which variety or which you think will taste better)

That's it. You add the melted butter and liquids to your drys, stir them, dump them in a glass 9X13 bake dish which you: 1) grease plenty 2) put in the oven at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

You can be cleaned up completely in five minutes. They are really quite easy. And very adaptable. You can add a little water (less than 3 fluid oz) if you want them more soft. You can cut a pan of them into eight bars which are squarish, or 16 smaller granola bar sized bars (the new 100 calorie size).

Here are my varieties so far:


Your add ins are: 1/4-1/2 cup craisins to your dry mixture, and  2 tsp orange emulsion to your wet

Tangy Apple Date

Your add-ins are: 1/2 cup chopped dates to your dry mix and 1 tbsp molasses and about 4 fluid oz of apple butter to your wet.

Iced Pumpkin Walnut Raisin

Add Ins: Dry: 1/8 cup or so chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup raisins, 1 cup of canned pumpkin (or a little over)

Wet: No additions

Icing: While baking (at the 15 minute mark), you will need to make your icing. Start with 2 oz butter or margaine in a small sauce pan and turn heat to low. Stir in sugar until it gets thick and squirt in a teaspoon or a little more of vanilla extract. Keep it warm With 5 minutes of your bake time left, pull out your bars and spread the icing over them. This won't cover everything evenly- I did tiger stripes. Then slide back in to bake those last few minutes and eat.  

(The pumpkin flavor is very good without the icing too.  Its not necessary unless you are using them as a dessert only).

Chocolate Coconut Cashew

Your add ins are: Either 1/4 cup chocolate chips or of make-your-own Dove chocolate chips made with a trusy knife and a little care, 1/4 cup of shaved coconut (have you noticed shaved coconut is like 3 times cheaper by weight than shredded; I don't care what shape my coconut flakes come in- do you?), 1/8 cup chopped cashews. Add all to your dry. No add ins to your wet- unless you want a little vanilla in there, which you just might. Doesn't that sound good? I bet it does.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013


The prodigal chef returns. 
Obviously, I have not made this blog a priority.  There are several reasons, some of them petty, some of them dreamy, and some of them practical.  The main reason that I do not write about food anymore is that I have shown very little creativity with it the past year.  I've been boring to a large extent, but another truth is that once a man has 50 original and excellent recipes, he does not need many more.  On those rare days I am not laid up with food poisoning yet again or out in the mountains (now as a group leader and organizer often), I just whip up something I have been craving for months, already documented here in the old posts.  

There was an exception recently though, when a dented can of beets (29 cents!) reminded me that I used to slave over the stove some rare nights to make "maroonara" sauce; a beet-tomato blend that goes amazing over eggplant and pasta.  Well, I was struck by a sudden epiphany and realized I wanted that sauce, and that canned beets would be easier.  They sure were.  The result was better than ever thanks to Herbs de Provence.  Here is the easy recipe:

Maroonara Sauce

Simmer over stove on low-medium heat for 30 min or so: 

1 can tomato sauce (unseasoned)
1/2 can beets (take a potato masher to them, or use a fork to chop them up)
 3-4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tspn balsalmic vinegar
Herbs de Provence
Garlic powder
Onion powder
White pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

That's it.  I had delicious pasta for a week.  As a matter of fact, I am making another small pot of this lovely little sauce right now.  Try it with a few shavings of your favorite mid-price cheese.  I am using fontinella right now, but want to try feta as well.  I also suggest a few pistachios, which as I've said before, is a luxury on pasta.  You can't beat 5 gourmet meals in a week for under $3 total!

But here is where this article gets truly interesting- are you ready?  I was out of tomato paste one night while making a pizza, which sounded delicious beyond the bounds of depression (which does come on when mountain season ends, a man has dealt with lingering foot problems all summer, he's constantly getting sick, a check for 4 figures has disappeared in the mail, and his car has been in the shop for a week while waiting for $10 worth of teeny bolts to be shipped to his mechanic for a not-that-serious repair).  (Long sentences and bad punctuation: how did you do all these months without them?!)  Well, rather than walk to the grocery for a second time that day I decided to try my maroonara sauce on the pizza.  I hesitated because that would burn up half my reserves, but live a little, you know?  Its easy to make more.

That pizza was another in my recent line of successes.  I have had several of the best pizzas of my life this year, all in a row.  My "Beetza" was by far the best though.  Tangy, and a little exotic, I wolfed it down in a single sitting.  I am going to make another Beetza soon.  Here is the recipe below.  It too is easy.

Make your favorite dough and get it laid out flat.  I am doing just a plain wheat dough right now because it rises better than other rarer flours I like to play with.  I use 50-50 split of whole wheat and white flour.  

Spread maroonara sauce liberally, and then choose your toppings and cheeses.  For my exact picks, read the next paragraph.

then sprinkle over freshly washed sprouts (my mix is alfalfa, cabbage, Chinese red cabbage, radish, and clover and I grow them myself).  Then sprinkle your Herbs de Provence- not too heavily because it is in the sauce too.  Then toppings: 1/3 of a zucchini, julienned, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced, a handful of diced black olives, 12 slices pepperoni, a few pinches of pineapple, and 3 oz mozzarella cheese.

My other pizza glories were using white sauce.  You can buy a Soup Starter at the store that is a basil alfredo base.  As a soup, I think its paltry, or as a sauce over noodles.  But on a pizza with plenty of fresh tomatoes, zuchini, peppers, olives, and spinach leaves, with a bold cheese mix such as cheddar and parmesan, it is really excellent. 

Well, this was fun- and shockingly short for me.  There may be hope for me yet.  I hope the 3 or 4 people who still remember Camila and I ever existed as Internet muses, or sprites, of spirits, or whatever, and who come across this post will enjoy these easy ways to sneak beets into the diet.  The only thing better is the Beet Beer from the Beers of the Apocalypse Series, but that is off the market now, I believe.  Stay tuned, because I will surely write another article within the next twelve months.

Probably a tribute to pumpkin in the next thirty days I think.  After my first pumpkin ravioli from scratch.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Baking with Emulsions

You can make a variety of vibrant fruit breads with bakery emulsions, and I will give you several recipes.

Coming to you live from the DATC Computer Library, I am back with a long overdue post.  It took a little time adjusting to a new technology program I signed up for and to get used to being up by 6 am every day.  That is not the easiest thing to do when one has been on a swing or night schedule for 5+ years.  But I am almost back to normal.  I go 40+ hours a week, do not have to drive as I got a discount student bus pass, and so far I completed 2 courses by testing out, and 2 courses the old-fashioned way, in 1/2 the time I was told it would take because the program is self-directed.  So I am pretty busy.  But I am still cooking and will try to remember to post now.

Emulsions are a useful chemistry technology.  They have been used in painting and baking for many centuries.  An emulsion, to spare a definition, is a thick syrup-like mixture which holds its flavor better, especially during baking.  These are a near priceless commodity, but you can find them for $7 or less per bottle.  I recommend checking your local Ross Dress For Less Store in the hopes of finding some for $2.99.  They are used in place of traditional juice or zest.  For instance, I have on my shelf at home, orange, raspberry, lemon, and almond emulsions, and a bottle of chocolate essence, which is similar.  Of those, I do not like the almond but heartily recommend the others.  Zests, made from a peel put through a fine cheese grater or a special zester tool, combined with juice, make a dough harder to work with, can introduce pollutants you don't need in your diet, and will lose their flavor no matter how much you put in.  The emulsion solves all these problems, especially when combined with black truffle oil which heightens and compliments flavors in cooking.  As an added bonus emulsions are very stable and will not spoil, ever, for all intents and purposes, even at room temperature.  What a deal. 

Black truffle oil smells disgusting on its own, but I braved it in my baking and adore it now.  Just don't drink it straight or anything, and use small amounts when you start out with it.  I do not like it in pasta sauce and have done little other experimenting.

I think I can't say anymore without being dull.  The recipes are below.  All are quick breads which take less than 15 minutes of work, not counting the bake time, and these will make 6 muffins or a small loaf of bread, approximately 6 inches long.  These are not translatable- what I mean is that if I list the recipe as a bread, it probably would be hard to make muffins out of, and if I list it as muffins, it may or may not make a good bread also.

Raspberry Honey Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
3 fl oz honey
1 tsp raspberry emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil  (or replace with an additional 1 tspn of emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp black poppy seeds
1 tsp lemon emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min.  This is not the traditional cake-style fluffy dessert lemon-poppy seed bread.  Its a robust little number that retains all the sweet and aromatic pleasantries of the other, but with added health benefits.

Orange Cranberry Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1/8- 1/4 cup craisins or chopped fresh cranberries
1 tsp orange emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking tray and fill 6 cups as evenly as possible.  Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min. 

And here is a bonus simple recipe without emulsion

Morning Glory Muffins

Run 1/2 carrot through a fine cheese grater, or a zester if you have one, or shred it any other practicable means to start.  Add to:

 1 cup bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 fl oz molasses
1/8-1/4 cup dates or raisins
Water as needed

I make this as muffins but it can be a bread also, with no conversion trouble.  Bake at 350 F for approximately 20 min.  May take a little longer.  Check at 20 min though. 

Coming Soon (hopefully): Making ravioli from scratch with stamps- plus a basic all-purpose pasta recipe, home-fermented kefir sodas, how to start a barter club, and a recipe for apple-fig dumplings.


Friday, January 18, 2013

I've Gout You Under My Skin

Skyscraper piles of snow, deadly flu epidemics, sub-zero nights, and a good old-fashioned vintage winter with all the added horror of modern smog.  AKA I've missed you too, so here are 2 recipes at the bottom.

Gout was a fine word to open a game of Scrabble with the other week, because it reminded me of the need to read about gout symptoms and see if maybe instead of some mysterious new form of pain I just had gout in my feet.  Turns out I did.  This surprised me as gout comes with a stigma and is lumped in with diabetes in the minds of most; one of those semi-culpability diseases people can cure by just putting the fork down or using it to scoop lima beans rather than jelly ones.  I'm not exactly in terrible shape, though by my standards, I've let myself go recently.  Well, turns out gout is just a form of inherited arthritis, and if there is one thing I collect, other than hippos, old music, old cartoons, squashes, and several other things, its any kind of arthritis there is.  Precocious arthritis is my hobby. 

Gout basically is a swelling and stiffening of the feet, also marked by redness, pain or itching or burning, and not wanting to move at all.  Its usually in the big toe, but because I'm never normal, mine was in the fourth toes.  This is charming to discuss, surely.  I had some minor gout, but a little gout goes a long way, as the saying goes.  Made famous by Henry the 8th, the late Ben Franklin, and many a comic strip French chef, gout is actually a hereditary disease triggered by diet, and specifically, uric acid from purines.

Purines come from a surprisingly-benign, or even, healthy list of foods.  The most taboo food items are: mushrooms, cauliflower, lentils, beans, red meat, and sweets such as honey.  (So you can see why gout is synomymous with Henry the 8th, he the man who by force of will power (less-ness) changed the Western diet to a sugar-based one after his first taste of the white powder, and he the man who invented such delicacies as "sugar-crusted roast Turkey drumstrick", and "syrup-dipped pig's feet" with jellied jam sauce.)  The expended list adds chocolate, beer, wine, oats, leafy green vegetables, baked goods with leavening agents, dried fruits, and eggs.  Also, by the way, peanuts are not really a nut, but a legume, so peanuts and peanut butter also trigger gout.

That doesn't leave me much to eat does it?  And if you look back at my most recent posts, you'll notice that I was basically on the perfect diet to discover whether or no I am susceptible to gout.  I was practically begging for gout.  Hell, I ate like a gallon of wild mushroom soup followed by pot roast chili- fabulous and recipe to come below, and preceded by "Canaan Pie", made with cream and honey and dried fruits.  I also satisfied a craving for cauliflower for the first time in a year.  Live and learn. 

Gout is cured by drinking exasperating amounts of water and avoiding foods which contain purines or uric acid.  Protein in the diet should be reduced and pretty much nothing but rice and fresh fruit is acceptable.  Go over that list again.  Its extensive.  Vitamin C is helpful.  Also, there is no better medicine than dried cherries.  As far as medicines go, this last one is pretty delicious.  I now have 3 lbs of dried bings around for flare ups, though this was my only noticeable gout incident to date. 

The best treatment is prevention.  Spread out the taboo foods, or eliminate them. 

Well, after my gout cleared up thanks in large part to several days of hunger, I succumbed to this flu which is apparently ravaging Utah and everywhere else, and had some infected sinuses.  I started to feel poorly, then spent a 36 hour period with an animal's wiped mind, laying in a fetal position wrapped inside blankets and still shaking with cold.  I slept 29 out of 30 hours at one point, sitting up just long enough to do the necessities and fill in one sudoku puzzle.  Now I'm still recovering from that.  So I have not been out skiing while failing to post to this blog, I promise you that. 

Enough moping.  My other news is I registered for college courses and will learn web development, including writing code in HTML and several other languages.  This should provide me work, and hopefully that work will be stimulating, or at least, not unbearable.  I am curious about programming, but its so new to me, I don't know what to expect.  I had some financial aid to utilize or lose soon so the whole thing is paid for, and I will treat this like a job, a job that doesn't pay but should eventually.  I will be going full-time, so we shall see how much cooking I do, and whether or no I can offer a recipe every week.  That will depend on if I keep trying new things and finding the time to do so.  I think I will.  I started today and now I get a 4 day weekend.  But I can do most of next week's work at home with a tedious text book.  Hurray.

Pot Roast Chili

This is a very good option for a chili, a little more deluxe than ground chuck varieties. Also its a second recipe to use with roast cuts.

1. Slice 1 lb beef roast or pork roast/loin into 1/2 inch slices, season if preferred, and bake in oven 90 minutes at 375 F.  I did not season my beef roast as it was a nice fatty cut and I let the fat do the work and get all melty.
2. On a range top, in a large pot, combine: 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can butter beans, and 2 cans pinto beans, all part-drained, with 1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh is that is a palatable option), 1/4 butternut squash (pre-baked), peeled and diced into cubes, 1 cup golden corn kernals, 1/2 green bell pepper diced, onion (or powder), and seasonings.  I suggest: coriander (coarsely crushed), cinnamon, minced garlic, green chives (if you did not add chopped onion), brown sugar, mustard, and white pepper.  Bring to a light boil, then simmer 30 min.
3. Serve as 2 dishes.  Its a vegan chili with the meat available to those who want it, as complimentary dish, or to be dipped into the chili. 

I will never make a chili again without butternut squash.  Its a colorful, healthy, and satisfying addition, helping to replace meat, but not conflicting with it.

Thai Lemon Butternut Squash Soup

Finally found a butternut squash soup recipe I like.  Invented this one after finding a markdown deal on some "La Tourangelle Artisan Thai Wok Oil".  This oil is good for wok cooking, or as additive in soups, and consists of Thai Basil and Lemongrass in Safflower oil.  My roomate claims it smells like Fruit Loops, which I find insulting, as he hates sugared cereals and thus, Fruit Loops, but I think he's just not familiar with the scent of lemon or of Fruit Loops. 

For your soup you need:

1 large pot
1 butternut squash, baked or boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes.
16 oz vegetable broth
16 oz water
1/3 cup wok oil
onion powder
white, red, and black pepper
1/8 cup brown sugar

Add all into your pot and boil for 30 minutes.  Then let cool, put through blender or food processor, and reheat to desired temperature for consumption.  Pretty easy and pretty basic.  Might be improved by adding some noodles or fresh leaves, or peanuts, or something else I am not thinking of, but as an experiment, I just made it as basic as possible.  The above recipe would reduce to a very thick near syrup and will probably take water before serving, but you can also serve it very thick.  Will make 8-10 bowls.

Next post will be about fruit emulsions and how to use them.

Rather than a music recommendation I offer you a book this week: Parnatti's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.  Great fun.  Delightful 2 page or less stories about where almost everything you've ever touched in your life or heard in your life comes from.



Friday, December 28, 2012

German Mushroom Soup

Here is a decent recipe to produce with your pounds and pounds of dried mushrooms.

Saute 8 oz baby bella mushrooms and 8 oz white crimini mushrooms in 3 tbsp butter and a squirt of olive oil for 10 min, add 2/3 cup Tawny Port (the only beverage alive which tastes like Christmas and actually produces Christmas inside you if you are drunk on it), and 32 oz vegetable stock, or water with vegetable pulp in it (such as carrot, cucumber, and pepper pulp from a juicer).  Simmer for 10 more minutes, then let cool long enough to put into a processor or blender.  Once creamy, return to pot along with 1 cup dried mushroom mix (or fresh).  I used Oyster, Ivory Portabellas, Shiitaki, Brazilian, Morels, and Porcini, because those are what I have.  Lots of.  Still, after 3 years.  Some mushrooms are an acquired taste.  Season with garlic powder, onion or onion powder, 1 red chile diced (dry or fresh), green chives, and 1 tsp all spice.  Zest 1/2 of a carrot through a fine cheese grater.  Add 16 fl oz water, and boil for 30 min.  Remove from heat, add 16 oz creme.  Stir and serve.

Its not a revolutionary mushroom soup, but it has 7 kinds of fungi, a good blend of seasonings, a nice undertone of sweet liquor, and its easy.  Better hot than cold.

Easily spruce it up with some gratuitous German Bratwist slices.  You know, if you can't eat a thing unless it has meat in it.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Meet The Squash Family

Its time at last for me to survey the squash field.

Actually, its 5 days too late according to my new Mondays schedule, but I lost my photo for this post and that took away my thunder.  I was planning to number 11 different squashes and review each with a recipe, but now I have to do something shorter.

So I will offer some recipes and answer some questions because squashes or winter melons daunt a lot of people.

Question 1 and 2: Is there such a thing as a decorative squash?  If so, why can't I eat them?

Yes, there are squashes grown just to sell as decoration.  For most Americans, this is every kind of squash, but for the culinary minded, it is small colorfully patterned squashes that look like tiny flat pumpkins.  These are grown to sit in the middle of a Thanksgiving Feast, not to be part of it, meaning that even at a local market, you ought to ask if they were sprayed with dangerous chemicals, and get as much info as you can.  That said, I tried 4 varieties of decorative squashes this past month and found 3 of them to be pretty darn adequate and edible.  The last one, I chucked.  The main difference with these is that the "flesh" is a little tougher or has a stringy quality, that maybe they take longer to cook, and they are more "hole" than "doughnut".  The cavity inside is big and there isn't much to cook. But the seeds of any squash can be roasted, with or without seasoning.  And are usually delicious.  So don't just pitch a squash when Thanksgiving is over.

Question 3: How do I cook a squash?

Any squash can be halved, set on a baking tray, and baked in a small amount of water.  The water helps the squash from drying out and to cook evenly.  Most can also be boiled.  This will mean you get less good stuff, if you are dumping out the water before eating.  I boil a butternut if I am making soup, or a spaghetti squash usually because its easier when I am substituting it for pasta.  Others I now roast. In an oven, I bake at 350 for 30 minutes- 45 minutes, depending on how large the squash is.  You can cook it less time if you want it firmer.  Halving a squash to bake or boil it means you simply scoop out the guts once they are soft.  Always scrape away the stringy gummy layer around the hole before cooking, just as if you were cleaning out a pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern.  A decorative squash will have a thick layer that you don't want to eat.  The acorn squash on the other hand, as example, is almost all good and ready to cook.  A butternut is the hardest thing on earth to peel if you try to do it before boiling or baking.  I would never try again, unless it was to train some Ninja boy in Karate Kid 11, who lacked patience.  Cut it into pieces that fit in the pot, boil or bake, then peel, then return to pot, mash, or put through a blender/processor for soup.  Or eat it right out of the rind.  Halved acorn squashes are the ideal side dish as they come in their own "bowl".  But any squash can be eaten straight from the hard rind.

Question 4: How do I roast these delicious seeds you speak of?

Halve your squash, pull the seeds out and separate from the goop and slimy crud.  Dispose of that crud.  Without washing the seeds, throw them on a tray, preferably in a small toaster oven, put the heat to 300 and watch them.  Small seeds will take as little as 15 minutes and should be flipped after 10.  Pumpkin seeds are the biggest and will take 30 minutes usually.  Flip at 15 minutes.  Season if desired before roasting, when they are still wet. They taste much more flavorful without a rinse.  I season, if at all, always with seasoned salt/garlic salt.  But more often, I just let them go.  Sometimes I burn the seeds on purpose because they are extra crunchy.  I have had a steady supply of seeds all winter thus far because the only seeds I consider inedible come from the kabotcha, which I have mistakenly called a "kubutchen" previously.  Those are chalky and puffy and gross.  Throw them away.  For a seed recipe, see "Mohican Chowder."

Question 5: How do I pick a good eating pumpkin?

Talk to the farmer.  Ask about which pesticides were used, if any.  And try to find a variety other than the pie pumpkin meant to be eaten, or which is an heirloom/vintage variety.  The store pumpkins are grown to be carved and are not featured for their taste, quality, or texture.  I find they fall apart into unpleasant strings.  If you can't cube the "flesh" of your pumpkin wall, then its not an eating variety.  Older pumpkins were grown not for size or shape or color, but to be delicious and healthy.  I stopped buying super size pumpkins because the rind tends to be stretched thin and they may burst open and start leaking while being roasted.  Not ideal if you have some turkey soup or chili in there.

Question 6: How do I know if a squash is ripe?

An acorn squash should be mostly green, showing some orange flecks.  Orange means its a bit past ripe, but will keep.  Same goes for a kabotcha.  A pumpkin is ripe if orange and not on a vine, basically.  The decorative kinds are much harder to tell because they give you no signs.  Butternuts don't change color either.  Nor spaghetti squash.  For those, soft spots will mean rot, so avoid those.  Make sure the rind is not cracked, and don't worry about peak freshness.  Squashes or winter melons were a useful crop because of how long they keep, not the peak of freshness like an orange has.

Question 7: What the heck are these 30 lb squashes?  And what are they used for?

The banana squash is similar to a butternut as a harder squash, but a little more peppery.  Yes these are edible, and the farmer I spoke with says his family will slice off a pound or so every few days, cook it, serve it, and then go back for more.  They keep these monsters in the garage where they stay cool and last all winter.  However, you will need to cut away the exposed section each time.  So you basically eat every other slice, with the waste slices thinner, hopefully.  Alternatively, serve it as the side dish at a big feast or party.

Okay, that seems like enough of that section.  A few favorite recipes:

Acorn Squash

My favorite way to eat this is to split it in half, scoop away the gunk, roast the seeds quickly and then bake upside down in water for 30 minutes.  Pull from the heat, add a pat of butter, a spoonful of brown sugar and of raisins, stir, and its delicious, and in its own bowl.


I bake it upside down and halved.  Seeds are thrown out.  This one I like the flavor on so much that I add no seasonings at all.  Eat it from the "bowl" rind if hungry enough, though it is a larger squash and will feed at least 2, and probably 4.  Be sure to liberally scoop away the gloop or the final product when mashed up will be very unpleasant in the mouth.  My first attempt I tried to save too much "flesh" and threw most of it away.  It was like eating soft thistles.  I would chew and chew and couldn't keep from gagging.

Spaghetti Squash

Detailed on this blog before.  It replaces spaghetti with a sweet pleasant flavor very well enhanced by a good tomato sauce.  I like to cover it then with edamame, and goat cheese, or with feta and olives and pistachios, or all those and peppers.  About anything works.  Very low calorie and very low carb for you dieters.  Bake or boil.


I cook things inside a pumpkin generally, and usually chili.  See older posts.  Watch the labels "chili" or for a title with "pumpkin."  You can also bake one without food in it, and if its large, start the pumpkin "on empty".  They can take over an hour to cook at 450.  I have also started cutting away the back wall on a jack-o-lantern and roasting it in slices, then freezing the slices.  They will come out mushy and be harder to chop but can then be added to soups as "cubed" pumpkin.  Pie pumpkin, canned pumpkin, and dwarf pumpkin all disentegrate into soup.  Canned pumpkin is great in pancakes with a little whipped topping or a buttermilk syrup and of course in cookies and my oat bars.  See older posts for "Oat the Door Bars".

Butternut Squash

This one I make into soup once a year, though it has yet to come out great.  Hard to produce a desired consistency and I have never found the right spices to make it taste delicious like it does in gourmet organic markets where I've had it.  I usually add fat noodles, and do not like celery in this soup.  Other than that, I'm open to your advice.  Really I am.  However, try this: boil 2 cup dry lentils and 1 butternut squash separately, then scoop out your squash and add to your lentils.  Stir in a couple teaspoons of Red Curry Paste and add some cashews and raisins, and you have a great little spicy dish.

Yellow Squash

This one is a yellow acorn squash.  But its not an acorn squash, just has the exact same shape.  Its not sweet at all, and tastes just like the summer squash you get in some frozen vegetable mixes.  It may be the same thing, but I don't think it is.  That summer squash I believe looks like a cucumber.  Well this one I bake and then scoop out/mash and my favorite spice blend is Lemon Lime Paprika and Roasted Fries Spice Mix (both in tall glass bottles by "The Gourmet Collection"- I find them at TJ Maxx and there is no easy way to fabricate them which is why I bought them; but see the previous post for the Fry Spice ingredients).  A pinch of cinnamon and a dash of brown sugar is optional.  I have never known butter to hurt anything.  You can sweeten this with brown sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg, but I do that with other squashes which can't be made spicy.  So I try different spice blends with this one.  I like to crank it towards hot usually.

Banana Squash

I've only ever used this in stir fry, but I do like it there.  Chop it and start it with plenty of oil so it will soften and start it ahead of "soft" veggies like sugar snap peas, with carrots if you use them.  It also fits in curry.  Great stir fry is yours for the having with a little mix of wok oil and stir fry sauce.  I am sure you know where to find both in your grocery store.  Curry is simpler yet with Curry paste and coconut milk.  Watch for dented cans to save money.  If you are going to throw a few cans of coconut milk and then check back in the damaged goods cart at the back of the store the next morning, you will want to be make sure you know where the cameras are.  I have NEVER done that.  That anyone knows of.  And you shouldn't either.  Its naughty.

I was once told by a young man from Chinese heritage with restauranteur parents that I made the best non-Chinese Chinese food he'd ever eaten.  I'm pretty sure that is a compliment.  Kind of like telling someone "white men can jump". 

Well I hope that helps.  Hopefully my next post will be about how to can applesauce, since I still have not done that.  And "Canaan Pie" is coming.  I have revolutionized the pecan pie, in my head.  But its just a theory.  This month I will try the recipe I invented.

Your unsolicited musical advice: Annette Hanshaw!  I feel I've mentioned her before, but can't find where or when I did.  I think most of her very best and most charming songs are on the "Sita Sings the Blues" soundtrack.  That costs $9.99 and is only available as MP3 download.  So I'd look into that if you got this far.