Archive for November, 2010

Pie for the lazy mind

Most of the vegetables I have mentioned in my last post are still there, and what’s more… I actually went to the Farmers’ Market! (I can barely believe I spent something like 120 dollars on groceries. Now I have an amazing amount of food at home… mostly spices and pantry though, thank God.) Among all the food, the pears desperately needed to be made into something. Originally I wanted to make a nice-looking pear tarte, but the amount of work I needed to put into that scared me off so much. Instead, this is a simple pear cobbler that took me about 20 minutes to put together.

The unpleasant brown color comes from the dark brown sugar I used.

I followed this recipe exactly and blame my baking powder and soda. Now, they are indeed incredibly old (something like over a year?) but it’s still annoying that you have to buy them in huge packages… I actually think I did a good job by using half of my baking powder during this year. The problem with baking powder is that it doesn’t work as much anymore, and it totally showed in this cobbler. It’s not really a problem because the dough turned out beautifully flaky, just how I like it – but wasn’t the whole thing supposed to be more puffy? Well, I love pie doughs and so it’s fine.

In restaurants cobbler come in a bowl and sort of crushed, why is that?

However, for pretty much no reason (I accidentally let much more cinnamon fall into the mixture than expected), this turns out to be the most delicious baked item I have made in forever; though my last lemon not-really-sponge-cake was exceptionally good. Cobblers are really, really wonderful though – much less of a hassle than pie, but very close in taste and texture. This definitely is the best 20 minute cake I have ever made in my life.

Pasta is so photogenic

In fact, I have made banana pancakes and crêpes lately, but since they are sort of boring, I ended up having two postings of pasta one after another. But, pasta is the best! My relatively large amount of cauliflowers and broccoli needed to be made into something, and then I also bought arugula… So what better can you do than combining them? This pasta is not a sauce unlike my last pasta and includes real tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. Since the taste of cauliflower and arugula is relatively soft, I decided against putting in any onions or red bell peppers (that’s for next time when I’ll be making an arrabiata!), so the only addition to this is shredded parmesan on top and garlic (which is doing wonders to this dish).

The vegetables are even nicer with non-long noodles. 

Today, I was actually worried about not having enough food in the fridge to last till Thanksgiving. How wrong I was. I still have parsnips, eggplants, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, haricots verts, mushrooms, bok choy and a cabbage. That makes something like 8 meals, and since I will be eating out some too, it’ll easily last till next Wednesday. Oh, and pears.

And now for something completely different

A pasta with green vegetables and a white instead of a red pasta sauce! I suddenly had a craving for asparagus, which is why I bought some at the Farmer’s Market when I thought that 1.99/lb isn’t too bad, for American standards at least. I had lemons at home and absolutely wanted to make a lemon sauce, so here we are: Lemon Asparagus Pasta.

It tastes just as great as it looks on the picture!

I was inspired by this recipe on Epicurious (yet again, of course) but since I didn’t have any heavy cream, I made a sauce with olive oil and parmesan (how unhealthy huh). In the future, I will keep in mind to finish the sauce before I toss in the noodles and the vegetables… because ultimately the sauce turned out somewhat not smooth – this is how it always is, or so I heard, but I am sure you can do better. Next time I will!

Asian eggplants are my favorites

I can barely believe that I used to hate eggplants! They do have a weird taste that I dislike much less today (just like olives!) and ever since I discovered that I love this taste combined with sugar, I am now excited about any type of sugary eggplant recipe.

Maki Itoh slow-roasts her eggplants for nasu no miso dengaku, but I prefer them this way.

Another thing I have not expected was how surprisingly fast vegetables broil, I think these eggplants were done in something like 7-8 minutes, and I have let them for another 5 minutes in the oven so the miso caramelizes some more. If only I hadn’t put as much miso but used shiro miso and added more honey and wine, it would have turned out perfect. It’s perhaps my favorite way of making eggplants.

Something between hachis parmentier and cottage pie

I love my French cookbooks (of which only one is really French, the quite generic but lovely “Je sais cuisiner”). “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” doesn’t really cover all the recipes I want – especially in the vegetable section. Most of those vegetables are very simple, typically to accompany a dramatic main dish, whereas I very, very rarely make main dishes. Today is something like an exception, I would consider a shepherd’s pie a full meal, perfect to be accompanied by vegetables.

“Je sais cuisiner”, on the other hand, is a wonderful collection of a huge amount of recipes – but all the recipes are amazingly short. This means that you don’t actually learn much about cooking or techniques itself, the book more or less assumes that you know how to do that. I mainly use the book for inspiration of what dishes to make, and to give myself an overview on the repertoire of typical French cooking; in this matter, “Je sais cuisiner” is much greater than the haute-cuisine-ish “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

According to “Je sais cuisiner”, hachis parmentier is a layer of ground meat sandwiched in between two layers of mashed potatoes.

Furthermore, “Je sais cuisiner” is much more down to earth, full of advices for kitchen organisation, health or wine choices. It’s a little bit like those German housewife books. I especially found it very interesting to see what amount of food they recommend for one single meal:

  • 100g of salad or soup
  • 100-150g of meat or 1-2 eggs or 150g fish
  • 200-300g of vegetables or 70g of pâtes or 70g of rice
  • 250g of potatoes
  • 100g-150g of fruits
  • 30-50g of cheese
  • 80-100g of bread

This feels amazingly wrong if you ask me. I mean… this is like a whole kilogram of food!

“Ceux qui savent manger sont comparativement de dix ans plus jeunes que ceux à qui cette science est étrangère.”

While looking up recipes on the internet, I went for something like a mix of the Easy Shepherd’s Pie, this hachis parmentier recipe and the one in “Je sais cuisiner”. (Julia Child would never make hachis parmentier, mind you.) So the end result pretty much is this: The mashed potatoes have browned onions and garlic in them; the ground beef was mixed with Italian style bread crumbs, an egg, browned onions, finely cut carrots and white wine, and then sautéed with parsley, thyme and bay leaves. By the way, I am so glad I went out of the way to Trader Joe’s to get the white wine, it’s doing marvels for the taste of the meat.

Today, the side vegetable I chose happened to be bok choy, because I know I need to eat them soon. 😀 Plus I didn’t feel like making anything more elaborate, and there are vegetables in the hachis parmentier itself too, after all. Even though the result looks great, there were actually pieces of potatoes that were not thoroughly cooked and I had to pick them out. That means I cannot even offer this to other people, sadly. But, at least I have a lovely lunch tomorrow.