Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘food’

One of my least favorite parts of the CSA box is the kale. I like my greens raw, coated in olive oil and vinegar, so when the kale gets too leathery to simply toss into the salad spinner, I have to face cooking it in some manner. And I have NEVER liked cooked greens, no matter how much bacon, salt and cornbread were added into the mix.

A few fellow foodies suggested that I make kale chips, advice that I took to heart after sampling the dried okra at Earth Fare. Crunchy veggies instead of mushy greens? I’m in.

I followed a friend’s simple set of instructions:

Separate stems from leaves. Toss with olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes and let the chips cool on the tray for extra crispness.

The chips were pretty tasty when I tried them straight out of the oven, but when I sat down with them 20 minutes later in an ill-fated attempt to use them as a popcorn substitute while watching Butter (good movie, by the way), about half of them had wilted. Too much olive oil, maybe? Do you have to eat these within five minutes of their exit from the oven?

Anyway, no crunch = no popcorny goodness. So we’re back to Square One, where I make elaborate plans to steam the kale and stir it into quinoa and then pretty much don’t.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A few years ago, I discovered that cooking is a lot like painting: The more work you put into a project before you start, the smoother everything goes once you begin.

I had always noticed that people on cooking shows had premeasured ingredients at the ready, but I figured they needed to do that so the camera didn’t have to follow the mundaneness of the measuring process. At some point, however, I realized that premeasured additions made a lot of sense. What’s easier: Scooping out various amounts of spices while standing at the stove at the very moment those ingredients need to be added to your concoction, repeatedly glancing back at the recipe, or measuring out all of those ingredients before you start so you can dump them in at the appropriate time, all at once and with no double-checking of the recipe?

A lot of the recipes I frequently use call for tiny amounts of ingredients, meaning it was hard to justify dirtying even my smallest bowls for premeasuring. I had been using wax paper for these smaller measurements, but tearing tiny squares off the roll made for an untidy rectangle when I would finally need a larger piece.

IKEA to the rescue. During my going-away trip to the Atlanta megastore, I stumbled across the BLANDA bowls. At $2.99 for a pack of four, these 2-inch bowls are the perfect size for my small additions of herbs and spices. One bowl will hold approximately four minced garlic cloves (provided, of course, that you haven’t been tricked into buying some monstrous head of garlic with supersized cloves) and maybe 4 teaspoons of herbs and spices.

I almost bought the stainless steel version ($4.99 for four), but I could tell that they were going to scratch easily, since every package I picked up sported at least one bowl that was already pretty roughed up.

So far, the most bowls I’ve used at one time is three. I took the photo above during Cinco de Mayo’s fajita-making festivities; one holds minced garlic, another holds oregano and thyme, and the third holds salt and pepper. All in all, probably not that much to measure out midway through the cooking process, but dumping a tiny bowl of premeasured ingredients into a pan filled with sizzling onions makes me feel like I should have my own cooking show.

Iron Chef Haggerty. I like it.

Read Full Post »

CokeCake

During the last few weeks of my brief relocation to Atlanta, I craved Coca-Cola cake. Not because I saw it on a menu or because somebody mentioned it, but because you can’t travel an entire block in Atlanta without seeing some sort of reminder that it’s the home of Coke, and my mind heads off in unpredictable directions when it gets a prompt.

Atlanta, the home of Coke, leads to Coca-Cola cake. Why not?

I remember eating Coca-Cola cake on a pretty regular basis when I was a kid. It’s pretty easy to throw together, and since you bake it in and serve it from the same pan, the presentation is simple, too.

I’ve had a copy of Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola for years, apparently always meaning to make this cake, but I got very confused when I tried to look up the recipe. I found three recipes for chocolate cakes containing Coke, but none of them called for the 13-by-9-inch pan that I specifically remembered. Online, Southern Living linked to a recipe that called for a good bit more sugar than the one in my book (not that I’m trying to make a low-sugar cake, because LOL low-sugar cake, but I didn’t want a chocolate cake in which the sugar overwhelmed the chocolate). Finally, I flipped through my copy of The Mississippi Cookbook, figuring that the Southern classic would surely hold the recipe I was looking for. I found that the sugar-cocoa ratio in its version was even more unappealing than the one in the online recipe.

Other than the sugar discrepancy, the online recipe’s ingredient list was nearly identical to one of the recipes in Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola, AND the online recipe gave me instructions for baking in a 13-by-9-inch pan instead of a sheet pan, so I figured my baking time would be about the same. And it was.

As I remembered, the cake was at its best the day after I made it. As the icing sits overnight, it hardens into a fudgy topping — not quote a hard coating, but not a soft frosting, either.

Admittedly, this cake was not the ambrosial concoction I remember from my childhood, but it was quite delicious. I think cake, like sandwiches and salads, is simply one of those treats that always taste better when somebody makes them for you.

One regular can of Coke is enough to make the batter and the icing, provided you don’t drink the leftover soda while the cake is baking. I’m not judging, either way. And seeing as I have NEVER purchased a carton of buttermilk, I always have to use the standard substitution: 1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. I also understand you can use yogurt or buttermilk powder.

Start making the icing a couple of minutes after the cake comes out of the oven. You’ll want to pour it on top of the cake after the cake has cooled off for about 10 minutes. Also, the original recipe indicated that the pecans in the icing were optional, and pecans are SO not optional for this cake. In fact, I might try to work some pecans into the batter AND the icing next time.

Coca-Cola Cake

  • 2 cups plain unsifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. (Note: I didn’t sift anything because I kind of hate to sift. I had to mash down a few flour pellets in the batter with my stirring spatula, but that was the only consequence.)

In a saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola to a boil. Pour this mixture over the flour and sugar and stir until the batter is mixed thoroughly. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, vanilla and marshmallows; mix well.

The batter will be extremely thin, and the marshmallows will float to the top. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and move the floating marshmallows around until they’re spread out reasonably evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. (Note: None of the recipes I consulted tell you how to tell that this cake is done, which was a little scary because the batter is so weirdly thin. The toothpick test worked, though. After 35 minutes, the toothpick came out with a few moist crumbs on it.)

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then pour the icing on top. It should spread itself out pretty evenly over the cake. Let the iced cake sit for at least an hour to let the icing firm up a little before you cut it, or risk scraping icing run-off out of the bottom of the pan with a spoon (which, really, is not such a terrible thing).

Coca-Cola Icing

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 6 or 7 tbsp. Coca-Cola
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, heat the butter, Coca-Cola and cocoa until everything is melted and mixed together. Pour over the powdered sugar and mix well. (Note: I broke out the mixer for this.)

Read Full Post »

Nanny in her natural habitat: the kitchen.

I realized this weekend that I have successfully made a souffle, but can’t make a fried egg.

My grandmother made delectable fried eggs, and made it look easy. The everyday breakfast options at her house included bacon (turkey bacon after my grandfather’s heart problems were diagnosed), toast (or biscuits, on occasion) and eggs, either scrambled or fried (note: fried eggs, over easy, became known as Paw-Paw eggs, because they were his favorite, and to this day I can barely order them in a restaurant without calling them by this nickname).

I should have paid more attention, I guess. I should have offered to cook the eggs instead of going for the easy job of making toast or microwaving turkey bacon. (Or making the grits. I can’t believe I forgot about the grits option.)

I might not even have this ongoing fear of cast-iron skillets.

Read Full Post »

I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.

I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.

Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).

I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.

Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.

We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.

The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.

The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.

I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.

Read Full Post »

I was excited and a little leery when I found a bagful of fresh English peas in my latest CSA box.

As confirmed by my CSA representative, English peas are extremely sensitive to hot weather, so they would have never had a chance on my grandparents’ farm in South Mississippi. Therefore, the only English peas I’ve ever eaten have come straight out of the can, slightly mushy and pretty bland. Meh.

Since the record-breaking heat in North Alabama/South Tennessee was making it clear that this would be the only fresh English peas I would get this year, I knew I had to make the most of them.

I don’t mean this as an insult to my Southern ancestry, but at some point cooks in the South started boiling vegetables into a salty mush. I remember the first time I ever had a string bean that had been briefly steamed, and thus still held a bit of natural sweetness and a light crunch. (Truly, it would have been considered underdone at my grandmother’s house.) Corn on the cob became a whole new experience for me when I discovered that I could simply wrap individual ears in waxed paper and microwave them for a few minutes, leaving sweet and crunchy kernels that needed neither salt nor butter.

I was determined not to turn these peas into mush.

I found inspiration at Williams-Sonoma’s website: Sautéed English Peas with Garlic and Sesame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have sesame seeds or sesame oil in my pantry, so I had to wing it. I also don’t know how many pounds of peas I started with; Williams-Sonoma recommended two garlic cloves for 3 pounds of unshelled English peas. Do the math for the amount of peas you have, or just use a couple of cloves of garlic.

There are few vegetable recipes that wouldn’t be made better with a couple of cloves of garlic.

The husband was at first stunned by the color of the peas when I removed the lid from the pan; the short cooking time had left the peas a brilliant green. The texture was magnificent; they weren’t crunchy or chewy, but they weren’t mushy either. The garlic flavor burst through with every bite, but not in an overwhelming way.

Sautéed English Peas with Garlic

  • Fresh English peas, shelled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full with ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the peas and immediately plunge them into the ice water. Let stand for two minutes and drain.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds.

Add the peas, salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the peas are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

****************

Yang hasn’t given up his photobombing duties; here, he inspects the bowl of English peas mid-shoot.

Read Full Post »

Yang, simply exhausted from all the sniffing.

My first CSA delivery of the summer yielded quite a spread, including cucumbers, jalapenos, onions, leeks, basil, squash, greens, strawberries, English peas and Roma beans.

As I unloaded the goods, I recalled how Yin used to closely inspect every CSA haul — it was nearly impossible to set up a picture of vegetables without a cat in the frame.

Yin, very serious about his vegetable inspection duties.

Not 30 seconds later, Yang strolled over and resumed Yin’s inspection and photobombing duties. He spent nearly five minutes sniffing every square inch of plant material, nipped at the Chinese cabbage and finally plopped down right on top of the Yukina savoy.

He was in every photograph, just like his brother.

Cats. They know comedy.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: