Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Make the rice first. I adapted my dad's directions for this.
He said I could make it with turmeric or saffron, and being me, I went for the most expensive spice in the world. (I got a teeny thing of it for $6.)
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a sauce pan. Add some garlic and onion, saute a few minutes. My trick for chopping onions is to have a candle in between me and the onion, it helps with the tears! Soak the saffron in boiling water while the onion and garlic are heating up.
I'd also like to mention my new garlic press, $10 from IKEA, I can't believe I was hesitant to buy this. Minces in 1 second instead of my stupidly trying to chop into teeny bits for 5 minutes.
Back to rice: Soak and drain the rice. Add the rice to the hot pan and fry lightly for 1-2 minutes. Next add 2 cups water (or stock), the saffron and some salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer 12 or so minutes until excess water is taken in. Take off heat, fluff with fork and cover. Rice can sit while you prep the salsa.
Beans: Warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat and add 2 garlic cloves, pressed, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano. Cook for a minute, then add 2 x 15 oz (400g) can black beans. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the beans are heated through and have absorbed the seasonings. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
The topping is simply: 1 cup corn, 1 cup salsa and 1 chopped avocado mixed together with lemon or lime juice and salt. Top with cilantro.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I have never made pasta sauce from scratch. Ok, well, that's not true. But it was true until very recently. I had seen the magic performed; mostly by friend's parents. I have cooked with the essentials previously: tomatoes, basil and garlic. Just never for the sole purpose of making home-made pasta sauce. I thought it would be too hard. The thought also stirs up terrifying memories of my I-Ti (Italian American) mother opening a jar of tomato PASTE, putting it in a sauce pan, and declaring it fit to top pasta with no herbs or alteration of any kind. Perhaps when Northern Italy (mom's mom) and Southern Italy (mom's dad) meet and breed they don't quite know how to cook with each other and it results in culinary defeat? I don't know. (Yes, it was my Irish-Scottish heritaged dad whom I watched cook growing up, I suppose that is another shock.) My mom will kill me if she reads this, but it's all true! Yes, she fed us probably more frequently, but there is no question over who had more finesse in the kitchen.
Given all this history, I looked with great suspicion upon the "Simple Tomato Sauce" recipe in my cook book. Surely it wasn't so easy?
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
28 ounces (800 g) of whole plum tomatoes
fresh chopped basil to taste
In a saucepan on low heat, cook the garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes, until golden. Stir in the juice from the can of tomatoes.
Cut the tomatoes coarsely with a knife while they're still in the can. Add them to the garlic with the basil, salt and pepper, bring to simmer, and cook on low heat for at least 5 minutes.
It's minimally harder than opening the jar on the shelf and tossing that on your pasta, but the results are tastier, chunkier, and I know just what's in it.
Sure, it's bare bones, and it didn't take hours, and there's no meat. It's a start though.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
From my new cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health (More than 200 Vegetarian and Vegan dishes)
I cannot resist a good burger and fries. I've been feeling guilty about my once-a-week fast food burger habit, so this weekend I opted to go healthier and closer to home. My Moosewood book has five different burger recipes and I love black beans because they remind me of Texas, so I went with these first. This is the only recipe that wasn't vegan, I believe from the inclusion of egg as the binder. I found the black beans in the organic section, as they are a rare thing here; they should be with the regular canned beans on an American grocery store shelf.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of ground pepper
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 cup grated carrots
1 fresh chile, minced
or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup ground tortilla chips
(mashed until they reach the consistency of course meal)
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Warm the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions soften, a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, carrots, chiles, and orange juice, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
(Onions, carrot, mushies, chiles, oj)
2. While the vegetables cook, combine the ground tortilla chips, beans and egg in a large bowl and mash well with a potato masher, or pulse in a food processor and then transfer to a bowl. When the vegetables are tender, drain (if needed) and stir into the bean mixture.
(Chips, beans and egg)
3. Form the burger mixture into six patties (a heaping 1/2 cup per burger) and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly crusted.
Moosewood gives lots of serving options as well as recipes to accompany (Sweet Potato, Apple and Chipotle Soup).
Monday, July 19, 2010
I picked these as my "tricky/time-consuming" recipe for the weekend, only to discover they are actually easy and quick enough to do on a weeknight! When I brought one to work for lunch everyone though I was a culinary wizz because of their delightfull looks. huzzah.
Serves 4 to 6.
5 large bell peppers (any color)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkling of salt
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup polenta cornmeal
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped spanish olives
1 16-ounce jar of your favorite salsa
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, but leave the stem ends on so the peppers will hold their shape (whoops, I forgot this part). Brush the pepper halves with oil, inside and out, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place cut-side up on an oiled baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender but still holding their shape, about 15 minutes.
While the peppers roast, in a heavy saucepan, bring the water, salt, and red pepper flakes to a boil. Add the polenta in slow, steady stream while whisking. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Stir in the corn, oil or butter, 1 cup of cheese, and the olives. Remove from the heat. (I put the olives on the side to avoid complaints!)
Fill the roasted pepper halves with the polenta mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Meanwhile, combine the salsa, black beans, and cilantro in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I <3 Vegetables. I always have. I used to request to have all the veggie and fruit sides in the high school cafeteria instead of just the bread roll. I also used to feign occasional vegetarianism to get out of eating dad's overly-frequent burger dinners.
I also <3 Meat. Burgers, lamb, pork, seafood, poultry! (a favorite), there is something primal about hunting, preparing and eating it.
However, I consider that it's best to eat relatively little meat, and that fruits and vegetables are anti-cancer and anti-aging magic bullets. The meat processing industry deeply concerns me (though I wonder if it's as bad here in Australia as it is in the U.S.) As well as the over-fishing of our oceans.
So it recently occurred to me that I could start to develop a bit more of a vegetarian repertoire in the kitchen. I tentatively asked my Spaghetti Bolognese husband how he felt about this, and his reply was:
No, just kidding, he was actually into it. Shocking!
(Or maybe not that shocking, given the amount of times I try to cook a flesh of some kind and ask.... does this look done to you? Where is my meat thermometer? ... )
Newly rejuvenated, I began looking for renowned vegetarian cook books and recipes. Moosewood came highly recommended so I picked up two of theirs. And the Deorah Madison one got nearly 5 stars on Amazon out of 227 customers, so I figured I'd try that.
MR Cooking for Health - $24.00 AUD
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone - $39.00 AUD
both from: Book Depository (with free shipping!!)
MR Simple Suppers - $42.00 AUD - at Borders in-store with 40% off.
I still love my meat, but I'm cooking with a lot more vegetables at the moment.
And trying to figure out what tofu is really all about....
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
This one is for my dad because I think he will like it, but I also think he'll be disturbed by one particular ingredient, and I like disturbing the poor gentleman.
(slightly adapted) from Moosewood Simple Suppers
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Keiffer lime leaf (optional but I did it)
half a fresh butternut squash for: 4 cups chopped, cooked butternut squash (or 2, 12 oz packages of frozen cooked winter squash)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1/2 cake FIRM tofu (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use reduced salt variety)
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
I could not find frozen or pre-cubbed squash so I simply grabbed a giant butternut squash. (If you're using fresh squash, you only really need a half, as I discovered.)
Method I used to bake the squash - Preheat oven to 350F. Wash the squash. Cut the bastard in half, being careful. Coat the squash's exposed flesh with olive oil. I put the bastard cut side up into a roasting pan, and filled the pan with 1 inch of water. Bake for 1 hour. It really worked! Squash came out DONE and tasty (I had a bit with some sugar on top right out of the oven.)
Hope someone makes this delicious soup!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
(adapted) from Moosewood Restaurant: Simple Suppers
This one goes out to Daniela :)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups greens (I used chicory, the recipe recommends kale, chard or collards)
1 cake firm tofu (approx 500g)
2 tbsp soy sauce
Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
1/3 cup raspberry jam
2 teaspoons minced chipotles in adobo sauce (sourced from the amazing Chili Mojo)
1-3 teaspoons lemon juice
Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Saute onions for a couple minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the greens, let them wilt a bit. (Chicory is quite bitter, so I let them wilt a LOT.)
While the greens wilt, in a bowl, mash the crap out of the tofu with the soy sauce. (Moosewood suggest a gentle fork will work; I used a knife, then a husband, and finally went for a husband/ potato masher combo.) Increase the skillet heat to high, stir in the mashed tofu and cook for 6-8 minutes, until the tofu just begins to brown.
While the tofu cooks, make the RC sauce. In a small saucepan, stir together the fruit spread, chipotles and 2 tablespoons of water. Simmer until hot and saucy! Stir in lemon juice. Add more water if too thick.
Serve the scrambled tofu topped with sauce.
Moosewood suggest to serve with rice; we just used buttered toast.
And dessert: vanilla Moo Premium Yoghurt topped with pomegranate seeds.
Monday, June 21, 2010
After a series of base, repetitive and horrendous post-college jobs, I finally have one that, dare I say it, I like. Really like, actually.
I work at an all boys school that has a Christian background, for boys from Reception (Kindergarten) to year 12, with a per-year tuition that rivals my per-year college fees (which were moderate as far as an American education goes, but can really add up over a 13 year period, one can assume.)
After I got over the poshness of it all, my first real fear was that I wouldn't feel old enough around the boys I was working with: years 7 -9. That was quickly quelled upon finding out that most year 7, 8 and 9 boys don't really understand things such as every sentence needs a capitalized beginning, a "full stop" at the end, and generally a subject, verb, and object help to let us know what you're trying to convey. It makes one feel really old to have to say things like, "please capitalize the main character's name," and, "why don't you have ANY punctuation in this entire page of writing?!?!" (Ok, not something I put quite like that.)
Anyway, the specifics of how the current generation is almost entirely incapable of writing coherently due to a cross roads of technology and instant gratification is a topic for another time.
Once I realized that, yes, I am old enough to teach these not-so-little little people a thing or two, I began to have a bit of fun. My main work is with a variety of boys who are labeled with all kinds of learning disabilities ranging from dyslexia to Asperger's syndrome to central auditory processing disorder to low cognitive function. I say "labeled" because even though I have a psych background, and I fully appreciate that having a diagnosis can lead to funding, understanding and treatment, I definitely don't look at the boys I work with with their labels first.
Sometimes specific boys come to see me and another teacher where we work through a curriculum to support their learning in their core subjects, and other times I'm scheduled in core subject classrooms as a support person, and I go around and help the students out. At the moment my schedule is for mostly English and maths classes with some humanities on the side. (I was in one year 10 advanced maths class, but mercifully that was dropped from my schedule. I didn't like calc when I was in year 10, and I don't like it now. The teacher was fabulous though and I think if he was my teacher back then I might have gotten a decent grade!)
There are moments during the day when I look into the wide eyes of one of my boys and try to explain the symbolic meaning in a particular poem and it is so far beyond his grasp that I think, why bother, but there are also moments where I sit with students who have severe multiple disabilities, and they listen to me so earnestly and seem so grateful that I'm there to explain algebra in another way that it makes my heart sing.
There are times I read aloud to boys who can't read a sentence because of dyslexia and they look at me with eyes that shine because I'm not judging them, I'm just giving them what they need, the information through an auditory channel not a visual one. They will pick up every single word and discuss the finer points that other strong readers might miss. That is one of the greatest pleasures I take in this job; every boy can be a surprise. A boy with low cognitive function can be cheeky as hell, and more dedicated than the rest of the class. A boy unable to read smart as a whip, and usually the jerk making snide remarks at the back is only doing so because he needs a bit of help as well and doesn't know how to ask.
Sometimes they can surprise in less than lovely ways though. A few of the boys around are quite entitled and a bit arrogant, which makes them a pain to work with, but I try to devise how I might get through to them as well. I've also learned that a roomful of boys smell and sound exactly like a roomful of boys.
I've really enjoyed that unlike a teacher who has to cater for 20-30 students all at once, which often means a diminished capacity to work one on one, I have the luxury of doing this. I see what it's like inside a classroom and how difficult it really is to differentiate the tasks and assessments for all the levels of ability that coexist. I also find it energizing though. I've been reading and browsing lots of materials on the neurodevelopment of learning, and I find it fascinating. I also have the opportunity to work with the school psychologist in a pseudo-mentor role but I'm beginning to feel like I might actually want to ... become a teacher instead of a psychologist. I like the science behind the learning, but I also like the direct application and the teaching part of it.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Pappa al pomodoro
bread and tomato Soup
Jamie Oliver's recipe
Delicious cherry tomatoes roasted with chopped garlic, olive oil and basil leaves.
Combined into more roasted garlic and basil stalks ( can you smell the essential oil?!) with cans of whole plum tomatoes.
Add bread, torn basil leaves and the rest of the olive oil in your house and you're good.
Optional: serve to Anglo (read: culinarily deprived) husband who will turn his nose up at it, and ask "innocent" questions such as, "do you like it?" More for you!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
What I made yesterday.
Regular vanilla cupcake mix.
Split the mixed batter into 6 small dishes, and color the batter in each dish a seperate color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple.
Then, color by color, put it into the cupcake molds. Don't worry that the colors don't make a full "layer" they will still come out distinct after baking!
Especially fun if you do this while someone is napping and they only see the top ish color.... until they bite in.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
At the moment I'm suffering one of those bouts of sickness where I alternately think I'll never walk again and go on mad cleaning/cooking sprees within the same 48 hour period, only to relapse back into bed/couch.
I've just been on such a spree and this is what I made:
Potato and Leek soup with Porcini Oil
and ohhh god it was tasty! Also, gave me a reason to cry other than my muscle pains! (chopping leeks)
my favorite part was the porcini oil:
but the crispy leeks that go on top were nice too...
Recipe in case anyone wants it:
4 leeks, white part only, sliced
1kg pontiac (the pink-red ones) potatos, peeled and chopped
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
2 cups water
2 cups milk (or less, depending on how thick you like your soup)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
10 g dried porcini mushrooms
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the leek and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to high. Add the potato, stock and water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or until potato is tender.
While the soup is cooking, make the porcini oil and crispy leeks. To make porcini oil, place the porcini and oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
To make the crispy leeks, heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the leek and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper, set aside.
Remove soup from heat and using a hand-held blender, blend until smooth. Stir through the milk, salt and pepper. Return to the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until warmed through. Divide soup between bowls, spoon over the porcini oil and top with crispy leeks to serve.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The one you've been waiting for:
Monday, March 8, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
mood: not applicable
taste: general morning taste, but I brushed and flossed last night so its ok
clothes: a wife-beater and pseudo-maternity workout pants
desktop: some modern art with primary colors and strong lines
nail color: It's called "give me Moor" from the Spanish collection of OPI, dark dark purple, very chipped, do I have remover??
surroundings: makeup, pawpaw "ointment", camera, rubbing alcohol; it's either some s&m bordello or my desk/vanity table
annoyance(s): thinking about my interview next week and my 5 homework assignments I haven't done for my course yet
color: I can never pick but we'll say at the moment hot pink and electric orange, with some red
food: Italian. with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, sausage, evoo, orrechieti pasta, parmesan, basil. the red white and green and I'm good to go.
book: Mrs. Dalloway
season: summer in Europe, winter in Texas, or any time that it's 27.5C
day of the week: this question perplexes me
ice-cream flavor: tiramisu or biscottino, or chocolate with raspberry, or vanilla.
time of day: evening
best friend: an adopted Korean girl
kiss: I prefer not to think about that
pet: chance, she is still alive............... we're about to enter the Guinness book of world records
piercing: belly button, I was 16, everyone else got their tongues done
crush: he was really tall with dark hair and we had computer class together, circa 6th grade, but there were a few red-heads before that haha
music: first stuff I liked? the beatles.... 2nd grade I went fanatical and used to wish that I could marry John or George or both, or at the very least go to their concerts and cry my eyes out
car: first one I drove? Nissan Maxima in white.
food: lemon curd ice cream from maggie beer, I don't rate it.
kiss: last night
song played: Television - marquee moon
tv show watched: the sopranos
car ride: back from Semaphore the other day, we took the doggins on a walk
5 have you ever(s):
Dated one of your best friends: always, but never the females
Broken the law: I thought that's what they are there for?
Been arrested: no
Skinny dipped: yes
Been on tv: no but my mom aunt and cousin just were.
you did last night: slept like the dead, read the newspaper, watched gerard butler on tv and wished (aloud) that I had married a sexy Scot with close access to Europe rather than a sexy Aussie with close access to.... South Australia), edited a video
you can hear right now: my Italian neighbor Pasqual talking on his phone on his porch
you’ve done today: woke up, did the internet rounds, made an appointment for a pedicure, and sent my husband a text message, all that and it's only 10 am!! :-p
you can tell anything to: I don't even tell myself everything.
black or white: Black babies are cuter but white tea is sweeter.
hot or cold: warm but if I had to shiver or sweat I would pick sweat, but in the shade please.
I wish I had gotten to eat more of my dad's black bottom pie before I came back to Australia.