Friday, March 31, 2006

Homemade Tamales

From Fugger Nutter comes this wonderful looking recipe.
Alright this is my wife’s home made Tamale recipe. This is the first time it has ever been written down! (Well it is a year old now) It’s her family's traditional recipe passed down to her, but she had made some clever changes that make it taste exactly the same, but be healthier for you than using pure lard for parts. This is 4 long parts but it sure is wonderful when done.
I am going to have to force the time to make tamales again. This recipe looks wonderful.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lentils with Ham and Rosemary

Continuing both my exploration of xxx and my rarely successful efforts to feed the family on Tuesdays when I go to a 6:00 prayer group, I tried this recipe. This was more of a "guideline" recipe for me. I did not follow many of their directions because I was too strapped for time to have the 2-1/2 - 3 hours required for the slow cooker.

It turned out great. Maybe this is because the authors adapted it from a Cooking Light recipe so I was taking it back in the direction it came from. Maybe it is because it is a very simple and adaptive recipe.

OR maybe it is because I am a kick ass cook who can bid ingredients to do her will. Hey. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.

Anyway, it was greeted with almost universal approval, except from Tom who is just not a lentil-lovin' kinda guy. But he is good at rolling with the punches and I wasn't home when he ate.

Serves 8

Cooker: Medium or large round
Setting and Cook time: high for 2-1/2 to 3 hours

2 medium yellow onions, chopped (I used one white onion)
2 cups diced cooked ham (any kind)
1 cup diced carrot or parsnip
1 cup chopped celery (I didn't have any around)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed (I didn't have either rosemary or sage ... so I used ... 1-1/2 t. poultry seasoning ... going for the sage ya know)
3/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 pound dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed (I used those little French lentils, to see what they were like, and they held their shape really well)
One 14.5 ounce can beef broth (I used chicken broth because by then I was all about breaking the rules)
5 cups water, or as needed to cover everything by 3 inches

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. cover and cook on HIGH until lentils are tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Add boiling water if you want soupier lentils. Discard bay leaf and serve.

Or if you want to do it the quick, stove top way, saute the onions, carrots and ham in some olive oil until the onions are fairly well cooked down. Then throw everything else in the pot, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot. Let simmer for about an hour. Taste and add salt as needed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cheese as Artifacts

Behind every cheese there is a pasture of a different green under a different sky: meadows encrusted with salt that the tides of Normandy deposit every evening; meadows perfumed with aromas in the windy sunlight of Provence; there are different herds, with their shelters and their movements across the countryside; there are secret methods handed down over the centuries. This shop is a museum: Mr. Palomar, visiting it, feels as he does in the Louvre, behind every displayed object the presence of the civilization that gave it form and takes form from it. — Italo Calvino, Palomar, 1983

Monday, March 27, 2006

Funeral Food

There is another way food is important when someone has died: it marks a connection between the living. There is nothing you can say to someone who is bereaved that can make anything better and even the notion that you could make it better can feel offensive, even if the wish is declared out of kindness. But you can help, you can make food. And if you can't cook, or haven't got time, you can shop. The thing to remember in either case is never to burden the bereaved with a question: don't ask what they'd like you to get or what they might want to eat. Decisions are impossible: you have to do it, and do it without drawing attention to the act. I remember a friend of mine leaving some bags of shopping from the supermarket for me once. She hadn't told me she was going, she hadn't asked what I needed: she just left the bags outside the side door with a short note. It was one of the kindest things anyone could have done.
I have heard and read all sorts of things about funeral food but never this very wise and practical observation. It is one we all know under the skin but Lawson puts it very well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Now Serving Hot Links

2006 James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees Announced: categories include Best Webcast, showing they keep up with the times.

The Sharpest Knives in the Drawer: fascinating story about Oxo tools, how they are developed, tested, and more. Now I am just dying for their new, improved steamer because everything in that article about what is wrong with a steamer? Yep, it's what I hate as well. Via World on a Plate.

Inventor of Chicken Nuggets Dies: someone had to invent these? And told people who he was? Hmmm...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Now Serving Hot Links

Croissants Aux Amandes
An easy way to use up those old croissants that everyone has lying around the house. What? You don't? Me neither but if you are French it could happen. This recipe looks good enough to make me let some croissants go stale (yes, that is just how good it looks.)

Homemade Cottage Cheese
To be honest, I am not likely to be whipping this recipe up any time soon. However, I must admit that I actually am tempted because I simply adore good cottage cheese and it is practically impossible to find any.

The Four Heavenly Kings of Pineapple Bun
A window into Hong Kong eating and enchanting stories about the four kings as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Chiles & Lime

This recipe is from Fine Cooking, which in my opinion, can give Cook's Illustrated a run for their money in having recipes that always work. I made this for Tom and me one evening when the girls were gone. The recipe says it serves two. I thought it could serve three or even four with additional dishes. Tom thought it was just right for two (so you can see he liked it!).

The only thing I changed was that I didn't have the chiles and they didn't seem to fit in my mind's palate, so I left them out.

3 ounces drive wide (pad thai) rice noodles

SAUCE:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chile-sauce (such as Lee Kum Kee brand)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
6 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (to yield 1 cup)
1 4-ounce can fire-roasted whole green chiles (such as Ortega brand), drained and sliced into long, very think slivers (to yield 1/2 cup)
1-1/2 cups bean sprouts

ACCOMPANIMENTS:
2 tablespoons crushed, unsalted, roasted peanuts
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
10 mint leaves, torn into small pieces.
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Soak dried rice noodles by submerging in a bowl of very warm water (I boil water and pour it over them) and soak until pliable but still rather firm, about 30 minutes. They will still have a fairly firm core but that is ok as they will cook more later in the recipe.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients.

Once noodles are drained, heat oil in a large (12-inch) skillet or stir-fry pan over high heat until very hot. Add the garlic, stir, and immediately add the shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp turn pink and firm, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the sauce mixture. Stir to mix for about 20 seconds, then add the chile slivers and noodles. Stir-fry until the noodles are tender and the liquid is absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. If the noodles are too firm, add 1 tablespoon of water and cook another minute.

Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry until they're slightly limp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the peanuts, cilantro and mint. Serve immediately, with lime wedges on the side.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kiss Mah Grits!

Continuing the breakfast revolution in our house, I tried the slow cooked grits recipe from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Oh, I had forgotten just how much I like grits. Especially with a bit in the bowl, some cheese sprinkled on top, and then some more grits ladled on top of that. Mmmmm...

The recipe below calls for sweetening them after cooking which doesn't appeal to anyone in our household, (neither did the milk or fruit) but I include it in case you are less of a purist. I also like the grits a bit thicker than when they have just been cooked so unplugged the cooker when I got up and half an hour later they were perfect.

I doubled this recipe in the small slow cooker and it fed four quite nicely. Since I cooked these overnight they never got stirred until they were done and they were fine.

Sweet Breakfast Grits
Serves: 2
Cooker: Small round
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 7 to 9 hours

1/2 cup corn grits, stone-ground if possible
2 cups cups water
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
Sliced fruit or berries for serving

Combine grits, water, and salt in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or overnight.

Stir the grits a few times during cooking with a whisk and stir in the honey just before serving. Stir well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon. Serve with milk and sliced fruit or berries.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Now Serving Hot Links

LENT + FRIDAY = NO MEAT
The Confessionator is going to post meatless recipes every Friday through Lent. First up, Fish, specifically Manhattan Clam Chowder, Fish Tacos, and Baked Fish with Rosemary and Potatoes.

GRADING COOK'S ILLUSTRATED
Paper Palate tests Cook Illustrated's recipe for potstickers and doesn't think they're as good as those from local Japanese takeout places ... but the dipping sauce gets an A+.

A NICE BIT O' BONE
I love a good marrow bone and so does Rosie's husband. Read it all at Bitchin' in the Kitchen with Rosie. And thanks for nothin', Rosie, because now I have yet another cookbook on my "must read" list.

GETTING DIZZY
Wine Sediments reports on the spin that wine producers are putting on survey results reporting that consumers clearly prefer cork.

BLOOKS?
SlashFood reports that two food blog books have made the short list for the Booker Prize. I agree with SlashFood. Don't get cutesy. Just call 'em books.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Overnight Oatmeal

Not being a morning person, we don't have many hot breakfasts around our house. However, our mornings have been revolutionized by something very simple ... hot oatmeal. Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook has an entire section on hot cereals that are cooked overnight.

The cereal recipes usually stipulate a small slow cooker and this was my excuse to indulge in an appliance I'd been longing for ever since reading about keeping using it to keep queso dip warm. I couldn't justify that for a rarely indulged in appetizer ... but to make a hot breakfast for my family? Yep. I geared up and got busy. And it was good. It was very good.

Ironically, I wound up doubling the recipes and using my regular medium slow cooker. If you have a family of hearty breakfasters I would advise doing the same.

We've tried both the steel-cut and regular oatmeal and both work extremely well. Next up will be grits ...

Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Serves: 2
Cooker: Small round
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 8 to 9 hours

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water

Combine the oats and water in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, or overnight, until tender.

Still oatmeal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal
Serves: 4
Cooker: Small or medium round
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or HIGH for 2 to 3 hours

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats or thick-cut rolled oats
4-3/4 cups water
Pinch of salt

Combine oats, water, and aslat in the slow cooker, stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or overnight, or on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours.

Stir oatmeal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lent: Fasting

As a spiritual discipline, fasting is intended to be just that -- a discipline. Although they didn't articulate it like this, the ancients wisely realized that restricting food and drink was a way to sharpen awareness on many levels. Food fasts, especially rigorous ones, serve to heighten the senses. And because eating is pleasurable, food fasts can indeed induce "suffering."

Lenten fasting is defined as eating only one full meatless meal a day, and two smaller meatless meals that don't add up to another full meal (the Eastern Churches include no alcohol). Never mind that John the Baptist allegedly subsisted on a diet of wild locusts and honey, extreme restriction or deprivation will not necessarily make you holier and may, in fact, make you sick. Starving is not fasting.

Nowhere, either in scripture or church teachings are we asked to fast at the expense of health and well-being. During the fourth century, St. John Chyrsostom wrote, "If your body is not strong enough to continue fasting all day, no wise man will reprove you; for we serve a gentle and merciful Lord who expects nothing of us beyond our strength." The Church, in her wisdom exempts those who are ill, younger than fourteen, or older than ninety-five from fasting. You should also refrain if you've ever been formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, or told you might have one but didn't want to hear it. If this is the case, try fasting from the Internet, daily news reports, or quacking on the phone instead.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould