Friday, April 28, 2006

Just a Little Art

Halibut or Other Steaks Simmered in Soy Sauce

I rarely buy halibut as it is so expensive but luckily The Central Market was discounting $10 which basically cut my cost in half.

Once I got this rare treasure home I didn't know what to do with it. Certainly I didn't want to take a chance on ruining it. Mark Bittman had the answer in How to Cook Everything with this simple but delicious recipe which pleased everyone in our house ... no easy feat!

This recipe is best with mild-flavored steaks: cod, grouper, halibut, monkfish, and tilefish.

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 or 2 halibut steaks, a total of about 1-1/2 pounds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water (I used chicken stock)
1/4 cup minced scallions

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the oil and raise the heat to high; cook the fish for 60 to 90 seconds on each side, just until it begins to brown.

Turn the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle garlic and ginger around the fish, then drizzle the sesame oil over it. Add soy sauce and stock or water to skillet, raise heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover.

Cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and, with the fish still in the liquid, raise heat to high and reduce liquid by about half (this should only take one minute or two).

Serve the fish over rice, with some of the sauce spooned over and garnished with scallions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cream Biscuits

Good news everyone! The best biscuits in the world are also the easiest to make!

From Beard on Bread by James Beard, the only thing I have ever adjusted is that I always have to use more than 1 cup of cream. Also, I pat these into a rectangle, cut them into 12 squares and they are ready to go in the pan with no rolling, no extra scraps ... everything is perfectly easy that way.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 - 1 cup heavy cream (I generally wind up using 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
Melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients together and fold in the heavy cream until it makes a soft dough that can be easily handled. Turn out on a floured board, knead for about 1 minute, and then pat to a thickness of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Cut in rounds or squares, dip in melted butter (I never do this), and arrange on a buttered baking sheet or in a square baking pan. Bake in a preheated 425 oven for 15-18 minutes and serve very hot.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Now Serving Hot Links

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Here you go, Barb!

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk all together.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dressed to Kill

You've finally resolved to eat better, but you just can't accept that olive oil, a fat, could possibly be good for you. So as the National Cancer Institute has suggested, you went out to the store and bought a few bottles of nonfat salad dressing and every fruit and vegetable in sight. Now you're on the second week of your low-fat diet, you've managed to eat a salad every day, and you're feeling proud. After all, the salad is full of arugula, broccoli bits, carrots, and other high-fiber, carotene-rich foods. And you've consumed this bounty of healthy food with nary a single gram of fat because you have dutifully obeyed the no-fat mantra and used only nonfat salad dressing. Low-cal, low-fat, and supernutritious — it doesn't get any better than this for a low-fat dieter, right? Wrong.

By cutting the fat out of your salad dressing, you may have cheated yourself out of some of the most significant health benefits that salad has to offer. One of the best-kept secrets about carotenes — plant-derived, cancer-fighting phytochemicals — is that you need a little fat to absorb them. Eat no fat and the carotene passes through your system and, quite literally, goes down the drain. You can rest assured that the manufacturers of nonfat salad dressing aren't going to share this secret with you.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tips on Cooking with Cheese

When cheese is used to bring flavor and richness to a sauce or a soup, the aim is to integrate the cheese evenly into the liquid. There are several ways to avoid the stringiness, lumps, and fat separation that result when the cheese proteins are allowed to coagulate.
  • Avoid using a cheese that is prone to stringiness in the first place. Moist or well-aged grating cheeses blend better.
  • Grate the cheese finely so that you can disperse it evenly throughout the dish from the beginning.
  • Heat the dish as little as possible after the cheese has been added. Simmer the other ingredients together first, let the pot cool a bit, and then add the cheese. Remember that temperatures above the cheese's melting point will tend to tighten the protein patches into hard clumps and squeeze out their fat. On the other hand, don't let the dish cool down too much before serving. Cheese gets stringier and tougher as it cools down and congeals.
  • Minimize stirring, which can push the dispersed patches of cheese protein back together into a big sticky mass.
  • Include starchy ingredients that will coat the protein patches and fat pockets and keep them apart. These stabilizing ingredients include flour, cornstarch, and arrowroot.
  • If the flavor of the dish permits, include some wine or lemon juice — a preventive or emergency measure well known to fans of the ultimate cheese sauce, fondue.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cinnamon Buns from Heaven


Undoubtedly it is high time that I got this recipe posted. It is from The Best American Recipes 2000. I don't make the huge rolls that the original recipe calls for (12) but opt for a more normal size yielding a batch of 24.

The editors of the book mention that they skip the glaze which we would never give up. However, we do skip the optional nuts and raisins. Why add things that will just get in the way of the cinnamon, butter, and sugar flavor?

These freeze quite well if you haven't added the glaze. Just let them thaw, heat them slightly in the oven and add the glaze before serving.

I have paraphrased this recipe in spots.

DOUGH
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degree)
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon. granulated sugar, divided
1 cup warmed milk
2/3 cup butter
2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
7-8 cups all-purpose flour, or more if needed

In a large bowl, mix milk, remaining 2/3 cup sugar, melted butter, salt and eggs; stir well and add yeast mixture. Add half the flour and beat until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour until dough is slightly stiff (dough will be sticky).

Turn out onto a well-floured board; knead 5 -10 minutes. Place in well-buttered glass or plastic bowl, cover and let rise in warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

When doubled, punch down dough and let rest 5 minutes. Roll out on floured surface into a 15 x 20 inch rectangle.

FILLING
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
1-1/2 cups raisins (optional)

Spread butter on dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over dough, then sprinkle with nuts and raisins, if desired. Roll up like a jellyroll and pinch edges together to seal. Cut roll into 12 or 24 slices.

PREPARE PANS & BAKE
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Spread butter on the bottom of two 13x9" pans (for 24 rolls; if making 12 rolls use a 13x9" pan and an 8" square pan). Sprinkle with sugar. Place bun slices close together in pans. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool slightly before glazing.

GLAZE
2/3 cup butter, melted
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup hot water

Combine all except water. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable glaze. Spread over buns and serve.

Paschal Triduum

The Paschal Triduum consists of the three days before Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
HOLY THURSDAY
The German name for Holy Thursday, Gr√ľndonnerstag means "Green Thursday." Green soup made with spinach, parsley, bean sprouts, dill, and cucumber in a chicken or veal stock base; eggs with green sauce; cucumbers and sour cream; and dandelion greens salad are traditional fare in Germany, Austria, and among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

GOOD FRIDAY
... today's the day to indulge in these sweet rolls [hot cross buns] that are either carved with a cross or inscribed with one in icing. Or perhaps you'd prefer the fifteenth-century German custom of eating big fluffy pretzels with (peeled) hard boiled eggs ...

HOLY SATURDAY
The Lenten fast is officially over today although many people continue it until Easter Sunday.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Olive Oil Riot

In an unfortunate chapter of American history ... about 1,600 Italian citizens living in the United States were shipped off to an internment camp in Missoula, Montana. In a humorous footnote to this largely unknown event, a mini-riot broke out in the camp when the Italian chef was presented with beef fat for frying. His temper got the better of him, and he slapped the American food supplier in the face. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt in the riot that ensued (an American guard shot himself in the foot, but it shows how seriously Italians take their food, and their olive oil.

Friday, April 07, 2006

On the top of my wishlist for Blogger was support for categories or labels to organize my posts. Came across this service, www.labelr.com, that lets me do that seamlessly. Check it out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why Some People Can't Stand Cheese

The flavor of cheese can provoke ecstasy in some people and disgust in others. The 17th century saw the publication of at least two learned European treatises "de aversatione casei," or "on the aversion to cheese." And the author of "Fromage" in the 18th-century Encyclopedie noted that "cheese is one of those foods for which certain people have a natural repugnance, of which the cause is difficult to determine." Today the cause is clearer. The fermentation of milk, like that of grains or grapes, is essentially a process of limited, controlled spoilage. We allow certain microbes and their enzymes to decompose the original food, but not beyond the point of edibility. In cheese, animal fats and proteins are broken down into highly odorous molecules. Many of the same molecules are also produced during uncontrolled spoilage, as well as by microbial activity in the digestive tract and on moist, warm, sheltered areas of human skin.

An aversion to the odor of decay has the obvious biological value of steering us away from possible food poisoning, so it's not wonder that an animal food that gives off whiffs of shoes and soil and the stable takes some getting used to. Once acquired, however, the taste for partial spoilage can become a passion, an embrace of the earthy side of life that expresses itself best in paradoxes. The French call a particular plant fungus the pourriture noble, or "noble rot," for its influence on the character of certain wines, and the surrealist poet Leon-Paul Fargue is said to have honored Camembert cheese with the title pieds de Dieu — the feet of God.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Love Hurts ... Especially When You Become a Free Radical

Oxidation is about love. The love of electrons. Some atoms and molecules can endure the loss of their electrons, while others don't handle it well. Oxygen just can't bear it. Oxygen is a romantic particle. An oxygen particle that gives up an electron is called a singlet. Oxygen doesn't like to be a singlet. It would much rather have its electrons paired up so it can live happily ever after. But when the electron couple living in its outermost orbit breaks up, oxygen becomes depressed, angry, and violent. In short, it behaves radically and can do a lot of damage to the other atoms and molecules around it. There is no point in trying to console or comfort a jilted oxygen atom. It just won't be happy until it gets its electron back. That's the way love is.

Some molecules tolerate such romantic losses much better. These philosophical types usually don't become angry or violent when they lose electrons, so they can safely donate electrons to hot-tempered radicals like oxygen and calm them down. The generous compounds that exhibit this most unselfish form of love are called antioxidants.

Confessions of an Unrepentant Lentil Eater

If you knew anything about how lentils were treated on the factory farms, I hope that you would not be so gleeful about eating them. They are slaughtered, dessicated, then so tightly packed that they can't move on their own, they can't form the social bonds that they thrive on in the wild, and there is nowhere for their waste products to go, so they just wallow in it.
I begged Erik to stay away from here because I knew he'd get all "holier than thou" ... but no he's gotta go and pull the "mercy card."