Saturday, November 17, 2012

Smashed Potatoes

Inspired by the Boston Globe Magazine's Roasted Punched Potatoes (recipe probably paywalled), I smashed my own potatoes. (Upon reviewing the magazine photo, it seems I punched mine rather less genteely than the recipe called for.)

The trick is to bake them twice -- bake whole potatoes until very soft; smash with the bottom of a glass; and then drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper and bake again. The recipe called for 80 minutes of baking in all, which seemed excessive for a weeknight, so I did the first bake in the microwave (fork potatoes; microwave 5 minutes, flip over and microwave another 5 minutes; add minutes until done). The second bake is in the oven at rather high temperature (I did 475) to crisp up the edges.

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't smash the potatoes quite so flat, for more fluffy soft potato between the crispy bits. I ate mine plain, but either ketchup or baked potato toppings (sour cream, cheese, bacon, chives) would be nice.

(Local social media celebrity Steve Garfield has a more faithful walkthrough of the Globe recipe.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Christopher Kimball Does Not Approve of This French Onion Soup

No such thing as a pretty picture of French onion soup. Okay, there is, just not here.
When you come home cranky and tired late on a Friday, and your partner arrives soon after, having consumed nothing but a G&T and bar snacks, what better recipe for domestic bliss than caramelizing onions for 45 minutes before you can even think about starting to cook?

There were tears, but only from cutting onions.

The CSA had sent us a bag of onions each of the previous two weeks, so we reprised Ray's French onion soup. Changes this time

  • Instead of 2-3 onions, we used ALL THE ONIONS (maybe 12 smallish onions, some with spoiled parts removed)
  • Chicken bouillon cubes instead of beef stock (all we had)
  • Cider instead of brandy (Ben saw us sweating the onions and brought me a bottle from the fridge, so it was in my hand and half-drunk while cooking)
  • Hunk of rosemary lopped off the top of my plant instead of proper bouquet garni
A pretty good easy fall dinner. Don't skip broiling the bread and cheese on top!

P.S. He would disapprove of the way we cook around here, but I sort of loved the New York Times Magazine piece on Christopher Kimball and Cook's Illustrated last week: Cooking Isn't Creative and It Isn't Easy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mushroom Surprise

You might remember our feisty mushroom growing kit from last winter. By tossing the mycelium block into a plastic storage bin and feeding it new coffee grounds (thanks, Johnny D's!), we managed to grow a couple more mushroom crops over the spring and summer.

When we moved, the block was pretty spent, so I stuck it in a cabinet and forgot about it. (It's the "Teresa's creepy science projects" cabinet: mushrooms on top and worms on the bottom.)

Fast forward four or five weeks, and we noticed that the cabinet was slightly ajar.

Here's what it looked like inside. Yum! Jack fried them up for dinner.

P.S. There is a lid on the plastic container. The mushrooms figured out how to get out through where it hinges.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Foodie Penpals: September

September was my second month as part of Foodie Penpals, a blogger food swap organized by The Lean Green Bean. You send a package of foodie treats (spending limit $15) to a food blogger or food blog reader (mine was a lactose-free selection for April in Montgomery, Alabama), and someone else sends one to you.

My penpal was Katie from Knoxville, Tennessee, who writes Fitness, Food and Photography. I came home to her box on a Friday after a long week at work, and it's possible that I immediately opened the sweet potato chips and ate them in bed while reading comic books. (The BBQ habanero almonds, on the other hand, I spirited away to work, where I wouldn't have to share them.)

I'd told Katie that we'd just moved, and she very sweetly sent some spices and staples to stock our new cabinets. The most on-topic for this blog is the Weber Kick'n Chicken seasoning, which she promised was good on grilled vegetables as well as meat, and which we've already enjoyed on potatoes and pasta and in a CSA-leftovers cabbage and carrot stir-fry.

The most mind-blowing item was the Biscoff spread, which I gather is a Foodie Penpals thing (Katie says she was introduced to it by one of her penpals, and I've seen it on a few other blogs). It is a sweet spread made of cookies. Speculoos (spicy ginger cookies), to be precise. So you can take your cookies and spread them on toast or pretzels or other cookies, because nothing isn't better with cookies spread on it. (If you're feeling decadent, you can use the Nutella, too.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning and Ebooks

This is a post ostensibly about canning but it is actually about ebooks (disclosure: making ebooks is my day job).

First, and most importantly, Workman has a special on canning and preserving ebooks for September, with six books on sale for $2.99. (There's also a free vegetable PDF-ebook for the low, low price of your email address.) Feel free to stop reading here.

I wanted Put 'Em Up. You get seven buying choices: Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Indiebound, Kobo, and Sony. I was going to read it on my iPad, but that still meant lots of choices. Which behemoth to support?

Apple is the obvious choice on an iPad, and it's the easiest: just open iBooks, find the book in the store, and Apple already knows your credit card information. You're reading within thirty seconds. Here's the sample in Apple's iBooks.

Amazon probably comes to mind first when you think about buying books, and many people use the Kindle iPad app to read Amazon ebooks on the iPad. To buy books from Amazon for my iPad, I have to switch to my laptop, but the book automatically is sent to my iPad.

I have a lot of quibbles with Amazon, including their insistence on their proprietary ebook format over the open EPUB standard. However, if you are intent on saving money at the expense of civilization, I should point out that the book is actually $2.51 at Amazon, a savings of an additional 48 cents. Here's the sample in Amazon's Kindle iPad app.

I buy most of my ebooks from Google, and here's why: through their partnership with Indiebound, you can buy ebooks from your local independent bookstore. So most of my ebook purchases are through the Harvard Book Store or Brookline Booksmith, bricks-and-mortar stores that I heart so, so much, and I consider the many extra clicks required to do that a reasonable tax on having such wonderful places in the world.

Here's the book in Google Play.

But wait, what's this? Google Play also has a "scanned pages" option that shows you how the actual book looks (like a PDF of the book). You can't zoom in or change the text size, but for me, this is the right way to experience a nicely designed cookbook.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tomato Seconds

The Copley farmer's market had "seconds tomatoes" (at the Atlas Farm booth) at twenty pounds for $12 on Friday, which was too tempting to pass up, even lacking the inclination to process tomatoes all weekend. Fortunately, I could only carry one box.

I got a new canning book (more on that to come), so I checked out the tomato section, with laziness my chief criterion. (Did you know you can just freeze whole tomatoes?) 

I settled on marinara sauce, which allowed food milling out the skins and seeds (no blanching and peeling here). My laziness did, however, extend to refusing to go out to buy the onions the recipe called for, so the "marinara sauce" is plain old tomato juice and pulp. (I'm thinking I can doctor it, Smitten Kitchen three-ingredient sauce style, when we eat it.) The recipe said to cook for one or two hours to thicken the sauce; I'm past three hours and still sadly runny. 

On the bright side, dinner couldn't wait, so we took the discarded skins and seeds, ran them through the food processor with an onion (we had one), garlic, and carrots, and cooked with some water and olive oil for a faster, chunky sauce. Nose-to-tail tomato eating.

P.S. Another personal recipe modification. Smashing partially cooked tomatoes with a wooden spoon? Not very fun. Crushing halved tomatoes with your bare hands? Amazingly satisfying.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Baked Corn Casserole

Here's a riddle: How do you buy corn for an eight-ear recipe, make the recipe, and still have eight ears left?

The Sunday Globe magazine (love the recipe section; hate the paywall) had an article on baked corn casseroles this week, offering variants with parmesan and basil, goat cheese, chorizo and red pepper, mushrooms and bacon, and salmon and leeks.

The recipe takes a little time and focus: you cut the corn off the cobs, then cook it on the stovetop, then cook an onion and garlic, then make a roux, which with milk and cheese becomes a sauce, then pour the corn back in, and then bake it for half an hour. So maybe it is not the smartest side dish to try for the first time when you are also trying to make a whole dinner. Just saying.

Here's a Pioneer Woman version that looks a bit faster and easier (no precooking the corn, no roux, no onions or garlic, made with cream).

I went to the Copley farmer's market to buy corn at lunchtime. The recipe called for eight ears, but I always round up for potluck (you never know who will show up), so I picked out twelve. Went to pay, and the seller pointed out that their baroque pricing scheme (discounts for buying seven ears or fourteen) meant I would actually save money by taking two more ears.

Came home with my fourteen ears, but only six ears worth fit in my skillet (we moved and have very few pans; digression, I am so close to just breaking down and buying this, which, in the smaller size, was Cook's Illustrated's best-value saute pan). So voila, delicious corn casserole, and eight ears left for next time. Might make a chowder.