Archive for March, 2010

What Randy Doesn’t Like

March 17, 2010

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As I have mentioned here before, we refer to my husband Randy as a “geographical vegetarian”.  In other words, he is a meat-eater who eats veg at home because his wife, the cook in the family, is vegetarian.  I am fortunate to have a husband who is not picky and is an adventurous eater, and who does not subscribe to the theory that all meals have to have a “protein”.  But there are a few things that Randy does not like.  His old list (pre-me) looked like this:

Beets
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage (in spite of the fact that he loves coleslaw and sauerkraut)
Coffee
Lentils
Peas
Split peas
Toffee

Not too bad, huh?  I have since introduced him to the glories thinly sliced brussels sprouts, red lentils, fresh English peas and this soup which has lots of cabbage.  I also helped him realize that he only thought he didn’t like toffee because it rhymes with coffee (read the story here).  He has mostly been converted with the exception of beets and coffee.  (Yes, we live in Seattle.  I know, I know.)

The other night I decided to press my luck and make a split pea soup.  He has always told me that he hates split pea soup, but I got sneaky and used a recipe from my new Clean Food book which stars yellow split peas.  I didn’t try and pull a fast one on him, I told him exactly what it was, but the yellow color made him willing to try it.  I’m happy that I took a chance.  He really liked this soup as did I.  And so did Graham, he ate a whole bowlful without trying to put it in his shoes.  (Name that story reference.)

One Year Ago: Peanut Brittle and Caramel Crunch Ice Cream Pie and Homemade Peanut Brittle
Note: There are a few must-makes on this site.  That ice cream pie is one of them.

Golden Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 8

This soup is very quick to put together but it has to simmer a long time on the stove.  You can easily make it a day ahead and the flavor will improve (like most soups).  It will become quite thick, so thin with water as necessary.  I halved this recipe.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 potato, peeled and diced
¼ cup mirin
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
4 cups golden split peas
10 cups water
½ tsp.salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so.  Add carrots and celery and sauté for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, potato, mirin, vinegar, and mustard and stir to combine.  Add the split peas and the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat.  Simmer for at least 4 hours, adding water as necessary to thin.  Remove bay leaf before serving.



The Last Food Blogger on Earth

March 15, 2010

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Folks, it’s true.  I am the last food blogger on Earth who has not made Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread.  Okay, well maybe not the last,  but I am one of the last.

I’m intrigued by it though and having tasted it (my lovely neighbor Julie is a convert), I can tell you that all the fuss is well-deserved.  I bought the cookbook, I have the right size pot, now I just need to bake it.  (I don’t think I will write about it though – haven’t we all read enough about no-knead bread?).

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I decided to make another of Lahey’s much-praised recipes for my first foray into his world.  Pizza Bianca is one of those things where you look at the list of ingredients and think – that’s it?  Or at least I do.  But then I remember that my very favorite part of any pizza, even bad pizza, is the crust.  So why not just one giant crust?

To be fair, this is meant to be more of a flatbread than a crust.  I imagine Lahey’s vision is somewhere between a foccacia and a pizza crust.  I think what I made is a little closer to a foccacia and I didn’t quite get the dimpling technique right, but it was still really delicious.  I cook and bake a lot but I have to say that pizza dough is not my specialty.  I know that I just need to make it more regularly to get a better feel for the dough.  (Did you hear that?  That is Randy cheering in the background.)  I am excited to try more of his pizza recipes in addition to that famous bread.

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One Year Ago: Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Ginger Biscotti and Tropical Gazpacho

Pizza Bianca

From My Bread
One 14-inch pie

3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
¼ tsp. (1 gram) instant or other active yeast
½ tsp. (4 grams) table salt
¾ tsp. (4 grams) sugar
1½ cups (350 grams) cool (55 to 65°F) water
¼ cup (60 grams) extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for coating the bowl and brushing
½ tsp. (4 grams) coarse sea salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, table salt, and sugar.  Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, stick dough, about 30 seconds.  Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it.  Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 9 to 12 hours.

2.  When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface (a cutting board is useful here) with flour.  Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece; as you begin to pull it away from the bowl, it will cling in long thin strands and will be quite loose and sticky.  Using lightly floured hands, fold the dough over itself two or three times and nudge it into a loose, rather flat ball.  Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil as sprinkle with the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve on the surface).  Put the dough in a warm, draft-free spot and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

3.  Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500°F, with a rack in the center, and place a pizza stone, at least 14 inches in diameter, in the center of the rack.

4.  Generously dust a pizza peel with flour and place the ball of dough in the middle.  Spread out the fingers of one hand, like a claw, and drive your fingers into the dough but do not puncture it.  You want to simultaneously create dimples in the dough and spread it out across the peel.  Continue working your hand across the dough and dimpling it until you have a bumpy disk about 12 inches in diameter.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the rosemary leaves.

5.  With the peel resting on the counter, grasp the handle and give it a quick little tug; you want the pizza to just barely move but stay on the peel.  (Loosening it makes it easier to slide it onto the baking stone.)  If the dough sticks to the peel, gently lift it around the edges and add flour to the peel.  Shake the pizza onto the baking stone.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on the mounds but still pale in the dimples.

6.  Slide the peel under the pizza and transfer it to a rack to cool for at least a few minutes before slicing and serving.



Tempt You with Tempeh?

March 12, 2010

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So, we all know about Tara of Seven Spoons, right?  If you haven’t visited her incredibly special blog, you should head over there tout de suite.  Her writing is some of the best out there, food blog or no.  Her photos are spare, simple, and beautiful.  Her food is complex, but not overly so.  She always seems to be making exactly what I am in the mood for.  And here is another thing about her.  She is nice.  And I’m not just saying that because she sent me a cookbook.

I can’t remember the exact series of events, but somehow Tara ended up with some extra copies of a new book called Clean Food.  It is a vegetarian book and she sent me a message on Twitter asking if I wanted a copy.  How thoughtful is that?  As I have said here many times before, I have a lot of cookbooks and I have to say, this one is pretty different from others in my collection.  It is extremely healthy, gluten-free, and vegan.  There are those who say, “Why eat?” but those are very narrow-minded people.

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The book is arranged seasonally and while some of the recipes are overly healthy for me (I like seaweed as much as the next vegetarian, but I don’t need a whole salad of it), many of them sound like just what the title says – clean food.  I like clean food.  Not overly fussy and really tasty.  Having sampled two of the recipes the other night, I can tell you I am very excited to cook more from this book.

May will be the second anniversary of me starting this blog and I have never once mentioned tempeh (pronounced temp-ay).  If you are not familiar with it, tempeh is a soy product.  Technically, it is soybeans that have been put through a fermentation process to bind them into cake form.  Doesn’t that sound appetizing?  Although tempeh and tofu are both soy, they are very different.  Tempeh is much firmer, denser, and actually quite a bit higher in protein.  It also has a fairly distinctive taste which many people don’t like.

I do like it but don’t find it as adaptable as tofu.  It also takes a bit more work to make it taste good.  Tempeh almost always should be steamed first (this will remove the bitterness) and I have found that I like it best marinated and then roasted at a fairly high heat.  That gives the tempeh a nice crust and terrific flavor.

Now I have a new favorite way to eat it.  I was blown away by this dish.  Simple ingredients and fabulous flavor.  Tempeh braised in coconut milk is an excellent idea and I didn’t think I would like the raisins in there, but they add a terrific dimension.  The side dish (from the same book) was almost as good as the main dish.  Put the two together with some rice and you have my husband (who, remember, is not a vegetarian) saying, “This is so good.  Make it again next week.”  So glad he asked.   Thank you Tara!

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One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Apple Galette and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Sauteed Tempeh with Coconut Milk and Snow Peas
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

I really loved both of these recipes but I made several changes.  I added some things, left some things out, and used more of other things.  The recipes below reflect those changes.  I would recommend that you do all the chopping in advance and put things in bowls so that you have everything at hand when you are ready to cook.  Yes, more dishes but no frantic running around the kitchen because the cooking time is actually quite short.

2 8-ounce packages tempeh
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
½ cup golden raisins
¾ of a 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. mirin
5 scallions, sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the tempeh into chunks and steam for 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the snow peas in a bowl.  Pour boiling hot water over them, leave them for 2 minutes, then drain.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallot for 3 minutes, or until it begins to get brown.  Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add the tempeh, raisins, tamari, syrup, mirin, and about 1/3 of the coconut milk.  Cook, adding more coconut milk as necessary to de-glaze the pan, until tempeh starts to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the snow peas and cook 2 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat, top tempeh with scallions and cilantro and serve.

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Sauté
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mirin
8 cups chopped bok choy (4 medium heads or 8 small)
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped cilantro

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil until starting to brown.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add shiitake mushrooms, half the tamari, water, and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize.  (Add more water as needed to de-glaze the pan.)  Add remaining tamari and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms are a deep brown but not burnt.

Stir in bok choy until it wilts.  Cover and steam for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add scallions and cilantro.



A Story and a Question

March 8, 2010

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Today – a story and a question.

But first a disclaimer.  This story has to do with me drinking.  Those who know me can tell you I love my wine.  I drink it often but I don’t usually drink too much of it.  I love the way it tastes with food and a glass at 5pm can really help me through the boys fighting/fixing dinner/bathtime/stories/teeth brushing/bedtime part of the day.  Okay, maybe two glasses.

Remember we went to Whidbey Island for New Year’s Eve?  What I didn’t tell you is that I drank a lot that night.  A lot of red wine and then toasted the New Year with a large glass of champagne.  Friends, my advice to you is do not ever end the night with champagne.

I took Advil before going to bed and woke up feeling a little rough but not terrible.  Here is the thing with me and hangovers though.  I usually wake up feeling as described above but as the day wears on, things get worse.  I start feeling more off and by the late afternoon, I am a bit of a mess.  On Whidbey, we all ventured off to go to the park, only to find it closed for renovation, so we went into the darling town of Langley.  All ten of us (four adults, six kids) piled into a coffee place.  I drank water.  We walked around the town.  I eyed lots of benches longingly.  No one would notice if I just laid down, right?  Jen steered me in the direction of a new gourmet food shop which, because of the holiday, was closed.  I peered in the window at all the gorgeous food and thought, “I must feel really bad if I’m thankful this place is closed”.

Why am I telling you this story?  Well, because eventually we ended up in this adorable shop which is part grocery, part clothing, part toy, and part kitchen gear store.  (It doesn’t sound like it would work, but it does.)  They always have an eclectic selection of cookbooks and, even in my state, I pulled down a new-to-me one called New Vegetarian.

Because I have so many, a veg cookbook has to have some really innovative and interesting recipes for me to want it.  With this book, I immediately saw three or four recipes that I was dying to try.  So, of course I had to buy it.  If I was in the middle of one of the worst hangovers in my life and was moved to want to cook – this had to be a special book.

I brought it home, put it on my overflow shelf and promptly forgot about it.

End of story.

Now the question.  Why do they only sell buttermilk in large quantities?  Yes, once in a while I can find a pint of it, but usually I am stuck with a quart.  Just about any baking recipe that calls for it uses somewhere around ½ a cup.  That leaves you with 3½ cups.  Yes, I could make pancakes but I don’t really like pancakes (don’t tell anyone).  Yes, it’s inexpensive so I could really just pour it down the drain but – ugh! – I hate that kind of waste.

And here is where the story and the question magically weave together to make perfect sense in this post.  While paging through my fun new book that I forgot about, I found this recipe.  Not only did it include some of my very favorite spices, it calls for a full two cups of buttermilk.  Because I seem to have misplaced my brain lately, I can’t remember why I had an almost-full quart of buttermilk in the fridge, but there it sat – just waiting to be used in this delicious and unusual entrée.

This is one of those “use what you have on hand” recipes.  I bought the cauliflower and zucchini because I happened to be at the store anyway, but really any vegetable you love would be great here.  The only advice I’m giving in this post is to drink champagne as your first beverage of the evening, not your last.

Is this post weird?  I just went to type the name of this recipe which is “Tofu-Cabbage Karhi” and realized that I added no cabbage to my recipe.  I know I can be absent minded in the kitchen, but did I really leave out a title ingredient in this dish?  But no, on closer inspection, the recipe was wrong – no cabbage was called for.  So I changed the name.

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Tofu-Cauliflower Karhi
Adapted from New Vegetarian
Serves 4

I had some toasted coconut on hand from another recipe, so that is what is garnishing this dish.

12 oz. extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
2 large red jalapeños, seeded and diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger 2 cups buttermilk
½ cup chickpea flour 1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp. tumeric
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
½ cup chopped cilantro

Cube the tofu and set aside.  Place a large cast-iron skillet over high heat and, when hot, add the oil.  Add cumin and mustard seeds.  Be careful as the mustard seeds will start to pop.  Immediately and the shallot, and stir.  Add the tofu to the pan and cook until golden on each side, then turn over.   Add zucchini, cauliflower, jalapeños, and ginger and stir, cooking until the vegetables are slightly softened and golden in spots.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk ½ cup of the buttermilk into the chickpea flour to make a paste, then gradually whisk in the rest of the buttermilk.  Whisk in the vegetable stock, tumeric, coriander, and chili powder.  Pour the mixture into the pan of sautéing vegetables and tofu.  Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook oer low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, adding water or stock if the sauce becomes too thick.  (DT: I probably added at least another cup of liquid.)  Add the salt and brown sugar and stir well.

Just before serving, sprinkle in the lemon or lime juice and the cilantro.  Serve over rice.



All Aboard the Kindergarten Train

March 3, 2010

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(This is a post about my older son Graham.  I have written about him before both here and here.)

The kindergarten train will be leaving the station in the fall and we are trying to figure out how best to get on.  The rules, boundaries, and schools have all changed just this year in our neighborhood of Seattle.  A year ago we could have applied Graham to at least 4 public schools close to us and, if he had been accepted at any of them, the district would have bussed him there.  Our fair city is trying to implement a new plan in which children go to their neighborhood school instead of having multiple options.  I definitely agree with this philosophy.  Why have neighborhood schools at all if the kids are going to be bussed elsewhere?  It is a waste of time, resources, and gas.  But.  What if your “neighborhood” or “reference” school doesn’t actually exist?

This is the conundrum that we face.  Our school is called McDonald and it will not actually be a school until the day after Labor Day.  It is being created as I type.  Not only that, this as yet non-existent school will be housed in a temporary location until the current location (which is a short walk from our house) has been renovated.  In two years.

If I had just a regular old kid, this situation would make me a little nervous.  Kindergarten is huge.  Going to a technically non-existent school ups the anxiety.  Where are the teachers going to come from?  Who is going to be the principal?  Add into the mix that our child has some special needs and I am consumed by thoughts of kindergarten.  Will my child really get the services that he has rights to by law?  I have become that mom.  Well, not entirely.  I’m not going to meetings or writing letters to the governor.  I’m just worrying about Graham.

So, we’ve done some homework.  We’ve looked into several private schools – none of which seemed right – and we have asked a lot of questions about the public options.  Basically, there are three. One is to just go to McDonald.  One is to apply to our “option” school which is an alternative school and if he gets in, he would get bussed there.  The third option is that he will, as a special needs student, automatically get applied to a very special place called the EEU.  This is a mixed classroom of special needs and typically developing children and it has a tremendous reputation.  Acceptance is by lottery.  Seeing as there are ten slots for over 200 children, we are not holding our breath.  Plus, the EEU is kindergarten only, so we would be facing this whole problem again in a year anyway.

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This is where it is a blessing to be a mellow person.  Given the choice between worrying and not worrying, I usually choose not.  Especially about things that are still off in the future and over which I have little control.  I do keep reminding myself that we are not locking in to a school until the end of time.  If we make a mistake, we can always correct it.  We have been on top of his issues since he was about 22 months old.  We will not let him slip through the cracks.

Some very good news that I can share is that during a teacher conference at the end of January, Graham’s developmental preschool teacher says that he is doing really well.  So well, in fact, that she without question recommends that he attend a “regular” kindergarten.  There are special programs in a few schools around the city which are known as “transitional” kindergarten classes.  They are for children who are technically old enough but not ready enough to join their peers.  At the end of a year, they either go on to first grade or they go to a regular kindergarten.  His teacher thinks that is not the place for him.  That with the services he is entitled to, he can function, and perhaps even thrive, in a regular class.

(I cannot tell you how amazing it is to sit before your child’s teacher and his speech therapist and to have them tell you, several different times, what a nice kid – what a great kid – you have.  To hear the hope and certainty in their voices.  To know that there are two more people rooting for him.)

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More good news is that Graham learned to ski.  I wondered about this.  He is kind a timid kid and his biggest challenge is with receptive language.  His hearing is fine but he doesn’t process language the same way you and I do.  He does best if someone is right on his level talking to him.  So, I wasn’t sure how ski lessons were going to go.  We considered doing private lessons for him but they were prohibitively expensive.  Thankfully, the week we were in Sun Valley things were very quiet.  We signed him up for group lessons for two days and he had the teacher all to himself.  He went on the chairlift and was full on going down the mountain in snow-plow form in 2½ days.

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Before the holidays, a teacher in Graham’s other preschool pulled me aside.  She brought out this drawing that Graham had done.  She told me she was looking at a ruler with him and that he wanted to draw it.  Graham has always been fascinated by letters and has known his alphabet for a long time.  He has been able to write his name for over a year.  But, while he knows his numbers, I’ve never seen him write them.  She told me she watched as he traced the ruler and then carefully copied down what he saw.

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If you have read my earlier posts about Graham, I probably don’t have to tell you that tears came to my eyes when I saw this ruler.  Only some of the numbers are backwards and he fit them all on.  Sometimes I wonder what is going on in that little head of his.  I wonder what is going in and what is sticking.  I wonder why he can’t seem to grasp very simple concepts and yet can write numbers from one to twelve (and beyond) on his first shot.  I think about all the millions of things that he needs to learn before he is launched out into the world.  I worry how he can go to college if he can’t learn to tie his shoes.  Or he can never make sense of the concept of brother and sister and he calls most women “him”.

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But this ruler.  He just looked at it and it all clicked.  I was reminded that, during his testing, he was able to identify numbers that he had never seen before.  They asked him to find “84″ and I watched his face as he scanned his choices and mouthed “eight four” and chose correctly.  I never taught him that.  At that point, he couldn’t count past 20.  These amazing things he does from time to time give me so much hope.  We drove by a small museum in Seattle the other day and he said, “Remember – we got pictures there.”  Yes, we did some family photos with a friend who is a photographer and we parked right in front of that museum.  We did those photos for Spencer’s first birthday.  That was two years ago.  He not only remembered something that happened when he was barely three years old – he knew exactly where it happened and recognized it.

And one more thing.  When he was done carefully filling in all the numbers on the ruler, he told his teacher he thought it looked like a whale, so he filled in the fins.  Kindergarten, we’ll see you in September.



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