Sunday, November 28, 2010

When I move out I'm going to make my own hummus!

And now, thanks to the generosity of my parents, I can realize my dream. Every day, if I want. By the gallon, if necessary. Yes, that's right, I got a massive, fabulous food processor for (early) Christmas!!

I've long dreamt of making my own hummus, since it is very likely the most over-priced item in the grocery store. Chickpeas are really really cheap and hummus is really really not. And it's super easy (especially now that I have a food processor!) to turn chickpeas into hummus. No excuses now!

1 regular-sized can of chickpeas
1 dollopy tablespoon of tahini
1 lemon (just the juice)
2 tablespoons of chickpea juice (from the can)
salt, pepper, parsley to taste
optional: drizzle of olive oil

Just toss the all that in the food processor and 30 seconds later you have fresh, fluffy hummus and a small mess. =)

Obviously this recipe is just the bare-bones basic rendition of hummus. Popular variants include generous amounts of cumin, sun-dried tomato, jalapenos, etc. Next time I think I'm going to try to make a curry hummus! So excited to experiment! And to have something delicious and affordable to dip my Milagros* in.

*Milagros are a brand of tortilla chips, local to Austin. They are wonderful!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lazy Woman's Turon (Banana Egg Rolls)

In an adventurous mood I bought a roll of Filo dough -- an ambition I may well learn to regret! There are just so many of those little sheets in one of those packages. But they do make "fancy" food simpler and pretty much every Filo-y bite I've had has been delicious.

Yesterday I was feeling restless and had a hankering for dessert, so I ad-libbed a few banana egg rolls (turon, to the natives, or so I hear). These guys were surprisingly low-fuss and a novel-yet-not-strange sort of sweet.

Since I'm only one person, I made a very small batch (only one banana's worth), but this is entirely scale-able. Also, I plan to play around with other flavors (cardamom, pineapple, peanut butter), but if you get there first, please let me know how it goes!

Start with your banana(s) peeled and divided both hamburger and hot-dog style.

In a saucer or plate mix 2ish tsps of sugar with a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

Roll the banana quarters in the sugar, one at a time.

Take a sheet of Filo dough and split it down the middle of the long side. Wrap the banana quarter in one of the Filo pieces either tucking the excess in before wrapping, or at the end. This part is hard to describe and I didn't get pictures, but if you imagine that you are wrapping presents, something acceptable should result.

After you've wrapped all of your banana pieces, fill the saucer with soymilk and bathe each roll thoroughly.

Grease a cookie sheet, place the rolls on the sheet and sprinkle each one with sugar an cinnamon. Bake until gold (15min?) at 360.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fridge Pickles!

Word on the street is that canning/preserving/fermenting your own food is the new hipster hot. Extra points if you have access to a basement for traditional canned food storage. Well, I'm a bit to lazy for that, and I am not currently a person of large means, so I only make fridge pickles. Conveniently enough, fridge pickles are the perfect combination of home-made and near-instant-gratification, with the added bonus of a significantly lower risk of harboring botulism.

So, what exactly are fridge pickles? Don't be fooled, the name is self explanatory. Otherwise known as "quick pickles" these are pseudo-preserved, often tangily spiced vegetables marinated/ceviche-fied in a vinegar-based solution. Today we will be discussing the finer points of quick-pickling carrots and beets.

(Fridge) Pickled Carrots

Pickled carrots are more or less like the carrots available at the salsa bar in SoCal mexican food shops, though the jalapeno and onion are optional, and you can get fancy if you like.

Start by chopping up your carrots. I went with carrot sticks, but shape doesn't matter; slices work just as well. Note: thinner slices generally means quicker pickles. I added a shaving of onion on top, just to be fancy and to remind myself of El Zarape. If you want to continue with the fanciness, you can add a spice mix. I used one loosely based on a Mark Bittman recipe. By 'loosely based on' I mean 'inspired by' as the similarities are scarce (my spice cabinet is limited, especially when it comes to whole (i.e. not pre-ground) spices).

Then you just fill your pickle-vessels with a freshly simmered solution of slightly more than one part vinegar, one part water and a dash of salt, let cool and then leave in the fridge to pickle around for a couple of days.

Some comments about this version of pickled carrots. I put about a third of the spice mix in each jar, and this was a good amount, but the spice mix itself can use some tweaking and a bit less heat. Don't get me wrong, these guys were perfectly yummy, just not a homerun. Next time I think I'll make a special spice shopping run and follow the Bittman recipe for real.


4+ carrots, cut into approximately equal sections and then quartered (peeling optional)
1/2c white vinegar
1/2c water
splash apple cider vinegar
pinch salt

spice mix
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/3 tsp whole black pepper
1/4 tsp pepper flakes

Pickled Beets!

I LOVE pickled beets! My Grandma Ella makes the best pickled beets! I haven't yet managed to attain equivalent pickle greatness, but these are spectacularly awesome nonetheless.

These require a bit more fore-thought and prep work than carrots, though they're well worth it.

Start by wrapping your beets (I had 3, but work with whatever you've got) in foil and baking the skins off of 'em. This can be done in about 45 min at 350 F. You can check to make sure by poking them with a fork -- they should give pretty easily. Pro tip : put them on a little blanket of foil, as they will drip their juices all over you oven.

Once these guys are done and have cooled, peel them with a fork and table knife. Though they're slippery, the skin should slip right off. Slice, dice, mold as you see fit the peeled beet and put in your pickling vessel (glass is best).

I decided to dice my beets this time, so that they'll be salad-ready, but this works just as well with quartered beets (though this might take more fridge time to get the vinegar all the way in to the middle of the beet).

Make a 3 parts vinegar, 2 parts water solution and simmer it in a saucepan with a generous dash of salt and about a tsp of sugar. When things have dissolved but haven't begun to boil yet, take the solution off of the heat and pour over beets. Let cool and then refrigerate for a few days.


3 large beets
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Fridge pickles are great in salads, sandwiches and as a snack. More power to you if you take it to the next level and bread + fry your pickles.

*first image courtesy of Google Images

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DIY Soda

One thing that Texas definitely has that California doesn't is Topo Chico, a bottled mineral water from Mexico. I haven't yet figured out why it is so good. Since discovering Topo Chico, I've started using it to make my own sodas. When it comes to Coke or Pepsi, I'm not a soda drinker. Commercially made sodas are generally too fizzy and too sweet for me. With home-made sodas, you have more control over sweetness and can make your own flavors. Plus Topo Chico isn't violently fizzy.

The basic recipe for soda is pretty unsurprising: mix something sweet with something fizzy. This recipe has taken on three different, basic categories in my soda-making practice. The simplest is to use juice, for example, pear or guava, for your sweet thing. This is really refreshing and only slightly fizzy.

Another way I've made soda is by mixing honey and some flavor-type-thing to make your soda base. My favorite variants here are lemon and honey (The Bees Knees Soda) and keffir lime leaves muddled in honey (below) which, surprisingly, tastes fairly ginger-y.

The most traditional and labor intensive (if you can call any of these methods labor intensive) way to make soda is to make syrup. I recently made my own ginger ale syrup and it was so aromatic! It actually tasted like ginger smells.

Today I went to the local Lebanese market and got rose-water and orange-blossom water. These are both seriously pungent/fragrant and a bit candy-like. I used just a little bit of each to make simple soda syrup. I've only tried the rose-water so far, but it is delicate and just the right amount of sweet =)

Here's the process for making soda syrup.

Put one part sugar and one part water in a sauce pan on low heat. As the sugar is dissolving, add your flavor. In this case I used 1/2c water, 1/2c sugar and 1/2tbsp rose water. When making ginger ale, I peeled and thinly chopped one toe of ginger and simmered that in the syrup for a while before cooling.

Once everything is dissolved, take the syrup off the heat, cool and store.

Or make soda and hope that the Topo Chico cools the syrup (it did). =)


ps - Topo chico can be substituted for with any other mineral water or club soda.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Old Favorite

Tonight I made a simple Italian dish that savors of evenings cooking with my boyfriend in San Diego. Not that I was feeling nostalgic or sad, just a little remembering. As with so many memory triggering dishes, this one has a ton of carbs and is quite generous with the olive oil. I'm talking about pasta all'arrabiata or "angry style pasta", a spicy tomato sauce from Tuscany.

I don't know much about cooking Italian food, but what I"m beginning to understand is that this cuisine is more concerned with ratios and techniques than entirely different constellations of ingredients. Or maybe all cuisines are like that, drawing from the same set of base flavors to make different arrangements.

So this dish starts by opening up the aromatics - garlic and red chili pepper flakes - in olive oil. Did I mention that this dish smells fabulous the whole time you're cooking? It's lovely.

Note the generous pool of oil. This is, apparently, the key to good arrabiata. I am still in the process of being coached away from my oil-stingy ways. Also of note, if you couldn't tell, in this recipe we measure "by eye" and "to taste".

Once the garlic is browned, add in your canned tomatoes. Traditionally you start with whole peeled tomatoes and shred them with your fingers. This gives the sauce nice structure so that the pasta and sauce can't homogenize. However, I accidentally opened a can of diced tomatoes, so we worked with that. Mix the oil and the tomatoes and let simmer until seriously saucy. Be warned, this could take a while.

Once you've reduced your sauce, and your pasta is almost done cooking, your sauce should be thick and lumpy like this (if you started with diced):

When your pasta is done and drained, add your sauce (or a portion of your sauce, depending on how much pasta you're making) to the drained pasta.

Coat the pasta with the sauce, just so there aren't any lonely, unsauced noodles.

And serve with a generous dusting of pecorino romano and parsley*!

*I didn't have any because I made so much chimichurri

Special thanks to Kensy for teaching me how to make this, Mum for the plates I eat from and Grandma and Gramps for the cutlery I eat with!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fill-in-the-blank Snaps

My friends M and S came over for a study session this evening, so I made cookies. Last time I made cookies I stuck with my mum's trusty and delightful oatmeal chocolate chip recipe. Now that I'm feeling more settled and consequently, more adventurous, I decided to to try something new.

As previously mentioned, Mark Bittman is the man, at least when you need basic, so I went hunting in his archives. What caught my eye was a variant (he loves variants) on the ginger-snap. The new spice?

Coriander! Crazy, yes? Go for it? Yes.

Whenever I try a recipe for the first time I try to be conservative in my modifications, so I did everything according to plan, with the exception of using vegan margarine instead of butter (a necessary modification, as I am deathly allergic to dairy) and using more all-purpose flour instead of the 1/2 cup of rice flour I did have in my pantry. The recipe was a cream-things-then-add-flour-y-things type deal, and went smoothly.

The instructions say to glob spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet. Unfortunately, generosity can occasionally lead to lumpcakes. Fortunately, despite aesthetic failings, my little lump-cookies had the consistency of fluffy shortbread (biscuits?) and a subtle, savory, appetizer appropriate flavor and sweetness. I think what I'm trying to say is that I would highly endorse the creation of coriander biscuits, though I definitely enjoyed my coriander-snap-lumps, as did my guests.

1.5 sticks butter
1c sugar (I used 1/2 brown, 1/2 white.. another modification.. oopsies!)
2 eggs
0.5c rice flour
1.5c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
Pinch Salt

Chimichurri, Round 4

As anybody who buys bunches of fresh herbs knows, it can be tough to use your herbs while they're still fresh. When I found two full bunches of parsley in my veggie drawer, I knew garnish wasn't going to get me very far. So, with the help of Mark Bittman, I made chimichurri.

Chimichurri is a condiment of Argentine origin typically used as a sauce or marinade for meat (also, tofu!). It's extremely simple to make and delicious.

In my efforts to make use of my chimichurri stash I've made chimichurri on toast, soup with chimichurri, tofu marinated and fried in chimichurri, and, most recently, chimichurri fried rice.

This may be a recency effect, but my favorite so far is the fried rice, which I prepared with black beans and topped with my usual cilantro and lime. The chimichurri is oil-based and quite rich, so the rice has a lot to soak up (I didn't even need to add other oil!) so the flavors get to play around and frying toned down the bright spiciness of the chimichurri, which can be pretty overpowering (in a good way).

Sadly (or fortunately), I only have one serving of chimichurri left! Any suggestions for my last (chimichurri-infused) meal?


Chimichurri (a la Mark Bittman)
2c chopped parsley leaves
salt to taste
3 cloves garlic
1/2c. olive oil
2tbs sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1tsp red pepper flakes

Put parsley, salt, garlic, pepper flakes, and half of the oil in a food processor. Blend, adding the rest of the oil gradually, then the vinegar/lemon. Don't refrigerate!

Fried Rice
1 tbsp chimichurri
2c leftover rice (I used basmati)
1 egg

Start with the chimichurri in a non-stick pan. Add rice and blend until totally saucy. Let it sizzle for a while, stirring occasionally. Skootch the rice to one side of the pan and crack an egg into the other side, scrambling with your spatula. Mix egg with rice, salt to taste. Serve with black beans, cilantro and lime for reliable awesomeness.

Bittman, Mark (2007). How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc.