Monday, March 30, 2009

back! now with more huevos.

Oh my GAWWWWWWD, you guys- can I just say? CAN I JUST SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE MY LAPTOP? Sorry. A big round of applause for the Geniuses™ who restored my macputa back to its original glory. I got this thing my senior year in college (big upz, pnca!) and used it to write my thesis, and it has been my faithful friend ever since. So, anyway.

RIGHT BEFORE MY COMPUTER DIED, I discovered something glorious. Well, re-discovered?

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I know, I know. MORE EGGS. It's no secret that I have a tendency to get stuck on a tangent, and here I am rambling about eggs again. As my husband was teaching me to poach eggs, he kidded that I've been making a lot of egg posts on the ol' food blog, and of course, he was right. But really, what could be more enchanting than the humble egg? All concerns about cholesterol aside, (my backyard chicken farmer friend tells me that homegrown eggs have 1/3 of the cholesterol that store bought eggs have, but I'm way too lazy to look up a source for that. Google it!) eggs are pretty darn healthy. They are a complete protein and even when you buy the fancy cage free ones, they're still cheaper than buying meat.

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(Ah, classy breakfast.)

So, my husband taught me how to poach eggs, and ever since, I've been going crazy for them for breakfast. I kind of want to eat one RIGHT NOW, and it's 10 p.m.! Eggs fall into that category of food I'd never eat as a picky little kid, even though I never bothered to try eating them. I didn't even learn to cook them until I was like 20 years old. The first thing I learned to do was make an omelet. Then, just plain scrambled eggs (and on this, my husband and I differ. I like to start with a nice hot pan and a decent amount of oil. He is a low heat egg scrambler and GUESS WHAT? His eggs always stick to the damn pan. Mine don't. Just sayin'). I still haven't mastered the fried egg, but now that I can poach an egg, I don't know if I care enough to learn.

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Speaking of being a picky little kid, well into adulthood (like, up until my 23rd birthday when I had some pasta with raw egg yolk sitting on top and fell in love) I despised the runny yolk. I know that a lot of people are grossed out by it, and to them I can only say STOP BEING SUCH A BABY! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HECK YOU ARE MISSING. The velvety texture of poached egg white with the rich, buttery goodness of the runny yolk on some crusty bread- oh, lord. I can't wait until breakfast.

I don't think I need to post a "recipe" for poaching eggs, but our method is nothing new. Just bring some water with a splash of white wine vinegar & a pinch of salt to a medium-low boil. "Tiny bubbles!" Thanks for your input, Jason. Crack an egg on the side of a bowl so that there is a nice large crack, and then gingerly dump it into the water, trying to keep it all in one piece. Cover for a minute or two, but remove the lid if it begins to bubble over. After a few moments, remove the lid and keep an eye on the white of the egg. When it looks opaque all the way through, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. I like to pull mine when they seem just barely cooked, and then let them rest for a bit on the plate, because they will continue to cook after you remove them from the hot water.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

downtime.

As I posted on my other blog, 10 dollar drawings, (where you can buy a custom drawing for 10 dollars! You should do it!) my beloved ibook finally crapped out after 5 faithful years of service. It's currently in the hands of a Mac Genius, probably revealing all kinds of embarrassing things about me (like the fact that I never do my software updates even though I know I should) and hopefully being nursed back to health.

This sucks for a number of reasons, but I'm extra antsy because I'm sitting on photos for at least 2 or 3 separate posts that I wanted to put up here, and I don't have the ability to get the photos online for the time being. As it is, I'm checking my email periodically using my husband's crackberry, and occasionally getting 'real' internet access using friends' computers. (Like right now.)

So, things will probably be quiet around here for the next week or so, until my firstborn laptop and i are joyfully reunited.

Check you later, interwebz.

Friday, March 20, 2009

sandwich.

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yes

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This afternoon I shared a grilled cheese sandwich with my son for lunch, using some Rogue Creamery white cheddar that my husband brought back up from his business trip the other day.

I don't remember having much cast iron cookware growing up, just an odd assortment of battered pots and pans. My mom did have a huge square frying pan that she used just for making grilled cheese sandwiches, though- I am pretty sure it was cast iron. She'd throw it on the stovetop and make 4 sandwiches at a time (4 kids! Mom, what were you thinking?!) and they were always perfect.

I picked up a small cast iron frying pan for us a couple of years ago from Ikea for like 10 bucks. We don't use it for everything, we have a pretty trusty set of stainless steel pots and pans for everyday use. Mostly, we use it to heat up tortillas for burritos, and occasionally we make AWESOME grilled cheese sandwiches. Thanks, Ikea.

ramen bowls (and chicken stock).

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Recently I made a large batch of chicken stock. I have posted about making stocks on a couple occasions, but since we've been making our own stocks a little less than a year now, I feel like we're past the "I wonder how this will turn out?" phase and we've gotten pretty reliable at busting out a good batch when we need to. Our process is pretty simple- rough chop a large bowl of vegetables- carrot, celery, onion, smashed garlic, maybe some shallot. Lightly saute in a huge stock pot, stick a chicken carcass on top, pour in some cold water, bring to a boil then lower the heat to a slow bubble, and skim the whole time- simmering for about 3-4 hours.

(By the way, I know I've pointed this out before, but making our own chicken stock really helps us stay within our grocery budget. Buying 2 large organic chicken breasts costs like 8 bucks or something like that, but 1 whole Draper Valley chicken only costs like 6 or 7 bucks, and you can break it down into portions for several different meals, and then use the carcass for a huge batch of stock, which you can then freeze and save for different meals. It's very economical- I recommend it. And healthier, no high sodium broth to worry about! Maybe someday I'll recruit a filmmaker friend and post a tutorial on how to break down a chicken.)

Of course, every batch has something different. Sometimes we add a parmesan rind, sometimes we roast the chicken first, eat the roasted meat for dinner, and make stock afterward with the browned carcass. This time, I left the onion skins on, hoping for (and getting) a rich dark color.

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So, after making what ended up being- actually, I didn't measure. I started with 12 cups of water and I'm guessing I ended up with around 8 or 9 cups of stock. We used it in couscous, a buttery rice pilaf, and these awesome ramen bowls, and we still have a tiny bit left that is reaching "eat it or toss it" land. (Maybe I'll just have another noodle bowl for lunch today.)

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I don't eat a lot of ramen, so I'm no expert, but I knew what I was in the mood for and it came out nicely. Inspired by this noodle bowl recipe, I just grilled some sliced vegetables (purple cauliflower, carrot, celery) and set them aside. In a bowl, I layered the grilled vegetables, cooked ramen noodles (from a Top Ramen packet, sans seasoning, haha) some sliced hard boiled egg, and a scattering of fresh cilantro and chopped scallions. Then I poured about a cup of hot broth over the top of each bowl. All I did to the broth was heat it up, and add about 2 tsp. of fish sauce. We didn't have any limes, but we could have used some.

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At the table, we seasoned our bowls with soy sauce, sriracha, and a chili pepper blend that they serve with the noodle bowls at a local sushi chain- having a mildly photographic memory is pretty handy when you don't know the name of something but you know exactly what the package looks like. I picked it up at Uwajimaya.

Very tasty, but it could have used some added onion or garlic, in hindsight, either grilled, or sauteed and then added to the broth. We're sort of on a hunt for new dinner staples, and I think this sort of thing will make it onto the list.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

miniature crustless quiche.

huevos

Well, you probably all remember my post about eggs that my friend gave me. After all the lovely suggestions, I ended up hard boiling all 6 of them and eating them plain with a pinch of salt, haha! (Not all in one sitting, of course.)

But, a funny thing happens when people find out you're kind of a nerd about food, especially home-grown food. People just start GIVING YOU AWESOME STUFF! I remember the same thing happening when I was younger and I began my camera collection- people just started coming out of the woodwork, "Oh, you like old cameras? Here, have this Argus! I've had this Canon in my closet for 15 years, would you like it?" No complaints over here, dudes. So, imagine my delight when my husband handed me an egg carton loaded with half a dozen blue-green eggs, given to him by a coworker.

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Just like last time, I was faced with the decision of WHAT TO DO WITH THESE FANCY EGGS? My husband scrambled 2, and ate them for breakfast with my son. The remaining 4 hung out in the fridge for a day or two, until this evening, when I came home from work STARVING. We'd had something else planned for dinner that we didn't get around to prepping for, so I was halfheartedly getting stuff together for some plain pasta when I saw the eggs. I knew I wanted them, but I didn't know what on earth I wanted to do with them. I had a fridge full of food (we do our grocery shopping on the weekends) but nothing specific in mind. I wanted something distinctly eggy, but not too rich or filling. Then, duh- quiche! Except- I was too lazy to make a crust, and I don't have a pie tin. The simple and obvious solution is to grease up my muffin pan and make mini crustless quiches, duh.

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I did a quick google search for 'crustless quiche' and snapped up the first recipe I found. All I really wanted to know was how much milk to add and how long to bake it, which ended up being moot, because I used a muffin tin, so the cooking time was pretty much cut in half. Here's what I ended up doing:

4 large eggs (BLUE ONES! BLUE ONES!)
3/4 cup milk
Vegetables! (I had 1 grated carrot,& a handful of chopped purple cauliflower, and some finely chopped fresh spinach)
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
handful of chopped fresh parsley
salami cut into small chunks
large handful of grated cheddar
about a tablespoon of flour (Why did I add this? Did it do anything? I don't know.)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºf.

Quickly saute grated carrot and cauliflower with shallot & garlic (or like, whatever other vegetables you want/have on hand) until they soften, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, fresh parsley, fresh spinach, grated cheddar, and pinch of flour. Season with a small pinch of salt & some fresh cracked pepper.

Grease the bejeesus out of a muffin tin (or use muffin cups, I guess. I didn't have any.) with some butter. In the bottom of each cup, spoon in a small amount of sauteed vegetables. Add a few chunks of salami on top of that. Use a large spoon to drizzle egg mixture over each muffin cup, fill almost to the edge, they won't really puff up.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm and puffy. Allow to cool a little before attempting to remove.

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I had mine with an english muffin that I grabbed on my way out the door when I left work tonight. The english muffin came from Toast, a cafe near my work that makes all kinds of ABSOLUTELY AMAZING pastries from scratch using local organic blah blah you know the drill. I've been in love with their pastries for ages, and if you're in Portland you should really check it out. Plus they have awesome breakfast and they're just very nice people. Go there! The english muffins are to die for.

Anyway, this was my first attempt at making any kind of quiche all by myself, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results. This is getting filed away for future use, especially since I often have the crucial ingredients (eggs, milk) on hand, and it's a cheap way to get protein on the table. Plus, it's kind of like breakfast for dinner, which rules.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

butternut squash risotto (and slightly repurposed leftovers).

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Well, the other night we were expecting dinner guests, but then our friend got sick, so we made ourselves a fancy dinner instead. We'd planned it in advance, making stock the night before and roasting the squash so it would be ready to go the next day. Butternut squash risotto! This is just a basic risotto recipe, and since I'm not sure offhand what the proportions were, I'm going to quote my previously posted risotto recipe with modifications for how it was made here.

Butternut squash risotto:

3-4 cups homemade vegetable broth (we added a generous pinch of smoked paprika to ours)
about half (use more or less depending on how squash-y you want it to be) of 1 small butternut squash, roasted, peeled, and cubed.
some olive oil
about a tablespoon of butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 small shallot, diced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup (or more) Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/4 cup (splaaaash) dry white wine
a handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
palmful of finely chopped tarragon leaves
a good sized hunk of gouda, cut into small cubes (surprise!)

1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and keep the broth hot.

2. In a large frying pan (one with high sides would work nicely) saute onion and shallot until glassy. Add the rice and stir, allowing the rice to toast and become translucent. Throw in a splash of white wine.

3. Add a small amount of the cubed squash and stir until a puree forms, then add about a cup of stock. Stir continuously, and add more broth in small increments (about half a cup or so) as the rice absorbs the broth. You want most of the broth to be absorbed before you add more stock.

4. When you are down to the last few ladles full of broth, throw in a large handful of parmesan, the cubed squash (you want to have chunks in the finished risotto) and stir in more broth. Season with salt and pepper, chopped tarragon, and remove from heat when the last of the broth is absorbed.

5. Before serving, stir in cubed gouda and sprinkle with a little more parmesan.

risottocakes

Holy crapola, I think it must have been the chunks of gouda that did it for me. We made a huge batch of this (like, probably double the proportions shown above), because I was calling around to see if anyone else wanted to come by and share with us, but it was late and everyone had already eaten or was about to eat. We had a large bowl of leftovers, and what you see here in the pictures isn't actually the dinner we had, but the next day, when I formed the cold leftovers into patties and FRIED THEM. Because the only thing that makes risotto more delicious is FRYING IT. I didn't have any eggs or bread crumbs, or else I'd have stirred in some beaten egg and dipped them in crumbs to make them even more decadent. As it was, the small amount of crisp on the outside of the patties was more than enough to make my lunch delicious.

I posted this recipe based on watching my husband cook from the other room, so I'll check with him and make sure I didn't miss anything, but if you know how to make risotto already, it's as simple as changing around the ingredients. I like to do asparagus risotto, broccoli risotto, anything green, really. It was a nice change to have something so subtle and sweet to pair with the rice, and the hunks of gouda hidden in there were really pleasant.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

prep work.

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prep

Tomorrow night we're having dinner guests, so tonight we're roasting some things and making stock. It smells so good in here, I could die. I know everyone loves Summer's baker tat on her knuckles, but if I had to pick a food word to slap on my fingers, I'd be punching air with my MIRE POIX fists. Oh, holy food trinity- carrots, celery, onion. Nothing smells more like home.