Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And More Food

Roasted tomatoes give lackluster tomatoes a chance to live up to their full potential. A basket of cherry tomatoes followed me home, which usually happens after a trip to Monterey Market. These tomatoes, from Fully Belly Farm, were a little watered down, probably due to the unusually cool summer we're experiencing here.

I have a fear that my two tomato plants are going to produce lackluster tomatoes because the fog is ever present this summer. At least those tomatoes can be saved with some slow and low heat (250 °F), a sprinkling of salt and pepper, dried oregano, and some olive oil. I like to throw garlic cloves, skin on, into the mix since roasted garlic is better than candy.

I take the tomatoes out of the oven after 3 hours. If you don't snack on all of them, you can use these for a simple angel hair pasta dish with basil and Parmesan cheese.

Usually, the oven stays idle during the summer, but it's cold here! I even roasted strawberries tossed with a dash of balsamic vinegar and a scant amount of sugar. They went really well with pork chops.

Cool weather also means that I get a hankering for spicy food. I just nabbed a copy of Fushia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, which brought back memories of my bike tour in Chengdu. Sichuan food is so different than the Cantonese food I cut my teeth on, so having Dunlop's help to demystify the techniques and spices has made for fun bonding time with my wok. The kung pao chicken recipe is worth the price of the book!

Refrigerator pickles are also happening in these parts. I made a huge batch of Vietnamese style daikon pickles, which is nothing more than a rice vinegar and sugar marinade. Salting the matchsticked daikon and letting it drain for at least 2 hours made the resulting pickles nice and crisp.

Nothing interesting is on the needles or the hook. I'm having to dig deep to finish up a super secret knitting project because reading and cooking are my preferred "I just to need to relax" projects.

Hopefully, I'll have news of ripened tomatoes the next time I blog.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cinnamon Apple Rice Pancakes

Apple season is coming once again, but before we can any more apples, we need to finish up the our stock of applesauce from apple seasons past.

I had read that applesauce can be used as a substitute for oil, so when I came across this recipe for rice pancakes from Serious Eats, I knew it would be a good way to use up my excessive rice flour stash as well.

It worked! The pancakes were delicious, but I had to turn down the heat to medium instead of medium high to keep them from scorching. My first couple of pancakes went to the dogs, who fancy themselves pancake connoisseurs, but they also eat cat poo, so they really don't get a say in what is delicious and what is not.

So, if you find yourself with a glut of applesauce, rice flour, and a bit of xanthan gum (this seems to be a staple for the gluten free crowd), give these a try!

Cinnamon Apple Rice Pancakes
serves 2
Adapted from this post on Serious Eats

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour (sometimes called "glutinous rice flour")
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Measure out the dry ingredients into a bowl. Whisk them together.

2. Measure the wet ingredients into a separate bowl from the dry ingredients. Whisk them together.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl, and whisk until smooth.

4. On an oiled griddle over medium to medium high heat (whatever makes your batter sizzle on contact), pour batter. Flip when the underside of the pancakes are lightly brown, about 2 minutes if you use 1/2 cup of batter per pancake. These cook fast, so be careful about burning them! Cook another minute, then pop them into your mouth.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Plum Jam

For the first 5 years that we had the house, the plum tree was a messy annoyance. The plums were little with a huge pit and sour skin - nothing to rave over. The dogs would step in the fallen fruit and track it all over the yard and the house. Annoying.

Then two years ago, thanks to the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, we learned to can. No fruit tree is safe from us.

Last Sunday, the boy spent the day in the backyard trimming trees and picking the plums. He ended up with three bags full of fruit, and I'm guessing that it was about 30 pounds. After I sorted through the plums and cut off the bad spots, I ended up with four huge pots of plums.

To each pot, I added a bit of water, and then let heat soften the fruit before I remove the pits and skins.

Since the pits are too large for my food mill, I use a strainer and the back of a soup ladle to press out the pulp.

I was left with two pots of plum pulp, which I boil up and add some sugar. I'm skimpy on the sugar since I use the plum jam to braise lamb shanks, chicken thighs, and chuck roasts. Last year, I ran out of plum jam in February, and I was very sad. This year, thanks to the boy's amazing tree climbing abilities, we have 17 pints of jam! That should last us until next season!

I need to figure out how to make hooch from all these plums. Maybe next year.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kimchi, Dead Fish, and Dog Butt

Behold, the saltiest meal on the planet! Not only do we have a few brined kimchis, but there is the Japanese curry made from spicy Kokumaro curry roux blocks. (For those who were following the my Japanese curry chronicles, Java Curry is the winner. Vermont Curry was bland, and Kokumaro was a close second.)

We hosted an impromptu kimchi and sour beer dinner gathering last Saturday. Sadly, I don't have any pics or notes from the sour beer tasting, but I can ask the boy and post results if anyone is sour beer fan.

I polled the dinner guests to see which kimchi was their favorite, but it the answers were evenly distributed. The most familiar and complex tasting kimchi was definitely the napa cabbage kimchi.

I let this kimchi ferment for a few days in the kitchen, but when the days got warmer, I moved the jar to a cooler room. Total fermentation time was 1 week. The tang and spice level was just right!

The cucumber and daikon kimchis did not need to ferment for very long. Some recipes I consulted said that they were ready as soon I they were finished, and to leave them in the refrigerator for a stronger flavor. Some of the daikon recipes required one to four weeks of fermentation. I suppose it depends on how long you are going to store them and the strength of your brine (lactobicillus, the bacterium that gives the kimchi its characteristic tang, can live in salty environment, but the more salt added, the slower the bacterium grows). I fermented both kimchis for 2 days.

I actually remembered to whip out the camera during my kimchi making frenzy.

For the cucumbers, I started with 1.5 lbs of Persian cucumbers.

Once they cucumbers were quartered, I tossed them into a nonreactive bowl (no metal) and I added 2 T of kosher salt.

Look at all the brine! This picture was taken 3 hours after I salted the cucumbers. I let them sit for a few more hours before adding the rest of the spices.

I tossed the brined cucumbers with some green onions, 1 T fish sauce, 1 T sugar, 1 T chili powder, and 6 cloves of minced garlic. They turned out crunchy, sweet, and salty! Before I served the cucumber kimchi, I sprinkled a little bit of roasted sesame oil over them. If I had toasted sesame seeds, I would have added those as well.

Besides the kimchi, I frantically finished a mini Dead Fish Hat for a baby shower. This project was fantastic for stash busting! I used so many odds and ends of my Tahki cotton stash.

Instead of using felt for the eyes, I crocheted a couple of circles with kitchen cotton. The boy was kind enough to sew on the eyes since I detest hand sewing.

As a final note, this is why we shouldn't hang towels on the oven. Ahem... (You know who you are!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kitchen Experiments and Dogs

Destashing my pantry led me to some more kitchen experiments. Experiment #1 is my kimchi. I didn't travel to the Korean grocery store in Oakland to get my Korean ground chilis. Instead, I decided to use some chile de arbol in the pantry, some dried shrimps, fish sauce, ginger, green onions (stem part only) and garlic. And of course, napa cabbage. (Organic napa cabbage will cost you your first child - I just reviewed the receipt I shoved into my purse. Scary, but at least everything else was hanging around my house.)

So far, the kimchi smells authentic, meaning that it's kind of stinky. The characteristic tang from the lactobacillus microbes hasn't set in, but according to the recipe, it I should taste the tang in a week or so.

I adapted the kimchi recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. The book's a little hippy crunchy (Katz's friends tend to have one word names like "Nettle"), but what I like about it is that he isn't fussy and he cheers you on in your fermentation exploits. I had read and watched numerous videos on making kimchi, and it wasn't until I read his description that I just went for it.

Katz also had a cool trick: He uses a smaller pint jar full of water as a weight stone for the bigger quart sized jar. I didn't want to funkify my crock and I didn't want 7.5 liters of kimchi, so this was perfect! The quart jar easily fits one pound of wilted cabbage.

Another experiment was miso ice cream. I was sure I'd love it, but I had to make it to prove to other people that it would be as good as I imagined. Googling miso ice cream recipes came up with things like "10 most disgusting ice cream flavors," so that was no help. If you'd like to make miso ice cream yourself, I suggest you buy shiromiso, the mildest of the misos. For 3 cups of liquid, I only added 2 tablespoons of miso. I could've probably gotten away with 1 tablespoon, but I wanted an ice cream that was decidedly on the salty side. I also made the custard style of ice cream and I added the miso after I tempered the egg yolks and added them back to the mix.

I'm fading, so before I retire, here's a couple of dog pictures from a recent trip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

5 Minute Snapshot

The siren's song evokes Vespa's siren song.

Vespa's singing wakes up Fifty-Fifty from her 9th nap of the day.

Mingus almost has a thought.

Nah, no thoughts for Mingus!

Vespa wonders why Fifty doesn't need watching 24/7.

Vespa wonders why I watch her so much. Such a camera shy dog.

Mingus almost has another thought.

Fifty has thoughts of sunshine, mice, and a grassy field.


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