A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Frittata in the Free Times

I wrote several pieces for this month's Abode, which is finally online for the first time ever this month! Looks like one article didn't make it online...for that, you can pick up the print version in the Free Times all around Columbia this week.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Southern Cornbread

I was never much of a fan of cornbread until I moved to South Carolina and learned about Southern cornbread. It's not cake-y at all -- no wheat flour, only cornmeal -- and has no sugar. It's crusty and crunchy and basic, as well as super-easy to make.

My recipe is modified slightly from traditional recipes in that it contains yogurt instead of buttermilk. I don't keep buttermilk around, but I always have some yogurt, so it's worked out this way.

I like coarse yellow cornmeal. Anson Mills is my favorite, but it's expensive, so lately I've been using Adluh and liking it fine. Sometimes I blend grits and cornmeal.

I should add that much of the cornbread I've eaten down here is not like this. I've had some very, very sweet homemade cornbreads, and plenty of people don't seem to like gritty, all-corn cornbread. But to me it's the only way.

Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of lard, bacon grease, or butter in a large cast iron skillet. Place in oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Whisk together in one bowl:
- 1 and 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 scant teaspoon salt

Whisk together in another bowl:
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk

Combine without overmixing. When grease in skillet is sizzling hot, pour batter in and return to oven. Bake about 20 minutes and eat immediately.

Tonight I also added kernels from two ears of sweet corn we parboiled and froze last fall. It tasted a little freezer-burnt to me, but Lawson didn't think so, so I guess it was okay. Fresh sweet corn would be better.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quiche Rosé

I made a quiche last night with beet greens, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese. It was delicious, but the beets were really dye-filled and stained the whole underlayer of the quiche. Fortunately I had spread the sauteed greens in the shell and poured the quiche mixture over the top; if I'd mixed it all together first the whole thing would have been a lurid pink. As it was, it just bled when I cut into it, like some kind of Catholic miracle -- weeping statues and La Virgen de Guadalupe appearing on toast and the like. Stigmata Pie. I keep having to shoo pilgrims off my porch.

It started with this easy olive oil crust -- no rolling, no fanciness. I like oil crusts, but then again we're not much for fancy pie crusts in this family. Mix in a food processor:
- 1 and 1/3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt

Add and pulse for just a moment until dough comes together:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup milk

Press into a 9-inch pie tin. I like rustic-looking crusts, so I made mine pretty flared and irregular. Pierce all over with a fork and bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Separate one egg, saving the white for the quiche filling, and smear the yolk all over the inside of the pie shell. Return to the oven for about a minute until set. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.

Saute a small bunch of Swiss chard, beet greens, spinach, or other green. Arrange in bottom of shell. Cut up a drained can of artichoke hearts and arrange them on top.

Whisk together:

- 4 eggs plus the extra white
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- a ton of black pepper

- 4 ounces of goat cheese, in chunks
- 2 or more tablespoons chopped parsley

Mix. Some of the goat cheese will melt into the egg mixture, and some will remain in small chunks, which is what you want.

Pour over vegetables in shell and bake for about 30 minutes. you may brown the top under the broiler at the end if you wish. Let cool. The longer it sits out of the oven, the better it will taste.

For those of you reading in South Carolina, check out this Columbia food blog. The Free Times recently put up a link to it next to the link that goes here. I have to warn you that it makes liberal use of the word "foodie," a word that makes it sound, in the words of Chris Onstadt, "like food is something we discovered in 1995. As though it were a novelty thing."), but otherwise is really nicely put together, with a big emphasis on locally grown foods. Anything that celebrates the Midlands of South Carolina as a distinct food region is a force for good. We need to work on that more.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cod, Again

Sprouts, our newest fresh market, almost always has Alaska cod on hand, so we end up eating it a lot. Here is a recipe from an old Joy of Cooking that brings out the best in cod, and is charmingly simple. And I love the name.

Fish Baked in a Covered Dish

1 teaspoon butter
1 pound of mild fish, such as cod
Paprika, nutmeg, salt, and pepper

Spread a casserole bottom with the butter. Put in the fish and sprinkle lightly with paprika, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until flaky and cooked through. Drain if very watery.

1 tablespoon melted butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Mix the butter, lemon juice, capers, and parsley. Pour over the fish and serve at once.


We had this with a baked sweet potato and Brussels sprouts with mustard cream a la Jack Bishop.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pot Roast for Breakfast

I've been on vacation eating other people's food.

This past weekend I was up in the mountains in North Carolina playing in the snow and watching movies and drinking beer. It was a wonderful but truly strange trip in that I did not cook. Okay, I made some rice for the pot roast the second night because nobody else wanted to be responsible (they said their rice turns out gummy), but other than that I cooked nothing. It was a very un-food-snobby trip.

Lawson and I had almost no time to pack, and we hadn't done any pre-trip planning with anyone else, but were assured there'd be plenty to eat, so we brought no food. That felt weird. But these aren't people who care about food all that much, so we didn't want to be too intense.

One friend brought potatoes, baby carrots, beef, and two crockpots and made pot roast on Saturday. It was super-basic (maybe even only seasoned with salt) but perfect after a day in the snow. I ate pot roast for breakfast the next morning, too. Pot roast goes well with good coffee, and Lawson's brother makes the best coffee (it was he who gave me a personally customized old air popper and taught me how to roast coffee in it).

That same friend made green beans using canned green beans and an artificial ham flavoring packet. The ingredients of the packet of artificial ham flavoring were MSG, salt, some preservatives, and artificial ham flavoring. Apparently artificial ham flavoring is an elemental culinary building block, a nutritional morpheme -- it's an ingredient of itself. I do not agree with my friend that the ham packet is healthier than using bacon grease.

On Sunday another friend made chili using canned beans, ground beef, jarred salsa, and tomato sauce. I ate two bowls. There were also cornbread muffins from a box.

At other times I ate Raisin Bran, bananas, tangerines, cheese dip from a jar, tortilla chips, popcorn, and chicken salad sandwiches with lettuce.

I enjoyed eating other people's food and being completely unresponsible for my own sustenance for a little while. But I missed cooking terribly. And it was strange eating such utilitarian food -- food composed of other prepared foods, like a casserole -- food with mysterious salts and preservatives and corn syrups -- food that came in bags and cans. Not that I don't eat those things at other times, but I felt immersed in them this weekend.

It's expensive eating that way. And it's so disconnected from both the source of food and from its preparation. So I'm back home and ready to make messes in the kitchen, to eat Brussels sprouts and eggs and pork fat and to read up on the big bag of spelt my friend the miller dropped off here last week and make some strange brown breads.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Accidentally Great Multi-Grain Bread

This all started because Russell asked me for my standard whole wheat bread recipe. Here it is:

Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons gluten flour
2 teaspoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup water
1 pkg. dry yeast

Mix and rise in bread machine on dough cycle. Shape loaf, let rise ½ hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

This reminded me to make bread, since we were eating dry crusts of frozen leftover loaves at this point in our hectic week.

As I watched the bread mixing in the first stage, it seemed way too dry, so I added water until it seemed right. I went away until the bread machine beeped. I looked in--the dough was pasty and wet, a puddle of dough, really. I added some rolled oats and coarse corn meal to take up the excess moisture, and restarted the cycle. I went away again, and returned to find a slightly less sodden pile of dough in the bottom of the bread pan. Then the light bulb went off: I had forgotten the yeast. So I threw the dry yeast directly on top of the dough and set the machine for a third cycle and went away.

The dough became beautiful, rose with exuberance, and baked to a lovely loaf. By the way, I now usually use just a quarter teaspoon of sugar instead of the honey, so that I can bake the loaf in a hotter oven for a longer time. It develops more flavor that way.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Red Lentil Volcano

I cooked those beautiful red lentils I bought a few months ago, and indeed, as I'd read, they break down really easily. They're delicious, but in a pleasingly mushy sort of way.

They also, if you leave them unattended over too-high heat, will explode all over the stove.

Moreover, they're not really red. Uncooked they're coral, and though there is a dash of turmeric in there to enhance the yellow, they're quite naturally yellow when cooked.

The recipe was from Modern Indian Cooking, a book I scorned when its publicist first sent it to Cooking Habit. It has a terrible index -- unusable, actually. It's just the recipes in alphabetical order, so there's no index entry for lentils, just "Spicy Red Lentils"... under "S". As for the recipes, they're sort of Indian fusion. I was not impressed. But I've come to it several times in the last few months looking for simple vegetable and bean recipes, and I've been impressed. I won't post the whole recipe here, at least not yet -- I'm not completely happy with it yet -- but it's simple: lentils precooked with turmeric and a bay leaf, then some sauteed onion and ginger, basic spices like cinnamon and cumin, fresh chiles, lime juice, and cilantro. It's almost Mexican except for the ginger, and very fresh and good.

Further revelation: turnips are awesome. I cubed them, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and roasted them at 375 for about 20 minutes. This was on a hunch, since I love sweet potatoes and beets and other root vegetables that way, and it worked perfectly for turnips. Unlike sweet potatoes and beets, though, they were better warm than at room temperature.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Broiled Radicchio Pasta

Your roasted pasta post, along with the lovely radicchio I bought the other day, inspired me to make this pasta last night. I love broiled or grilled radicchio -- it's so bitter and sweet and weird. So I made this easy and delicious dish in whcih the fresh mozzarella is sweet enough to balance out the radicchio's intensity. It made me feel better about winter. It would have been good with some wilted spinach or another sweet green, I think.

1. Roast a few cloves of garlic. I like to peel them, put them in a coffee mug or ramekin, and cover them with olive oil, then roast the whole thing at 250 degrees for 35 or 40 minutes -- that way you get some leftover garlic olive oil and can be happy. But the method you use here is faster (with a "hot oven" being only 300 or 325 in my case).

2. Soak about 10 sun-dried tomatoes in warm water (or not, if using oil-packed). When soft, dice up and mix with mashed gooey roasted garlic in big serving bowl.

3. Quarter the radicchio and brush it with olive oil. Broil or grill until quite brown but not charred, turning several times.

4. Make pasta. I used ziti.

5. Drain hot pasta and toss in big bowl with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste and olive oil to moisten. Then toss in:

- 1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed
- 2-3 tablespoons Parmesan
- the chunks of broiled radicchio

Fresh herbs would be good but it's winter and I don't have any.

That's it!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Garlic Pasta

Susan told me how to make this when we were visiting them in Texas last week. She just gave me the general idea, so I hope this is what she meant. It was great, anyway.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Garlic Pasta

2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled

Roast the garlic and cherry tomatoes in a hot oven for 20 or 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and the tomatoes have collapsed and charred.

2 servings penne or other pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pasta water
Red chile flakes to taste
Salt, pepper

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins into the skillet and mash them into the oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and do the same. Put in a few tablespoons of pasta water to form a sauce. Season with red chile flakes, salt, and pepper to taste.

2 to 4 cups arugula leaves
Parmesan cheese

Drain pasta, but not too thoroughly, and toss with the sauce. Add arugula and toss until wilted. Serve at once, topped with grated Parmesan.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Psychic Cooking

You know, that recipe in your previous post was originally for scallops, and I decided to use shrimp instead. I guess you read my mind on that one--again. Lately I don't like handling and smelling the raw shrimp mixture and find it hard to enjoy the cakes unless someone (like Lawson) makes them for me, so I haven't made them recently. I'll try them with scallops. Here's the recipe for the sauce that goes with them. It's great on sandwiches also.

Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 dashes hot pepper sauce

Blend ingredients in food processor until finely chopped.

¾ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Add mayonnaise and mix until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill one hour or more.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Scallop Cakes

I used bay scallops in your shrimp cake recipe, Mom, and they were amazing -- sweet and tender and delicious. And with scallops on sale for $5 a pound, they were pretty economical.

Here's the recipe as you gave it to me a few years ago. Maybe you can post the recipe for the complimentary Cilantro-Lime Mayo.

Chop coarsely in food processor (don’t purée!):

-1 pound raw shrimp, peeled (or scallops, or whatever, I suppose)

-1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauté in olive oil until tender, about 8 minutes:
-1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Mix the following with shrimp and onion:
-2 green onions, finely chopped
-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
-1 tablespoon flour
-1 tablespoon lime juice
-1 teaspoon grated lime peel
-1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1 egg, lightly beaten

Form into 4 or 5 patties, 1/2 inch thick. Chill one hour.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet and brown shrimp cakes 2 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet and finish cooking in oven until cooked through, 7-10 minutes.

Do you still make these the same way?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pico de Gallo on the Road

We drove from Tucson to South Padre Island, Texas, in our trailer and just got back yesterday. Just before leaving Dad picked all the jalapenos and cherry tomatoes in his garden to take with. The tomatoes ripened daily, and we also bought more jalapenos on the way, so I ended up making pico de gallo every day, varying it to fit in with the ethnicity of the evening meal. If Indian, I threw in more cilantro and ground cumin.

The usual recipe consisted of:
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 Mexican lime (the little ones)

Optional additions included fresh herbs, onions, cumin, red chile powder.

Here's a trailer dinner. I had bought foil packets of Saag Paneer and a garbanzo dish. I made salmon patties, pico de gallo, and toasted some tortillas in a skillet to mimic Indian bread.

On New Year's Eve we had a really great meal of fresh Gulf shrimp, black eyed peas, and champagne.

There were lots of wonderful roadside fruit markets on the Gulf coast near Corpus Christi where we bought grapefruit and Texas sweet onions. Some advertised "We have Valley Lemons"--I bought some and discovered that they're Meyer lemons. Wish I had bought a whole bushel, since our crop failed this year.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Perfect Italian Broccoli

Here's a recipe for simple and delicious broccoli from my new Viana La Place cookbook (slightly modified, as usual), served in my new serving bowl, and written up on my new computer (first in 5 years -- hooray).

Heat over medium low, stirring until anchovies are melted:
- 1/4 cup or less olive oil
- 1 small fresh or dried red chile pepper, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 anchovy fillets from a small can

Remove from heat. Steam or boil until tender:

- 1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and separated (I like to include lots of sliced stem)

Drain and toss in pan with anchovied oil and the following:

- Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
- Salt
- Pepper

Thanks for the lovely bowl and cookbook, Mom.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Food

I guess this post is for both of us, Mom, since you called me from Texas last night to talk about cooking black eyed peas and will be nowhere near a computer for another week. I hope your black eyed peas with chorizo were perfect. My hoppin' John was tasty, but the rice didn't cook properly -- some of it was a little gummy, some undercooked. I have some work to do to become a perfect Carolina pilau chef.

Fortunately, the collards were glorious. And I ate plenty of both collards and hoppin' John, so in the New Year I will be both rich and lucky.

We also had homemade chocolate ice cream. It was delicious, but honestly a bit too intense and rich. Next time I will look for a more moderate chocolate ice cream recipe -- fewer egg yolks, less chocolate.

Happy New Year!