Monday, June 27, 2011

The Perfectly Efficient ChipWhich

It turns out I wasn't very efficient in my last post... here are some more thoughts on efficiency:

1. I put the fries directly on my cheeseburgers
2. and potato chips in my sandwiches
3. I mix kale in my smoothies
4. and add zucchini to my brownies

5. I marinate as much as humanly possible
6. and grill in the same vain
7. I turn stale bread into breadcrumbs
8. and freeze tired grapes to use as ice cubes
9. I double, triple, and quadruple my gravy recipe so I always have some on hand

10. And when it comes to dessert, I like to get the biggest bang for my buck
The Chipwich: chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream
put together in a neat little package that requires no dishes to clean up afterward

 Vanilla Ice Cream
*David Lebovitz: The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, salt and 1 cup of heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Add the scraped seeds from the vanilla bean and the bean itself. Remove from heat, cover and leave it alone for half an hour.(this is brilliant and I'll tell you why in a sec)

In another bowl whisk egg yolks. Take the warmed vanilla milk and slowly add it to the eggs. (Every other recipe I've tried calls for constant heat and I inevitably end up making it too hot, or keeping it on the stove for too long which leaves me with a curdled mess. This is brilliant because the eggs won't scramble when I happen to walk away from the stove for 30 seconds to remove gum from someone's hair, a lego from someone's nose, or fish a football out of the toilet)

Add back into saucepan.

Over medium heat stir this fabulous concoction until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Pour the remaining cup of cream into a bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
Pour the warmed contents of the saucepan through the strainer and mix it thoroughly with the cream over an ice bath until it has cooled.
Chill in the fridge and freeze in ice cream maker.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
* I originally found this recipe on Travel Cook Eat
*adapted from The New York Times

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
 1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs (room temp)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1lb really really really good dark chocolate (I used Godiva...)- coarsely chopped
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Chop chocolate pieces roughly and incorporate into batter. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

3. Drop tablespoon sized mounds on cookie sheet sprinkle with a little sea salt. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

This will make about 5 dozen cookies.
Less, if you like to sample

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The efficiency of a summertime soup

It's what I am constantly striving for.
My mantra.
My holy grail.

It's throwing a load of dirty clothes into the washing machine before the crusties have been sufficiently cleared from my sleepy eyes if I have any hopes of winning the War on Laundry that day.

It's running errands in a specific order, avoiding left hand turns.

It's utilizing drive thrus whenever possible, so I don't have to wrestle with multiple seat belts, channel Frogger and successfully negotiate five children across a busy parking lot.

It's playing Spanish cartoons in the car so the kids can learn a second language instead of simply sitting back there giving each other noogies.
And trying not to get caught.

It's spraying some floor polish on the bottoms of their little stockinged feet and encouraging them to see just how slidy our wooden floors are.

It's serving a meal in the bathtub to the child who has difficulty getting his food-filled fork to his mouth without the entire contents winding up on the table
the floor
the wall...

Efficiency allows me to throw together meals that I know by heart because I have everything on hand.
I know which pots make the best stew, the best pancakes, and the best bacon.
{In fact, I have a pot so huge I could make all three in it at the same time.}

I know that I can leave a stew on the stove, simmering all morning, then turn off the heat, add the chopped vegetables and cover. And it will be perfect by the time we get back from the pool 3 hours later when we're so hungry that even those dirty floor polishing socks are starting to look tasty.

However, there are times where my Road to Efficiency leads to the City of Boredom.
It is the child who wears the same t-shirt and shorts for a week, watches the same 20 minute cartoon fifty times in one day, and exclusively eats Life cereal morning, noon and night, who will complain about having casserole twice in one week.

Sure, being efficient is great, but experimenting is as equally valuable.
I get it.

So looking through my CSA box I see all sorts of possibilities at first.
Zucchini pancakes with basil chive cream.
Spicy Stir Fried Chicken and greens with peanuts.
Roasted beet salad with oranges and beet greens.
Grilled pancetta-wrapped asparagus.
Parmesan cauliflower and parsley salad
Fresh pea hummus.
Strawberry ice cream.

Immediately I am shaking my head, reminding myself how ridiculous I am being.

I sort through my box and pull out all the things I recognize.
Then I add all the stuff I don't.
And I make soup.

It's the same but different every time.
Efficient AND experimental.
Sort of.
I'm sure my toughest critics will let me know.

Summertime Minestrone
*just about any vegetables will do. These happened to be what discovered in my box.

carrots -3 medium, peeled & chopped
red onion-chopped
green bell pepper- chopped
garlic- 2 cloves
chick peas
kohlrabi - peeled & diced
chicken stock - 1 carton
tomato sauce - 1 cup
whole basil leaves
summer squash-3 chopped
zucchini-3 chopped
bok choy
fresh corn
fresh peas
ditalini- al dente
salt & pepper

Start by sauteing the onion, carrots and pepper. Add  garlic (I like mine minced). Once that starts smelling really good, add the chickpeas and kohlrabi. Next comes the chicken stock, tomato sauce and basil. Let that simmer for a while (30min). Add the remaining vegetables and simmer for another 5-10 min.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

cauliflower crostini

I am now entering the third week of my CSA from Doe Run Farm
Leeks, green onions, peas, cauliflower, carrots, kale, summer squash, strawberries, beets, radishes, and greens of some sort or another (this is the South after all).
And there is more. Things I can only identify with the help of Instagram and Twitter.

My back strains under the weight of this gigantic coruncopic box.
Knuckles whitening.
Neck veins throbbing. 
Face flushed.
Biceps bulging.
My legs are shaking as I fumble to open my kitchen door.
Little beads of sweat have formed around my brow and are creating full blown rivers down my temples.
100 pounds of veggies will do that.

So will the 5 children jumping on top of me like starving coyotes fighting each other to get to the bottom where they know the luscious fruit is awaiting.
Strawberries this week.

What takes Mother Nature millennia to perfect and weeks to create they devour in seconds flat.
Little green stems littering the floor beneath their feet and sticky red stained fingers searching for my clean white shirt are the only evidence remaining.

It's hard to believe they missed the 2 gigantic heads of cauliflower.
A complete oversight.
I'm sure.

cauliflower crostini
*adapted from Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita

8 slices baguette
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves roasted garlic
salt & pepper
dash of hot sauce
sun dried tomatoes

preheat oven to 450 degrees F
brush slices of bread with olive oil
toast in oven for 8-10 min
thinly slice 1/4 of the florets. set aside
steam remaining cauliflower until soft 12-15 min.
transfer to blender. add garlic, salt & pepper and spin until smooth
while the blender is going, pour in olive oil & hot sauce

assemble: toasted bread-> puree> sundried tomatoes > raw cauliflower

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

the secret of matzo ball soup

I roll out my dirty well loved yoga mat on a spot away from the mirrors because I am so easily distracted.
When I can easily see myself my mind wanders and I take notice of things.
My mismatched outfit.
The hole in my inseam.
The smeared banana that runs across my backside at the exact height of my 2 year olds' noses.

The class begins.
I sit crossed legged and anchor myself to the ground.
This means I spin the meaty part of my thighs and separate my sits bones behind me so I am more grounded.
You won't find that term in any medical literature. Sits bones, is a yoga term used to describe the bony part of your butt.
If you're absently leafing through your current edition of Grey's Anatomy, you will find it referred to as ischial tuberosity.
Somedays it feels like there's an awful lot of spinning to reveal the ischial tuberosity.
Another good reason to stay away from the mirror.

But it is important to be grounded.
You must root to rise my instructor, Holley, reminds us.
Which leads me to matzo balls.

My mother in law once told a story about an aunt of hers who made the best matzo balls.
Spongy, yet firm and bursting with flavor.

Everyone wanted her recipe.
They begged and pleaded.
They offered her money and special favors.
They wept at her table.
But she would never give up her secret.

She made them alone, in the middle of the night when no one was watching.
Then she died.
When her family was packing up her kitchen they discovered her secret.
Her cupboards were packed full of manischewitz matzo ball mix.

Sometimes your roots come from birth.
Sometimes they come from marriage.
And sometimes they come from a box located in the International Aisle of the grocery store.
It really doesn't matter, so long as you are grounded.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Balls:

1 box of Manischewitz Matzo Ball mix.
Prepare according to directions. The secret is time. They come out best when left in the fridge over night. 
Use a basic chicken soup recipe. Go ahead and pour it out of a can if that's how you enjoy it.
I'm not here to judge.
However it is simple to make just click here .
For this recipe I substituted star pastina for quinoa, but you don't have to.

Form the matzo dough into firmly packed golf sized balls.
Bring the soup to a rolling boil, drop them in and cover tightly.
According to the back of the box, they will be ready in about 20 minutes.
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