kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Yesterday was payday, and to celebrate not being flat broke, I bought a kitchen scale. I've been wanting one for ages. Now I can cook/bake from recipes that specify weights (as most non-US recipes do) rather than volume, without having to do ridiculous things like try and convert grams to cups. (I have done that once, successfully, to make a fruitcake, but it's full of potential problems and makes for nervous baking.) Having a scale also means I can bake bread properly by weighing my ingredients. Yay!

Something I cooked recently: Last night I finally baked the Lemon Polenta Cake I've been talking about for weeks. It was extremely easy--I put the whole thing together in the food processor, on the grounds that a cake with no wheat flour in it can't be over-mixed--and produced a delicious cake. The almond meal and polenta give the cake enough presence to stand up to the intense lemon syrup, unlike the lemon loaf cake I tried a couple of weeks back where the cake itself was sort of insipid. The finished lemon polenta cake is extremely moist (almost falling apart), extremely flavorful, and extremely extremely rich. Possibly a little too rich for my taste; I think I'll cut down the butter next time. Something about the moist richness and the dense crumbly texture reminds me of baklava, which is a good thing as I love baklava but I hate using phyllo pastry, because no matter what I do it immediately becomes dry and shatters. Anyway, another thing I'm loving about the cake is that it promises a lot of variability, since both the syrup and the batter could be spiced or flavored in many ways: lime or orange zest and syrup, grated ginger and a ginger-infused simple syrup, a lemon-basil or lemon-rosemary syrup, cardamom and saffron syrup, etc.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Pizza! Using this recipe, except that I'm going to using uncased sausage, browned and drained, rather than sliced sausage links. The dough is rising now; I'm going to use half the dough, freezing the other half for later, and bake it in a 10 inch springform pan. This because not only don't I own a 14 inch pizza pan, but one probably wouldn't fit in my oven. And yes, I've done the math; a 10 inch pan is almost exactly half the area of a 14 inch pan. I'm excited about this project because I've never made my own pizza dough before, and also because this recipe allows me to have lots of toppings and cheesy goodness, whereas most homemade pizza recipes strive for an authentically Italian-style pizza with a thin crust and a distinctly ascetic touch with the toppings. These pizzas are no doubt excellent, but I grew up with American pizza and I want my cheese.

I'm not baking yeast bread this week, because bread and pizza dough was more than I wanted to tackle. Later on today I'll throw together a loaf of soda bread, which is easy and fast, so that I'll have something for breakfast and lunches.

Something I'm idly thinking about cooking someday: While grocery shopping yesterday I bought some split peas, so I'll be making split pea soup with those and the remaining ham hock in my fridge. That's probably the last of the really wintery things I'll be cooking for a while, because the weather here is definitely turning springlike. Speaking of which, asparagus continues to be on sale for 98 cents a pound, so I've got more of that to use in a pasta dish or a stir-fry or something. I need to try to reset my mind to spring and summer cooking.

ETA: I may possibly have made myself a Bloody Mary using the juice drained off of the tomatoes for the pizza. Vodka before noon: why not?
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: I haven't done a lot of cooking over the last week because I've had a cold. Not a bad cold, but my energy levels have still taken a hit, and I'm not a terrifically energetic person to start with. Mostly I've relied on leftovers and bread.

Last Friday, when the cold was just starting, I did bake a lemon syrup loaf cake from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. It's not bad but something about it doesn't quite work for me. The cake is fairly eggy, and I have weird issues with egginess. I like eggs themselves, but I don't want things like cakes and breads to taste of eggs. And there's something about the combination of the quite eggy cake with the very lemony syrup that puts me off. I like the syrup but I want to try it on a different cake.

Last week's semolina bread experiment turned out okay but not great, as the bread was pretty dense. My semolina has been in the cupboard a while (how long? I'm not sure) which no doubt didn't help the texture or the flavor.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Today I'm going to make some chicken soup, which as we all know magically conquers the cold virus. It'll be a vaguely Mexican-style soup using the rest of the dried posole I had on hand, plus tomatoes, chiles, green beans, zucchini/courgettes, maybe a potato, lots of garlic, and some cilantro at the end. If you're thinking "that's more of a stew" you're right. I like a soup with presence; I don't bother cooking thin delicate brothy things.

And I'm going back to first principles with this week's bread. I'll be baking Jim Lahey's basic no-knead bread (although using Lahey's later, modified recipe that calls for a little less water) because I want to remind myself what the texture of that bread is like, and then in the coming weeks I'll see if I can keep that texture as much as possible while using more interesting flours and combinations of flours. Essentially I want to see if I can merge the best aspects of Lahey's bread with the best aspects of Nancy Baggett's Kneadlessly Simple breads, and then start developing more variations. I did add a stage to Lahey's recipe: I mixed the dough yesterday morning and let it pre-ferment in the fridge for about 10 hours before removing it to the counter for the first rise. I think the pre-fermentation is largely responsible for the superior flavor of Baggett's breads, whereas the larger quantity of water and the higher oven temperature are probably behind the better texture of Lahey's. Yes, it seems I am planning to do science for GREAT BAKING JUSTICE.

Something I idly plan to cook someday: I'm still longing for the lemon-polenta-almond cake and the semolina-cardamom-rosewater cake I've been talking about. I think that, considering I live at a high altitude, don't have a great oven, and don't own a mixer, I'll have more success with cakes like those that are supposed to be flatter and denser rather than with American-style light layer cakes. Also, the flavors are so much more interesting.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Yesterday I made a big delicious pot of red beans and rice. I didn't use a recipe, but under the cut is a recipe-ish description of what I did. Click here )

Last week's bread (County Fair White Bread) was not a huge success. It wasn't bad by any means, but the flavor was a bit boring. Partly that's because it uses white flour only, but that can't be the only reason, because the white bread pot loaf recipe from the same book gives more flavorful results. I think the other part of the problem was that, because eggs are added after the long first rise, more flour has to be added then too, which means that there's quite a bit of flour in the final product that hasn't gone through the pre-fermentation and first rise and so doesn't taste like anything but flour. The bread did remind me of the homemade white yeast bread of my childhood, which I loved at the time. But back then I was comparing the flavor to cheap supermarket white bread, while now I'm comparing it to slow-risen multigrain breads; my standards have changed.

I'm starting to think that it's actually more difficult to make soft sandwich-style breads at home than it is to make crusty European-style breads. Supermarket breads use all kinds of funky additives to create a loaf that is soft but can be sliced thin and will hold together well, but so far no recipe I've tried has done this. I can either make soft, light sandwich loaves that tend to fall apart, or dense sandwich loaves that can be sliced more thinly and will hold together. Maybe I should try a rye or whole wheat loaf that's supposed to be dense.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Later today I will cook a potato, sausage, and corn soup using the rest of the Polish sausage. Mmm, soup.

This week's bread is currently engaged in its second rise. It's an experiment: I modified this four-grain bread recipe by replacing 1 1/4 cups of the bread flour with semolina. Hopefully it will work. It's behaving a little differently than the usual recipe does; its gluten didn't develop as well in the first rise so I kneaded it a bit before starting the second rise.

And I'm finally going to bake the lemon loaf cake I've been wanting for ages (not the lemon polenta cake, but a simpler recipe that doesn't call for almond meal). I'm going to start that as soon as I'm done with this post, in fact.

Something I idly plan to cook someday: For the next week I mostly plan to use my accumulated leftovers, although I did buy some asparagus (on sale for $1 a pound) that needs using. Tomorrow I'm going to cook some in a Thai-ish stir fry with some pork loin, and the rest I'll probably use in a pasta on Sunday. I think I have a cold coming on, so I may not feel much like cooking anyway and will be glad to have things in the freezer that only need warming up.

In more distant plans, I have one ham hock left that should be used in something (split pea soup, maybe? suggestions welcome). And I want to try this cardamom semolina cake with rosewater. I actually have all the ingredients on hand, because pantry, but I want to bake the lemon cake first.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Earlier in the week I made pork vindaloo in one of Raghavan Iyer's gentled-for-the-westerner versions (#2 in 660 Curries), which has cashews and coconut milk as well as garlic, chiles, and vinegar. On another day I cooked Spicy Potatoes and Spinach With Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk, for which the recipe is under the cut: click here )

Since panch phoron is so aromatic and lovely, today I cooked a dal of chickpeas using basically the same dried chiles + panch phoron + coconut milk spicing as the potato dish, but with some shredded dried coconut (soaked in water for a few minutes to rehydrate) and some tamarind concentrate for sourness. Result = very good, although I may have overdone it a bit with the panch phoron, as the fenugreek seeds can be a little bitter in large quantities.

I used black chickpeas (kala chana) in the dal, since I have some dried and I'm trying to make use of the stuff that's in my pantry. In dried form they look quite like little dark brown rocks. As Iyer recommends, I washed them, covered them with hot water, and let them soak overnight at room temperature. Then I stuck them in the slow cooker yesterday morning before work, in which they cooked, and cooked, and cooked, and cooked. They were in the slow cooker for almost 30 hours altogether, until about 11 this morning, and honestly I don't think another 12 hours would have done them any harm. They were cooked through, certainly, but they still had a chewy texture and a tough skin. I don't know if those are just inevitable features of this type of chickpea, or if it's to do with how hard it is to cook beans at my altitude (about 7000 feet or 2100 meters).

To accompany the dal, I made rotis! That's a first for me--I get nervous about anything requiring dough to be rolled out. But they actually weren't difficult at all, just time-consuming. This is another recipe from 660 Curries. recipe under the cut )

Also, although I hesitate to call this cooking, I, er, assembled these no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars. I didn't add any peanut butter to the chocolate layer, and because the brand of peanut butter I use (Trader Joe's) is pretty soft, to get the right consistency I ended up using more graham cracker crumbs and a bit more sugar. I probably didn't need to, because once refrigerated the peanut butter layer firms up like whoa, but the extra graham cracker crumbs in particular are not a bad idea. These are delicious in their incredibly middle-American way, and console me for the failure of the peanut butter brownies I tried to bake the other week. (Said brownies are reposing in the freezer, as I hate to throw food away and hope they can be salvaged, crumbled, as an ice cream topping.)

Something I've got concrete plans to cook soon: I'm thawing out some ground pork for pork and soft tofu with preserved vegetable, which I plan to cook tomorrow. I don't actually have any szechuan preserved vegetable on hand, but I have kimchi, which I'm sure will work fine.

In the fridge I have bread dough fermenting, to rise overnight and be baked tomorrow. This week it's County Fair White Bread, again from Kneadlessly Simple. Last week's buttermilk bread was nice, but the buttermilk powder was hard to incorporate into the fermented dough. I thought I'd done okay, but there turned out to be some clumps of buttermilk powder in the finished bread. And the salt on the crust attracted moisture that soon made the crust soft. Next time I'll skip the salt topping and be more careful about the mixing.

Something I idly plan to to cook in the future: I keep thinking of things I can cook with what I have in the pantry, which is good because due to unexpectedly large bills this month, I have no money for the next three weeks. Luckily I have a good supply of staples such as rice, beans, flour, and noodles, plenty of spices, and some meat in the freezer. Red beans and rice are still a plan, as is a potato and corn chowder, maybe some chicken soup, maybe some polenta, and Iyer has a recipe for papads in yogurt sauce that I want to try, and etc. etc.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: For most of the last week I've been living on leftovers from the freezer, so I haven't done a lot of new cooking. Yesterday for dinner I soaked some rice noodles, fried up a few dried shrimps, cooked some green onions in the pan and then added the noodles, fish sauce, and chile-garlic paste, then added an egg when the noodles were heated through. I topped the noodles with the dried shrimp, a squeeze of lime, and some cilantro. Tasty and very easy.

This morning for breakfast I attempted to make rava dosai (thin crisp semolina pancakes) from a mix, but they stuck to the pan and I ended up with dosa bits. Still, they tasted okay and I ate them anyway with some yogurt, hot lime pickle, sweet and sour lime pickle, and some sweet mango chutney. All the pickles and chutneys are store-bought, because I'm not that ambitious.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Well, this morning I've already started some green chile stew with posole. For Southwestern food traditionalists this is probably heresy*, because green chile stew is one dish, and stewed pork with posole is another dish, and ne'er the twain shall meet. But I wanted green chile stew and I wanted posole, so. Basically it's this recipe with some posole (dried hominy) added to it. I sort of forgot that posole is supposed to be soaked overnight before using, but hopefully that will be okay since the pork cooks for a really long time anyway. The pork and posole are in my slow cooker doing their thing, and I'll add the chiles--hotter ones than in the recipe, since I'm only cooking for me this time--in an hour or so.

*The internet pulls up a bunch of recipes for green chile posole, but the posole I've eaten locally has always been made with dried red chiles, not fresh green chiles, and certainly not tomatillos.

This week's bread is Buttermilk Pot Bread with Coarse Salt, another recipe from Nancy Baggett's Kneadlessly Simple. I haven't tried this one before, because it wasn't until yesterday that I finally bought the buttermilk powder the recipe calls for. I also bought some dry milk powder, which a bunch of Baggett's other recipes require, so I'm looking forward to a greater variety of bread in the future.

And finally, yesterday before I went shopping I had pulled out some pork chops to thaw for vindaloo, because it turned out that, contrary to what my memory told me, all of Raghavan Iyer's vindaloo recipes call for chops rather than pork shoulder. But then I went shopping and bought the green chile posole ingredients (I've been craving tomatillos so much! and it turns out they're only $.99 a pound!) so the vindaloo will have to wait until tomorrow after work. This week will be a festival of pork, I guess. Mmmm, pork.

Something I'm idly thinking of cooking in the future: Continuing the pork theme, yesterday I bought some polish sausage and some smoked ham hocks. These will keep, which is why I bought them, but I think their eventually fate will be as components in red beans and rice.

I also want to try a recipe from The World's Greatest Stews for tripe with chickpeas. It's less involved than the tripe a la mode de Caen that also interests me, and so probably a good starting point. I've eaten tripe before and I really like it in pho, but I'm not sure if I'll like it as much long-stewed, so it's probably best to start small.

I still badly want to make the polenta, almond, and lemon cake I talked about last week, but until almonds go on sale it's not going to be possible. Nigella Lawson has a recipe for a loaf cake with lemon syrup that might satisfy some of the same cravings.

Looking over this post, I can see that the things I'm craving are either meat (ALL THE MEAT) or sharp, bright, vitamin-c rich sour flavors. I think winter may be getting to me.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Yesterday, which for me was a weekend (I have Thursdays and Fridays off), I cooked an actual Western-style meal with several components, which is the sort of thing I don't usually bother with. I'm typically more more the "one pot meal plus rice or bread" type. But yesterday I marinated some chicken in olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest, then oven-roasted it over some lemon slices (the chicken was nice, but the pan juices were bitter from all the lemon); oven-roasted diced potatoes with smoked paprika and smoked salt; and boiled some brussels sprouts until just tender and then briefly sauteed them in bacon fat and topped them with crisp bacon pieces. Num.

Also recently I made some curried squash soup with half a leftover butternut squash, mashed up, plus some Thai red curry paste, water, a bit of Japanese instant dashi crystals for more flavor, fish sauce, coconut milk, a few shrimp, and a few dried shrimp (cooked in oil until brown and crisp) on top. Dishes like this are why I try to keep a decently stocked pantry. It wouldn't have been possible without the things I just had around: the curry paste (Mae Ploy brand), the dashi crystals, the fish sauce, the dried shrimp, and even the regular shrimp, of which I bought a frozen bag on sale a few weeks ago and which I've been using sparingly ever since. And actually the squash had been in my cupboard since Christmas, at least, until I finally remembered it was there and that I'd better use it before it went bad. I feel weirdly guilty about the pantry sometimes, as though it's an unjustifiable luxury. But the truth is that I almost always buy on sale or in (relative) bulk, which is cheaper, and thus I have a good stock of things that I will eventually need and use.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Today's plan is mac and cheese with bacon and tomatoes, topped with crumbs (from the stale bread-end I have in the freezer) and baked. And a half batch of these peanut butter chocolate bars, which I've never made before but which sound great. (ETA: Don't use that recipe. What a disaster. Unfortunately my NoScript blocked the reviews of it; if I'd seen them first I would never have tried to make it.)

For next week, my plan is to use up the things in my freezer, which include chicken soup, mung bean and coconut milk stew, and a couple of containers of some kind of dal. And then it will be payday!

Something I'm idly thinking about cooking in the future: I still want green chile stew. Made with tomatillos--I've been craving tomatillos for some reason.

I've discovered that the place to go for hard-to-find ingredients for some things I've wanted to make is, shockingly, WalMart. I don't like giving them my money, because I feel like I'm contributing to exploitation (and more than that, to the exploitation of my own class, which really leaves a bitter taste in the mouth). But I can buy beef feet there to use in stews, and I've never seen them elsewhere. And everything is so much cheaper than anywhere else. It's the trap of capitalism: if you don't have a lot of money you have to buy cheap, and thus you contribute to the cycle of low wages. *sigh* (Note: Please don't come back at me with suggestions that I buy at the farmer's market--which in my town is hugely expensive, and which is also only open during hours I'm working--or whatever. I have explored the options, trust me. I have a ridiculously detailed knowledge of where to get the best bargains on various kinds of groceries. I know my budget, too, and my tastes. The bind I am in re: cheap shopping depresses me, but I am genuinely in it, and I don't have the heroic virtue necessary to live only on organic fair-trade lentils. If I want a varied and interesting diet, and I do because I love food and because frankly there's not enough pleasure in my life that I can afford to eliminate a source of it, then I have to make compromises in order to afford it.)

Okay, so that got a bit more intense than Recipe Friday is probably supposed to. But it's hard to talk about food and cooking without talking about the economics of it. At least it is for me, because when I post about cooking and eating nice things, I worry that people look at those posts and think, "But doesn't Kit talk elsewhere about crappy job/no money? What a lying hypocrite!" Which is partly a result of my own issues about money and food, but it's partly our toxic culture about both money and food, and how if you're poor you're not supposed to eat nice things even though you will also be browbeaten for supposedly not cooking and not eating good/healthy things. And I've seen enough horrible, horrible internet vileness on the subject that it's not surprising I'm wary.

Anyway. Beef feet. Crucial ingredient, apparently, in tripe a la mode de Caen, which I really want to try, and whose ingredients, although obscure, are mostly inexpensive apart from the Calvados. If I cook it, I will definitely post about it.
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
Something I cooked recently: I cooked up a nice big pot of one of my favorites, mung bean and coconut milk stew. Lately I've taken to adding a half teaspoon or so of shrimp paste to the dish as the beans are coming to a simmer. It adds another dimension to the flavor. And this time I used palm sugar rather than regular sugar, since I had some on hand, and added both pork and a few shrimp.

Something I have solid plans to cook soon: Well, as usual at this time on a Friday, I have bread about to go into the oven. This week it's the four-grain pot boule from Kneadlessly Simple, which combines regular wheat flour with a little cornmeal, rolled oats, and rye flour to make a lovely deep-flavored loaf.

Later I will probably stir-fry some green beans with some ((storebought) baked flavored bean curd.

Apart from that I don't know. I should go to the store today and get some more vegetables.

Something I'm idly thinking about cooking in the future: I'd like to cook up some posole or green chile pork stew, or perhaps a green chile stew with posole in it, which while highly inauthentic sounds like the epitome of yum. And I still want pork vindaloo. Why does pork shoulder never seem to go on sale?

I'm craving oden, a slow-simmered Japanese stew of fish products and bean curd, but the ingredients are really expensive so I probably shouldn't.

And I want to bake a polenta, almond and lemon cake from a recipe in one of Nigella Lawson's books. I need to see how much almond meal costs, though.

(Champagne taste and a beer budget, that's me. Or more like beer taste and a Kool-Aid budget, since it's not like I'm wishing for caviar with blinis, and lobster to follow. Though that would be nice too . . . )
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Doing my bit to make recipe Friday a thing, because [personal profile] st_aurafina said so. A lot of my cooking doesn't involve recipes, unless it's a dish I'm unfamiliar with, but I'll try.

Something I've cooked recently:

Calling it cooking may be an exaggeration, but I tried this recipe for coconut-ginger "tea" and liked it a lot. I didn't have honey so I just used regular sugar and a bit of turmeric (it colors the tea, which is a ghostly white otherwise). Nicely coconutty and gingery. Next time I think I may add a crushed green cardamom pod to the infusion.

Something I've got concrete plans to cook soon:

Today, once my bread (a yeasted cornbread) is out of the oven (or more specifically out of the pot I bake it in, which I'll need for the soup), I'm going to cook a chicken soup vaguely based on this one for white chicken chili with quinoa. By "vaguely based" I mean "I'll add quinoa to the Mexican-style chicken soup I was planning to make anyway, but I'll use chickpeas instead of white beans, chipotles in adobo instead of jalapenos, and no salsa verde since I don't have any, and also omit the tortilla chips since I don't have those either." Instead I'll put lime peel and orange peel into the soup for a nice citrus kick and eat the soup with some cornbread. I may top it with the avocado that I bought on one of those bizarre "it was so cheap" impulses (I like avocado, but avocado does not like me--I think I have oral allergies to a couple of foods and avocado makes my throat feel all ooky and weird).

Also, at some point this week, [personal profile] skud's kimchi pancakes. I've cooked them before, substituting preserved vegetable for the kimchee, and they were yummy, but now I have actual kimchee and I'm looking forward to trying them again.

Something I'm idly thinking of cooking in the future:

I want to get back into cooking Indian food regularly. It's a bit tricky because a lot of Indian food is complicated to cook, and I just don't seem to have a lot of energy these days. Most Indian dishes aren't difficult in a technical sense, but they require a lot of steps and a lot of time, not to mention dirtying a lot of dishes. Well, I guess that's what weekends are for. Maybe I'll cook a pork vindaloo, which is simple and has the meaty heartiness I've been craving in this cold weather.


kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)

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