kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
1) I thought episode 2x09 of The Good Place was the season finale (it helped that I also thought it was numbered 2x10), but apparently there's more, yay! Spoilers for the actual 2x10 )

2) Season 4 of Grace & Frankie was released on Friday and I binge-watched over the weekend. It's good, very very funny, and much lighter and more sitcom-y than previous seasons. Usually I wouldn't like that, but these characters have been through so much, and I like them so much, that I'm glad to see them catch a break.

3) I've been trying to read the two-volume Building the American Republic, which its authors (Harry L. Watson--brother of the more famous John?--and Jane Dailey) and publisher (U of Chicago P) have made available for free as an e-book, citing an urgent current need for US-ians to understand their own history better. For a few years now I've felt I should correct my ignorance of American history, which I hated learning about as a kid because of the terrible, jingoistic, uncritical way it was taught. (I have vivid memories of a couple of days in 11th grade, when we were learning about the Constitution yet again, and the teacher showed us a film about the Constitutional Convention. And suddenly it was interesting--instead of some kind of sacred perfect object that fell from the sky, the Constitution was being shown as the product of clashing interests and hard bargains. It was a thing people made and it wasn't necessarily perfect. Alas, we then went back to reading from the textbook.) Anyway, I'm going to keep trying, but at the moment I'm bogged down very early, in some discussion of early modern English politics and culture that, well, aren't wrong exactly, but are so oversimplified that it hurts me. (The Elizabethan Settlement was not a tolerant religious compromise, as I would think the 200+ Catholics executed during Elizabeth's reign would demonstrate. Also the noncomformist Protestants who were suppressed and penalized in various ways.) I know some oversimplification is inevitable, but it does make me wonder what other important things are going to get that treatment.

4) Did a bit of cooking this weekend. On Saturday I made a stew of chickpeas, lamb, and roasted eggplant with pomegranate molasses, which turned out well. It was entirely improvised, because I found myself in possession of three! eggplants because they were on sale 3 for $1, and even though I'm not a huge eggplant fan I couldn't resist. Approximate recipe under the cut )

Today it was unexpectedly snowy and cold, but I went shopping in the morning anyway and bought a chicken, since it seemed like the perfect kind of day to roast one. Every time I roast a chicken I am reminded of why I don't do it very often--the cooking is as simple as can be, but the cleanup's a pain. Anyway, I'm now simmering up some chicken stock in the slow cooker, to become a soup tomorrow with some of the breast meat and some kale and other veggies. And my freezer will be overflowing with leftover chicken and leftover chickpea stew, which is a good thing. A full freezer = safety and happiness.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
1) My seven-year-old Sony ebook reader has, after long and faithful service, bricked itself. *sigh* I don't like reading on my computer (plus I'm having some vision problems that make it easier to read on a screen or book that I can hold close to me), but I'm reluctant to put my ebook files on my phone because, um, quite a lot of them were acquired through alternative means because I have no money. And as much as I love my phone and use it all the damn time, I still think of it as corporate spyware I carry around with me. I may need to buy a Kobo if I can ever afford one. I don't want to get a Kindle because Amazon, spyware, etc., plus I have the Kindle app on my phone anyway so I don't need a separate reader.

I'm nearly ashamed to admit this, but I don't think I like paper books anymore. Except if it's cookbooks, or books that aren't available in any other form. But I've gotten used to the light weight of an ebook reader, and the adjustable type size, and the built-in dictionary, the search function, etc.

Plus, it's much harder to find decent affordable secondhand books than it used to be. Maybe it's where I live now (a small town without a university), or maybe it's that ebooks + amazon are killing used bookstores, I dunno. But when I go into local used bookstores I can never find anything interesting.

2) I was a bit startled when the most recent episode of The Good Place turned out to be the last of the season. I liked S2, though I didn't think it was nearly as brilliant as S1. But the premise of S3 is amazing and I'm looking forward to it.

3) Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency got cancelled by BBCAmerica, which apparently wants to air nothing but gardening and antiques shows in the daytime and Doctor Who reruns and 1990s movies at night. Any hope that Netflix (which was BBCA's partner in making the show) will continue it is fading as the weeks go by with no announcement. It's a shame, because it's a really good show and I recommend it a lot. (S2 does have a proper ending, no cliffhangers or anything, so the two seasons make a satisfying watch. I just want more.)

4) I've been watching The Doctor Blake Mysteries (which my brain keeps renaming Doctor Blake, Medicine Woman even though Dr. Blake is a man) on Netflix. It's an Australian show set in 1958, about a mystery-solving police surgeon with a Tragic Past, and it's . . . okay of its kind? Slightly above average? None of it's terrible in terms of objective quality, but none of it's great, and it does this annoying thing where it wants to be socially relevant but doesn't quite have the courage of its convictions, so that, for example, we get queer characters for one episode where queerness is a plot point, and all the main characters get to demonstrate their tolerance, but none of the main or recurring characters is queer. Similarly for immigrant characters and characters of color. And so far there have been no indigenous Australian characters at all. Yet I keep watching. It's very much a popcorn show--like popcorn, there are both tastier and more substantial things you could be consuming, but it's easy to munch down a lot of it.

5) Speaking of consuming, I've managed to do a little cooking and baking. Yesterday I baked some Blue Sky Bran Muffins, using some peach and sour cherry compote from my freezer as the fruit. I fiddled around with the recipe, as I tend to do--I substituted oat bran for a little of the wheat bran, and whole wheat flour and barley flour for a little of the all-purpose flour. And I mixed the compote into the batter instead of making a little pocket of it--I've made the recipe both ways and in my experience, the result of trying to put the fruit in the center is not worth the trouble. Anyway, they came out nice and now I have a bunch of them in the freezer.

I also made some cornbread with bacon, cheese, and green chiles. I based it on this recipe at Serious Eats, but with changes. I used 1.5 cups of cornmeal and .5 c flour, cut the sugar by half, omitted the scallions/green onions and added some roasted chopped green chile. Also I don't have a cast iron skillet so I used a metal pie tin instead, and it worked fine. I should note that I followed another Serious Eats tip and cooked the bacon in the oven (on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, at 425 Fahrenheit for 20 minutes) and it worked great. I will never cook bacon on the stovetop again.

Today I'm going to made stuffed red peppers using things I have on hand, namely rice, some cheddar and blue cheeses, and some of the vast quantity of ham I still have leftover from Thanksgiving.

I've discovered lately that many kinds of leftovers can be successfully turned into soup. Perhaps this was only news to me? Anyway, I've made soup from the leftovers of a baked rice + tomatoes + ham dish (added to commercial chicken broth along with some beet greens) and from leftover potato gnocchi in what turned out to be an excessively strong puttanesca sauce--yes, I know, but it seemed like a good idea at the time--once again added to commercial broth along with some spinach and some frozen bell-pepper-and-onion mix. (I've been buying frozen veg because at this time of the year it's as good as the fresh vegetables in the supermarket and both cheaper and easier, which helps me eat more vegetables when my desire to cook is fairly low.) In both cases, dishes that had been no more than okay in themselves made quite tasty soups. This makes me happy, because I take a weirdly strong pleasure in using/transforming food that might otherwise go to waste, and because it's a way to have soup for virtually no effort.

6) And now I should start cooking the rice.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
I've only been doing very simple cooking, and no baking at all because I got a little carried away buying sweet treats before Christmas and I still have lots.

On Friday I bought two bunches of beautiful organic beets which were on sale. Yesterday I made another of my beans + sausage + greens stews, this time using dried small fava beans, hot "Italian sausage" (this is a heavily Americanized product that no Italian would likely recognize), and beet greens. The fava beans were not peeled, and by the time I decided I had better peel them it was too late because the beans inside were too soft to hold together. So I cooked them a bit longer and ate them skins and all. They were a bit chewy but fine, and the stew was tasty and provided lots of leftovers to freeze.

Today I'm roasting the actual beets, which I'm going to dress with walnut oil and lemon juice. I'll eat some today with blue cheese and toasted walnuts, and keep the rest for later.

A little earlier today I finally got around to using a half pound of raw almonds that I bought back in October because they were on sale cheap. I used this recipe for Tamari Roasted Almonds. For the soy I used about two parts Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Flavored Dark Soy Sauce to one part Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Light Soy Sauce. I also used a little less butter than the recipe calls for, and sprinkled the almonds with smoked paprika (and no extra salt) at the end. They are so, so good. They are little umami love bombs, with a really deep roasted-almond flavor as well. Now I have a plan for the next time almonds go on sale.

Apart from that I don't have any specific cooking plans. I'm needing to watch my budget quite a bit, and so my cooking needs to be based around what's cheap/on sale plus what I already have in the pantry, so it's hard to make plans. In the near future I'll need to use up the two red bell peppers, two yellow squash, radishes, carrots, and large cucumber currently occupying my fridge. There may be stuffed peppers if I get ambitious, otherwise pasta with vegetables, or vegetable soup, or something. And what I think of as Lazy Salad, i.e. cut-up veggies with dip. /no exciting cooking to see here

What is exciting is the amazing Christmas gift I got from [personal profile] halotolerant!

Picture under the cut )
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)
1) Something I've cooked recently:

Soup and stew weather is gloriously here, yay! Last weekend I made an autumnal white bean stew with escarole and sausage. Recipe under the cut )

A few days ago I bought a 1 lb bag of frozen mixed seafood (squid, octopus, mussels, and shrimp) because it was on clearance. Today I used it in something I'm calling Seafood and Chickpea Stew with Spanish Flavors )

I haven't baked much, but last weekend I did make my favorite apple cake. I've eaten about a quarter of it and the rest is in the freezer, awaiting the hour of need.

2) Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future:

Today, to go with the stew, I bought a loaf of bread with herbes de provence. I forgot, if indeed I ever knew, that "herbes de provence" in the US includes lavender. Yes, lavender-flavored bread. Imagine my surprise. Now, I do actually like lavender, although not in bread and not with seafood stew, so I'm hoping to salvage the bread by turning it into a bread pudding with a lavender caramel sauce.

3) Something I'm vaguely thinking about cooking someday: US Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away (how did this happen?) so I should probably decide if I'm going to cook anything, and if so, what. I might make a savoury pie the weekend before and freeze it, or I might decide to repeat last year and buy a frozen lasagne--because, to be honest, I tremendously enjoyed doing nothing on Thanksgiving but resting up in preparation for Black Friday.
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)
1) Something I've cooked recently

Yesterday, inspired by a pie that somebody (I can't remember who, Wikipedia isn't helping, and I'm too lazy to go back and rewatch) made on this year's Great British Bake Off, I made a butternut squash and blue cheese pie that turned out fairly well. The flavor is great, but I had some Onion Issues. details under the cut )

Today, inspired by a craving for soup, a craving for veggies, and a feeling that I should really use my bag of bonito flakes that is three months past its sell-by date, I'm cooking a soup of vegetables and eggs simmered in dashi. Right now I'm simmering the eggs in some dashi flavored with Japanese light (light-colored) soy sauce and some sherry (I didn't have mirin or sake). When the eggs are ready, I'm going to simmer yellow squash, some butternut squash chunks I didn't roast yesterday, a sweet potato, maybe some regular potato, and some Chinese cabbage in plain dashi and then add the simmered eggs--I'll keep their simmering liquid to eat with noodles another time--and some miso paste at the end. No tofu, alas, because I forgot to buy any, but basically this is a cross between a Korean soybean paste stew and a Japanese oden, and to further disrespect both traditions I'm probably going to eat it with soba noodles. I expect it to be deliciously wrong.

The last sweet baking I did was this upside-down pear gingerbread. I mostly followed the recipe, apart from adjusting the spices (more powdered ginger, no cinnamon, and a little nutmeg) and using blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap is the kind that recipes advise you not to use, because it's less sweet and more bitter and mineral-y than normal molasses. But I had some that needed using up, and I actually really liked the result. If, like me, you tend to find cakes too sweet, that's the way to go. The cake freezes quite well, by the way.

2) Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future:

This fantastic apple cake, probably next weekend.

3) Something I vaguely intend to cook someday:

More apple things, such as apple dumplings, which I have longed to make for years but never have because I did not own an apple corer. But I do now!

I need to figure out some kind of way to use the peach-and-cherry compote that's taking up space in my freezer. And I should make a pie with the jars of sour cherries I bought a while back because they were cheap.

Plus I want to make all the soups and all the savory pies. I'm feeling enthusiastic about late autumn and winter cooking.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Not a lot. I've been on a mission to eat all the summer peaches and tomatoes, and so there's been a lot of bread + tomatoes dressed with olive oil, and bread + tomatoes and mozzarella dressed with olive oil, and bread + tomatoes and ricotta dressed with olive oil. Also I have been "roasting" lots of red bell peppers under the broiler; I should freeze some, because I don't love the jarred kind.

I have baked a couple of nice things with peaches. Last weekend I made this peach and almond upside-down cake. I made a few modifications, as I tend to do: I increased the almond meal to 100 grams and cut the flour down to 155 grams, reduced the sugar in the cake batter to about 180 grams, omitted the almond extract since I didn't have any, and added about half a teaspoon of cardamom to the batter. It turned out very well despite the changes; the cake is a bit crumbly due to the extra almond meal but I don't mind that, and it's definitely sweet enough for my taste despite the reduced sugar.

Today I finally made a recipe I've wanted to try literally for years: Peach Slump with Ricotta Dumplings, from The Joy of Cooking.

more info and recipe under the cut )

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I don't have any concrete plans, except to keep eating tomatoes and peaches while they last.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: tomatoes and peaches aside, I am looking forward to autumn cooking. I want to bake my favorite apple cake again, and maybe a pumpkin roll or pumpkin muffins, and cook chicken with olives and preserved lemon, and make soups and bake bread. And maybe I'll try that Ottolenghi recipe for roasted vegetable tart, although I should probably do that soon while the veggies are still in season.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
1) Something I've cooked recently: the cherries I pickled in May are now ready to eat. Googling did not provide a wealth of suggestions for what to do with them, so I made something up.

Bulgur Salad with Chicken, Greens, and Pickled Cherries )

I'm contemplating other things to use the cherries in. I still want to try them with duck, but the weather's too warm to want to eat duck. I did end up roasting a chicken for the salad--I did it at nine in the morning to avoid the heat, and thus had a late breakfast of roast chicken at about 11 am--but a rotisserie bird from the supermarket would be fine.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I have corn in the refrigerator that needs cooking. I meant to cook it right away but that didn't happen, so now I'm doing an unplanned test of the proposition that modern corn is so damn sweet that a couple of days of refrigeration won't do it any harm. I'm probably going to cut the kernels off the cobs and cook them with butter and green chiles, because that was good last time and then I'll have some leftover corn to add to another loaf of the cornbread I made last week. And I will save the cobs in the freezer to flavor the broth of a corn soup/stew that I know I'll cook eventually. Otherwise I don't have any cooking plans.

Something I vaguely plan to cook someday: I recently gave into temptation and bought a nonstick skillet, so at some point I want to make crepes. Um, maybe in the autumn? #toodamnhot
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
I haven't done a huge amount of cooking, because on Tuesday it's my turn to host the potluck and Buffy watch, and I've been trying to get my place ready. Yesterday I thought I'd give my kitchen a quick clean, believing that it was fairly clean already. But once I started cleaning attentively, my views on the subject . . . adapted, and so there was wiping down of cupboards and cleaning under the stovetop and washing the windowsills and scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees (luckily it's a small kitchen, because ouch). I'd never realized how many little dirt-trapping crevices and nooks my kitchen possessed, and I badly want to know what fool thought it was a good idea to install cupboard doors with lots of paneling detail--sort of like this, but a much cheaper, uglier imitation--instead of nice flat ones that would wipe clean easily.

Anyway, let's talk about food.

Something I've cooked recently: The lavender shortbread and lemon-lavender posset I mentioned last week were a big hit at the potluck. The posset in particular is exquisite; I decided to strain out the lavender rather than leave it in, and the result was gorgeously creamy and smooth. I found the lavender shortbread a teensy bit dry--the dough was dry, but I was hoping it would be all right after baking--so next time I'll use a little less flour. I live in a very dry climate, so the recipe might work fine elsewhere. By the way, the recipe will easily serve eight, rather than the four to six that Hollywood specifies, and I say that as someone who loves rich things and usually scorns tiny portions.

Yesterday after cleaning the kitchen I did my best to dirty it again by making one of my favorites, pasta with a sausage and tomato sauce. The sauce is basically: brown some hot Italian pork sausage links in olive oil, set aside, use the oil to cook an onion chopped fairly small, when the onions are pretty well cooked add some finely chopped garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Then add a big tin of tomatoes--I usually buy tinned whole tomatoes and cut them up myself--a bay leaf and any other herbs you like, return the sausages to the pan and simmer for about half an hour. Yesterday I gussied it up a little bit by adding two diced peppers, one red and one yellow, to the onion, and adding some wine to the cooked vegetable mixture and cooking it down before adding the tomatoes. I rarely use wine in cooking because I rarely have wine around, but a couple of weeks ago I impulse-bought a bottle of wine, didn't like it enough to drink it all, and so I froze it in ice cube trays. It's a useful trick for all those annoying recipes that call for half a cup of wine.

This morning I made another loaf of beer bread because (a) I really liked the last one, and (b) I still had a couple of bottles of Smithwick's that are probably too old now to drink with pleasure but are perfectly good to cook with. I used this recipe again as a base, but altered it a lot to make cornbread. I used 2 cups of medium stoneground cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill and 1 cup of bread flour, and I added about 4 ounces of grated cheese, roughly 3/4 cup of leftover corn kernels that were cooked with green chiles and a little cream, and about three tablespoons of additional green chiles (roasted and chopped, from a jar). I reduced the salt a little because of the cheese, and as before I stirred about 3 tablespoons of the melted butter into the batter and brushed 1 tablespoon on top before popping the pan in the oven. The resulting cornbread is seriously, seriously good. It's got a beautiful moist texture and a strong corn flavor, with sweetness from the corn kernels and honey and a bit of kick from the chiles.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: For the Tuesday potluck I'm going to make a potato-and-spinach curry from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries--it's a nice easy one with panch phoron and coconut milk, and I'm going to buy some supermarket naan to serve it with. And I've got to buy some gin for g&t's, because I told everyone I had gin and someone else agreed to bring the mixers, and then it turned out I didn't have nearly as much gin left as I thought.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: No idea. The weather's supposed to turn hotter again after a blessedly cool weekend (by which I mean, high temps of about 80F/26.6C rather than 95F/35C). I don't want to cook. I want a beautiful man to bring me delicious salads and perfectly ripe fruit, and preferably to fan me while I eat them.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Lots of salads. Earlier in the week I made a bulgur wheat salad with peppers (capsicums), cucumber, tomatoes, green onion, chickpeas, and feta, dressed with olive oil and lemon, which I took to a potluck-and-Buffy-watch with friends. Over the weekend I made a version of this sugar snap pea salad with sesame-miso dressing from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I changed a few things, because it seems I always do. I didn't have Napa cabbage so I used a couple of small cucumbers, and I didn't cut the vegetables small, partly out of laziness and partly because the dressing was so thick and rich that I thought it might overwhelm finely cut veggies. So I left the peas whole, sliced the cucumbers on the bias into nice ovals, and cut the radishes into fourths. It's a very tasty salad, though if I make it again I'll probably use one green onion instead of the three called for (and I like green onion). The dressing is delicious and I love it with the snap peas; Napa cabbage probably would have been better than the cucumbers.

I also made my favorite potato salad with blue cheese and bacon. I can't remember if I've ever said how this is made, so here goes. Boil some potatoes cut into chunks (red-skinned potatoes are best because they hold their shape, although this week I used a mixture of red-skinned and yellow potatoes). Meanwhile, cut some bacon crosswise into strips and fry until crisp, and make a dressing by combining roughly equal amounts of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt*, mashing in as much strongly flavored blue cheese as you like, adding a tiny sprinkle of garlic powder and a few drops of cider vinegar, and then adding in some finely sliced green onions/spring onions/scallions. Once the potatoes are done, drain them and let them cool in the colander for a few minutes until they're warm but not hot, then combine with the dressing and top with crispy bacon pieces. It is delicious. The bacon isn't essential to the recipe, if you don't care to eat bacon, but oddly enough the green onions are. I've had it without and it just seems stodgy. If you hate green onions, though, you could try substituting something else fresh, bright, and preferably pungent: lots of parsley, or some peppery greens like arugula or watercress, or even some grated radish. (*I use half yogurt purely for taste reasons, because I find all-mayonnaise dressings overwhelming and I like the yogurty tang, but you could certainly use all mayo if you prefer.)

Today the weather was relatively cool, an interval between two hot spells, so this morning on impulse I made a loaf of this beer bread. I used Smithwick's for the beer, used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups bread flour, and mixed most of the butter into the dough, reserving about a tablespoon to grease the pan and go over the top of the dough. It made a very nice, flavorful bread.

Today I also put together the dough for some lavender shortbread biscuits I'm going to bring to this week's Buffy watch.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: For the Buffy watch I'm going to make some hummus with cooked chickpeas I have in the freezer, and a lemon and lavender posset to go with the shortbread, from this recipe by Paul Hollywood. I'm a little worried about the shortbread dough, because it was very crumbly when I made it and I couldn't form it into a cylinder even after adding a few drops of cream. Maybe it'll be better after a day's refrigeration, and if not I'll just pat it into a round and cut it into wedges.

Apart from that, my plan is more salads, and bread and cheese and maybe pasta, because it's going to be stinking hot. Oh, and ice cream. I've been avoiding store-bought sweets, but only within reason, and ice-cream deprivation in this weather is unreasonable. Mm, I want ice cream now.

Something I have vague plans to cook someday: Ugh, too hot. If the monsoon starts (yes, we have a monsoon season here in semi-desert New Mexico) the afternoon rains will cool things off and maybe I'll feel like cooking again.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
1) Something you've cooked recently: This has been the week of the Great Chain of Leftovers. Last Sunday I made a meatloaf, which I ate in sandwiches and so on throughout the week. But on Friday there was still a pretty big hunk of it left and it needed to be used right away. That, plus my strong and unseasonable craving for pasta e fagiole (inspired by a TV commercial, of all things) led to an untraditional, even Frankenstein-ish but tasty hybrid dish.

What I did )

Yesterday, finding myself in possession of a lot of nectarines and raspberries (both were on sale cheap), I made Peach Melba Squares, substituting 4 small nectarines for the peaches. I also used a lot more raspberries than called for, because I found a few moldy ones in the container and thought I'd better use up all the rest immediately. The result was that the cake is . . . let's call it very moist, shall we? I made a couple of other small changes: I let the melted butter brown a bit, because I'd seen a recipe for a brown butter nectarine cake and I thought the nuttiness of the brown butter would enhance the almonds. And I sprinkled a little bit of extra ground almonds over the top because I didn't have flaked almonds. Plus I didn't add the icing sugar at the end, because I found the cake sweet enough already. It is a very tasty cake, if perhaps a bit too buttery for me. The slightly tart fruit keeps it from being too cloying.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: No concrete plans. I'm going to a friend's house on Tuesday for a potluck-and-Buffy-watch, so I need to think of something to bring. I've got some cooked chickpeas in the freezer so I might do some homemade hummus with pita bread, plus a melon salad. Bringing hummus is lazy, maybe, but I feel like its being homemade should let me off the hook? Plus, it's been hot and everyone will probably want salad-y things. Will think about it some more, anyway.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: It's been so hot--yesterday the temp topped out at 91F/32.7C--that I'm losing the urge to cook even summery things. I think the future holds a lot of salads--grain salads and cooked vegetable salads as well as the raw kind--and pasta, with the occasional lazy lapse into hot dogs or boxed macaroni and cheese.

2) I watched all three series of Shetland over the last week and a half. I wouldn't call it great TV, but I liked the characters a lot and the scenery-porn was excellent (though I was sad to find out that a lot of the series is filmed on mainland Scotland rather than on the Shetland islands). The mystery plots were ho-hum, but at least not full of sickening, "shocking" details like some modern mysteries. There was a canonical queer relationship for a recurring character, plus some unexpected slashiness for the male protagonist. And a plot development in S3 that at first seemed gratuitous and fail-y turned out to be handled well and meaningfully.

Apparently there's going to be an S4, and I'm looking forward to it. I've started reading one of the books the series is based on, but so far I like the TV show better.

3) Last night, having finished Shetland and being in the mood for some light relief, I looked for Netflix movies with Alan Rickman and found The Gambit, a caper comedy with Alan Rickman and Colin Firth and Tom Courtenay, written and directed by the Coen Brothers. Got to be a great movie, right? Alas, it was so terrible that after about 20 minutes I gave up. The jokes were dumb, hackneyed, and often imbued with stereotypes (repressed Brits, freewheeling American) and the actors looked painfully aware that they were in a bad movie. I looked up some reviews and found a tendency to blame the awfulness on Cameron Diaz, playing the above-mentioned freewheeling American, but she was no worse than anything else in the movie (though unlike the other actors, she didn't seem embarrassed so it was impossible to feel sorry for her).
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: It's been a hard week for me personally, not to mention the general state of the world, so I've been in the mood for comfort food. Midweek I had hamburgers, and yesterday I cooked a potato gattó, a dish from Naples that originated while the French ruled there (the name is borrowed from the French gâteau). It's very much like an Italian version of a cheese-and-potato pie.

How I made it )

I also made some chicken stock yesterday, via the cheat I always use when I don't have a lot of bones--I simmered the bones in a quart of decent commercial chicken broth plus enough water to cover. I also added a beef bone I had in the freezer, and it contributed a much more complex flavor.

This morning, to finally do something with the chocolate in my pantry that needed using before the summer heat fully sets in, I made some thick chocolate ganache--the kind you use for truffles--and stuck it in the freezer to await inspiration and/or cravings.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I'm going to make a meatloaf today, continuing the comfort-food theme. I've got roughly equal parts beef and pork, and I'll give it Mediterranean flavors with some smoked paprika, some chopped olives, and some oven-candied tomatoes as well as anything else I think of.

Like the gattó, this is rather wintry cooking even though it's too warm here for me to be enthusiastic about using the oven. But there will be lovely leftovers, plus it lets me use up a lot of meat from the freezer.

Also today I intend to roast the apricots I bought on sale a few days ago. The oven again, but at least the prep will be very simple--just a buttered pan and some honey drizzled over the fruit, I think.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: all the Mediterranean-y summery things. I need to cut down on spending, so I expect there'll be a lot of zucchini and other cheap plentiful veg, and beans and pasta.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: I finally got around to making the potato salad with anchovies and olives that I kept mentioning. It's delicious and as simple as can be: boil some waxy potatoes until tender, dress them with anchovy vinaigrette, add a few olives (pitted and chopped if you like, or whole) and maybe some parsley. I made the vinaigrette with one 2-ounce tin of anchovies (drained), a medium-sized minced shallot, a clove of minced garlic, a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a substantial amount of olive oil (maybe 3/4 cup?), and red wine vinegar until it tasted right. There was of course quite a lot of vinaigrette left over, which I used during the week on various salads. It turns out that arugula with anchovy vinaigrette is fantastic. Keep the vinaigrette refrigerated and use it up within a week, though, because oil + raw garlic + storage can equal botulism.

Also last week I finished the last steps for the pickled cherries. The process is that you soak the cherries overnight in vinegar, then add spices and sugar to the vinegar and boil it and then soak the cherries in it at room temperature for three days, then boil the liquid yet again and pack it and the cherries into sterilized jars and refrigerate for at least a month. The leftover vinegar solution tasted really good, so I'm optimistic. If they taste good in a month I'll post the recipe.

I've started using the brandied cherries that I made a week or so ago. I can report that they are delicious with chocolate ice cream. You can also make a tasty spritzer by putting a few cherries and a good glug of the brandy into the bottom of a tall glass and topping it off with a 12 oz can of cherry-flavored unsweetened sparkling water. Lime flavored would probably be good too. ETA: No, definitely use cherry flavored.

Today I made a farro salad with roasted vegetables and arugula. I roasted a bag of mini-peppers, cored and quartered lengthwise, and a thickly sliced large onion in some olive oil at 400 F until everything was tender and sweet and just slightly charred at the edges. While the vegetables roasted and cooled I cooked about a cup and a half of farro in lots of boiling water--the same way you'd cook pasta--and drained it when it was tender but chewy. I added two minced cloves of garlic and the juice of a lemon to the hot farro, then mixed in the veg and let it cool down to room temperature. At that point I added a nice bunch of roughly chopped arugula and a few finely chopped mint leaves along with just a splash of oil, and then mixed in a couple of ounces of crumbled feta. The result is both pretty and delicious, though if you like lemon as much as I do you might want to use two, and don't forget to add the zest as well. Here, have a picture. )

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I've got chickpeas in the slow cooker, some to become hummus and some to be frozen for future use as who knows what? And later today I'm going to cook Amalfi-style zucchini/courgettes based on Marcella Hazan's recipe. It's basically fried zucchini dressed with garlic, wine vinegar, and mint. Hazan's recipe calls for the zucchini slices to almost deep-fry in a lot of oil, but I'm going to saute them in olive oil instead, because I have never had a good experience deep-frying at home and anyway I feel, with apologies to the doyenne of Italian cooking for Anglophone audiences, that they'll taste better that way.

I also have a hami melon I bought on sale. Depending on how it tastes I may eat it plain or dress it up a bit with lime juice, honey, and yet more mint. Actually the dressed-up option is extremely tempting regardless, because I recently bought some Turkish honey from Trader Joe's and it is so good that I went back and bought a second bottle just in case TJ's suddenly stops carrying it, as is their wont with many of my favorite products.

Something I vaguely plan to cook someday: I have no immediate plans to bake, because my freezer is still crammed with rhubarb coffee cake, orange and almond polenta cake, and half a recipe of uncooked dough for digestive biscuits. And yet I am longing to bake J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, and now-ish is the time to do it so I can use up my chocolate before the weather gets too hot. Otherwise I seem to have switched into summer eating mode. I've got little multicolored tomatoes that aren't bad for out of season, and some ricotta to eat them with, and various salady things, and tons of pasta because whenever I see decent pasta on sale I buy multiple packages. I still have a piece of Spanish-style chorizo to use in something, and some calf's liver in the freezer, and chicken bones that should go into stock, and etc. etc. I want to try as much as possible to just do vegetables + pantry and freezer supplies for a while.

I would quite like to eat some Indian food, but cooking it is so labor-intensive that I don't know if a mere craving is sufficient motivation. Hopefully one of these days I'll have a weekend where I want to cook elaborate things, as opposed to one where I want to cook easy things and then watch cooking shows on Netflix and YouTube.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: The digestive biscuits I baked last Sunday turned out well, despite my having to substitute rolled oats (porridge oats) for the medium oats called for, because medium oats are not to be found in the US or at least not by me. I think the biscuits are a bit too sweet to eat with cheese as F-W suggests, but they're tasty with Nutella on top (what wouldn't be?) and best, in my opinion, eaten plain with a cup of milky spiced chai.

I decided to start a second batch of pickled cherries, because I made the first batch using the last of a bottle of unfiltered cider vinegar, and while the pickling liquid tastes fine it looks rather murky. So I bought more cherries, and since the supermarket only sells them in big bags I had the perfect amount left over to make a clafoutis this morning. I make clafoutis fairly regularly (meaning, once or twice a year) but I think this is the first time I've actually made the traditional version, with cherries. The cherries in a classic clafoutis are not pitted, which suited me fine as I don't have a pitter and am much too lazy to do it by hand. It does make me wonder how the French handle the etiquette of spitting out the cherry pits.

A few days ago I got a sudden, tremendous craving for red meat, and the universe obliged me by letting me find an enormous two-inch-thick rib steak at the supermarket, heavily discounted as it was near its sell-by date. I've often had trouble cooking steak correctly, for some reason, but I seared it in a very hot pan for two minutes per side, then finished it in a moderate oven, and it was perfect. I used some of the leftovers in a steak sandwich the next day, will add the rest of the meat to a salad today with romaine lettuce and blue cheese, and the bone is in my freezer awaiting the next time I make stock. It's probably ridiculous to even mention cooking something as simple as a steak, but I'm really pleased that I managed to get it a lovely pink all the way through, right on the cusp between rare and medium rare, neither raw in the middle nor (to my taste) overdone. It's clearly the thickness of the steak that makes the difference; it's hard to find thick steaks without paying top dollar, but I'll keep an eye out for them from now on.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I don't have any concrete plans. I've got a bag of those nice miniature bell peppers and I kind of want to stuff them, but I'm still mulling over the stuffing. I want to use the last of a hunk of Spanish-style chorizo I bought a while back, but I'm undecided between rice and bread crumbs for the starchy bit. I should also--separately--make the potato salad with anchovies and olives that I didn't make last weekend, to use the potatoes before they go bad. (Though actually, uncooked mini peppers stuffed with that potato salad sound like they might be rather good . . . I do intend to make normal, cooked stuffed peppers this time, but it's an idea for the future.)

Something I'm vaguely thinking about cooking someday: Everything, as usual. It occurred to me today that the pickled cherries might be fantastic with duck, but that's probably an autumn dish. I am actually really longing for seasonal things; next week I should try to get myself to the farmers' market and see what's available and whether I can afford any of it.

One final and somewhat food-related note: [personal profile] st_aurafina told me that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he of the digestive biscuits, has cooking shows, and now I've been binge-watching Escape to River Cottage and fantasizing about an idyllic little place in the country with a stream and a garden and some pigs. Of course it's the kind of simple life that actually requires a good deal of money, at least at the start, and then a lot of hard labor to maintain. But a boy can dream. The thought of being really alone, of being able to go for a walk and not see anyone, appeals increasingly, especially now that with the internet you can still have access to entertainment, shopping, and human contact when you want it with people you actually like. I've lived all my adult life in one city or another, and there's a lot I love about cities, but I grew up deep in the country and I've been realizing, over the last few years, that it formed me more than I knew at the time.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Inspired by the rhubarb challenge at [community profile] weekly_food_challenge, I bought some rhubarb and used it to bake this big crumb coffee cake. For once I mostly followed the recipe, apart from substituting plain yogurt for the sour cream and a few high-altitude adjustments. It is completely delicious, as you might expect from anything with that much butter in it.

It's not a glamorous-looking cake and I'm not a good photographer, but have a pic anyway:

under the cut )

The coffee cake only used half my rhubarb--I bought a lot because I originally planned to make jam with it, but then I discovered that the jam recipe required pectin and I was too lazy to go out and buy some. I didn't want to make another sweet thing, so I decided to use rhubarb as a vegetable. Some thinking about what would be enhanced by rhubarb's sourness quickly led me to curry, specifically a red lentil curry. I couldn't find a recipe that really suited me, so I improvised. I cooked it this morning and ate it for breakfast, because I'm like that.

Here's what I did )

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Today I definitely intend to make a batch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's digestive biscuits--I meant to do this last weekend but didn't get around to it. (The recipe sounds great, but I admit to also being attracted by his name, which is so quintessentially upper-class-English that I keep picturing him as a young Hugh Grant.) And I'll probably make some potato salad with anchovies and olives from Marcella Hazan's recipe. Three different cuisines in one day, why not?

Something I vaguely plan to cook eventually: Not much. I have a lot of salad fixings, and some frozen tamales that I bought on clearance for super-cheap and which are taking up a lot of freezer space. So the plan for the week is tamales and salads. And I shouldn't need to bake again for ages, since I've still got a ton of last week's orange, almond, and polenta cake in the freezer as well as yesterday's coffee cake, and soon there will be biscuits as well. Although I do have some chocolate that needs using up . . .
kindkit: A blurred, ominious image of Hannibal Lecter under a tree. (Hannibal: Hannibal red)
I'm actually posting this on Friday for a change!

Something I've cooked recently: I finally got around to cooking the quails. It's just as well I didn't go to the expense and effort of the sweetbread stuffing, because after about four bites, my fun new issue with meat textures kicked in. So the quails ended up in the stock pot along with a few stray bones I had in the freezer--chicken, pork, rude person. I had intended to make an Italian soup with rice, peas, and chicken livers, but then chicken livers were not to be had, so I cooked some rice in the stock and finished it in an old-fashioned French way with cream and a beaten egg. It was nice enough, but the cream rather overpowered the flavor of the lovely stock.

I also made a vaguely salade niçoise type thing with romaine lettuce, tuna, cooked potatoes, cooked green beans, tomatoes, and cucumber with an anchovy vinaigrette. One especially nice thing about this is that it keeps, so I got two dinner portions and two sandwiches for work out of it (to make the sandwich, stuff as much salad as you can into a hollowed-out section of baguette and drizzle on a little extra vinaigrette).

And, continuing this unexpected French theme, I cooked a vaguely cassoulet type thing. I took about a pound and a half of dried white beans (soaked overnight) and put them in an earthenware baking dish along with two carrots, two ribs of celery, and one large onion all cut into big chunks, plus about eight peeled garlic cloves. To that I added about a pound and a half of country style pork ribs on the bone (large pieces of fat removed), a bay leaf, a little salt, about a tablespoon of duck fat drizzled over, and enough water to cover the beans and most of the meat. I cooked it, covered, in a very low oven (about 225 F or 107 C) for a couple of hours, then added two supposedly French-style garlic sausages, whole, and two cut-up smoked garlicky and peppery sausages and cooked it for another couple of hours, removing as many of the vegetables as I could fish out after about an hour. I'd intended to add some kale and beet greens at this point but there wasn't room. Anyway, it turned out very nice; the beans were beautifully tender and the cooking liquid had lots of flavor. The pork ribs also come out tender and falling off the bone, but still with good flavor in the meat, so people without my texture issues might want to pull the meat into pieces and return it to the dish.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Today, I bake! Naturally, the consequence of my sugar-reduction decision (which is, I can have any sweet things I bake or cook myself, but no soda and, as much as I can manage, no storebought cakes, cookies, candy bars, etc.) is that I'm going to bake a lemon-glazed loaf cake with dried cranberries and cherries. Er, and some brownies. Not just any brownies, mind you, but Aztec Gold Brownies, which are the best brownies I've ever made or eaten and possibly the best brownies in the world. I mean, if I'm trying to eat less sugar, I'd better make sure it's quality sugar, right?

Something I'm vaguely thinking about cooking someday: Everything? So many recipes, so little time. It's been unseasonably warm here, which has got me craving spring and summer things instead of the hearty pies I'd been meaning to bake all winter. Hmm, maybe an asparagus tart?
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
On Thursday I accidentally cooked a pot roast. The accidental part was that I had originally intended to cook beef rendang, but then at the last second I found that I didn't have enough lemongrass. Nor did I have the time or energy to go out and buy more lemongrass, but the beef had been thawing in the fridge for a couple of days and needed to be cooked, so I improvised a pot roast based on what I had around (i.e. an onion, a stick of celery, some dried shiitake mushrooms, a few fragments of dried porcini mushrooms I found while looking for the shiitakes, and some sherry). So on Thursday I ate pot roast with mashed potatoes, then on one of the intervening days had some leftover pot roast over pasta, and tonight I made a sort of cottage pie with the remaining pot roast topped with the leftover potatoes. I was amused to realize it was in fact the same meal as on Thursday, only upside down. (But for some reason the pie tasted better than the original pot roast + potatoes. Maybe it's true that stews and braises get better--within reason--after they've been around a while?)

I still want to make beef rendang, but now I have no beef. I'll need to wait for beef chuck to go on sale again, I guess. Or beef short ribs, if I'm incredibly lucky. It's a dish I've wanted to try for years, in part because, while I love the idea of braised beef, I have seldom loved the thing itself. But to my taste it's very hard to go wrong with coconut milk and spices.

Speaking of braised beef, a while back I picked up some beef cheeks on sale. They're in the freezer, and I'm thinking of cooking them for Thanksgiving. Anyone have ideas for how to cook them that are more exciting than the usual "stew them in wine or beer" sort of thing? (I don't think they're suitable for beef rendang because they require v.v. long cooking.)

In other cooking news, I think I might try baking an apple pie on my next days off.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
I spent a lot of my weekend (i.e. Wednesday and Thursday) cooking. I roasted a chicken on Wednesday and made chicken stock from the backbone--which I had cut out to roast the chicken flat--the giblets, and a bunch of accumulated chicken bones in the freezer, all simmered in a mixture of water and some commercial chicken broth. If I'd had meaty pieces of chicken I'd have left the commercial broth out, but with just bones I didn't think there'd be enough flavor otherwise.

Some of the chicken stock is in my freezer; I used the rest on Thursday to make a minestrone-ish soup. Here's what I did under the cut )

Also yesterday, I baked a flourless chocolate orange cake using Nigella Lawson's recipe. It's basically her clementine cake with some cocoa added. I also added a couple of ounces of melted dark chocolate, because cocoa is not chocolate and I wanted the cake to be chocolate. And since I don't have an 8 inch springform pan I used a 10 inch one and baked it for about 10 minutes less time. The result is very nice, chocolatey without being overwhelming and orangey without the bitter edge of the plain clementine cake. It does have that slightly crumbly/grainy texture of cakes made with almond meal and no flour; for me this is a feature not a bug, but not everyone agrees. (The linked recipe gives quantities in grams: US equivalents are 2 cups almond meal, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and 1/2 cup cocoa.) Oh, and don't do what I did and ignore the bit about lining the bottom of the pan (with baking parchment or silpat): the cake will indeed stick to a buttered nonstick springform pan.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Today I cooked the pork and kimchi stir-fry I mentioned before. SO GOOD. I've never used gochujang before, but now I want it in everything.

A few notes: I halved the recipe, although I probably used about a cup of kimchi, in part because I like kimchi and in part because the original recipe calls for such a large amount of meat to a small amount of kimchi that I do wonder if it's been adapted a little for western tastes. Oh, and I ended up using a whole onion even in the halved recipe because I hate using half an onion. (The problem is the other half. No matter how well you wrap it, it will tend to be stinky and will also dry out quickly. And I can't just throw away perfectly good food.) I omitted the bell pepper and jalapenos.

I used pork loin because that's what I had around (but I'll bet it's even better with pork belly). Because pork loin cooks fast, I changed the order of the steps. I cooked the onion first on fairly high heat until it had softened and was barely beginning to brown, then added the pork, then the kimchi when the pork seemed about half cooked, and the carrot and green onion in the last minute of cooking.

And I am eating the delicious result, along with recipe and a cucumber salad dressed with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, as I type this. It's spicy but by no means too spicy for my taste (and I used the full amount of gochujang, plus extra kimchi as I said). The chiles are balanced by the rice, of course, and by the complexity of the sauce which has sweet and tart flavors as well. Seriously, this is the best thing I've eaten in quite a while.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
I haven't cooked anything of huge interest since last time, but yesterday, inspired by The Guardian's discussion of a proper cream tea and by strawberries being on sale for 98 cents a pound, I made the closest American equivalent of a scone with cream and jam: strawberry shortcake.

I modified this recipe for lemon shortcakes with strawberries a bit. I halved the recipe, first of all. Then, because I read somewhere (perhaps the Joy of Cooking?) that a bit of orange complements and heightens the flavor of strawberries, I used orange zest in the shortcakes instead of lemon zest.

As for the berries, I sliced my pound of strawberries about five hours beforehand, added a couple of teaspoons of sugar, a few gratings of orange zest, and a teaspoon or two or fresh orange juice, stirred and let the berries macerate in the fridge. Then while the biscuits were still slightly warm from the oven, I assembled in the obvious way--a split biscuit topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Result: yum. The strawberries, being the usual supermarket berries, could perhaps have used a bit more sugar, but the orange definitely improved them. And the shortcakes were gorgeous. I, er, may have ended up eating two servings in place of dinner.

I should note, though, that both yesterday and tonight (because there were strawberries and shortcakes left over) I failed at whipping cream, of all things. Yesterday I tried making it in the food processor (with a chilled bowl and blade) and ended up with only slightly thickened cream despite two minutes or more of processing time. I concluded that it just wasn't possible to whip cream that way, but the internet tells me otherwise. Tonight, with a chilled eggbeater and bowl, the result was equally runny. So I think the problem must be my cream; I just checked the label and noticed that it doesn't say "whipping cream" or even "heavy cream," just "cream." So probably it has too little fat to whip properly. Who knew? (Possibly every cook who isn't me?) I was also trying to whip quite a small amount, which I'm sure didn't help. Anyway, it was still tasty despite the failure of the cream to be properly light, thick, and luscious.

Speaking of which, The Guardian's cream tea forum has made me crave clotted cream. Om nom nom. But I will resist, because $6 for a tiny little jar is not on. I wonder if it's possible to make it oneself?
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Something I've cooked recently: Lack of cash means I'm relying on things I had on hand. This can have the pleasant side-effect of making me cook more creatively. Today I improvised a tagine-ish chicken dish.

click here to read more )

I hadn't meant to bake because it's been hot here, but then I needed bread, so yesterday I baked a loaf of the four-grain pot boule I like, which also handily used up the last of my bread flour.

While I was at it, I made some peanut butter and chocolate chip brownies. Recipe under the cut is from the Bon Appetit Cookbook, ed. Barbara Fairchild, 2006.

Recipe )

So now in my freezer I have a bunch of brownies, plus about a quarter of the orange cake from the other week, and a few brownies and a bit of orange cake in the fridge for more immediate consumption. The downside of baking for one is that you really have to stick to recipes that can be frozen and stored (a full-sized cake filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit, say, would just go to waste) but the upside is that you end up with a freezer full of tasty sweet things to be eaten as the mood strikes you.

Something I have definite plans to cook in the near future: Not until after payday, but I want to try this pork and kimchi stir-fry soon, since I have 3/4 of a jar of kimchi that's a little too fermented to eat raw (for my taste) and therefore is perfect to cook with. Last week I used some of the kimchi in an improvised stir-fried rice noodle dish, and it was very tasty.

Something I'm idly thinking about cooking someday: It's a little early yet but I'm craving summer foods like sweet corn and, if I can manage to get some, good tomatoes. And peaches. The peaches here are seldom good enough to eat raw, in my opinion, but they make a perfectly nice clafouti or cobbler. Oh, and I'm in the mood (again) for potato salad with blue cheese and bacon, which is the most delicious thing in the universe and which I might eat with bratwurst, since I've been craving something hotdoggy. (Basic recipe for the potato salad: Cut some bacon into small pieces and fry it up until crisp, then set the pieces aside. Cut some red potatoes into bite-sized pieces and boil until tender. While they're boiling, mash up some room temperature creamy blue cheese with a bit of mayonnaise and yogurt. Slice some green onions thinly. When the potatoes are done, drain them and leave them in the colander until they're lukewarm, not hot. Stir them into the blue cheese mix and sprinkle in the green onions and bacon pieces.)


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

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