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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Sorry about the hiatus! I had a run of food experiments that didn’t go well enough to share, and the ones that turned out nicely, I tended to forget to document photographically. I’m going to start trying to update once a week on Mondays, even if it’s just with a variant on something I’ve already posted. In that spirit, here’s a variant on bean corn lime soup. In the original, you puréed one of two cans of black beans. In this batch, I used pinto beans and puréed both cans. The result is this attractive pinkish soup:

pinto soup

Next week: cheesecake. You should be excited. My cheesecake is the very best.

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Tuna salad with delusions of grandeur! To make this, you should make some hardboiled eggs first. Put the number of eggs you want to hardboil in one layer on the bottom of a pot, and cover them with water (about one inch above the eggs). Bring to a full boil, then remove from the heat, cover the pot, time fifteen minutes, and then drain the water. To cool the eggs and stop the cooking process, fill the pot with cold water and a few ice cubes. You don’t have to do this the day before, but if you do, you avoid the awkwardness of possibly trying to cut up a still-warm hardboiled egg.

Begin with as much canned tuna of any type as you like (I used chunk light). Flake it and add hummus until it’s nice and smooth (I used garlic hummus; dill also works well, but any flavor that strikes your fancy can work.)

tuna

Then, cut up your hardboiled eggs – how many depends on the egg-to-fish ratio you want. Mix them in gently.

eggs

Next, boil some spinach! You don’t need much. Cook it until it’s soft, drain it and rinse it off under cold water, and then incorporate it.

spinach

spinach

Lastly, mince some parsley and some fraction of a red onion and stir them in. If you have a grocery store that does not sell monstrous mutant elephant-sized red onions, or if you’re making enough pretentious tuna for four dozen people, you may be able to use a whole one. Add, also, generous amounts of ground mustard seed and ground celery seed. You could use sliced celery instead of some or all of the celery seed; I don’t like the texture so I go with the spice version. Other spices you could put in (optionally) are white pepper, basil, parsley, dill, and some onion powder if you think you undershot on the red onion.

tuna

Works as a sandwich filling (put it on a toasted English muffin or rye bread!) or as a dish plain on a plate.

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Dumplings

Dumplings are a versatile food. You can put all kinds of things in them, not just specifically crafted dumpling filling – some of the things I have successfully made dumplings with are leftover lentil or bean soups, chili, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and stirfries of various types. I have attempted but do not recommend tuna salad dumplings and chocolate dumplings. Dumplings have two major cooking methods: boiling and frying. If you fry your dumplings (as I will do in the example below) then the filling must contain plenty of moisture so you don’t wind up with an extra-crunchy dinner. If you have a filling that’s a little on the dry side, you can add a few drops of water before you seal up the wrapper.

I use Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers, which I procure from the Asian grocery down the street. Lay out any number of them on a plate:

wrappers

Then put one heaping spoonful of filling in the middle of each. Don’t overload the wrappers; I know it doesn’t look like much filling, but once they’re sealed up they’ll be quite plump.

w/ filling

Seal the dumplings by dipping your finger in a cup of water, trailing it around the edge of the dumpling wrapper in a ring (replenishing the water on your finger as necessary), and then folding the whole thing in half and pinching tightly along the semicircular edge.

folded

Coat a frying pan with olive or canola oil and put it on medium-low heat (you can go up to medium if you’ve done this before and you’re confident in your ability not to burn the dumplings). I do not recommend including anything but the oil outside of the dumplings at the stage; if you want to put something like soy sauce, salt or spices, or powdered sugar on them after the fact, do it when they’ve come off the heat. Arrange your pinched starchy containers of filling, laying them on one side:

in pan

Move them around with a spatula or similar utensil periodically, to make sure they don’t stick – just nudge them enough to make sure they have a layer of oil between them and the pan itself. Turn them over periodically. You don’t have to make sure they’re done on a given side before turning that side up; nothing is stopping you from turning them back over. The more you turn them, the less likely they are to burn when you aren’t looking. When they have cooked to your desired level of crispy brownness:

browned

Then turn them out of the pan and eat them.

To boil: Bring a pot mostly full of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in tightly sealed dumplings (if they have gaps, water will get in and filling will get out) and give them a stir. Continue cooking them until the dumpling wrappers are tender and transparent, then either drain them in a colander or fish them out individually with a slotted spoon. Consume.

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You can make cheese at home! It’s easy and delicious. All you need is milk, salt and the other spices of your choice, and lemon or lime juice (vinegar works too). I have always used whole milk, cumin and coriander, and lemon juice (with a little vinegar if the lemon juice won’t curdle it properly), but you can vary these things. I usually make half a gallon of milk’s worth. If I made any more, it would be very hard to keep the milk from boiling over – milk foams up like crazy when you boil it. Which is the first step:

milk

Pour all the milk into a pot that’s much bigger than you think you need. If the milk takes up more than half the volume of the pot, you’ll get into trouble. You might get into trouble if it takes up less than half the volume, too, but at least it won’t be inevitable. Add a small palmful of salt and generous sprinkles of your favorite spices, stir it up, and turn up the heat. Stir constantly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot thoroughly as you do so, because milk burns easily and scorched milk will make your cheese taste funny.

The object of this part of the process is to get the milk to boil/simmer for a bare minimum of five minutes. This doesn’t necessarily have to be continuous. If your milk foams up, you will have to pick up the pot off the burner to get it to simmer down; this might get it to stop boiling temporarily. But make a note of how long it spends at a boil. When it’s been five minutes – maybe plus one for luck, if you’ve had to pick it up and put it down again very frequently – you can take it off the heat.

Next comes the curdling! Lemon juice is my acid of choice, but lime would work too, and in a pinch you can go with vinegar. Add it a little at a time and stir frequently until you see the milk solids separating from the liquid:

curds

Now it’s time to strain. If you have a cheesecloth, another pot, and binder clips or a reasonable facsimile, you can copy my setup:

cheesecloth

If you don’t have those things, an old, smooth cotton pillowcase works too (and comes conveniently in a bag shape). Basically, you need to arrange a way for liquid to pass through a cloth while the curds are caught. Cheesecloth is pretty cheap, and so are binder clips. Be sure to rinse your cloth thoroughly in cold water first to wash away any lingering flavors of detergent or your kitchen cupboard. You don’t want your cheese to taste like those things.

Ladle or pour your curds and whey onto your straining cloth:

curds

Then, pick up the cloth, wring out as much whey as you can (careful – it’ll still be hot) – and put it between a few layers of paper towels, on a cookie sheet or something similarly washable with a lip, under a potful of water, to press out more liquid.

pressing

If you are the kind of person who (like me) likes to fuss over things, you can turn over the paneer and change the paper towels and poke it to test the consistency every half hour or so. If you’re not, just leave it alone for three to six hours depending on how moist you want your final product. When it’s done, gently unwrap the cheesecloth:

cheese

Eat it plain, put it in curry, crumble it over salad, chop it up for sandwiches, freeze chunks of it and dip them in batter and deep fry them, cut it into cubes and put toothpicks in them and serve them at a party with chutney. Mmmmm. Cheese. (It doesn’t melt well, so you can’t really make cheese sauce with it or use it to top a pizza.)

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