Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trapped in a Children's Story

Yesterday, I decided that I needed a pie and suddenly I found myself entangled in a situation that reminded me of a storybook that I had once read to my daughter, see if you can guess what well known story (actually there are several on the same theme).
I asked my husband if he had an idea for the kind of pie I should make. He suggested banana cream since we had four ripe bananas that would be “past due” and headed for the banana bread freezer collection the next day. That’s a single crust pie, no sense in making just one crust and since it takes about 2 minutes longer to make two crusts than one. Sooo, there I had two crusts, whatever was I going to do with the second? I decided to make something for dinner in it, a quiche (as mentioned yesterday) with leftover chicken. Okay, so I set out to make one pie now I have a pie and a quiche, but the pie required four egg yolks and there I had four egg whites going to waste, if I didn’t find a use for them. To me egg whites equals meringues, not nasty diet omelets…on to what kind of meringue? It had been a while since I made Forgotten Cookies, chocolate chip-nut meringues, that get placed in a moderate oven and then the oven is shut off and you go to bed, forgetting all about them until the next day.
I started out just craving something sweet and ended up with a pie, a quiche and cookies, a very well fed family and a very messy kitchen.

Dinner tonight? Something with the rest of the frozen leftover chicken, nothing too heavy after the quiche and cream pie.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Leftovers for Breakfast

The high point of my morning is opening the fridge and spotting something delectable leftover from dinner the night before. I do not think that foods have different times of the day in which they are supposed to be served.

The Chinese serve noodles with pickled vegetables and shreds of meat for breakfast and I’m with them on that. The last thing I need as I struggle out of bed in the dark, to keep my daughter on the school schedule that some die-hard morning person created, is a greasy or sweet breakfast. The noodles sound just right to me, warm, moist, salty, sour/tangy, (another one of my favorites) and with a touch of meat, but not too much to be heavy.

So, if I open the fridge and there are noodles or rice or even potatoes packed up from the night before, bits of meat leftover and numerous odds and ends of veggies and my collection of easy flavoring ingredients from Korean chile paste, Vietnamese fish sauce, spice pastes, bean sauces, Siracha, salsa, chutney, jerk, and pickles…I’m equipped with all the ingredients for a yummy breakfast with endless variations. The mornings when I realize that we consumed all of the food the evening before, I have to forage in the cupboards for something to sustain me through the morning. Those are the mornings when my (goat) milky coffee will often keep me going until I can get everyone off to their destinations and I can put together something.
My secondary obsession is history; I know the breakfast foods of today are modern creations. I have seen menus for farm breakfasts, industrial worker breakfasts, etc. and they contain everything from porridge, to fish and Johnny cakes to apple pie (Pie for breakfast! More on that around Thanksgiving.) Not one mentions cold cereal (a historically recent innovation), waffles, English muffins with eggs and bacon, French toast, pop tarts or even orange juice. The food processing/food marketing industry has convinced folks that breakfast requires food that was created or processed in a factory much to their benefit and our expense.
We had a quiche with leftover chicken that I had frozen, broccoli and roasted red peppers with goat’s milk mozzarella from the farmer’s market for dinner tonight, the eggs really didn’t seem to care that it was dinner time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Subversive Goat Milk

I've just completed my subversive activities for the week, I bought a gallon of goat milk from a farmer. I've found a new farmer, who sells me "pet quality" milk to meet the local laws. My cats drink a gallon of it a week and I make cheese--for them--of course. I just happen to have an allergy to cow's milk and can't process the stuff through my body without my immune system torturing me with extreme fatigue, itching and respiratory distress. So, I drink some of the very freshest milk available, no, I mean my cats drink the very freshest milk available. This morning I saw the milk coming directly out of the goat into a very clean stainless steel bucket and then be filtered into the jar that I had provided. It was still warm.

I give my money to farmers and their families, which for milk is often illegal. We all have our faults and little secrets. mine is I buy fresh milk, ummmmmmmmmm, for my cats, of quality milk....

The nasty liquid that they sell in supermarkets as goat milk seems as if it is designed to convince people that cow milk is vastly superior...but it isn't. The American goat taboo does seem to be weakening somewhat in the last few years, since goat cheese has been a regular supermarket item since the early nineties, but people are still leery about goat milk and meat. I can understand their leeriness if their goat milk is the ultra-pasturized cartons in the market that contain a liquid that smells like a male goat in rut, I cannot call it milk. The creamy, sweet flavored liquid in the glass jar in my fridge is goat milk, from goats with names, personalities, personal relationships, lots of space to roam and someone who really cares about them.

I'm looking forward to next week when I can take my daughter to go buy milk, so she can meet the "girls".

Dinner tonight? Maybe something with panir (paneer)? Greens (collards), onions, hing, and paneer with toasted mustard seed, sesame, cumin, garam masala and after I've separated out some for my kid, chiles. The "cats" will love it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Matter of Taste

Last night I tried to experiment with flavors that have been used together in other recipes in a new way. I tried the sausage/seafood combination, but made several key mistakes that I will have to consider learning experiences. First off, I put in too much sausage and the sausage I put in was too salty (even for me), so the rest of the tinkering I did with the recipe was to tame the salt and balance the flavor. The seafood hadn't a chance of shining through, unless I turned my dinner for three into a giant vat of food. The next issue was that I reached for the chicken broth, didn't read the label and realized as I dumped it in that it was beef broth. Now I had overpowering sausage mixed with an over-powering broth. I added water, lemon juice, lemon peel, mirin, lots of sliced onion and minced garlic. I added the seafood (which I had promised my daughter) and thickened it a bit. It ended up okay served over pasta, but all of the ingredients could have been used better. My husband and kid liked it, my daughter took extra pasta to soak up the sauce after she was told she couldn't use her fingers to convey it to her mouth. She studied the squid tentacles, compared them to caterpillars and then gleefully popped them in her mouth. My husband ate the leftovers for breakfast.

I'm glad its gone and not staring me in the face as I open the refrigerator today, reminding me that I cooked bad food.

Tonight is girl's night, just my daughter and I. Broccoli, cauliflower, tofu, pork chops...hmmmm, what region of the world shall provide inspiration?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dumpling Dogmatism

We made jiaozi, savory boiled dumplings, last night. The recipe came from Beyond the Great Wall Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugiud, which I have on Interlibrary loan, this book may end up being purchased, because I'm going to hate to part with it.

I like the recipes in this book because the authors stressed that there were as many ways of making noodles and dumplings as there are cooks who make them. Often, I find recipes about regional cuisine dogmatic, "This is the only way that these are made!" This always puts me off, I have an Italian cookbook with perfectly good recipes in it that I rarely use, because of the "my way or the highway" tone of the author. Even within my very small family there are numerous versions of the basic family recipes, each person adds their own personality to it.

The dumplings (pork and leek and pork and carrot) took quite a while to assemble, but they weren't difficult. Next time, I will set up to make them at the kitchen table instead of standing at the counter. (Who decided that ceramic tiles for a kitchen floor are a good thing??? They kill my feet and legs, and they are slippery when wet...but, I digress.) I substituted green onions for the leeks in the recipe, because they were what I had on hand, otherwise I followed the recipe. They were very good, but a tad salty, which for me, can be a plus.

Peer Pressure

My daughter was starving when I picked her up at the bus stop after school yesterday. The children in the cafeteria had decided to target her because she was different.

It was all my fault.
I had packed a chicken leg in her lunch. She loves chicken legs, and had been looking forward to lunch because of it. She said that the girl next to her pointed it out to some others and an older child decided to make an issue of it. Everytime she reached for the chicken leg, which had been long marinated in a ginger/onion and Indian spice paste, the raucous laughs and finger pointing commenced.

I'm sure that those childen had food that had been well processed in a factory somewhere and hermetically sealed in plastic or were eating a tray of food with five items, which had a cost of $0.94 to meet Federal standards. Poor things, they may not have recognized real food. My child, who does not like to be the center of attention in large groups, ended up throwing the chicken away and coming home to tell the tale of peer pressure and processed food.

She asked, with a hopeful tone, if there were more chicken legs. That's my girl.