Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pie for Breakfast

Trying to get into the Halloween spirit with the air conditioner running is a bit of a challenge…but there is always a solution. Since apples are $1.49 lb, making applesauce doesn’t seem to be a viable option. There were a few less expensive apples in the market but they looked as if someone had been playing tennis with them.

I bought a jar of applesauce, not too exciting, texture wasn’t quite right…so to use of the rest of the jar before it got fuzzy in the back of the fridge I decided to make a Marlborough pie this morning, it’s just the thing for breakfast with tea or coffee. It’s an old fashioned recipe that hangs around in many cookbooks, but I’ve never seen anyone else make one. I made it once a few weeks ago and did it again this morning. It is extremely easy and uses mostly pantry staples. It is clearly a comfort food.

Here is my version (I am completely incapable of following a recipe all the way through.)

Marlborough Pie
1 single pie crust
2 c applesauce
½ c sugar
2 eggs
½ stick margarine, melted
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ c goat milk (you can use cow or soy milk, I’m sure both will work, the original recipe called for evaporated milk)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
Pinch of cloves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place foil covered pie crust in oven for 6 minutes, remove foil and bake 4 more minutes. (Since the pie goes into the oven for 45 minutes this might be unnecessary, but I haven’t tried that, yet. If a step can be cut I’m all for it!)
Mix remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and then pour into the pie crust. Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.
Cool for at least a few minutes, so it will firm up a bit. Serve with tea, coffee, or with the variety of milk of your choice.

Kirk and Jillian are carving pumpkins, one will last through the photo shoot that follows and then become the victim of my giant vegetable cleaver to become pumpkin puree. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls come to mind...hmmmmmmmm

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Never-Ending Chuck Roast Parts 3 & 4

The never-ending chuck roast lives on…last night it was tossed with sesame-ginger noodles and veggies and tonight the last of it will make its appearance as shepherd’s pie. I’ve tried to mix up the flavors so it didn’t feel as though we were eating leftovers. It is 83 degrees and humid, not quite shepherd pie weather, but it will travel better than soup would in lunches.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Never-Ending Chuck Roast

Last night trying to find an easy low-prep meal I found a use for the nearly five pound chuck roast hanging around, which had been threatening the toes of anyone who dared open the freezer door. I defrosted it in the microwave to the point where I could break it into smaller pieces and dropped it right into the pressure cooker (How did I cook so many years without one??); within the hour there was lots of tender beef ready to take on the flavors that I had prepared. I simply placed about a quarter of the meat in a serving bowl and placed it on the table. Next to the serving bowl I placed a small dish filled with lime juice, an insane amount of garlic and a bit of kosher salt, mojo! The beef was dressed by each of us to our taste at the table. I served it with microwave “baked” sweet potatoes, and the one thing I labored on for this dinner, stuffed okra a la Madhur Jaffrey . The okra was filled with cumin, coriander, a tiny amount of red pepper and amchoor powder (green mango powder), which gave it a tangy, spiced, but not spicy flavor. It was sautéed with onions and then to finish the cover was placed on to steam it. It has never turned out gummy and is a favorite of my family. I have taken this okra to potluck dinners several times and have always come home with a completely empty casserole dish.

Tonight, trying to find something that I could throw together without too much time standing in the kitchen resulted with burritos filled with some of the leftover beef, refried beans, tomatoes, onions, spinach and Seminole squash (a native American squash that can deal with this wet, mildew-y climate). The squash was started in the microwave and then transferred to a 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes. We had multi-grain tortillas toasted over the open gas burner. I poured leftover mojo sauce on my burrito and sprinkled it with hot banana pepper rings.

Now that we have consumed about half of the meat, I need to figure out before dinner time tomorrow two more ways that it can be reincarnated (or is that re-in-carne-d) without everyone becoming tired of it. The variables include a head a broccoli, a head of cabbage, a little spinach, a pound of carrots, a little leftover squash and a multitude of beans to work with, hmmmmmmmm…beef and barley vegetable soup maybe, or beef tossed with sesame-ginger noodles and veggies, or shepherd’s pie or make gravy and serve it over Yorkshire pudding…

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back into the Kitchen

In my forced leisure I have been reading vintage (pre-canned soup era) cookbooks. I tried to dump my preconceptions of older cooking as too rich and bland and came out with some interesting conclusions. #1 Servings sizes were much smaller. #2 Sure, most vegetables were done with a little white sauce, but a little is the key, it seems just enough to form a thin coat on it. #3 Recipes containing cheese only include 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cheese, a sprinkle, versus our 1-2 cup shredded cheese wonders. #4 They ate a lot of bean soup. #5 There is more variety than I had anticipated. #6 The folks back then must be the reason there are so few oysters left, there is a recipe for oysters with virtually everything, except dessert.

My return to cooking has begun, this week we did take out a couple of times and I resorted to tomato sauce from a jar, but I could not do that for long. I was up to tossing blanched broccoli rabe with tons of garlic and caramelized onions, Italian tuna in oil, cannellini beans and lemon juice, no leftovers. The balance came out just right, Jillian, who is not fond of many greens scarfed it down thinking that the broccoli rabe was broccoli. I did something similar a couple nights later with the rest of the broccoli rabe with fresh tuna that was sold in chunks for half the price of the tuna steaks, only I added roasted red peppers and capers.

This morning, after the first cold night of the season, our somewhat insulated Florida home needed a little warming, so I decided to try a recipe that I found on another blog, German Apple Pancake
( ). It is apples sautéed in butter (margarine for me), brown sugar, and cinnamon, and then a thin sweet pop-over type batter (made with four mini eggs from our bantam Cochin chickens) poured over the top and then placed in a hot oven. Very yummy. This recipe may become a “regular” in our house. Jillian offered to peel the apples tomorrow, so that I can make it again. Since she leaves for school at 7:15 AM, she will change her mind when I awaken her at 5:30 AM to do it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Screeching Halt

My cooking has come to a screeching halt. I have been told by my doctor not to do anything that hurts, and since my issue involves muscles that are used to support the body when standing, sitting, rolling over, squatting and kneeling, that doesn’t mean much in the way of movement or comfortable positions. So, I have been torturing myself by reading all sorts of cookbooks and gardening books, being unable to do either.

One benefit is that I have had the excuse to eat other people’s food for a bit. My husband and I sampled some Indian vegetarian food from a local shop. It was very good, and very filling. We started with vegetable samosas (mostly potato), rather spicy with the tamarind sauce that sealed the whole deal. Sweet and sour dal soup, with one flavor that I just cannot figure out that rounded out everything, I now have a mission to seek out all the sweet and sour soup recipes to see if the secret ingredient reveals itself. It had toasted black mustard and cumin, bits of tomato, red lentils, turmeric, and definitely something else that gave a smooth, almost creamy, mid-note, but since it was vegan so it was not cream or butter.

Dinner was naan, basmati rice, and okra masala for me and spinach and potatoes for my husband. The okra was spicy and did not have any of the gluey tendencies that okra can have. The spinach and potatoes was comforting with its smooth texture and flavor.

The best part of the whole meal was the mysterious dal. Now I have a project that I can complete to keep me from going nuts from inactivity.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chinese Roast Pork Rolls-Cha Shi Bao

Cha shu bao or Cha shi bao (the cookbook says one thing, the class I took in Mandarin a couple of years ago said another).

I had to repeatedly shoo my daughter away from the roast pork only to discover her hovering over it with telltale greasy fingers. I find the roast pork in Chinese restaurants to be rather dry and nasty most of the time and try to avoid it, but this stuff… divine. Filling bread dough with it is pretty easy, if the vultures don’t eat it all while your back is turned. The bread is on the sweet side and the meat is coated with a salty-sweet sauce and the combination has been enough to make me take the commuter rail into Boston to get it.

Of course, now that I am 1200 miles from Boston that is not going to be happening again anytime soon. For the second time in two years I decided to throw some together. The recipe for the bread part is from a website that I did not record two years ago, I think it was a discussion group. The meat recipe comes from An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking by Wonona Chang. I think I achieved better results the last time I made them, this batch seems dry. The bread doesn’t seem to have quite the right texture , but I swear that I used the same recipe. I must have used the Roast Pork II recipe last time. The pork is great on its own but it is not quite right for these particular rolls. This is a do-over. The result is good, but not quite what I had in mind. I would not ride 45 miles on the commuter rail for these.

Cha shu bao and spinach pies

Both are in the works today, the first reminds me of Chinatown in Boston and the second reminds me of bakeries in Providence and Cranston, RI. Results later.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Mother of All Spice Racks

I have basket upon basket of zip bags filled with smaller bags of herbs and spices that I have picked up at ethnic grocers. I had to buy another spice rack with jars; my collection was getting out of control. I spotted a rack at a yard sale and thought that it would be just the thing that I need, but when I got home I realized that the quantity of bagged spices that I own far exceeds the number of little jars and the volume of many of my zip bags is far beyond the size of those bitty jars. So, I have filled many of the jars with things that I do not use very often, so it doesn’t help as much as I had hoped. I have found that jelly and pickle jars to be about the right size, unfortunately I have never seen a spice rack with jelly sized jars.

The miniscule jars all had labels on them for things like rosemary flakes and thyme flakes (flakes??). I wonder how it was decided to include some herbs or spices and not others. There is a jar labeled pickling spice, not exactly something that there is much call for these days. I’ll be making new labels, because not one of the labels says panch phoran (Bengali spice mix), garum masala, fenugreek, star anise, Sichuan pepper, smoked paprika, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, or coriander.

I think it is time to design my own spice rack, it would have a row or two for small jars, and then four or five for jelly sized jars and two rows for pickle sized jars. The rack would be about three feet wide and four feet high and the depth of a large pickle jar deep, about five inches. Each shelf would have a very small lip to keep jars from sliding off. Maybe a large CD/DVD shelf without the slots would do it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Garden Update

Most everything is up, but some critter has eaten all of the bitty carrot seedlings and most of the beet seedlings. Time to replant and create some protection for two of my favorites, that appear to be the favorites of something else, too!

The mu radish is coming along so well that I will have bits to stir fry soon.

Chowder and Clam Cakes

I made clam chowder the other evening, I do not call it New England Clam Chowder. I grew up in New England and the yummy, rich white stuff I created has no resemblance to what I ate as a kid.

My first memories of clam chowder (with clam cakes, of course) were fire station fund raisers. It always seemed to be a chilly and breezy day in the fall. The local volunteer force would set out a few picnic tables, create giant vats of chowder and fry up some clam cakes. The chowder was clear with salt pork, potatoes, quahogs (hard shell clams), onions and a few chunks of tomato here and there. It was not Manhattan style with a tomato base. It was brothy and not a drop of cream went into it. It was what they now call Rhode Island style clam chowder, except that in certain places in Rhode Island people would be up in arms at there being any tomato in it whatsoever. It had simple clear flavors and was just the right thing on a brisk fall day.

Ordering chowder in the area these days, you can run into almost anything. The different immigrant groups each come in and put their own spin on it. Since I believe that all food is fusion food (no culture is pure), I think it is great, as long as someone in the crowd keeps on making it the old simple way. I have had chowder done with spicy sausage instead of salt pork in a restaurant run by a Portuguese family, it was good. I have had it with Italian style seasonings, it was good also. These variations keep it current and keep it alive, some folks would say the old style is too bland, but it all depends upon your expectations when you sit down at the table.

The clam cakes are another story, crisply fried batter balls with bits of clams and lots of salt, a golden brown fritter, so hot that you would burn your tongue on the first few. Recently, when ordering clam cakes the clams seem to be barely present, but in the past the concentration was greater. These were the real treat. These were why I put my jacket and Keds on quickly and hopped into the VW bus without the least whine.

Since I am living in Florida and I have never seen clam cakes any farther than a few minutes out of the Rhode Island/ Massachusetts zone, I’m on my own here. I have not tried to make clam cakes at home, yet.

As soon I get myself equipped properly for deep frying, I will give them a go and post my results.