Monday, June 18, 2018

Recipe Reduction 106-105

Early Summer Green Goddess Salad
from A Modern Way To Cook

The estimated time for this was 20 minutes and I can't argue with it because I failed to time it. (I goofed.) It could easily have been done in 15 minutes, provided your vegetables were already washed and trimmed and all of the ingredients were pre-measured. Which is never the case in a home kitchen. But okay.

As a salad goes, it's nothing remarkable--asparagus, snap peas, and edamame lightly cooked and mixed with spinach and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. All great stuff, of course. But the dressing was a pleasant surprise and even fairly low in fat--avocado, coconut milk, honey, a chile pepper, basil, cilantro, soy sauce and rice vinegar. I'm keeping the recipe, although I may rename it as Spicy Avocado Salad Dressing and add the salad ingredients as serving suggestions.

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes
from Fat-Free Vegan

I've used ground flaxseed with water as an egg substitute before and it worked fine, so I don't know why it didn't work this time. Possibly because I just mixed them up before and didn't destroy their consistency in a blender?

In any event, the mixture failed to thicken--I could have just dipped the tomato slices in water and got the same results. When I dipped them in the cornmeal-flour mixture, they didn't pick up much coating. And when I baked them half of it fell off.

None of that really mattered because the tomatoes were too acrid to eat. Maybe some varieties of tomatoes are okay green but mine aren't.  I even tried a little extra salt, thinking it would be like eating a lemon. Yuck.

Flipped but not read

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
by Fuchsia Dunlop

I read a lot of this, but not enough to call it "read". But this is interesting--

The chili itself, now at the heart of Hunanese cooking, only reached China from the Americas in the late Ming, although the Hunanese were among the first in China to adopt it, in the late seventeenth century.

It turns out it was Portuguese traders who spread the chili pepper. Columbus and the early English traders were looking for black pepper (genus Piper, family Piperaceae). Chili peppers are classified in the genus Capsicum in the Nightshade (Solanaceae family).  They were adopted so quickly into Indian and Chinese cooking that early botanists assumed the plants originated in the east, and they're not alone. As she says,
Many Chinese find it hard to believe that chili peppers are not indigenous to China.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Recipe Reduction 110-107

Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce
from The Breath of a Wok

The recipe said to use hearts of Romaine, but I think that's unnecessary--any lettuce would do, especially the excess I got from the CSA when I already had plenty of lettuce in my own garden. But don't make the mistake I did, of trying to use lettuce that has gone to bolting--it's better that wasting my good garden lettuce, but bitter is still badder.

Grilled Fish Tacos with Chipotle-Lime Dressing
by mabcat
The sauce was way too hot and extremely limey. The fish was boring and acrid with lime.  But I used less than half of the lime juice they said!  What would have happened if I'd used it all? 

Just possibly if I'd grilled the fish instead of baking it--although the recipe said baking was a perfectly viable alternative--it would have been prettier. Not edible, but prettier.

Sometimes, with a recipe like this, I wish I could watch the author make it, and then sample his results. Because mine stunk.  Would his (or hers)?

Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas

author unknown

I love this treatment for shrimp. Just salt, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cooked quickly on the stove in a little oil. The tostada shells--from the grocery--were good too. The only corrections I would make are:

1. Large shrimp were awfully large, considering the size of the shells (about 4"). Medium would have been better.
2. Too much citrus, as always. For two avocados he wanted 2 teaspoons of lime juice. Maybe his were California avocados, but for my Haas avocados about 1/2 teaspoon was plenty.
3. After the shrimp were done, he wanted you to add 2 more teaspoons of lime juice to the pan and stir it around.  So apparently he didn't want his shrimp to taste like shrimp, but like limes.

I'll definitely do this again--with my adjustments.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Good, but don't save the leftovers with the chunks of garlic for a week and then pull it out of the fridge and try to eat it. The garlic turns evil!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Nature write at its absolute best

The Living Dock at Panacea
by Jack Rudloe

Sad as any tale of Florida offshore life, but strangely optimistic at the end--whatever man can create, hurricane can obliterate.

It's a gorgeous voyage of a book, ranging in distance from as close as a walk down to the floating dock to ten miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, but ranging in depth from millimeters to miles. I'll let him tell the story of his living dock himself, shortly (although there's much more to say):
When the bay was swollen during a spring tide or a storm, they stood floating like battleships high up on the waves, and I could step from the stationary dock onto the floating Styrofoam dock with no trouble at all. But when the moon was full and all the waters were sucked out of the bay, or the powerful north wind pushed the waters out, exposing the mud flats, the floating dock sank far below the oyster and barnacle zones on the pilings. In fact, there were times when the winter wind shoved all the water out of the bay except for a narrow channel, and the floating dock sat squarely on the bottom like some sort of stranded sea monster bearded with huge amounts of tufted oysters, barnacles, and other fouling growths.
After the introduction to his dock, the book goes on and into the depths and shallows of the bay, and the results are delightful. never know what you're going to find in a mud-flat pool left by low tides. Often there are long waving clusters of filamentous algae that are strangely beautiful and look like a woman's hair. And sometimes there are oyster shells overgrown with red and yellow sponges that stand out starkly from the dark brownish black bottom. The real surprises come when you find five or six frilled sea hares, grayish green little blobs of life spewing out long strings of eggs. Sometimes a flounder is stranded in the pools, or a sea robin, and once I found a blazing red and brown scorpion fish with bristling spines.

It's not all peaceful meditation and beauty. It's an ocean, after all. There's death and life and high drama at sea--
"Will you get the hell off the air!" I hurriedly interjected. "We're caught out here in a storm. Emergency!"

"Well...I never..." came back the voice. "some people are just plain rude."
Deep, shallow, thoughtful, frivolous...I'm running out of adjectives. Just read it; you'll understand.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Gardening in my Roots, Hot and Dry

Lettuce season is over--I spent part of my weeding time yesterday pulling up bolted lettuce stalks for composting. I like this year's strategy of planting three different varieties rather than a mix. Remember next year: the Romaine is not as tasty as the others, but it's slower to bolt.

I've had a major hatching of these odd, creepy bugs on the tomato plants. I suspect they're not a good thing but it's not like I can hand-pick them. And I'm certainly not going to use a pesticide.

A trip to a Shades of Green Nursery gave me a possible solution to my squash vine borer debacle. A very knowledgeable gardener--heck, hey may have been the store owner--knew the problem very well.  He quickly repeated everything I'd already learned, then said that if the eggs are in the soil, a good dusting of diatomaceous earth would cut the caterpillars to shreds as they tried to crawl to the stem.

So I've dusted and will see the results. I'm not sure if it works when the eggs are laid on the plant. Seems like in that case, they'd just crawl down the plant.

The sungold tomatoes are being kind to me.

And the sage--isn't this an odd color for sage flowers?  I thought they were purple!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Suffered by comparison. My loss.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgerstern

I'm finding it impossible to review this book impartially because it suffered so poorly in comparison with its neighbors. Let me explain.

I started listening to the audiobook awhile back, while I was finishing up One Was a Soldier. (Not on purpose, but because I was having trouble with my book player.) Then I read Ghost, resumed with Circus while Patina was being shipped to my nearby library,listened to Patina, then resumed with Circus but also started reading Will's Red Coat. I try not to do stuff like this, but it just happened.

The Night Circus is beautiful, mysterious, fantastical, magical. Everything, everything is unreal. The characters--with the possible exception of Bailey--are fascinating but unconvincing--actors on a stage or zoo creatures in cages, pacing to and fro but not living a life in a real world.

Contrast that with Army veterans fighting flashbacks and nightmares. With a boy learning to face up to life's challenges, including the biggest challenge of all--controlling his temper. With a girl who loses her father and mother and pressures herself to replace them both. With a man opening up his house and his heart to give an aging dog a safe and happy place to die.

I don't want to admit I've lost my capacity to wonder. Some--nearly all--of the images in The Night Circus will live with me forever. It would make a superb animated movie. All it lacks, to prevent it being a masterpiece, is the human connection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Recipe Reduction 112-111

Corn Chowder With Maple Toasted Coconut
From A Modern Way To Cook

This was supposed to require 25-30 minutes. Yeah.

I didn't have a 'griddle pan' to grill the corn on, so I stuck it in the oven. Thus I did not count the time to cook the corn--I just stuck it in the oven for an hour. Probably a half-hour would have been sufficient but no matter, I didn't count it.

What I DID count was the time to shuck and clean the corn, chop the onions, peel and chop the sweet potato, and cook it and the cauliflower until soft.  I even stopped the clock when I had to substitute a butternut squash for the sweet potato and I realized it was going to take longer to peel.  I also stopped the clock for enough time to cool the soup down so it wouldn't melt my immersion blender attachment.

And the total was: 44 minutes.  I believe you'd call that a margin of error of 50%. Plus it didn't taste all that great.

Braised Fennel With Saffron And Tomato
from Vegetable Literacy

Okay, I didn't add the butter. Would that had made a difference?

So you take fennel bulbs and cook them with fennel seeds, fennel stock and fennel greens. Then  you attempt to enhance its peculiar wang with saffron, thyme, garlic, onions and tomato paste; add a tablespoon of butter and a grate of Parmesan cheese. And guess what?  It still tastes like fennel!

If you like fennel, you'll love this. Me, I'm not feeling the love. I'll keep eating it until it's gone and maybe that will change.

And excuse me if I harsh on the writer a bit: if you call for Fennel Stock in the recipe, shouldn't you include the recipe for making it? What help is it if you tell me to trim the fennel and put the tough bits away for stock, and then call for stock in the recipe? If you'd made a note of that up front, I'd have made the stock the day before.

Note to myself: for lunch today I had the Spinach Maangchi, the Corn Chowder, the Braised Fennel, and some dried blackeye peas that I simmered in water. And the best recipe award goes to,

Mom's Blackeye Peas
  Dried blackeye peas from the grocery
Rinse the peas in cold water. Put in a pot and cover with cold water by about 1". Bring to a boil and boil one minute.
Turn off heat; cover; let sit for an hour.
Bring back to a boil, lower heat to a very slow simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes, adding water if the pan gets dry.
When they're tender, stir in 3/4 tsp salt for each 1 cup dried peas.
Serve hot, warm, cold, wrapped in tortillas or frozen into a popsicle. Delicious.