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Delicious, Zesty Tofu

April 1st, 2012 Comments off

Today we had tofu cutlets for dinner.

Eeeeuh, tofu! I hear you squealing.  And, if you’re not just reacting to the name of the stuff, you’re thinking of that slimy white square you found floating in the dishwater-like “miso soup” that came with your last sushi.

[DDET Read more…]

Actually, tofu comes in all kinds of shapes and textures.  The tofu we had today was firm slabs, coated with panko flakes and fried to a crispy brown, then topped with marinara sauce.  Delicious.

 

But it’s the name that turns you off, so we must find a new name.

New name?  you say.  What’s with renaming stuff, just to give it a better image?

But don’t you have veal scalopini, and aren’t those scallops really veal, which is a calf?  Your steak is really beef with is actually cow or, rather, castrated bull-children.  Your pork is pig. You rename your food all the time, to disguise what it really is.

So, a different way to talk of tofu.  Soy cutlets. Vegetable curd squares. Plant meat.

[/DDET]

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Maria’s Mother’s Pizza

January 22nd, 2012 2 comments

Maria’s Mother’s Pizza

We’re in Maria’s mother’s kitchen.  Maria’s mother is kneeling on the tile floor.  Before her she has spread out a cloth, and on the cloth she has a plastic bucket, a bag of white flour and a bag of semssmolina flour, dry yeast, a bottle of olive oil, salt, and water.

Maria’s mother is making pizza dough.  She’s showing us how it’s done.

We are seven guests from the locanda, the guest house, where Maria works.  We’ve walked down to Maria’s mother’s house, about half a kilometer along a dirt road, through the rolling hills of Tuscany, the sunfllowers in bloom across the vallley.  It’s a brilliant spring day; here in Maria’s mother’s kitchen, however, it’s quite dark.  Most Italian kitchens are quite dark.  And tiny.  Mama would never complain.

Maria’s mother — none of us learned her name — lifts the bag of white flour, and pours an amount into the plastic bucket.  She then scoops some semolina flour from the other bag and adds it to the white flour.  She adds several pinches of yeast, a small palm of salt, several glugs from the olive oil bottle, and several glugs of water.

“You’ll notice,” I comment, “The scientific precision of measurement.”  We all chuckle.  Maria’s mother smiles.  She speaks no english; neither does Maria.

Maria’s mother starts mixing these ingredients in the plastic pail, putting her weight into the task.

I’m in my own kitchen in Carolina, starting my pizza dough.  I measure out three cups of white flour, one of semolina, four teaspoons dry yeast, two teaspoons salt, three tablespoons of olive oil, and 1-5/8 cups warm water.  These all I dump into the bread making machine, set the control to “dough”, and press the start button.

Maria’s mother, after about five minutes, has created a lovely, spongy, pliable dough.  We can see what a great mixing container is the plastic bucket–not like a ceramic bowl, which is unmaliable, but somthing you can bend and twist to make it easier for you to knead the dough.

Now the dough will need to rise.  But we don’t have to wait for that–Maria’s mother has already made a recipe of dough, which she has already let rise, kneaded again, let rise, kneaded, then divided and set out to rest under damp cloths.

My breakmaker’s alarm goes off;  I remove the dough onto a floured wooden board, knead it a few times, divide it in two, then wrap each half in plastic wrap.  these will sit for one-half hour.

We all troop out of the kitchen, into the back yard of the house.  It’s a three-story old farm house.  Three generations are living here, three sons and families, the mother, her grandchildren. The men are working in town, and will be home later.  The grandchildren, not yet in school, are busy in a room upstairs.   We are on the piazzetta, or veranda, where there are set up several tables,.

Toward the bottom of the grassy yard is a brick oven.  We understand that Maria’s mother bakes bread in this oven evry week.  Maria is taking a part, stoking the oven with the knarled logs of olive wood.
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Now the preparatio really starts.  The alrady divided dough is brought out.  Maria’s mother rolls out the dough, exquisitely thin, and starts putting on the toppings.

In my kitchen, I roll out the dough with a wine battle roller, then pile on the toppings: garlic, olives, red pepper, salt/pepper, oregano, a bit of tomato sause, basil, arugula, mozzarella, gorgonzola.

She makes really simple pizzas:  oil-salt-and-rosemary;  garlic and oil and tomato; usually just two or three ingredients.

The pizzas go zipping into the brick oven on the long-handled wooden peel, and come zipping back out seemingly at onec, the oven is so hot, making crispy, puffy crusts.

My pizza takes at least ten minutes in my electric oven, whose temperature cannot get above 500 degrees Fahrenheit; I don’t take it out til all the cheese is bubbling.I’

A treat at the end: a pizza of honey and pear slices;  the children join us for this one, and some get a dollop of ice cream .

It’s been a great treat.  We thank our hostess, Maria’s mother.

As wWe e are about to leave, we’re asked to stay a moment.  Gathered on the drive, we see the men coming home in their cars; they get out and stand looking back at us fro the house.  We regard each other as we would aliens from outer space.

The children, it turns out, have been weaving for us friend bracelets.  We are touched.

We can’t speak the same language; but we are grateful, and try to make our appreciation known.

Here are some more details:   Read more…

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Black Beans with Rice

December 6th, 2011 Comments off

I’m making black-bean soup with rice.  Taught to me by a Mexican-American friend in Denver, Colorado. Like his mother used to make.

I started at 11:00 in the morning; we usually eat around 2:00 in the afternoon. It’ll be very ready by then.

I chopped up into small pieces:

  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 2-inch piece of sweet potato.  Should really be a piece of pumpkin, but any kind of squash will do.
  • 1/4 of a green pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic

In a deep-sided skillet, I made a sofrito (sautee) of the garlic and onions, then added the pepper and squash.  To this I stirred in a good portion of dried oregano (mine is Mexican from Penzy’s), a large pinch of red chili flakes, a pinch of salt and of pepper.  Get these things working all together, so the onions are soft, and then dump in two cans of black beans.  You could cook your own black beans from dried, but that would take another day.

Add some water–about 1/2 cup or so.  Then add about the same amount of red wine.  Don’t worry about the alcohol, it will all be cooked away.  But worry if you must…just use a good red wine, not one of those horrid “non-alcoholic” types.)

Let it all come to a boil, then turn the heat down to real low, so that the stuff is just barely bubbling. Don’t let it boil over the sides.

Stir it often. When it sits their simmering for a while, you’ll get a skin on top; just stir it back into the mix.

Taste: if too mild, add some (1/4 tsp) of Sriracha.  Stir it in.  Add some sugar to bring out the vegetables’ flavors (1/2 tsp).

When the beans are done, the squash or sweet potato will have bocome really soft or even unidetifiable, same with the green pepper, or at least able to be severed with the edge of a wooden spoon. The soup will be thick and dark with the black beans, not watery.

I just checked mine–it’s 12:30, and doing great.  When we eat, in an hour and a half, we’ll each get some  in a bowl, and sprinkle a generous portion of rice on top, and also a lot of raw, finely-chopped sweet onion.

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Pizza Fantasies

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

This article in The Guardian is an amusing take on pizza; be sure to browse the comments below it, which are even more wierd (amusing).

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Siddha Sour Cereal Recipe

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

Sour Cereal Recipe

1/2 cup millet
8-9 cups water

Wash the millet, add to a 4-qt pot with the water.  Turn on the heat.

Ginger – about 1-inch piece, chopped finely (cuisinart works).
½ medium-sized onion – chopped fine (cuisineart)

Add ginger and onion to the pot.

3 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 pinch ground fenugreek

Add cumin, salt and fenugreek to the pot.  Stir the pot to prevent its foaming over the side.

2 ½ tsp chopped green chillis, canned

Add chillis and coconut to the pot.  Stir, scrape off the foam.

1 ancho chilli pepper
Break ends off the chilli, dump out the seeds, cut into small pieces with scissors.
6 pitted dates (will be too sweet if you use too many), chopped fine.
½ tsp Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce
2 Tbsp medium-heat bottled Salsa
1Tbsp Butter

Add chilli, dates, sauce,  and salsa to the pot.

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut  — add

The Sour Cereal is cooked when the millet seeds are split open.

1 bunch chopped Cilantro

Turn off the heat, add chopped cilantro.

Serve when hungry.

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Castello d’Avis Wine Blend

February 6th, 2011 Comments off

Many people (okay, a few) have asked me how I make my wine blend, Castello d’Avis.  Since reading the column in The Atlantic about the quality of box wines (reviewer liked the Franzia cabernet sauvignon), I thought I should post my own blend.

The idea behind this blend came from our liking of a Californa blend, Menage a Trois; a tasty wine, but getting more and more expensive: last I looked, it was $11 at CostCo.  That’s getting a bit rich for my blood.  It’s a blend of cabernet, merlot and zinfandel.  I haven’t found a cheap zinfandel in a box, so I am using the shiraz.

7 Parts  (350 ml) Almaden Cabernet Sauvignon
5 Parts (250 ml) Carlo Rossi Merlot
3 Parts (150 ml) Black Box Shiraz

Almaden Cabernet Sauvignon: it has a fresh, hearty flavor, with a pleasant bouquet (some overtones of chocolate): unusual in a box wine.  I’ve tried all (that are carried by Total Wine), and this is the best.  $11 for 5 liters.

Carlo Rossi Merlot:  Gives a fruity body to the blend.  Best of the big boxes: $15 for 5 liters.

Black Box Shiraz:  The spiciest of the boxes.  $15 for 3 liters.

That comes to $41 for a total of 13 liters, which is 17.33 bottles at 750 ml each, or $2.37 per bottle.  Pretty good price, and a pretty good wine.

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