Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ful Medammis

This is a really lovely, simple dish that I feel works well when coupled with long hours of study. Traditionally a street and breakfast food in Egypt, it is simple to prepare (albeit time consuming if starting from dried beans), nourishing and flavourful. I discovered the fava beans in my pantry yesterday, as I'd completely forgotten I had purchased them a few weeks back so I could have easy study food that didn't involve pizza delivery. Here's my version of them, which is slightly a-typical in that I mix my pickles directly in it before serving. Well, that, and I forgot to boil some eggs. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound dried fava beans
lots of water
pinch of salt

salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil (bust out the good stuff for this)
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped pickles
2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced pickled cubanelle peppers
1 small clove of garlic, pressed (I mince it then press it with salt and a knife)

pita or bread, also sliced hard boiled eggs (optional)

Combine the first group of ingredients and boil, covered, at medium to medium-high heat for 2- 2 1/2 hours or until soft. I like it so my skins are firm but the flesh is tender and has a lot of give but with a small amount of firmness remaining. Drain the beans from the water (I save this and water my plants). Add the second group of ingredients and mix them into the beans. I smash some of the beans a little with my spoon, but not most of them, for textural variance. Let sit 15-20 minutes while you bake your pita (or warm it in the oven) or other bread (today was regular bread since I'd already made that and I didn't have time to make pita). Slather onto the bread, or just eat it with a fork. Serves 2.

It's also good with some olives on it, slow cooked onions/leeks/shallot, or a touch of cheese, or hot sauce, or whatever you like.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Baked Rigatoni

I made this a while back too. Hence the still no pictures (one day, I'll get caught up and then y'all will have pictures again, given that I finally found my camera). This is one of the laziest meals I've ever made. It has very few ingredients and is one of those, "toss it together and be happy dinner is made without any effort from me" kind of meals. Ideal for work nights and such. Hope you enjoy!

1 can (or 2 cups cooked at home) black eyed peas
1/2 pound rigatoni, cooked to package directions
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups shredded colby jack cheese

Heat oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients together, then bake, covered with foil, for 1 hour. Serves 2-4.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My First Escargots

This is one of my most clearly defined, early food memories. I was about five or six years old, and we had gone to dinner at some fancy-type restaurant for a business dinner with my father's colleagues. I sat next to a man who, by my memory, was not that much larger than me. He was short, I remember, and quite round. He had dark hair and a sort of reddish complexion, and eyes I never saw. I don't remember his name, though I do remember talking to him quite a bit. I do remember, however, that he was blind, and that he was very willing to answer all my questions about being blind. Until it came time to start thinking about dinner, which he was very much interested in.

He told me he was planning to order, for his first course, the escargots. I didn't know what they were, and so I asked. I remember how severely my nose wrinkled up when he told me they were snails, and moreover, that snails are quite delicious. I didn't believe him for a moment, and so I quizzed him at length about them. The man told me the thing that most influenced my love of food, which was that even when things sound gross, there's a reason people eat them and so one might do best to try these foods before judging them. It was a longer, expanded version of "don't knock it until you try it," but it got through to me somehow. After all of this, probably because he had been so honest with me about all the particulars of his blindness, I trusted this man. And so I too ordered escargots.

I remember the dish arriving and being placed in front of me. The strange bowl, with little cups in it. The heady smell of garlic, wine and butter. And because of the little cups (and the shells), I remember not having the first clue how to proceed. So I asked the man. I figured since he got me into this, he could explain the ways of escargots to me. And so he did. He instructed me on how to get the little gems out with my small fork, reminded me to swish them more in the liquid to give them more flavour, and he also told me to chew my food slowly. At that point in my life I was a good chewer (I'm a much faster eater now that I'm grown, though I suppose that happens to all adults) and so that last bit of information wasn't especially needed. It was a good reminder though, and one I give myself every time I think of this man while I'm eating.

I pried out a snail, and I dipped and pressed it into the sauce before putting it in my mouth, as instructed. And then I chewed. The burst of flavour and happiness in my mouth was immediate. I could feel the slightly rubbery give of the snail's flesh, and taste its relatively mild flavour. The sauce was an explosion of fattiness and wonder, and as I chewed the sauce pushed itself into the recesses of the snail, making sure each time my teeth clamped was a new and wondrous experience. I was in heaven.

This snail, that I was so hesitant to put in my mouth... this bug in my mouth... was one of the most incredible things I had experienced. It remains, to this day, one of the most incredible things I've experienced. I ate them all. Every single one. The man and I sat, in silence, eating our snails. There was a table full of other people there with us, but to me, only the man, the snails, and I existed. Nothing else. When we finished our snails, the man asked me what I thought about them. I'm sure he regretted that decision, since I was a much more chatty kid than I am as an adult (unbelievable, huh?). I told him at length about my impressions of the snails, and he told me about other sauces they sometimes come in. We talked about nothing but snails. It was wonderful, that sense of adventure, exploration, fellowship, communication, newness and wonder. It is the experience with food I look for every time I eat. And though only one in a thousand meals gives me this exact feeling, I cannot stop looking for it. I was addicted to food in that moment, and it's the reason I continue to be addicted o food.

It's strange sometimes to think that this man whose eyes I never saw (because of his glasses), whose name I still don't know, gave me one of the most influential moments of my life. It changed my life, and all my views on food. That change still exists today for me. Sometimes I will be looking at a menu, or an ingredient in the store, and my first, archetypal American response is, "Ew. That's gross." Every time that happens, the escargots and the man come to my mind, and I can hear his gentle rebuke about judging a food before I've tried it. And in those moments, even when I'd rather order something familiar, or even just something that seems a little less weird, I go with the escargots. They're not usually actually escargots, but I never eat the weird food without remembering the actual escargots.

And so, this man, whom I met once, changed my life forever. He is the reason I maintain this blog. He is the reason I eat with such abandon. He is the reason I try things I have no interest in trying. He is the reason I seek that bliss with every bite I put in my mouth. I don't know who he is, but I am thankful to him, every day of my life, for the incredible and inexpressible (though I'm trying) gift he gave me and the way it shaped my thinking.

Is there someone who does or did exist in your life who gave you a gift like this, or who influenced you in such a remarkable way? I'd love to hear y'all's experiences too.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Spending

We barely bought anything this week, which is good. Although the cheese is mostly gone... I've realised I still have some stuff in my freezer that I'd like to get through at some point, so I've been focusing again on food storage this week. This is good, although since, as you know, I'm mainly down to base staples, there's mostly me making a lot of stuff I've made before and Ross eating it all. It's nice to have a garbage disposal built into a husband. Sometimes, when we have a lot of leftovers I just line them up on the counter and ask him to make sure they've all been eaten before the day is concluded. Invariably, they ARE all eaten. It's impressive. But, I digress. On to the spending.

Fiesta:

$2.09 - milk
$0.25 - onion
$3.25 - orange juice

total: $5.59

Not a bad week at all.

I'm considering, to sporadically replace the Sunday Storage posts, doing Sunday Stories. I don't think I'll do this weekly, since my work load with school is a little too high for me to definitively commit to writing out a story each week. But perhaps sometimes. The basic premise of this idea is that on certain Sundays, the post will not be a recipe but instead will be a story about food that I remember, and that influenced my food thinking. Thoughts on this idea?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Waste Friday

This was a great week in the waste world. Nothing was wasted!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Spending

This was definitely a spendy week. I hadn't been to Phoenicia in a while, and as typically happens when I go after a long spell without, I bought a bunch of stuff that there was really no need for me to buy. Such as a little cheese extravaganza. I also didn't get the two spices I meant to while I was there, malbeb and mastic. I guess I'll get those another time.

Phoenicia:

$3.69 - Pickled cubeb peppers
$2.00 - margoram
$2.49 - fava beans
$1.89 - dried apples
$2.50 - dried mango
$2.29 - semolina
$2.69 - sundried tomatoes
$2.75 - star anise
$6.49 - labneh
$4.20 - kasseri cheese (1/2 pound)
$8.66 - bulgarian feta (1 3/4 pound)
$1.21 - yali pears
$2.19 - eggs

subtotal: $43.05

Whole Foods:

$1.72 - cardamom pods
$4.99 - goat brei (this was awesome, btw)
$3.64 - parrano

subtotal: 10.35

HEB:

$1.99 - beets w/ tops
$0.98 - red bell peppers
$0.83 - red onions
$1.78 - mushrooms
$4.98 - feta (yeah, I know; nearly 3 pounds of feta this week)
$3.48 - spring mix
$2.50 - pepperoni
$2.98 - orange juice

subtotal: $19.52

total: $72.92

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Waste Friday

This week was pretty good. There was a little bit of salad that went to waste, so not a perfect week. How'd y'all do on your food waste this week?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stuffed Hubbard Squash

I made this ages ago, but I wasn't posting at that time. So I thought I'd give y'all the recipe today. Admittedly, this is kind of a strange recipe. Strange in that hubbard squashes are usually gigantic. I happened to find a small one though that was roughly the size of one of those pie pumpkins. If you can't find a small one, use a large one and scale up the filling, or simply stuff a different squash with the same filling quantities I've got listed here. This filling will be delicious irrespective of what type of squash it goes into. Hope you enjoy!


1 small hubbard squash (or other), approximately the size of a pie pumpkin

1/2 cup each: diced onion, diced celery
1 diced carrot
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can each: black beans, corn
salt to taste

2-3 cups fresh baby spinach
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup basil flowers (or just use basil leaves)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or roast the seeds of this squash and use them)

Heat oven to 400F. Cut squash in half, scooping seeds and strings (reserve these for other uses) out. Lightly salt (and oil, if you like) cut side of squash. Put squash halves in a roasting pan so they fit snugly and fill the bottom of the pan with water so it goes about half way up the squashes. Roast for 50-60 minutes.

Heat oil in medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add remainder of first group of ingredients and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to fry until garlic is lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Add corn and beans group and cook another 2 minutes, then add spinach group and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until spinach is lightly wilted and well incorporated into the rest. Stuff squashes and return them to the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops of the filling look slightly dried but not too dry. Sprinkle with basil flowers and seeds, then serve. Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Storage

So here's something interesting. Outside of my tea (of which I am down to about 5 pounds), dried mushrooms and kelp (okay, there're a few pounds of beans in here too), every single food item in the house fits... IN THE PANTRY. Yes, in the pantry. Like a normal person. So, given that I don't really have much to say about the pantry anymore, as I'm not trying to find ways to use up the pantry storage of excess, I think we're discontinuing Sunday Storage.

I feel a little sad about this.

Mostly, I feel a little sad that these out of control amounts of food, well... aren't, anymore.

However, whenever we live somewhere that's not housing two people in 652 square feet of space, I'll probably stockpile too much again. And then we can start the Sunday Storage posts again.

I think that is all on this matter.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Spending

You all will be a bit surprised by this, but all that time I wasn't posting I was thinking about y'all enough to save my receipts. So this post is going to be a bit of a long one, since there're simply too many receipts for me to combine them (and they won't be in chronological order). I'm not even really sure how we did on spending, though I suppose we're about to find out.

Kroger (12/14/11):

$1.84 - 2 pounds spaghetti noodles
$10.92 - 5 pound bone in ham
$1.64 - flour
$15.08 - 4 pound chuck roast (for chili)
$0.99 - pepper
$6.79 - sugar (I want to say this was a 20 pound bag)
$5.93 - 9 cans canned tomatoes
$4.00 - cheeses
$4.69 - oatmeal
$1.24 - tomatillos
$0.26 - jalepenos
$0.66 - poblanos
$0.57 - anaheims
$1.36 - wax peppers
$0.80 - banana peppers
$0.07 - habeneros
$0.07 - serranos
$1.99 - macadamia nuts
$2.50 - butter
$1.79 - soy sauce
$1.15 - tomatoes, canned
$2.17 - fresh tomatoes
$3.83 - cherries
$2.50 - salsa

subtotal: $72.84
total: $72.84

Phoenicia (11/30/11):

$18.99 - 3 litres olive oil

subtotal: $18.99
total: $91.83

Fiesta (12/07/11):

$2.53 - eggs, 18

subtotal: $2.53
total: $94.36

Fiesta (01/01/12)

$2.99 - flour
$2.19 - eggs
$2.78 - tomatoes
$2.49 - cheddar
$10.86 - 4 pound bottom roast (chili again)
$0.21 - jalapeno
$1.00 - bell pepper
$0.98 - tomatillo
$0.74 - poblano
$2.36 - 4 cans pinto beans (I totally forgot to make beans in preparation of this)
$1.18 - tomato sauce
$0.89 - sour cream
$1.49 - 5 bulbs garlic
$0.04 - serrano peppers
$0.10 - habaneros
$0.69 - hominy

subtotal: $30.99
total: $125.35

Kroger (12/28/11):

$3.49 - string cheese
$2.99 - blueberries

subtotal: $6.48
total: $131.83

HEB (12/05/11):

$4.38 - cheese
$4.38 - more cheese
$3.96 - pork and venison sausage
$3.59 - whole wheat flour
$3.59 - bread flour

subtotal: $19.90
total: $151.73

Fiesta (1/9/12):

$2.09 - milk
$1.39 - whipping cream
$3.99 - cheese
$2.29 - more cheese
$3.29 - salt pork
$0.50 - cucumber
$0.55 - zucchini
$2.00 - apples
$1.21 - brussels sprouts
$3.49 - peanut butter
$3.49 - more cheese
$3.29 - bread flour
$1.39 - canned chili (I was a little afraid to see if Ross was really going to cut up hot dogs and put them in this, but let's not discuss it further)
$1.55 - spaghetti squash
$1.17 - 3 avocados
$0.33 - red onion
$0.33 - roma tomato
$0.63 - sweet potato
$0.99 - celery
$1.01 - eggplant

subtotal: $34.98
total: $186.71

Ah. I'm glad to see it's not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I don't trust this as being the be-all, end-all of my shopping though, because I know there's no way I haven't told you guys about my grocery shopping in nearly 2 months and that's all the bread flour we needed. So I'd say let's add in another $10 for bread flour that was purchased without me receiving the receipts, and let's go ahead and add in another $25 in groceries that didn't get accounted for as well. I think that's probably a little on the high end, but I'd rather estimate high than low. So that adds another $35 to our total, for a grand total of $221.71. All in all, that's really not too bad at all. It's still a little higher than I'd like to see, but we've been good regarding food waste and I don't feel like the pantry is terribly overstuffed so I think we're okay there too. How's this been going for y'all?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Food Waste Friday

This was a pretty good week in terms of waste. I'd made some corn gems and three of them didn't get eaten, but we simply fed them to Frank the Possum, who is our outside neighbour. He never seems to mind these occasional free meals from us, and we chuck whatever we're giving him to right outside his burrow so he just has to poke out his head to grab it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vanilla Apple Crepes

I don't know why I wake up so early sometimes, but I do. And this time I woke up thinking about apples. But what to do with these apples? Crepes seemed like a pleasant way to enjoy them, and to start off our day (interestingly enough, Ross generally eats something for breakfast while I sometimes forget to eat until well into the afternoon). Crepes are so easy, even though it seems like they're not. You just blend some stuff, let it sit, then cook it. No special pans, no nothing. The syrup I already had made, since I enjoy it in my coffee and in my tea (mostly tea, but whatever). So here's a simple, easy breakfast (or dessert; it's an easy dessert too) that's good for enjoying but not bad on your morning routine or time usage. Hope you enjoy!

Vanilla-Cardamom Syrup:

1/2 cup each: sugar (vanilla sugar optional), water
5 cardamom pods, smashed enough to open
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Put all ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer for 10-20 minutes. Let sit another hour, then strain. I always reserve the spent vanilla pod and toss it in a large jar of vodka so it can contribute to my continued never-ending supply of vanilla extract.

Crepes:

3/8 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or vanilla sugar)
1 egg
pinch salt (sometimes I omit this)

Blend all the ingredients for about 10 seconds, then put the blender jar in the fridge for an hour or so. Lightly butter a hot skillet (or don't; most of the time I don't even bother oiling the crepe pan) and pour out about a quarter cup of batter. Swirl to coat the pan and let cook approximately one minute, or until the edges start to curl slightly. Flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. Makes 4-6 crepes.

Apple Filling:

2 small granny smith apples, cored and sliced thinly (you may peel them if you prefer them peeled also)
2-3 tablespoons vanilla cardamom syrup
2 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

Heat butter over medium heat, then cook the apples with the lemon and salt until they are soft but still firm. Add the syrup (as much or as little as you like) and sugar, and cook until the apples are completely soft. Stuff in crepes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Potato Celery Hash

This was a fun recipe. I honestly wasn't sure how I'd feel about this, given the massive amount of celery in it, but it turned out really well. I think I mostly look at celery as a peripheral ingredient (unless of course, I'm stuffing it with peanut butter or cream cheese), but celery is a pretty amazing vegetable to use as a main part of whatever's being made. Hope you enjoy!

1 head celery, sliced into 1" long pieces
2 pounds purple fingerling potatoes, cut into 1" long pieces
1/2 small onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon sumac
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put the potatoes in salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until al dente, then drain. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is melted and slightly browned, add all other ingredients and cook until slightly creamy and with celery cooked through (so it's soft but still crispy on the outside). Serves two.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Celery Risotto

Wow, so it's been a while hasn't it? I'm back. Again. :) Strangely enough, I've cooked very little food that y'all haven't seen before. But that's okay. Here's something new for you, and I'll try to do some other stuff soon as well. Oh, and here's a link for the pictures I've put up this far, for those of you who wanted to see wedding photos. I'll be putting up more photos as I get to them, as well.

This recipe came out of my hatred for food waste. When I was putting together all the food for the wedding, I totally forgot to put the celery in with the lamb, which resulted in me having four huge heads of celery to use up. This risotto was one of them (also a potato hash). What I strangely enough did not use any of the celery for was a celery soup. Weird. Not sure why, but there it is. Of all the things that happened with that celery, this was my favourite and I've found that when there's a lot of celery languishing in the fridge, my first thought is now risotto. So I'm calling this recipe a keeper, as I've already made it two or three times in the last month and a half. Initially I was doing this the traditional way, with some wine and parmesan, etc. This has wound up becoming a vegan dish though, as I have been making it during times I didn't have meat broth, wine and/or cheese in the house, but y'all are welcome to put the animal products back in. Generally when I make it, that's the entirety of the meal - I'm not cooking anything else at that point. When I take this recipe camping, I'll end up making scallops to go with it, I'm sure. But it's flexible. As always, if you don't have something on the list, leave it out. If there's something you'd like to see added, add it (then tell me how it went, please!). Otherwise, I hope y'all enjoy, and it's nice to be posting again!

1 small onion, sliced into half moons (you could use a big shallot instead, or two small ones)
1 large head celery, sliced (leave the leaves in)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 pound (roughly) medium grain rice (I'm loving Calrose for this the best these days)
1/2 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)

2 tablespoons lemon juice
32 ounces vegetable broth
water as needed
1 cup white wine (optional; I only did it with this the first time)

Set the lemon juice, broth and wine if you're using it to simmer in a small saucepan. Heat olive oil in a ten-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the onions, celery, lemon juice, salt and pepper and let them cook for approximately ten minutes, until most of the onion is translucent and there's some browning in some of the tips of the onion slices as well as in the celery leaves. Add the rice (and more oil if needed) and fry for two minutes (you may remove and set aside the veggies if you like, adding them back in later, but I'm a bit lazy on this), then add Aleppo pepper or cayenne. Add the simmering broth mixture, one ladle-full at a time, stirring constantly, until the risotto has some bite to it but is fully cooked. Serve immediately. Serves 2-4.