31 January 2010

Julia's Vegetarian Stuffing

Whew! This post is looong overdue. Two and a half months late or so.

Ever since I have begun attending Thanksgiving Dinner at Julia's house, I have yearly enjoyed seriously delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving food. Her clover leaf rolls and her pecan and pumpkin pies have achieved epic status—that's to say that if the Odyssey were written today, it would probably include an incident during which Odysseus, bewitched by Julia's cooking, tarries overlong. Julia=Circe is what I am saying; Penelope can totally wait while Odysseus finishes another warm, soft roll with butter.

Actually, butter is the key to much of her cooking, and if you're vegan or fat-free or gluten-free or low sodium, avert your eyes! this post is so not for you. Julia does this amazing thing with the special European salted butter she buys: she puts it in a butter bell upside down with water, and the butter miraculously stays warm and fresh and easily spreadable and also somehow tastes better. This sort of butter goes well with clover leaf rolls. Butter is amazing; in my opinion margarine can just scram. Of course you want to make sure your butter wasn't churned from the udder-juice of maltreated cows.

But I digress.

Julia, like many an American faithful to the cooking traditions of our foremothers, usually makes a vegetarian-unfriendly stuffing inside the turkey. Every diner agrees this is the tastiest kind of stuffing. Then there is always extra stuffing that can't fit inside the turkey and there are various ways to deal with this stuffing: pour turkey juice over it, serve dry as is, or find other, increasingly creative solutions that inevitably can't hold a candle to the stuffing inside the turkey. Julia, however, really wanted me to have a delicious vegetarian stuffing. "Don't worry, Julia," I reassured her, "I don't even really like stuffing." And this had been true. The one inside the turkey I usually find mushy and the one outside bland.

Julia ignored me and make two little pans of vegetarian stuffing. Well, it was a nice thought, so of course I had to eat some, and Goodness Gracious!!! It was hands-down the best stuffing, meat or not, I had ever experienced. It was the Incarnation of Deliciousness. It was the Vegetarian Stuffing that beats to a pulp every Turkey Stuffing in the world. I begged Julia for the recipe and now I will share it with you, just when you had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving. But I should warn you that this is not a simple recipe, and butter pretty much drenches all the ingredients, so just resign yourself and say good-bye to your arteries for the evening.

Julia's Vegetarian Stuffing

4-5 Cups cubes of homemade Hungarian potato bread
4-5 Cups cubes of homemade Buttermilk Crackling cornbread from the Joy of Cooking (made with half stone-ground cornmeal and half fine cornmeal)
2/3 Cups chopped parsley, a combination of flat (Italian) and curly
1 and 3/4 Cups chopped celery
2 and 1/2 Cups sliced mushrooms
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1/4 lb. butter plus maybe more
salt and pepper
a little sweet Hungarian paprika from Szeged
some hot water

  1. Toast 8 to 9 Cups cubes of bread and cornbread in an over at 250 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy and dried out. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Sauté the onions in 1/3 stick of butter. When the onions are soft, add celery.
  3. Sauté them together.
  4. Add the onion-celery sauté to the bread cubes.
  5. Sauté the mushrooms in another 1/3 stick of butter.
  6. Add the mushrooms to the bread cubes.
  7. Add parsley, salt and pepper, and paprika to the bread cubes.
  8. Add just enough hot water to moisten the mixture, tossing and mixing the whole time.
  9. Thickly butter muffin tins, tiny bread tins, or two bread loaf pans.
  10. Preheat the overn to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Add the mixture to the tins and dot with pats of butter on top.
  12. Cook for about 30 minutes.
  13. Serve hot.

Bananas George

Nothing inspires George as much as my having just finished doing dishes. He wastes no time in laying waste to the kitchen. This time the fruit of his inspiration was a hot, tasty breakfast that I simply had to share with you, O loyal reader. I call it "Bananas George."

Butter up a small fry pan with about a Tablespoon of butter. Cook on low until the butter's foaming has subsided.
Take two bananas you don't feel like eating plain. Peel 'em and stick 'em whole into the butter. Pour two Tablespoons of orange juice over them and sprinkle them with a teaspoon of brown sugar.
Elevate the heat to Medium.
Cover the fry pan with a lid.
Cook the concoction five minutes. Raise the lid, turn over the bananas, and again cover the fry pan.
Cook another five minutes until the the carmelized mixture is nice and coated all over the banana.
Serve hot.

I think this would pair nicely in my mouth with ice cream or yogurt.

30 January 2010

Baby Artichokes

Artichokes come into season every early spring and autumn. They look so elegant with their sharp little claws and round little bodies like green dreidels. I just want to spin those suckers into my gullet. But I found that if I buy the adult artichokes, we never cook them. Adult artichokes are a PAIN IN THE *SS to prepare. Hence the ubiquity of canned artichokes.

Luckily, if you nab 'em while they're still young, they can't put up a fight. I mean you can eat the choke because it's not thorny yet—no surgical operations required. Just wash 'em, peel off a layer or two of the harder outer leaves, cut off a third of the top and a bit of the bottom (above the stem: the stem's useless), and drop the rest into a bowl of water spiked with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Then boil those babies about 20 minutes, uncovered, in salted water and serve them drained and hot with a dipping sauce of mayo, lemon juice, olive oil, or a combo of any of those.

Unlike a side of tomatoes or carrots or zucchini, a side of artichokes codes you as Gourmet Cook Extraordinare and your guests will feel special and lucky to be at your table, even if you burn everything else.

26 January 2010

Mulled Cider

It's hard to believe that George and I are still struggling with the virus I caught three weeks ago. The cough has acheived legendary status; it must be some sort of über-genius virus. So we have been cooking very little: microwaved sweet potatoes, udon in broth, camping food (broccoli and garlic potatoes), and artichoke-mushroom sandwiches, which I've already posted about on this blog.

When you have chest congestion, nothing is quite as helpful as moist heat. Putting a heating pad on your chest helps and of course so do hot baths and showers, but the best method is steaming your head. George's doctor taught him this trick: pour boiling water into a bowl, start breathing in the steam through your nose while both your head and the bowl are enclosed within a towel, and when you feel really clear in your sinuses lay down with your head upside down for about 5 minutes so that your mucus can drain back into the top of your head (which is where it came from). It feels really good, but don't be surprised if you cough a lot at first.

If you prefer the culinary method, you should definitely try mulled cider. George and I bought watery, bland cider (cider in the South cannot reach the heights of quality of cider in New England). Pour the cold cider into a pot with a stick of cinnamon and either a few whole cloves or some gratings of fresh nutmeg (buy a whole nutmeg and grate it a little—be careful, it's strong!). Simmer on very low for quite a long time, an hour if you like, and then ladle into mugs. The cider darkens, sweetens, thickens, and develops spicy warming undertones.

I once served a huge amount of this at a party and months later people still mention to me how delicious it was. Another benefit of hot cider is that the whole house smells like Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas rolled into one. Mmmm....

10 January 2010

Mysterious British Foods

Sadly, much of my knowledge about culture and customs comes from reading, and what I enjoy reading most is a good British novel. British novels are notorious for focusing on food. Just think about it: J.R.R. Tolkein's hobbits enjoying their "elevenses;" (?) or Edmund gobbling up Turkish Delight in C.S. Lewis's Narnia; Arthur Dent searching the universe for a good cup of tea in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe; so many of Bertie Wooster's plans involve stealing someone's cook or softening up a foe with high tea at the Ritz (in P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves series); and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot famously drinks tisanes (herbal tea) and always judges an establishment by its cooking. Reading such books makes me hungry, but half the time I don't even know what I'm hungry for. So this post I'm not going to give you a recipe. You can give me one if you like! I'm just going to list some peculiar British foods that I've always wanted to try. And here are some more articles about the weirdness:


(Unfortunately, the one time I visited the U.K., most of what I was fed was curries, cheese sandwiches, Italian, or Mexican. I was very disappointed, to say the least.)

Vegetarian British Foods I would Like Someone to Cook for Me so I Don't Have to do the Math of Converting Measurements:

seed cake
Ploughman's lunch
figgy pudding
kedgeree (without the fish)
bubble and squeak (with a fried egg)
yorkshire pudding (vegetable oil)
blue cheese and pear tart
Pimm's No. 1
Eton Mess
sherry trifle
Christmas pudding without suet (yuck!)
treacle tart
apple and cheese pie
Bakewell tart
bilberry pie
cauliflower cheese
rock cakes
tattie scones
tipsy cream
Yorkshire parkin

09 January 2010

Squash Cakes, a tasty treat

Squash. Winter squash. I never liked it much until I had the Japanese kind, kabocha. Then I realized that buttercup squash in the U.S. is almost exactly the same as kabocha. But I was still cold to those old American standbys, acorn and butternut squash, until yesterday. Yesterday George said to me, "I'm making a tasty treat."
"What tasty treat?"
"You'll see."

Last night George cooked butternut squash the usual way, sliced lengthwise in half, seeds scooped out, and face down in a half-inch of water in a baking dish. He cooked it a long time at 375, then took it out, covered the cut side with butter and brown sugar, and cooked them face up 5 minutes at 400 degrees. He found it delicious and ate almost the entire squash himself—once he saw that I didn't like it. But he saved just enough for the next morning, to mash up and mix with all-purpose flour and ground pepper. He formed the mixture into patties and fried them but good.

"These are tasty treats," I admitted.
George smiled smugly.

07 January 2010

Sweet Beans

In Japan people eat their beans sweet. Many desserts include sweet adzuki beans; there is even a hot, sweet bean soup with balls of mochi that people eat in the winter. In the U.S. no one eats their beans sweet. But today I did. I cooked some pinto beans with apple and onion slices, drained them and took out the apple and onion, mixed in some light brown sugar, and served hot alongside a microwaved sweet potato. It was pretty good. George's nose is stuffed up so he couldn't tell how flavorful and delicious they were. Poor George.

Hot Udon Noodles in Broth

George and I have colds so we don't feel like doing much, and I'm a vegetarian, so I'm completely uninterested in chicken noodle soup. But I still felt like hot noodles in soup just as long as I didn't have to do anything except sleep until they were ready. George cooked me fat, hot, chewy udon noodles in a little bit of broth, and it felt like Heaven. George made up this recipe himself with stuff we had in our pantry. All Japanese noodles including udon have wheat in them, so people with Celiac disease should avoid this meal. You can basically find frozen udon noodles in almost any Asian market in the U.S., in my experience.

Hot Udon Noodles in Broth

Package of frozen udon noodles
A couple of boxes Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth (the only broth we buy)
some pieces kombu kelp
some miso paste
some soy sauce

Mix together everything except the noodles to taste. Bring to a boil. Add frozen noodles. Cook until noodles are done. Pick out noodles with tongs and put in a bowl. Ladle over a little bit of broth. Serve hot with chopsticks.
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