30 August 2010

Slowing Down and Fryin' Peppers

School has begun again, so I wanted to let you know my frenetic posting will slow down. You should slow down too. All that cooking's going to give you a crick in your neck. I'm going to pass on an easy to make recipe so you can cool your jets (ah, the clichés of the space-race era), grease your engines, and refill your wiper fluid… … …and the metaphor dies a horrible death.

Anyway, if you have a garden or a farmers' market, you know peppers are busting out all over. Turn the tide on them! Here's a pepper-busting recipe that you can munch with your buddies on a slow summer afternoon. We did it and our friend was mighty pleased. Super sweet and slightly smoky, that's the taste of good n' fresh fryin' peppers.

Fryin' Pepper Sammitch

a peck of peppers, the fryin' kind (see picture above)
some fresh mozzarella, mayonnaise, Vegenaise, or optional spread
some super-fresh bakery or home made bread, sliced (GF is fine with me)

1. Wash those there peppers.
2. Cut the stems off of those there peppers.
3. Slice yon fryin' peppers in half, length-wise from tip to tail.
4. Cut out those ribs from those peppers. Then rinse out the seeds in your friendly neighborhood sink.
5. Spray a nice mist of oil all over your fry pan.
6. Heat up your greasy ol' pan.
7. Fry up your peppers good and long on each side, on medium or medium low heat. Take your turner and press them down until they squeal like stuck pigs! Then move them around so they don't burn. Those fryin' peppers are like your babies. Treat them right.
8. Drain those there peppers on towel or paper towel, your choice, sugar pie.
9. You can eat them right away. Or you can store those peppers in the fridge, and then use them cold.
10. Time to Layer You a Sammitch. Catch this concept: A slice of bread. A slice of cheese or a slather of mayo/mayo substitute. A pepper.

A mouth.
A gullet.
An intestinal journey.

Repeat as desired.

21 August 2010

Sourdough Rye Bread

On his third try, George perfected his sourdough technique and delivered from the oven two loaves neither too dense nor too insubstantial: a sourdough rye. The guests gobbled down a loaf and a half during dinner and even cast longing glances back as we had a team of huskies haul them out the door. Having fulfilled the mission of Jews worldwide to overfeed each person who enters our home, we digested for five days in perfect contentment. Now, remembering the glory of that night, I share this recipe with you, my faithful disciples.

George adapted his recipe from the King Arthur recipe for plain white sourdough bread, which you can check out here.

Sourdough Rye Bread

1 Cup fed sourdough starter
1 3/4 Cup lukewarm water
4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup rye flour
1/2 Cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine starter, water, and 3 Cups of the all-purpose flour. Mix it.
2. Place dough in a large Tupperware-type container, with the top ajar for air. Let it rest for 4 hours at room temperature. Seal it and place in the refrigerator overnight for 12 hours.
3. Add all the remaining ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.
4. Let it rise, covered, for 2 to 5 hours until the dough is smooth, relaxed, and risen. The amount of rise will depend on the vigor of your starter.
5. Gently divide the dough in half. Shape into 2 loaves. Line a baking sheet or two (depending on the size of the loaves) with parchment paper. Place the loaves on the parchment paper, cover with a damp towel and let rise until very puffy, 2 to 4 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Boil a bunch of water. Pour into a cast iron (or other oven-safe pan) and stick on the bottom of the oven floor. The steam will help the continuous rise in the oven.
8. Make 2 deep slashes in each loaf with a serrated bread knife. Sprinkle loaves with water. Place loaves side by side or stacked vertically in the oven.
9. Bake 30 minutes plus however long it takes for the loaves to become golden brown and nice and crusty.

13 August 2010

Simple Vegetarian Supper, or What do Vegetarians Eat?

What do vegetarians eat? To the uninitiated, this seems a constant source of anxiety. I absolutely cannot go out to a restaurant without an omnivore friend feeling compelled to tell me all the vegetarian food on the menu. And when some generous individual invites me over, she also expresses this anxiety about what on earth she can make that I can eat.

Relax, I always tell them. American restaurants that lack vegetarian options are few and far between. And my host is sure to have a ton of vegetarian food in her repertoire without even realizing it. Does she make salad, hold the chicken? Does she make rice, pasta, corn on the cob, or potatoes? Does she steam peas or broccoli? Serve bread with butter, olive oil, jam, or cheese? Does she have any fruit?

Of course she does, and so do you. As soon as you realize that vegetarians don't limit themselves to fancy, show-stealing vegetarian entrees, you will realize that in fact you know how to cook an enormous amount of perfectly satisfying vegetarian food.

To edify those who continue to worry about the sustenance of their vegetarian friends, I offer tonight's supper for examination. George and I both enjoyed the food because it tasted good, it was attractively presented, it was mostly healthy, it didn't cost much, and it was easy to cook and clean up after. We dined on:

defrosted corn kernels
sliced fresh sweet pepper
cucumber spears mixed with fresh lime juice and snippets of shiso (minty herb)
hoop cheese
fresh tomato wedges drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, pinch of salt, and some torn fresh basil
pan-fried/ steamed Korean vegetarian dumplings from our Asian grocer

A very delicious, delightful, de-lovely meal, the kind that must warm any parent's heart. No one has to ask me to eat my vegetables, after all.

06 August 2010

Israeli Salad/ Fattoush/ Cucumber-Tomato Confetti Salad

This salad has accrued so many names—yes, there are many more—because it is a real no-brainer. If you tend even a modest garden, at some point you are likely to experience a flood of cucumbers and tomatoes. If you live in the Middle East or Mediterranean, you always have lemons and olive oil on hand. Hence this salad.

Israeli Salad

1 cucumber
1 tomato
optional additions: 1 bell pepper, 1 member of the onion family, 1 medium carrot, etc.
fresh squozen lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
fresh herb of choice, minced, optional
salt and pepper to taste, optional

1. Seed cucumber. Cut all vegetables into tiny cubes. Mix them in a bowl.
2. Mix lemon juice and olive oil. Add a teaspoon at a time to the salad until everything is nicely coated but not drowning.
3. Add fresh herbs and eat it!

But Israeli salad (the name I first encountered) can be so much more than a salad, o loyal readers. It's magical. It can make all your gourmet dreams come true.

Top Ten Ways Israeli Salad Betters Your Life

1. As an attractive side salad.
2. As a condiment topping your Mexican entrees: quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, taco salad, etc.
3. As a way to use up extra vegetables, beans, rice, etc. Just mix them in. No one will notice.
4. Slices of toasted baguette + Israeli salad = bruschetta
5. Boring tomato pasta sauce receives a last-minute kick in the pants.
6. As part of a Mediterranean meze of dishes. Just add dates, nuts, figs, prunes, olives, soft cheeses, warm pita, roasted vegetables, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and/or baba ganouj.
7. As part of Spanish tapas night. Just add plates of manchego cheese, toasted almonds, orange segments, fig spread, toasted baguette, fresh endive or radicchio leaves, a garlicky fried potato omelette, rosemary-infused extra virgin olive oil, and/or roasted eggplant slices wrapped around feta cheese and roasted red peppers. Hey, I didn't say it would be quick.
8. Make easy gazpacho, also good in tapas. In a blender purée yogurt with Israeli salad. Add low-sodium tomato juice until it reaches the consistency you like. Grate in plenty of fresh black pepper. Chill until serving time. Garnish with leftover Israeli salad.
9. Subsitute for ketchup or tomato slices in sandwiches, burgers, scrambled eggs, hot dogs, caprese salads, etc.
10. Actually, I only had 9 ideas.

05 August 2010

Japanese Potato Salad

TheIrreverentCook is seeking shiso in the nearest Japanese or Korean market to make my Vegetarian Pasta Salad, so on his/her behalf I though I would post another recipe that calls for shiso. This potato salad is impossible to mess up. Never has anyone over the age of 10 scorned its rarified tasty goodness. My neighbors gobble it up; George has requested it frequently for the last 7 years, and as it's one of the easiest and most effective potato salads on the planet, I am always happy to oblige. Although shiso is native to Japan, I also tracked it down in Berkeley, CA, New Haven, CT, and Durham, NC, which means there's a good chance you can find it too. You find it garnishing your sushi in most restaurants, so give it a nibble and see what you think. We currently grow bushels of it in our garden, mostly for the sake of this potato salad.

If real mayonnaise is not your cup of…mayo…ew…try the vegan (and bonus! kosher) mayonnaise Vegenaise which Book of Yum avers is also gluten-free, as is Miso Mayo.

Japanese Potato Salad

5 fist-sized Yukon Gold or red boiling potatoes, scrubbed clean
Mayonnaise to taste (see note above for brands)
5 leaves of shiso/ perilla, rolled up and sliced into tiny pieces
5 umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), pitted and chopped into tiny pieces
salt to taste
8 good-quality lettuce leaves, washed and dried

1. Boil potatoes in their skins until tender all the way through.
2. Cool off potatoes under running water. Peel with your fingers and ruthlessly dig out any eyes.
3. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher or large wooden spoon.
4. Add mayonnaise a little at a time until the potatos have a creamy and delightful texture.
5. Add shiso and umeboshi. Mix all up.
6. Add salt if you think it needs any.
7. Line a nice bowl with lettuce leaves in a fan pattern. Mound potato salad attractively on top.
8. Serve at once or chill it and then serve it.

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough

Don't make it if you are hoping for a sourdough flavor.
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