30 May 2011

Peanut Butter My Way

Suddenly I realized that I no longer enjoyed commercial brand peanut butter: too sweet, too salty, too oily. I switched over to natural peanut butter, the kind where the oil separates and floats to the top. That oil didn't look too tasty, did it? I didn't want to eat it. I didn't want to put it into my body.

So for years I tried to pour the oil off the top. This method was absurdly messy and inevitably lost some real peanutty goodness as well. Frustrated, last year I hit on the method of simply storing the peanut butter jar upside-down. That way the oil floats to the bottom, and I can scoop off the butter from the top, no problem.

Except there is a problem. That peanut butter is STIFF, no question. How are you supposed to spread peanut butter rocks? I've finally solved this last hurdle, and because you are my faithful readers, I will share my genius with you:

Scoop out the peanut butter with a spoon, and put it into a little bowl. Heat it up in the microwave on high for 15 seconds. Suddenly it's spreadable and oozy, just the way you like it, but not oily.

I take my bow.

29 May 2011

Three Salads

Where once the barren soil yawned blank and empty, lettuces now grow. Many, many lettuces. The Season of Salad has arrived! Today I have already made three salads, and I know a fourth or even fifth is on the way. Let the contents of my gastro-intestinal system inspire you to create the Salad of Your Dreams.

Apple Pecan Salad

1/2 apple, chopped
a handful of pecans, chopped and toasted
some fresh lettuce, hand-torn
juice of 1/4 lemon
a drop of olive oil

Mix all together, serve immediately.

1 serving

Marinated Cauliflower and Snap Peas

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized bits
1 handful fresh snap peas, cut into diagonal slivers
4 of 5 small cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, and minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper

1. Steam cauliflower 5 or 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, mix oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
3. Drain cauliflower and mix with snap peas. Let sit one minute.
4. Mix cauliflower mixture with dressing. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.

4 to 6 servings

Cauliflower Dinner Salad

1/2 recipe Marinated Cauliflower and Snap Peas
1/2 head of lettuce
2 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and chopped
chopped olives or capers
optional: some canned salmon

Mix all together. Serve like a French waiter.
2 Servings.

25 May 2011

Fresh Summer Corn

In North Carolina, sweet white corn has come into season!

I think it was Miss Manners who informed me how rude it is to open corn at the store to check if it's a decent speciment. Other customers don't want pre-opened corn, so by checking invasively you cause the store to lose money. Instead, you can just carefully squeeze the top of the corn to make sure it isn't mushy, and buy 2 extra corn in case anything goes wrong.

Make sure you cook or eat the corn on the same day that you purchase it because just-picked corn tastes the most like juicy summer. Shuck the corn and pick out the corn silk, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook with the lid on for exactly 5 minutes. Serve hot with optional butter.

To make a meal of it, add sides of watermelon or strawberries, fresh cooked beans, and a leafy salad.

22 May 2011

Rice Balls (Onigiri)

Every time I watch anime the characters seems to be enjoying a great deal of delicious rice balls. When I couldn't take the salivating anymore, I made my own. Here's how I finally managed to make them with a definable shape and flavor.


sushi rice
optional: sesame seeds, fillings of your choice

  1. Cook up sushi rice. When it's done, leave the lid on and let it steam 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Immediately turn sushi out into a wide bowl and turn it over with a wooden spoon, fluffing it evenly.
  3. While the rice is still warm, sprinkle it generously with salt. Or salt and sesame seeds.
  4. Soak a clean towel and wring it out thoroughly. Cup your hands loosely under the towel and use the spoon to put some rice into the towel.
  5. Spoon filling into the middle. Wrap rice around it and gently guide it into a triangular or spherical shape.
  6. Immediately wrap tightly in plastic wrap. You can now refrigerate it or eat it.
  7. Optional: toast a little seaweed and use it to hold the tasty rice ball, eating both together.

15 May 2011

White Bean and Garlic Herb Sauce

Our kitchen is whole once more! To take full advantage of its gleaming white counters and capacious sink, The Irreverent Cook visited for a week, and we had a memorable time cooking difficult recipes from The Voluptuous Vegan, my favorite cookbook. The Irreverent Cook first made my favorite cake for my birthday, a chocolate vegan cake with hazelnut mousse. Afterwards we went to a nearby farm and picked two elephantine baskets of organic strawberries…for a total of $11. That's about 10 times cheaper than the farmers market! Strawberry picking is fun, easy, and cheap, and it's STRAWBERRY SEASON. Go go go! Just remember that the strawberries should be red all over, especially the bottoms. If they're white on the bottom they're not ripe.

I had been eying a meal in The Voluptuous Vegan for 11 years without making the entire thing at once. So for Shabbat, George, The Irreverent Cook and I decided to finally cook it in our new fancy kitchen.

The Meal:
pumpkin, pecan, and sage ravioli with red chile pasta dough
white bean, garlic, and herb sauce
sautéed arugula with pickled plum vinegar
frizzled leeks

We dug our ravioli machine out of the attic for the first time (although you don't need a ravioli machine to make this recipe). I generously allowed George and The Irreverent Cook to wrestle with the ravioli—I faintly overheard them crying "@$%^&!" in the distance—while I serenely cooked the white bean sauce, the frizzled leeks, and my homemade Jewifiable challah recipe. I've discovered that the challah tastes best when allowed to rise outside in humid weather, kneaded quite thoroughly, and using as little flour as possible. Everyone agreed that I had just birthed an ideal challah, "challah the way it's supposed to be" according to one delighted eater. We washed down the whole delicious meal with high-quality champagne to celebrate my successful completion of qualifying exams. Rubbing my stomach in lazy satiety, I reflected that I had just inhaled the best homemade meal I could remember having in the U.S. To follow this culinary triumph, for dessert we shared sliced strawberries, chocolate hazelnut cake, and delicious Indian spiced loose-leaf chai.

That night The Irreverent Cook went online and ordered a copy of The Voluptuous Vegan so as to recreate these wonders at his/her/its own home. You can read about this eye-opening cookbook and order your own copy here, if you wish.

And I am going to share my version of the white bean sauce with you. This was my second attempt on the sauce—Ms. Kornfeld's version didn't quite work for me—and this time I got it right. The sauce is delightfully mild and gently echoes the sage in the ravioli.

White Bean and Garlic Herb Sauce

2 15-ounce cans of navy or other white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 Cups of chopped onion (1-2 onions)
8 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and minced
1 branch or 5-7 leaves of fresh sage, washed
1 bay leaf
dried thyme
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Cup broth (No Chicken Broth from Imagine)
fresh ground pepper

  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil. Add the onions. Cook 7 minutes, then add the garlic.
  2. After a few more minutes add the beans, 1 and 1/2 Cups water, and the broth. Also add the sage, bay leaf, and several shakes of dried thyme (to taste).
  3. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, take out the sage and bay leaf, and add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
  4. Take a hand-held potato masher or a heavy wooden spoon and mash the beans in the pot until the liquid thickens somewhat. Stir again and serve.

05 May 2011

Strawberry Salad and Unsafe Strawberries

Still living and cooking without a kitchen sink, or counters, or a dishwasher, or a washing machine, or a kitchen pantry. Hence the disturbingly simple recipes, posted few and far between. Fear not, Goofy Fans! My posting will improve soon, when the Irreverent Cook visits me.

Lately we've been eating strawberry salad. In case you didn't know the latest news about strawberries, rumour goes that both California and the Federal Government have recently allowed a dangerous toxic fumigant, methyl iodide, to protect all their strawberries from fungus in the night. Here are some links covering the story. So far, only six states allow the use of methyl iodide on their strawberries, but soon everyone will. Methyl iodide has been proven to cause cancer, both to lab mice and to the male farm workers exposed to it.

To protect yourself and your family AND still enjoy delicious strawberries, follow these simple steps:

1) If you go strawberry picking at a farm, first ask the farm what sort of pest control it uses. Specifically mention methyl iodide.
2) Ask the farmer at your farmer's market the same question.
3) Do not EVER buy non-organic strawberries in the supermarket. If the strawberries don't say they are organic, they aren't.
4) Face the fact that you are going to have to spend more cash on safe strawberries than you would on non-organic. After all, the whole reason people use this nasty stuff is so they can grow more strawberries with less labor and less land.
5) Grow your own strawberries! You can even grow them in a pot on your front step, and they will taste and look divine. Try seeds from here, here, or here.

Whew! After going through all that angst, you're probably ready for some organic strawberry salad!

Strawberry Salad

sliced organic strawberries
crumbles of goat cheese or blue cheese or…blue goat cheese like Humboldt Fog
fresh lettuce or spinach
chopped toasted nuts like almonds or walnuts or pecans
optional: poppyseeds!

Dressing Options:

citrus juice (orange, lemon, or lime, or a mixture) mixed with extra virgin olive oil to taste
let fresh sliced strawberries sit for a while in good balsamic vinegar--when fruity and diluted with sweetness, drizzle it over

03 May 2011

Raw Pea Shoots

Last year I posted about my first experience sautéeing pea shoots (the part of the pea plant that isn't the pea pod). This year my kitchen barely exists at the moment but we have more pea shoots than ever before. Because our front yard is full of dense clay soil, it's difficult for tender plants to grow in it. So that we could eventually grow something nice, George planted peas and red clover and alfalfa in the clay soil. They shot up happily. Peas, like beans, put nitrogen into the soil. They are great for soil. After all the plants all done growing, George is going to till all the plants back into the soil, loosening it up and providing nutritious organic material for grass or flowers or whatever we want.

Therefore, LOTS of pea shoots right now. I read somewhere that you could eat them raw, so after picking a bunch of lettuce from the garden, I snipped several pea shoots too. I washed everything together and served it with fresh squeezed lemon juice. The pea shoots tasted quite mildly of pea, with soft leaves and crispy little stalks. They're quite attractive so we're looking forwards to eating them in salad again.
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