Archive | April, 2008

Gewürztraminer and Cheese

30 Apr

I like having mini wine and cheese parties. I put on my monocle and top-hat and make lots of fnah-fnah noises. Being snobby is fun. For wine I picked out two gewürztraminers – a German and a New York – because I like comparing and contrasting local wine to wine from other types of places. Also because I have a Rewards card for the wine store and I feel like I’m accomplishing something when I buy lots of wine.

Oh, and know what? I don’t know anything about wine tasting or cheese tasting or anything. I’m trying to learn but there’s no instruction manual so I just make things up. In general I tend to like dry reds and strong blues, but I’m trying to branch out.

2006 Treleaven Gewürztraminer – New York

I was not a fan of this at first but I think it’s because it was chilled for too long. Pale, pale color. Citrusy nose. The taste was bubbly and didn’t have a lot to it. As it warmed up in the glass, it got a little sweeter and had more of an apple flavor.

2006 Valckenberg Gewürztraminer – Germany

I thought this was the better of the two. Sweet and pleasant. I actually thought it had a little bit of a chocolate taste to it. More of a yellowish color. I can’t remember what it smelled like though. Whoops. I would definitely pick this up again. I’m guessing it tasted better because gewürztraminer is a German word. Right?!

Blue Shropshire

Mmm. I love blue cheese. Mmm. This one was salty and creamy and not at all harsh. Blues sometimes have that sharp edge to them, and this one was super-mild. It went great with the Valckenberg gewürztraminer. Definitely a tasty blue.

There was another cheese but it’ll have to wait because I don’t remember the name of it right now. I think maybe it was montagnou but I’ll have to wait until I go home to make certain.

-Bret

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Kidney Bean and Prune Stew

28 Apr

Ewww, prunes!

They totally get a bad rap.  Other dried fruits are fine, but prunes?  Only old people and babies eat them, amiright?

Naw, I eat them, too.  Well actually, I don’t.  But I did.  I had this recipe in the back of my head for a while.  It came from a Heart of the Matter roundup a while ago, and I’ve been meaning to make it.  Except I never really have prunes hanging around.  But I went out shopping, saw prunes, and decided to purchase a box and make this recipe.

I dunno, something about kidney beans and prunes cooked in a spicy tomato sauce sounds strangely appealing to me.  And it was strangely delicious.  It’s not so totally weird, I think prunes show up a bit in Middle Eastern stews and things.  But usually with some sort of weird meat.  No weird meat here. 

Ingredients!

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp sriracha or some chopped up fresh chili pepper

15 oz. can of kidney beans

14 1/2 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 tsp. tomato paste

1/2 cup pitted prunes, cut in half

1/3 cup water

cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste

Directions!

Heat the oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.  Add in the onion and saute until it’s browned.  Add in the garlic, cumin and sriracha and cook another minute or so.  Add in the mushrooms and cook another minute or so.

Dump in the rest of the ingredients other than the seasonings and bring it to a boil.  Once it’s all bubbling, turn the heat down to low, cover it and let it simmer for a half hour or so.  Then taste it and add what you need to add.  The prunes are gonna make things a bit sweet, so I added a nice, hefty shake of cayenne.  Cook a little bit longer and eat!

I ate mine over barley.  I had leftovers for lunch just by itself.  Like any stew, it’s much more tasty the next day.  Mm, leftovers!

I was very happy with the results! 

But what should I do with all these left over prunes?

– Ellen

Farmer’s Market Couscous Salad

28 Apr

I do not trust Brenna around seasonings. You know what she does with herbs and spices?

Terrorism.

She also just does things that scare me. The other night we made popcorn and she says, “You know what would go good in this popcorn? Cinnamon and cranberries.” My sanity teetered on the brink of uh insanity for a minute. Then she did it and it was good, but I still felt like there was something wrong with the world.

That’s actually a bad example, now that I read it. Though I was coming from a mindset of SALT AND SOME FORM OF OIL. Her weird combinations usually involve something like ground mustard.

Okay, I’m rambling. Anyhow, the Ithaca Farmers Market is open now so we went. I did not see a single farmer for sale! (Ba dum bum tish!) Pickings were slim. I bought some kale. Brenna wanted to buy some stuff and make food with it and she ended up walking away with chives and lemon thyme. After brainstorming ingredients (I think chickpeas was my only contribution) we got the rest at Wegman’s.

Let me editorialize for a minute. I kind of mislike the Ithaca Farmers Market. Most farmers markets you go to and buy directly from the farmer, putting money directly into their pockets, cutting out the middle man, and saving you money. Ithaca? Not so. Farmers Market prices are more expensive than grocery store prices. Now, I can’t blame the farmers. Ithaca has a substantial yuppie-hippie population that loves to do things like buy organic and local and all that, so the demand is there. Farmers can jack their prices. But still, the result is that I tend not to go there as a result.

So, couscous salad: I’m going to try to recreate the recipe the best that I can, but since Brenna did most of the thinking and I just chopped veggies it might be off.

I need to get better lighting.

Ingredients!

2 cups couscous

1 15 oz. can chickpeas

1 cucumber, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

chives and lemon thyme chopped up and added – I’m not sure of the measurements but maybe half a cup of each?

salt to taste

Directions!

Cook your couscous. Let it chill. Then mix in all the other stuff. Blam!

I might have added some olive oil to this mix, and afterwards Brenna said she wished she’d picked up an orange bell pepper. That might have been good. But still, this was really great. The lemon thyme was badass. I’d never even heard of the stuff.

-Bret

The Salty Chihuahua

25 Apr

Arf!

I used to think mixed drinks were just for girly girls and people that don’t know good beer. But then I realized that making mixed drinks is really, really fun. I have aspirations to take a bartending course and be a part time bartender. It might happen someday. Until then, I just like to hone my skills and share drinks with my friends.

So Lost was new last night. So I had a couple of people over to watch it on my super awesome 13″ television.

And I made drinks. I made Salty Chihuahuas!

I made each one individually, but really this drink is good for making a big pitcher and just pouring into your glass when you want some. Tequila is good for summertime, and this is a super summertime drink. Salt is good for tequila, and grapefruit and Cointreau are just plain good.

So, for each drink, take an old-fashioned glass and rub the rim with a bit of grapefruit. You could also use cocktail glasses or even big tumblers (and make it a double!). Coat the rim of the glass is coarse salt and let it dry.

Put ice in all the glasses. Pour 1/2 oz. Cointreau and 1 oz. tequila into each glass. Add grapefruit juice to fill, and mix. Garnish it with a bit of grapefruit and drinky-drink!

I used a bottled grapefruit juice because I wanted a little more sweet than tart. But if you’re feeling fancy, juice yourself up some grapefruits.

As a plus, one of these drinks gives you more than your daily recommended amount of vitamin C!

Another plus – having a bottle of Cointreau on hand is good for things other than drinks. It makes a nice orange flavored icing.

Good drinks, and a good episode of Lost. They definitely made the lollerific parts of the show even better.

– Ellen

Layered Rice with Eggplant and Coconut (Baingan Biryani)

24 Apr

Jennifer posted the recipe for the biryani in the comments for the post. I’m reposting it here in case you missed it. Thanks Jennifer! Heart-heart! -Bret

Layered Rice with Eggplant and Coconut (Baingan Biryani)

2 cups Coconut Milk
1.25 cups Basmati Rice. (sorted and washed in 3-4 changes of water)
1.75 cups Water
.5 cup Grated Coconut
1-3 Dried Red Chile Peppers
1 Large Clove of Garlic
5 Quarter-size slices of fresh peeled Ginger
1-3 fresh Green Chile Peppers
1 Onion
1 ts ground Coriander
1 ts Garam Masala (+ .25 ts for garnish)
.5 ts ground Turmeric
3 TB Peanut Oil
1 lb of Eggplant (cut into bite size pieces)
1.25 ts salt or whatever
1 large Tomato
2 TB fresh chopped Mint Leaves
.5 cup Fresh Cilantro
2-3 TB Lemon Juice

1. Soak rice in the water for 30 minutes.

2. Place grated coconut and red chiles in skillet and dry-roast until golden and fragrant. 1-2 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to blender and process along with garlic, ginger, green chile peppers and onion until finely ground. Mix in the coriander, garam masala and turmeric and process again. Transfer to large nonstick saucepan. Add 2 TB oil and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat. About 5 minutes.

3. Add the eggplant, half the salt and .5 cup Coconut Milk. Cook over high heat about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pan and cook until eggplant is soft. 15-20 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

4. To the same pan, add 1 TB oil, tomato, mint and cilantro and cook over medium heat until most of the tomato juice evaporates. About 2 minutes. Add the rice and the water it’s soaking in along with remaining salt and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the rice is almost fully cooked, about 10 minutes.

5. To assemble the biryani: Remove about half the rice to a bowl. Spread the cooked eggplant mixture over the rice that remains in the saucepan. Cover the eggplant mixture with the reserved rice. Drizzle the lemon juice over the rice, cover the pan, and cook over the lowest heat setting, 10-15 minutes, to blend the flavors. Sprinkle garam masala on top and serve.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

23 Apr

So I’ve been cooking a lot lately, but I thought my camera was being stupid and taking blurry pictures.  It turns out I was the one being stupid (imagine!).  So I fixed things tonight.

One thing I made that ended up with horrible pictures was this roasted cauliflower with a tomatoey, garlicy, spicy sauce.  It was simple and good and I’ll make it again and take decent pictures.

But anyway.  I’ve been thinking about pancakes a lot lately.  Bret and I had some lovely buckwheat and whole wheat pancakes at Fifty South the other weekend, but I wanted more.  Then, a co-worker’s partner came in to visit the other day and told a story about getting tricked into thinking he was going to I-Hop, but ended up with homemade pancakes.  For some reason, this was a disappointment to him.  Again, I couldn’t stop thinking about pancakes. 

So I made some for dinner.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I quite often make myself a bowl of cereal or oatmeal or yogurt and fruit for lunch or dinner just because I’m an adult and I can do whatever I like.

Pancakes are a little different, as they’re typically full of calories and fat even before they’re coated with syrup and other tasty things.  Since I’m all healthy sometimes, I decided to make whole wheat pancakes.  Since I hardly ever have eggs in my fridge, I decided to make them vegan.  So here’s what I did.

Ingredients!

1 cup + a little bit more whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

a tiny bit of salt

2 Tbsp. applesauce

enough water to make it all batter-y-ish

Directions!

Mix all the dry stuff.  Don’t forget the baking powder.  I almost forgot the baking powder.

Add in the wet stuff.  It took about 1 1/2 cups for me.  You can also use non-dairy milk instead of water.  Whatever!

Heat up your pan/griddle.  If you use 1/4 cup for each pancake, you should get 8 or 9 out of the recipe.  Cook on one side until the top is bubbly.  Flip and cook a little bit more.  You know the drill!

I had intended to put fresh blueberries in the batter, but when I went to the store to get some they were $2.50 for a container that I swear held A HANDFUL of blueberries.  Eff that.  I remembered that I had some frozen mixed berries in my freezer, so I thawed out some of those and threw them into a few of the pancakes. 

No, I didn’t eat all of those myself.  The ones I did eat, I ate with maple syrup and half of the most juicy grapefruit I’ve ever had. 

So the pancakes end up tasting like pancakes, but beware if you’re not used to whole wheat flour.  It’s gonna taste different.  If you’re scared, go ahead and use regular flour.  Also, I’m thinking the tablespoon of sugar wasn’t enough.  Maybe a little more.  Or some vanilla. 

As is, these are nearly fat free and only about 60 calories per pancake, with a buttload of fiber as well.  So I mean, there’s plenty of room to add things like peanut butter and chocolate chips and things. 

-Ellen

Chickpea Pantry Pasta

23 Apr

Holy wow this recipe. A co-worker of mine gave it to me a long time back, and ever since then I don’t think a month passes that I don’t make it at least once. It’s my stand by. Got some pasta hanging out collecting dust? Love chick peas? Desirous of tasty? I recommend!

Ingredients!

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. linguine (though I’ve used all kinds of pasta for this)

1 15. oz can chickpeas

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup red wine

chopped green onion

chopped tomato

Directions!

Okay, take a pasta boiling pot and put enough water in there for a pound of pasta. Add the two teaspoons of salt. You can also add the water out of the can of chickpeas. I like to do that. Now put it on high heat to get it to boil and when it boils add in the linguine. You may want to break the linguine in half when you do that.

While that’s going dump the olive oil into a pan. Heat that too over about medium high heat. When the olive oil starts to get shimmery add the red pepper flakes and the chickpeas. Sizzle sizzle. Let them cook until the chickpeas are nice and browned up. Once that happens, add in 1/3 cup of the pasta water (I hope you haven’t dumped it yet!) and the red wine.

Oh! This is the ultimate recipe to make with someone you like a bunch. You can go out to get the ingredients together but also go out and find a nice red wine. Before you even start cooking uncork it and pour yourselves a glass. Talk about the wine and whether you like it and the flavors and whatnot. Seriously, this is the ultimate nice social cooking recipe.

Anyways, leave the chickpeas alone and let it cook down. Your pasta’s probably done by now. Dump it into a colander and then put it back in your pasta pot. When the chickpea fluid has cooked down to a nice oily base, dump everything in with the pasta and toss it. Now serve! This serves about 6 I’d say. Sprinkle the green onions and tomato on top. Oh and add red pepper flakes to taste. That’s good too!

Here’s a warning, though. The chickpeas are wily. Eating this with a fork can be troublesome and is a learned skill. When you serve it a lot of the chickpeas go to the bottom so you might need a fork and a spoon for serving. I like to use tongs and a spoon. But it’s worth the trouble.

Vegetarian note: This might be a recipe for one those hard Italian cheeses to be grated onto it at the end, but I have found it to be totally satisfying without. Your call!

-Bret

Coconut Eggplant Biryani

22 Apr

I went to visit some friends in New Jersey and they forced me to cook with them. “While you stay with us you earn your keep!” and then they made me chop mint. But seriously it was a lot of fun. I love friends, and I love friends who cook, and I love friends who want to cook food with me! I got to chop things and mince things and when the spicy fumes got to be too much for Jennifer I got to take over stirring.

Russell and Jennifer cook Indian food a lot. It’s inspired me to give it a try again. They had this big huge cookbook full of Indian recipes (I think it was called 1000 Indian Recipes) and this is one they’ve made in the past. It was really great and had a nice heat to it. Jennifer also made some raitha to go on top.

Also check out their badass skelly blanket. We sat and ate and watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We had a good time laughing and Leatherfacing!

-Bret

My Three Favorite Ice Creams

21 Apr

Okay, there is absolutely nothing non-dairy about this post.

It’s all about ice cream.  The real stuff.

There are three ice cream shops/brands that I will never, ever pass up.

  • Herrell’s– Northampton, MA.  Steve Herrell is the god of ice cream.  Deciding on a flavor is difficult here, there’s so many (I mean, where else can you get key lime cardamom ice cream?).  But even if it’s the dead of winter, I won’t pass Herrell’s without going in for a cone and to say hi to the happy, plastic bears.
  • Farmer’s Daughter – Schuylerville, NY.  This is a little drive-in grill/ice cream shop in the middle of nowhere.  I actually don’t know much about Farmer’s Daughter, other than that it has been around for a really long time.  My mother went there a lot when she was a kid.  Not that I’m calling her old or anything.  But they make their own hard ice cream and it’s glorious.  My mother and I went there over the weekend to have lunch and ice cream.  The food is just regular grill food, I had a veggie burger and she had a grilled cheese and we shared a basket of sweet potato fries.  We were stuffed, but couldn’t leave without having ice cream.  We stared at the menu board for a long, long time.  I decided on a small cone of Chocolate in my Peanut Butter and my mom picked a medium cone (it was huge!) of Maple Walnut.  And then we sat out back on a cow patterned picnic bench and ate.

I made the wrong ice cream decision, as it wasn’t nearly as peanut buttery as I expected.  But it was creamy and icy, and I gobbled it right down.

  • Perry’s Ice Cream – Based out of Western New York, but I think they have a pretty wide distribution.  This ice cream, along with having a Taco Bell and a Pizza Hut right across from my dorm, was one of the major reasons I gained so much weight in college.  But I don’t hold it against them.  Back then, my favorite was Mint Ting-a-Ling.  As a large scale manufacturer, Perry’s is impressive.  If it’s from an ice cream stand or a supermarket, it always tastes fresh. 

 Ice cream!  Spring and summer!  Hooray!

– Ellen

Bret’s Notes: Arr, I’m boarding Ellen’s post because I had an experience over the weekend that was too appropriate here. I went to visit some friends in Burlington, New Jersey and they took me to the Ummm Ice Cream parlor which makes its own ice cream on the premises. I got plain vanilla and it was the most creamiest best ice cream I’ve had in memory. At some point in my life I decided that the best way to tell the quality of something is to consume it in its simplest state. Like black coffee. You can’t really tell if coffee is good or not if you’re dumping tons of milk and sugar into it. So I’m like that with ice cream – vanilla’s generally the best way to judge an ice cream’s quality. And holy wow. It was good.

You may notice from the picture below that I nomnommed on the top of it before I remembered that I should take a picture. That’s how excited I was. Oh and there was a dude behind the counter who was really nice to us. That always helps a lot.

Baked Lemongrass Tofu

19 Apr

Hey so I had more tofu in my freezer. Hey so I had a stalk and a half of lemongrass in my fridge. Hey, I made a marinade and baked me up some tofu!

So my idea to make a lemongrass paste didn’t work all that well. But I did get it in shreds, and that was good enough. I know my food processor isn’t the best, but lemongrass is pretty tough. For a 14oz. package of tofu (frozen, defrosted, and pressed!) my marinade consisted of this:

1 1/2 stalks of lemongrass

2 big, fat garlic cloves

1/2 Tbsp. sriracha

2 Tbsp. tamari

1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil

I food processed the lemongrass, garlic and sriracha until it was as close to a paste as I thought it would get, then I mixed it with the rest of the ingredients. I cut the tofu into cubes, and mixed it with the marinade.

A day later, I decided to bake it!

I also cut up some onion, carrots and potato to roast with the tofu. I got this kickass roasting pan from a family member and never really ever use it. But now I think I need to roast things more often.

Here it is pre-oven. I cooked it for an hour at 350F and mixed everything around after a half an hour. My apartment smelled like a garlic factory.

After the oven, before it went in my belly, it looked like this. The tofu chunks got nice and crispy on the outside and the marinade worked its way all the way through. I had to stop myself from eating all of it, because I’ll tell you a secret – tofu makes me really gassy.

The marinade was sweet and spicy and salty. Maybe a little too busy, but I gobbled it up anyway.

– Ellen