Friday, January 30, 2009

all the world an oyster

I'm not minding this winter so much. Last year things were a little bleak, I got a little sad, etc. Not this year! Not for me. There ain't no cure for the summertime blues, but there is a very, very tried and true cure for seasonal depression: soup (or stew, in this case). The purest distillation of sweet comforts.

Oyster-Mushroom & Split Pea "Stew"

You Will Need:

1/2 pound oyster mushrooms
1 cup split peas
2-3 cups stock
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 tbs olive oil
Salt/Pepper To Taste

To Make: Warm the tablespoon of olive oil over med-high heat and then throw in the onion and mushrooms--cook them up for just a few minutes until they start to smell real good and brown at the edges. Remove from heat. Bring splits peas and stock to a boil in a large pot, then simmer. Let cook for about ten minutes, then add carrot, onion, and mushrooms. Let the whole concoction simmer while you taste and balance the flavors, add salt and pepper as you see fit. Cook, cook, cook. Eat, eat, eat.

(Ideally, this recipe would be pureed prior to adding the mushroom, but I am unfortunately lacking such equipment in my current situation.)

It's so pretty! How could I resist it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

anything goes now!

There are two ways that sweets are eaten. The first is an anonymous thrust of hand into cavernous box followed by extraction of [fill in the blank chocolate product]. It doesn’t matter what the vehicle of sweetness is, so long as said vehicle arrives in mouth carrying flavor and resulting in endorphin rush. Serotonin will be released, life will go on. But the second way…ah, the second way…that is the one that counts. Imagine:

Some cookies come out of the oven. You transfer them to a plate and set them on the coffee table to cool. They rest innocently between the sneaker collection that is all of your friends feet resting on the tabletop while a movie is watched. The cookies are still so fresh that stream rises from them: fragrant, ghostly, and iridescent with the glow of the television. This is worthy of some attention. One by one, each lounging figure begins to stiffen slowly and rise from the depths of the couch cushions. For a long time nobody does anything else. They just look. Every warm cookie is inspected carefully from afar until one is finally deemed most worthy for consumption based on the merits of its visible nuts, chocolate bits, and golden-hued tan. This cookie, “the one”, is slid delicately from the plate and eaten…very….slowly…. Then the process repeats itself again…and again...and again. The process of cookie elimination becomes suddenly very time consuming, delicate, slow, enjoyable. The cookie has fully surpassed the simplistic and thoughtless rhythm of the grab-and-stuff-in-face; it has become an object of intense speculation and desire.

A really great cookie needs a really great recipe, of course, and this really great recipe comes from David Lebovitz, a bit of a personal hero of mine. We went into this with all possible obstacles against us (not enough brown sugar, and it was hard as a rock, no mixer, stubbornly frozen butter) but we made due by taking a few creative liberties. For example: My friend, Wyatt, took the pleasure of throwing in an entire bag of big chocolate chunks, followed immediately by another entire bag of chopped walnuts. I panicked for a millisecond that there wouldn’t be enough dough to hold all the chocolate and nuts together, but then I was like “Wait a second---listen to what you just said" and realized that I had potentially the best cookie batch EVER now ready to go into the oven. And I was right!

Please, please make these cookies for you and your friends. Each one is a misshapen ball of delicious, just dying to be broken apart with your fingers and eaten in a slow, prolonged swan-song of heavenly pleasure.

Chocolate Chip Cookies via David Lebovitz:

“Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup(130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make about 20 cookies."

(recipe reproduced without permission, please don’t be mad!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

nobody's hippie

There are a small collection of foods in my life for which I have rarely considered the process of creation. Among them: crackers, mayonnaise, cereal, and ketchup. It's not for a lack of interest on my part, it's just a general non-consideration of product development. And I'm sure I'm not the only one for whom these items spring into existence at the point of encapsulation in air-tight packaging on grocery store shelves everywhere. Every time somebody brings it to my attention that said food stuffs can easily be made from scratch, I'm always left wildly flabbergasted and wondering why the hell I never thought of it before. Such was the case when the ever-luminescent Amelia Scheim said to me "We should make granola".

Duh! Granola! From Scratch! Capitals Everywhere For Emphasis! How have I never thought of doing this before?

The great thing about making granola is that there is never a truly definitive recipe; a really good batch will (and should) absorb any number of left over knicks, knacks, oats, and grains from your kitchen. For a leftovers-rehabilitation junkie like myself, it's the ideal recipe. It's also the kind of recipe that will forgive you for the doofus mistakes that one inevitably tends to make whilst experimenting in ones kitchen; if you use too much honey, or too many almonds, or burn a few raisins, it won't really matter in the end. A few imperfections in the final pot always add rather than detract from the over-all quality of the product; another thing that separates the homemade from the store bought. Huzzah!

Also, I splurged and used Walnut Oil in my batch. Its a complex and richly flavored oil, and it was the perfect touch to counterpoint the sweetness of the honey and raisins. I highly recommend it.

You Will Need:

1/2 Cup Walnut Oil
1/2 Cup Honey (more if you like it sweeter)
Pine Nuts
Flax Seed
Golden Raisins
2 Cups Rolled Oats
Anything Else You Think Would Be Good (that is the best part)

To Make:

Roughly chop the walnuts and almonds, then scoop them into a large pot. Add the oats, flax seed, pine nuts, golden raisins, and anything else you have on hand.

Combine the walnut oil and honey in a large saucepan over low heat and stir slowly until the mixture comes to a bubbling simmer.

Pour the oil/honey mixture slowly over the granola mixture, turning the ingredients slowly so that they are evenly and thoroughly coated. Spread the resulting mixture over a baking sheet. Spread it thinly in order to ensure that the granola comes out of the oven evenly baked and extra crispy (that means delicious).

Pop the pan into an oven pre-heated to 350°F. Let it bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring/turning occasionally.

Take out and do not even let cool; begin consumption immediately.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year

a good luck feast for the new year, brought to my stomach specially by: dagmar, winter, siri, and jackie jazzyowl.

Happy New Year everybody! Regular and real posting to be resuming again soon.