Archive for May, 2007



   Posted by: Livia N    in Food, lists

I am so very tired. And hungry. I’ve got no idea why the latter one, since I did eat lunch. There’s plenty reason for the former one, since for the last two days I have been coming in at 8:30am to train on of the new student workers (and then taking a break so that I can still stay until 9pm and get paid the evening differential) – and then I might have gotten so engrossed by the internet last night that I forgot to go to sleep.

I have beautiful lettuce for salads (bought, not sprouted) that needs to be eaten that I just don’t have the energy for tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I am so grateful I have off tomorrow.

I also have some onions, potatoes, and coconut milk that I was going to whack together with a yellow thai curry sauce – but that, too, sounds like too much work and not enough instant gratification.

I have hot dogs in my freezer, so I could just get a loaf of bread for 99 cents and boil a couple wieners. That’s probably the best option… but crawling to a restaurant and making other people feed me is very tempting right now.

**Just so you’re warned – in this entry, I talk about my family’s insanity. I don’t think it comes off as funny and wry as discussions of one’s family’s insanities really should. You might want to just scroll on by.**

So my sister is visiting for Memorial Day weekend, and that means a decent bit of weirdness caused by the family trying not to be weird – such things are very stressful.

So part of the way my mother knows to express her competence at being a human being (and I’ll admit to doing it too) is by providing food. This isn’t even so much hospitality as a desperate contest to be able to fit in with society. We’re good with cooking, but we’re a little bit clueless on the normal society bits – most of it gleaned through reading Miss Manners and textbooks on grammar. No, really.

So anyway, there was a trip to the supermarket wherein my mother selected the most expensive beef cuts available, despite me going up and whispering that she could get some expensive ones (for my sister, her husband, my father (since he has dental work that appreciated more tender cuts of meat), and possibly even herself) but I would be very happy with a cheaper cut. Reason why #1: now that I live on my own, I make a point of never paying more than $2/lb for meat and would rather go without meat (not a hardship) than pay more money; reason why #2: I have simple tastes and appreciate what is there, and I can get just as much enjoyment out of a tougher and less perfect steak; and reason why I had the balls to mention it to my mother: she hadn’t bought it yet – I don’t believe in complaining once things are a done deal, but if I can fix something before it happens, it seems unfortunate not to mention it. Anyway, my mother did not listen to me, and she bought obscenely (in my land, at least) expensive meat.

And then after my father cooked these lovely steaks to perfection on the grill, there was disaster in which one of the steaks fell to the floor. Not the indoor floor, which had been cleaned recently. No – the garage floor. The garage floor that is very very gross – not in chemical ways, but just in the ways anywhere that is fairly outdoors but trapped in a mostly enclosed system can be.

So my father lets out a wail of disaster. My mother panics. And I see only one way to fix the problem: I grab it up quickly, rinse it (all the happy grill flavor rinsing down the drain), pat it dry with paper towels, and turn around. Ummmm… OMG! I am a bit horrified by this solution, but I am weighing in my head the likelihood of any bacteria/contaminants just being on the surface and being able to be washed away since there is no visible detritus. But also that I know there is much nastiness on the floor… so I offer to eat this particular steak, since I know I have a fairly robust immune system and digestive tract. Also, I am perfectly happy eating all the sides and avoiding the meat (especially since there are usually plenty of leftovers). But, no, apparently my steak is cooked a little less, and it would be too much of a bother to cook it another few minutes to get it to the stage where my parents can eat it – so they split the washed steak as planned.


So my parents ate the meat, and they seem fine.

But given that a) my father must have some meat to eat, and b) my mother doesn’t cope well with any amount of stress – what would a normal person do?

Some how throwing it out just didn’t seem like a viable option – but I think that’s the answer. Wouldn’t that have stressed other families out as well? Why was this weird action the easiest course of action?

And will my brother-in-law ever be willing to visit again?



Coronation Chicken

   Posted by: Livia N    in non-vegetarian, Recipe

It has been brought to my attention that the proper recipe for Coronation Chicken might be a little bit horrifying.

I first had it at a random sketchy sandwich shop on a tiny out of the way street in Stratford-upon-Avon (we chose that one because there was seating outside and even though our feet were tired, we were enjoying perfect weather and beautiful scenery), so it was food rather than tradition.

I was rather pleased (i.e. orgasmic) with the results when I made it this way:

Coronation Chicken

1 tsp butter
1/2 medium onion, diced finely
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ketchup
1/4 c. red wine
1 bay leaf
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp apricot jam

I had some cooked chicken leftovers, so I vaguely cut/shredded those.

In a small pan, I melted a pat of butter and cooked half an onion that was diced as finely as I was physically capable of doing.

When the onion was soft, I added the curry powder, ketchup (the source recipe called for tomato paste, but I didn’t have any), Manischewitz (best cooking wine ever!), a bay leaf, and the lemon juice.

Once that was all nice and saucy, I looked in my fridge because I knew I had some sort of light colored jelly in the fridge, and I was determined to use it whatever it was – only I had apricot! So that went in and was cooked until it melted into the sauce. At this point, I would have been quite willing to just eat this reduction straight.

But I soldiered on. I pulled out the bay leaf and poured the rest into a bowl (why bother cutting the onions fine, if you are just going to strain them out? besides, the cooked onions were lovely still in there). When it was cook enough to not melt the mayonnaise immediately, I beat in a forkful and then another until I had a smooth, creamy consistency. And then I added the chicken.

OMG! So tasty! And very, very rich. This was better than the stuff I had in england, which tasted like regular chicken salad with a bit of curry powder and a touch of fruit (raisins, if I remember correctly).




   Posted by: Livia N    in dubious, Food

This was a poll I posted about Celery –


of the devil. …in the bad way
8 (19.0%)

nastiest ingredient ever – and why do people insist on putting pieces too tiny to pick out into chicken salad and miscellaneous soups?
12 (28.6%)

kinda gross
5 (11.9%)

a suitable conveyance for condiments into my mouth (so I don’t have to scoop up the blue cheese dressing with a spoon when it comes with hot wings)
17 (40.5%)

Actually, I rather like celery. It is both delicious and healthy. (Shun! Shun! Shun the unbeliever!)
16 (38.1%)

I am from a land without this abomination. I know not of what you speak.
1 (2.4%)

Last night’s dinner was all full of experimentation.

My grocery has had cheap chuck roasts (and small ones, too!). And instead of making my standard pot roast or swiss steak, I happened across a recipe on the internet for beer braised beef (from [redacted]’s del.ici.ous links)

So I went and bought a six-pack of Negra Modela on my way home. I added the salt and pepper to the raw meat, and then I let it sit for a hour because I went to a demo at the restaurant school nearby last summer and the chef had said that rubs that included salt are used incorrectly when they are added right before cooking – instead they should sit on long enough that the salt not only draws out moisture, but also then re-dries forming a little crust of salty goodness on the outside of the meat. Whatever – I gave it a try.

After the browning stage with just the salt and pepper, the roast smelled wonderful and was very tasty (What? I hadn’t had lunch!).

I put in all three onions that the recipe called for (but none of the shallots because I didn’t have any and how were you going to notice the difference between onions and shallots in a dish with flavors this heavy?) and then I remembered that my roast was a little smaller than the recipe called for, so I pulled out some of them halfway through cooking – they are destined for an onion and potato curry with yellow thai noodle sauce.

Added beer. Cooked. Ate some ramen (because starving!). Flipped the roast. Dipped a piece of bread in the goody and ate that – MMmmm tasty! Cooked. Ate a yogurt cup. Made and ate a side dish. And then the roast was finished! So I nibbled at a corner and put it aside to be tonight’s dinner because I was full and it was 10pm.

Verdict: even with mexican beer, the beef tastes belgian. I think I’ll thicken the sauce to make gravy, and maybe that will give it a more yumminess. I secretly think that I should have added one of those mini cans of tomato paste to the braising right at the beginning, but I am not wise in the ways of tomato paste and do not keep those little can in stock. Maybe I should start.

ETA: Pulled beef out, brought liquid to a fast boil, and put a heaping Tablespoon of whole wheat flour in a little mesh strainer and sifted it in slowly while stirring – made a very tasty gravy.

About half an hour before the roast finished, I started preparing a side dish. Well, it ended up being two side dishes by accident. But I was trying a new vegetable kohlrabi.

A bit of preliminary research turned up that it was a member of the cabbage family and “just like broccoli.” Only it’s leafy and bulbous, and not much like either of those things, so I was puzzled.

Finally a found a recipe that seemed made just for this vegetable, instead of randomly substituting it into a brussel sprout recipe: Braised kohlrabi with garlic and parmesan

And thus I had a theme for the evening – braising everything!

And then I cheated on it because right after I had prepared the kohlrabi for the recipe, I realised that it wasn’t going to use the greens – so I cut them up into little strips and threw them into some olive oil a few minutes after I threw in some garlic. If I had thought it through, I think this is a dish that would really have been improved with the use of my fancy olive oil (I am starting to be able to taste the differences). And then, since I was shredding parmesan anyway, I tossed in a goodly handful of cheese before eating it

verdict (Greens): Reminded me a lot of broccoli rabe leaves. Soft and tasty without being bitter, but with a lovely amount of spiciness.

Right, so the real recipe – sauteing garlic and kohlrabi in butter was a brilliant way to start. Turns out that half an ice cube tray of duck stock melts out to exactly 200mL – win! So I had much more flavorful stock going in that is called for.

verdict (bulb): Again, color me unreasonably skeptical – it was just like broccoli. Well, broccoli stems. Only easier to peel and with more surface area. I’ve been using broccoli stems for years to replace water chestnuts from recipes – and kohlrabi will be even better. I am all impressed with this new (to me) vegetable.

Now I have leftover duck broth infused with the essence of garlic, butter, and kohlrabi. Do I (a) use it to marinate a chicken leg quarter as I thaw it, or (b) make some rice, pour that in, maybe cook a few greens for on top, and call it dinner?

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Banana Bread

   Posted by: Livia N    in baked things (bread/pastry), Recipe

I have an old standard recipe for never-fail banana nut bread that comes from the red-checkered version of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, so when I got my apartment I got a copy of the cookbook to take with me so that I could have this specific recipe.

Only they went and changed it on me! I ended up with some crazy recipe that had streusel nut topping. Not on, cookbook. [ETA: streusel-laden recipe warning – pop-ups and other annoying advertising]

So I sent home to my mother for a copy of the correct recipe to put into the cookbook:

Banana Nut Bread

1/2 c. shortening butter (5 1/3 Tbsps.)
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

1 3/4 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. mashed ripe bananas (I use 3 bananas, if I have them. Otherwise, 2)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans, in my land)

Cream together butter and sugar; add eggs and beat well.

Sift together dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with banana, blending well after each addition.

Stir in nuts.

Pour into well greased 9.5″x5″x3″ loaf pan.

Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until done. Remove from pan, and cool on a rack.

Now once I started making this in my apartment, I was living in a land with no dishwasher. So instead of mashing the bananas in one bowl, chopping the nuts into another, creaming the butter and sugar in yet another, and then having the large bowl with the dry ingredients and then everything else – I tried to minimize the dishes I would have to do. So I broke apart the nuts into the measuring cups after they’d been used, and I put the bananas straight into the dough and mashed as I mixed it in. This ended up making the dough too dry. So now there is about another 1/2 cup of sour cream in my standard recipe. Basically, I make it the usual way and then I add sour cream until the dough is wet enough.

This recipe makes amazing bread.

This morning, while I was waiting for the bread to cook, I decided to see whether my new cookbook, The Best Recipe by the Cook’s Illustrated people, had any opinions on the perfect technique for making banana bread. And they do:

  • Sour Cream added richness, but it also made for a heavy texture and an unattractive, pebbly crust.
  • they mix the nuts with the dry ingredients and the bananas with the wet, and they add yogurt in with the wet, too.



Fancy Hershey’s

   Posted by: Livia N    in chocolate, Review

I had a coupon for a free bar of Hershey’s attempt at upscale chocolate: Cacao Reserve

From only 2 choices at the pharmacy across the street, I picked the 35% cacao milk chocolate bar because I have a stash of 4 bars of tasty dark chocolate in my desk already.

I think I chose poorly – because while the flavor was somewhat reminiscent of luxurious milk chocolates of Europe, the primary characteristic of both taste and texture was wax.


I have two different kinds of eggplant waiting for me in my fridge.

So, I looked through my cookbooks – vegetarian recipes, Italian recipes, eggplant recipes. and a binder with my recipes… and then decided that I’d do something different.

I have pre-cooked the two long skinny eggplants in the oven – that’s my current favorite way to peel eggplant: charring it under the broiler, and then picking the skin off in a couple long strips.

I put some beans (1/2 pink lentils, 1/2 yellow split peas) to soak in a small container. I’m thinking of making a curry with the beans, eggplant, and a bit of coconut. I still haven’t decided whether there will be dairy products or tomatoes or both – I’ll have to taste it.

And then I have medium-small “regular” eggplant. I think I’ll peel it, dice it, and then salt it and leave it to sit in a colander to leech out any bitterness. Then I’ll rise it and pat dry. That will turn into some weird (yet tasty!) jambalaya with diced chicken, eggplant, and zucchini – and maybe some collard greens. And that will get packed up directly and frozen for lunches.

And while I was reviewing the recipes I had put up here, I noticed that I missed one of my favorite eggplant recipes:

Spicy Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

Choose an eggplant that does not look bitter: a fresh, small, firm chinese eggplant or a firm white eggplant.

Use firm tofu. I often use the kind that comes in a plastic tub, but if it doesn’t you will need a container that is about the same size as the tofu to marinate it.

Cut the tofu into large slices no thinner than 1cm (I usually do one cut down the middle and several crosswise).

Work a crushed red pepper sauce in between every slice and then a little more over top. Let that sit overnight (or less, but I don’t usually have a couple hours to wait, so I’ll just prep stuff for the next day).

Heat up your favorite oil for stir fry. Lay the tofu slices flat in the pan (and this is the part where I confess to using a skillet to stir fry instead of a wok – if using a wok, improvise). Let them fry until they start to darken, and then flip them carefully to the other side to keep frying.

Immediately after flipping the tofu, add the eggplant, the tofu’s marinade, and a splash of some other liquid (water will do, but fruit juice or stock is better).

Once your can feel the peppers getting spicy, add a whack of creamy peanut butter.

Stir it all around – the tofu will crumble into bite-sized pieces and the peanut butter will melt and blend into the sauce.

And then it’s done.

Serve over lots and lots of rice – with more on the side because this dish is hella spicy.

I recommend having sauteed greens on the side as well – with lots of garlic.

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