Archive for December, 2008


Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

   Posted by: Livia N    in non-vegetarian, Recipe

Once up on a time, there was a split turkey breast (i.e. half a turkey breast with the bones and skin included). And there were people who were afraid of the dreaded dry turkey.

These same people, however, had not planned ahead to brine the turkey breast. And so they hatched a plan to wrap it in bacon. This was, however, one of the last things we cooked in a day of cooking tasty things, so your protagonist was the one with energy left to tackle the physics of getting the bacon to stay around the turkey without the use of butchers’ twine.

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

First, make sure you have thoroughly thawed a pound of bacon.

You can just assemble the on top of your roasting pan or on some surface that is easily moved and cleaned. Lay out slightly less than half of the pound of bacon to roughly the width of the breast.

Put the turkey on top of the bacon.

Decide whether or not you want to play with the seasonings. The woman who brought the meat would probably have gone with a lemon/citrus/salt/thingy seasoning schema. I was thinking along the lines of barbecue sauce only with a much more subtle flavor and no sauce, no not much like barbecue sauce at all, really. So I made a paste with:

  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • pinch dried (and crumbled) rosemary
  • pinch dried (and then crumbed) thyme
  • 3 black peppercorns (ground in mortal & pestle)
  • 5 white peppercorns (ground in mortal & pestle)
  • 2 black cardamom seeds (not pods!) (ground in mortal & pestle)
  • pinch fennel seeds (ground in mortal & pestle)
  • 2/3 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 Tbsp orange marmalade

And I rubbed this paste over and under the skin.

Now, lay most of the rest of the bacon over the width of the top side of the turkey. As you fold the top bacon over the side, tuck up the bottom strips of bacon and secure each one with a toothpick (they didn’t burn much even though we didn’t bother with soaking them, but they were the thicker round tooled ones you get at an asian grocery, instead of the flimsy flat ones you get at a regular grocery). If you have just a little bacon left to use up, you can drape it lengthwise over the top, but that’s not necessary.

And then I sprinkled the top of the bacon with garlic salt for extra deliciousness.

Cook as you would a turkey breast.

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I’m leaving on a trip in a few days, so I am trying to make sure I eat everything perishable in the house.

First thing up – getting rid of the last of the green tomatoes that I picked when the garden season was ended by frost.

I split them in half, lay them on a baking sheet cut side down, and roasted them while I was also roasting a butternut squash. I wasn’t too sure what to do with them (because I knew I didn’t want to fry them), but I figured I could probably do anything to them I would do with tomatillos.

Green Tomato Salsa

Remove the peels from the roasted green tomato halves, and dice the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes and all of their juices into a container (but go ahead and compost the skins). I was using 1 very large one, 2 medium, and two very small. But juggle that around in your head and fix up the proportions to whatever you have – I certainly wasn’t being scientific.

To the diced tomatoes, I added roasted garlic pods. I just finished off a head, but I’ll say it was 1/3 of a head of garlic. Take the time to break up the garlic with a fork so that it will incorporate smoothly.

I added half a serrano pepper, seeded and minced.

1 tspn white balsamic vinegar, and then the juice of half a lime (squeeze a little, stir, taste, and then repeat until it tastes right).

Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, a tiny bit of cinnamon and a decent amount (maybe 2/3 tsp) of oregano.

And it wasn’t quite perfect, so I looked in my spices and pulled out my newly acquired (but not on purpose) Penzey’s Turkish Seasoning – which includes salt, cumin, garlic, half-sharp paprika, black pepper, Turkish oregano, sumac, and cilantro.

It was tasting pretty good, but then I let it sit for a couple hours, and now it tastes amazing. This is the first preparation where I have liked green tomatoes.


A couple weeks ago, the grocery store had a sale on rib roast. Now usually I am cheap with meat and I’ll only buy meats that are under $2/pound without bones. But for some reason, rib roasts catch my eye when they occasionally go on sale at under $5/pound.

So there I was with my $25 piece of meat, and I was busy that weekend and I became rather worried that I was going to have t go bad before I had a chance to cook it.

Then I had a half day of work the Monday after the weekend to go shopping with my mother (because there was no way I was willing to brave a mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas any time other than 9am on a Monday morning). I came home and brilliantly thought to pop in the roast before I left for work at 5pm so that it’d be ready when I came home. (and that way, I wouldn’t have to start cooking the thing at 9:30pm).

Beef Rib Roast

Slice a few garlic cloves in half lengthwise. Plunge the knife into a meaty area, and then stuff garlic into the slit.

Now use the knife to lift a section of the fatty layer on top apart from the meat, and then feed a sprig of rosemary into the resulting tunnel (so the fat will rend, get flavored by the rosemary, and then season the meat).

I dusted the top of the layer of fat with garlic powder and some salt.

Then I put the roast into a very slow oven (250F) for about 45 minutes/pound.

(And don’t forget to save the ribs as you eat the meat away for stock-making later)



I use quesadillas as a way to go through small quantities of leftovers. So an ounce and a half of cheddar cheese, 2 ounces of the beef rib roast meat, the green tomato salsa, half a seeded serrano pepper, and some lettuce, made a pretty delicious couple of quesadillas.

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Walnut Hill Restaurant School

   Posted by: Livia N    in economics, experiments, Food

I live a block from a Restaurant School, and they have community classes on the side of their formal chef training. I’ve taken a couple classes on wine there that taught me quite a bit more than I expected (though I didn’t know much to start).

So the Winter/Spring catalog of community classes came in the mail. Here’s a list of what interests me in case you are interested in joining me, too –

  • Knife Skills – Wednesday, April 22, 2009 – 7:00-9:30pm – $65
  • Indian Cassis – Tuesday, February 17, 2009 – 7:00-9:30pm – $65
  • Spanish Tapas – Wednesday, February 25, 2009 – 7:00-9:30pm – $65
  • Thai Cooking – Wednesday, May 13, 2009 – 7:00-9:30pm – $65
  • Bread & Pizza Workshop – Sunday, May 17, 2009 – 11:00am-4:00pm – $125
  • Croissants & Brioche – Sunday, March 8 and 15, 2009 – 11:00am-4:00pm – $125
  • Vegan Baking Class – Monday, March 2, 2009 – 7:00pm-9:30pm – $60
  • 5 Wine Challenge Dinners – 7:00pm – $45 each, $150 for all
    • Wednesday, January 21, 2009 – California vs Australia
    • Wednesday, February 18, 2009 – France vs U.S.
    • Wednesday, March 25, 2009 – Germany vs Alsace
    • Wednesday, April 22, 2009 – Spain vs Italy

pre-vacation food list

   Posted by: Livia N    in Food, lists

So I didn’t look through my fridge for a proper food list, but I need to make sure I have no perishables by Dec. 24th.

What I think I have
3 plums
2 oranges
several green tomatoes
10 apples
2 potatoes
1 lemon
3 limes
bunch of scallions
pint of fresh cranberries
kale (possibly getting too old)
most of a smallish head of napa cabbage
2 carrots
1 mini romanesco
3 butternut squash (only 1 is in danger of not lasting until January)
roasted onions
syrup from poaching quinces
hot peppers
various dried fruits (cranberries, dates, figs)
roasted garlic

last of the tomatoes from my mother’s garden, cooked down into sauce
orange juice
vegetable stock

Beef leftovers that might be too old
<1 pint perky beef leftovers 4 slices turkey bacon deli meat ends (pastrami?) sliced thick Dairy
qt 2% milk
1/2 pt light cream
6oz cheddar cheese
last of the prima donna

Meals I can make from that
Tuesday, December 16
2pm lunch @ Mad Mex
Cabbage, Apple, and Walnut salad – uses napa cabbage, walnuts, cider vinegar, 1/2 lemon, 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream (I have a small container of plain yogurt), 2 apples, and maybe some of the prima donna. Maybe add cranberries…

Also, split the squash in half and roast it.

Wednesday, December 17
ETA: Go to grocery store: salad, pork loin on sale

Put most of the roast onions in with the butternut squash goody for soup. With a couple apples.

*also roast green tomato and make salsa

Reserve some to make quesadillas with the beef leftovers, cheddar cheese, and kale. And hot peppers.

prep Thursday’s breakfast

Thursday, December 18
breakfast – meusli – shred 1/2 and apple into it
Dinner – Vegetarian Hoagie from Fuh Wah
Supper – ice cream topped with heated up quince syrup, maybe also apple slices & peanut butter

prep more meusli for tomorrow!

Friday, December 19
breakfast – meusli – shred 1/2 apple
dinner – pack food for D&D? Buy lettuce for a backup salad? My lettuce is on sale, but that’d be a challenge to get through before I left. If backup salad, you can put romanesco & a carrot in it.

Saturday, December 20
make scallion cream cheese – eat a bagel for breakfast
going to Baltimore

Sunday, December 21
supper – butternut squash soup

Monday, December 22
breakfast – cold cereal & milk
Hash – 1 Potato & the rest of the beef leftovers – freeze directly into lunches
cook the rest of the turkey bacon – put in a salad with sliced onion, cheddar, and tomato. Soup on the side.

Tuesday, December 23
breakfast – bagel & cream cheese
Dinner: Mashed potato (finish off the milk, if possible)
Apple & prima donna & almond salad

Wednesday, December 24
flight leaves at 6:55 – full vacation day from work.
breakfast – bagel (finish off the cream cheese)
lunch – soup (freeze any not yet finished)
pack a dinner to eat in the airport – dry salad + any cheese still left over & container of balsamic vinegar

My breakfast is sitting in my refrigerator. At home.

But let me tell you about my new-found joyous quick breakfast. Okay, so fine – I was introduced to it back in early summer by [redacted], but it took me a while to believe it was good in more than just a novelty way.


(but not that crazy healthy-looking stuff they’d offer for breakfast in Switzerland if you were really lucky and they were offering more than brick-like rolls.)

put 1/4c oatmeal (the real stuff that takes half an hour to cook) into a container.

optional: Add some dried fruit – I like using cranberries, figs, and/or dates… probably I’d like a whole bunch of other stuff, too, but that’s what’s in my pantry.

Add 1/4c orange juice. And since I was doing this from memory, I add my dairy product now. But on later checking, [redacted] adds her dairy the next morning. Your choice. 1/4 c dairy product (I have been using 2% milk, but just about anything is good here: skim milk, whole milk, light cream, heavy cream, nonfat yogurt, full fat greek yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream – or no dairy and just more fruit juice).

optional: Add a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg or some such spice.

Close up the container and chuck it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, toss in some nuts. Maybe toasted nuts. One kind of nut or several… or no nuts.

Also, shred half an apple into the container (or, you know, into another container and then dump it into your meusli) – just wash the apple, cut it in half, and shred it coarsely – skin on and using the core as the place to rest your fingers. I suppose you could also shred carrots or some other excitingly healthy thing. But you stir it all up and then you can carry it to work, and there’s enough juice and all that the apple doesn’t get brown.

Eat and enjoy – you’ll find that all the fruit makes it plenty sweet, and it has protein from the nuts and dairy. And it requires no special storage (assuming you have non-leaking containers).

But… it does require remembering to bring it with you.

Good thing one of my coworkers was kind enough to bring in food to share with the department this morning.

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Escapism in bookstore format

   Posted by: Livia N    in Review, tea

In New York visiting my grandmother. She went to sleep at 7:30pm, so I said I’d head down and see if I liked the movie they are playing her, and if not walk around a bit. She said she’d worry terribly and had no idea why I’d put off going out until so late (because you are asleep, then, grandmother, and so I will not be neglecting my duties to you).

So I slipped out to the new Barnes & Noble near her.

(On the way there, I popped into Bed, Bath, and Beyond – because it was there – to see if they sold individual measuring cups, and they do not. I’ll try Williams Sonoma on Monday)

Tried a new tea – Harney & Son’s Bangkok Blend: green tea, lemongrass, coconut and ginger. Just a smidgen too heavy on the lemongrass, but otherwise quite pleasant. It’s main problem was that it tasted a bit more like food than tea, so now I want to use this flavor to make rice some day.

Read 10 pages of Age of the Conglomerates to discover that it’s nowhere near as innovative as it thinks it is. And sucks at world building, to boot.

Wandered around the travel section reading up on Birmingham and Wales. I need to get the last couple days of hostel reservations nailed down – maybe I’ll give up on Brecon Beacons and try Swansea, but I am ridiculously enamored of the idea of Brecon.

Stepped out of the building to go back to the old folks’ home, and it was lightly snowing. I really need to get shoes, but it’s kind of neat to have snowflakes falling on my toes.


So that’s not the best name for a soup, but it seemed descriptive of what I made last Sunday.

Roasted Autumnal Soup

First, a few days before, I caramelized a bunch of smaller onions (peeled, stem ends trimmed, quartered almost through to the stem end but not quite) similarly to the Caramelized Shallots I have been adoring over at Smitten Kitchen – only with less butter, so completely differently. Let’s say I remembered to add a small chunk of butter, maybe 2 tablespoons. And then I splashed over some balsamic vinegar because I love it and hadn’t bought any red wine vinegar since a vicious squirrel invaded my kitchen and broke my last bottle. A bit of brown sugar (mildly infused with lime zest because that was the brown sugar easiest to hand), some salt and pepper, and a loose covering with tin foil. Cooked until the liquid was just a bit too far past syrupy to save for another use (sadly).

I think that was also the day I split the delicata squash in half (and saved the seeds) to roast. Actually, this was all done on the long planned day of roasting, so it must have been the same day. Afterward, I pulled the peel off and put the chunks in a container in the refigerator for future use.

Also, that same day, I roasted several heads of garlic.

So, slice up a couple of the caramelized onions, cut the squash meat into smallish chunks, and toss a few cloves of roasted garlic into a pot and pour in some vegetable stock to cover.

Cook cook cook.

Season with a bit of salt, some nutmeg, ground pepper, and a bit of ground coriander.

Once everything is cooked tender, puree in a blender. I am only just starting to be convinced of the whole blending soups school of thought, and I will say that it works much more smoothly when you are making single portions of soups rather than large batches that’ll last a week.

So return the blended soup the a rinsed pot. At this point, I tasted it and decided it was definitely lacking a high note. Should I add fruit? Can’t spruce it up with some vinegar because it already has that from the caramelized onions. You know… I bet a buttery, plump roasted scallop would really set this soup off well. Only I don’t have a good source for seafood.

So I set a container of nonfat plain yogurt to drain.

Once it was a bit drier, I lumped a quarter of a cup into the bottom of my soup bowl. To the yogurt, I added a pinch of cumin, a pinch of chipotle powder, a pinch of ground pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Stirred that thoroughly, and poured over the hot soup. I gave it a few stirs to swirl the yogurt through, but I did not mix it completely. And it turned out just right.


Now I have to think of a soup that will benefit from some whey as the liquid component.


But for tonight, I am making a pretty standard black bean soup that ended up being fairly strongly based on my chili recipe. I just started going for that on automatic.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Set a cup of black beans to soak the night before. (Or open a can and rinse)

In 1 teaspoon of olive oil, cook down 1 onion (small dice) and half a dozen baby carrots (cut to about the same size). One they start to soften, add 1 clove garlic (minced), flesh only of 1 serrano pepper (minced), 1 caramelized onion (sliced – see recipe above), 2 roasted garlic cloves.

Once the vegetables are soft, add 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir together and let heat for a minute.

Stir in the drained black beans. And for some reason, I keep feeling like cooking them a minute or two before adding the liquid. I don’t know if there is any benefit, but it doesn’t seem to do any harm.

Add vegetable stock to just cover. Once the liquid is simmering, add 1/2 tsp ground thyme, 1/2 tsp ground oregano, 2 tsp paprika, and a pinch of sugar. Oh, wait… I didn’t use sugar. My buckwheat honey has started crystallizing, and I still have about half the jar left, so I stuck a knife in and pulled out about 2/3 tsp of honey and used that, instead. Right. That should be awesome.

I let it cook down for about an hour, until it started looking a little dry, and then I added a can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). I also added a pinch of ground chipotle (you don’t want to add it too early because even a small about of hot pepper will build intensity during slow liquid cooking). And then I let it simmer until I was about ready to go to work.

When I get home and heat it up, it will probably require one finishing touch – about a teaspoon of flour (whole wheat, why not) shaken together with some lukewarm water. Add that to the soup and then cook it all for another 20 minutes, and you are good to go.

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Mmmm soup – Italian Arugula and Potato Soup

   Posted by: Livia N    in Recipe, soup, vegan, vegetarian

I am determinedly Not Sick.

And so I am eating a lot of soup.

Last night, there was another success from The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew (which, incidentally, a review says all the recipes are culled from her Soup Encyclopedia, but since I still haven’t exhausted this version and I paid about $5 for it, I’m not looking to trade up just yet)

Italian Arugula and Potato Soup

Only, of course, I didn’t make it exactly according to the directions – partly because I just wanted to make 1 serving… and partly because I didn’t feel like calculating proportions.

So 1 big red-skinned potato, cut into 1 cm dice, gets dumped into my 2 quart saucepan (so it’s deeper than 1 layer and it’s harder to make too much soup) with a sprinkling of salt. Add homemade vegetable stock until just covered. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Finely dice a carrot (3-4 baby carrots) and add to the potatoes and stock. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Tear arugula leaves and drop into the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes longer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1/4 tspn cayenne pepper and salt & black pepper to taste. (At this point the recipe has you tearing stale ciabatta bread and adding that to thicken, but I managed to have little enough stock that the soup was already fairly thick.)

And then it has you toasting garlic slices to top the soup. That would have been better, but I didn’t want to wash an extra pan, so I pulled out the head of roasted garlic from the fridge and chucked a could cloves into the soup.

Ended up quite a success.


Now I have some black beans soaking and I’m looking at soup recipes for broccoli to try with broccoli rabe.

And I bought orange juice.

But really, not sick at all.

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I took a vacation day last Tuesday to wander around the Italian Market with a friend.

We both had quests and places we wanted to hit and thing we wanted to find, but also we wanted to wander around when it was less crowded than it gets on Saturdays.

First we popped into Spice Corner, where I picked up some aleppo pepper (so I’ll have it ready the next time I make DiBruno Brothers – I bought a bottle of balsamic and split a venture in a spanikopita with my friend. It was sadly a little disappointing – there was a huge block of spinach topped with a few layers of phyllo, which did not retain any crispiness after being microwaved. So tasty in a spinach side dish kind of way, but not a favorite spanikopita. But the people were very friendly.

Then I went down a few doors to the cheese side of DiBruno Brothers, but my friend refused to enter because of the intense funky smell of cheese. Mmmm funky cheese. So I wiggled through the crowd all the way to the back where there was decent room to stand. And they had a beautiful cheese there whose name I did not write down – it was a gooey soft-wind cheese with (I think ) chanterelles or something like that – and it was only available for a month or so, and it was delicious. I would have bought one, but they were only selling whole cheeses, and while I am ambitious, I am still only one person. So I asked them to bring me something kind of like that one only available in smaller quantities – and I ended up with Tomme Welsche.

Tomme Welsche
milk: goat (sic) [really cow]
country: Alsace, France

An aged cow’s milk Tomme that receives constant washing with Marc de Gewurztraminer throughout its maturation

And then to round things out, I sampled and then bought a gouda-type goat cheese that was luminous and just this amazingly clear taste with little crunches of some kind of crystal in there (but not really salt crystals…).

Midnight Moon
milk: goat
country: California, US

An aged goat cheese in the Gouda style from Cypress Grove Farms, known for their Humbolt Fog. Dense and creamy with a peppery goat finish and sweet flavor

It is delicious. Oh, and then I bought more balsamic vinegar as I was heading toward the door – it’s not my fault: I’d been running low and the stuff is delicious on almost everything.

And then I went to join my friend in yet another spice store: Grassia’s Spice Company. This place was pretty much empty, but there were a few people who came in while we were browsing and they picked up what they wanted and bought them so quickly that it might have been doing a good business without filling the place. Instead of selling mostly plain spices, this place specialized in spice blends. But I had already picked up spices and had recently ordered stuff from Penzey’s, so no need for anything else.

There was a little more wandering. Both of us had quests that we sought to fulfill at Fante’s. She wanted to acquire the best icing tool ever, whereas I had a relatively simple quest in mind – just getting a couple extra quarter cup measuring cups because I use that size most often and it’d be nice to be able to let the dishes accumulate a little, even after using a measuring cup (yeah, like you always do dishes right away). And yet neither of us earned any experience points. I did leave with another magnetic hook for the back of my range hood so that I’ll have somewhere to hand the measuring cups once I find them, but no luck on the cups themselves.

So after Fante’s, we went to Fosters Urban Homeware (which I remembered by conflating the address from Fork You with a store I saw somewhere in center city – but I called up my mother and asked her to search for me, just like an iPhone, only with added familial bonding). Anyway, no luck there. And a later search turns up a branch of Kitchen Kapers on 17th between Walnut and Locust – I was probably thinking of that one.

So then we tried the restaurant supply store at 5th & Bainbridge, and while they came the closest to providing what I wanted, we both still left empty-handed. Who knew single measuring cups were so hard to find?

So back when we were by Foster’s, we decided to eat some lunch. We’d both heard of (but not eaten at) a local restaurant called Fork, so when we passed their prepared foods spinoff, Fork: etc., it seemed like a fun place to try. I picked out some salmon salad – I though it had peas in it, but they were capers, and yet amazingly I still liked the salad. It did, however, taste extra fishy because of the briny berries. And then I tried all three of their soups: eggplant barley, mexican chicken, and seafood gumbo. The Mexican chicken was the winner, so I got a bowl of that. While the other two soups were tasty (and did not stint on the salt), they both tasted of seafood so I could not later identify for my friend which little paper cup had seafood gumbo and which one had eggplant barley. And I picked up a loaf of sesame sourdough to eat those with. The bread was dense and not very sour, but it was tasty white bread with sesame seeds all over it, so it was close to (only denser than) the semolina bread I had been hoping to find at DiBruno Brothers. And then I bought some wafers of Eclat chocolate to bring me up over the credit card minimum. Mmmm!


So now let me tell you what I ended up doing with the rest of the loaf of sesame sourdough bread. It turns out that it makes an amazing baked cheese sandwich with the Tomme Welsche cheese. I sliced it a little less than a centimeter thick and then in half, add two thin-ish slices of the cheese and drizzle with buckwheat honey. Then pop into the oven until the cheese is gooey. This was so good that I kept going until I used up the last of the cheese.

And then the last couple slices of bread were buttered and toasted (in the oven because you can’t do things in that order with a toaster – besides, I don’t have the counter space for a toaster) and then topped with blueberry jelly.


So now I have searched online for 1/4 cup measuring cups, and the only one I found not only looks cheaply made, but also is out of stock.