Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons

That is the name of a fantastic cookbook by Diana Henry that I received as a gift recently. It has many tasty-sounding Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African recipes, but I had yet to try any of them because they seemed to have so many exotic ingredients. However, I realized that this was mostly because each chapter starts with wonderful descriptions of various unusual ingredients and I had actually sat down and read all of these in depth, leaving me with the impression of all kinds of wonderful exotic places and tastes and smells. But I was determined this week to tackle something in there, and I went through the book and discovered that while there are some recipes with hard-to-find things like rose petals and orange flower water, there are plenty of approachable ones. I picked out a handful and started with Greek Herb Pilaf with Shrimp and Feta. It has a huge amount of herbs in it, so I was curious to see if they overwhelmed the dish — I am happy to say that they do not, but instead lend a unique and surprisingly mild flavor to the whole thing —not to mention the whole apartment smelled unbelievable.

This is only half the herbs, another equal portion is stirred into the cooked rice.

After some sauteeing, the rice is cooked with a towel-wrapped cover over it — I would assume to absorb the moisture.
This photo truly doesn't do it justice, but right as I finished we were interrupted by an unfortunate old dog having an accident incident. Poor dog. Yummy dinner. It's loaded with flavor, with lemon and olives and herbs and tomatoes and shrimp.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thinking about Ed Emberley

This is my Ed Emberley inspired drawing for the day. I don't know how many of you grew up with his books, but I recently found one of them from my childhood: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals. This was one of my favorites as a kid and I drew every single thing in it. It is based on using simple shapes—rectangles, circles, half-circles—to build up pictures. Looking through them makes me want to go out and buy all the other ones I never had. They are so clever and simple. Draw a black dot: Wow! You've drawn an ant. Draw a green dot. Wow! You've drawn a black ant wearing a green sweater. I really think this shaped my world—and what a charming world it is!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rye humor

When I was in elementary school, I thought the lyrics to the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up were: "And you can call me rye!" (Actual lyrics: Don't make a grown man cry… close, non?) I guess I was destined for the kitchen… Anyway, in honor of my youthful ear, I will tell you about the rye bread I baked this past weekend. The recipe is from Baking with Julia. It had all kinds of weird steps including hanging the dough in slings (why didn't I take pictures of that?!?) and odd shaping techniques involving hospital corners: I should have known to venture no further at that one. (The book is great — I have had great success with recipes, but…) The loaves look pretty lovely and have a great texture, but just don't have a really nice strong rye taste. There's no doubting that it's rye, but it's a bit mild. I just did a search to find another recipe to try and found these lovely beauties over at pete bakes. That recipe will definitely be my next rye attempt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I love this gnocchi!

I wrote about this gnocchi before, but I didn't have pictures at the time. The boy and I made them again on Saturday — it's much better with two people forming the little puffs. Otherwise it takes a LONG time! The recipe is from Food & Wine and you can find it here.

First you roll the dough out into 1/2" wide logs.

Then you cut off little pieces and roll them against the tines of a fork. It all gets very gooey, but it works somehow. Next you boil them but I will spare you the photo of that stage: the photos made them look like maggots: eeewwwh!

Then you saute them and coat them with the sauce and some chives to garnish —tasty!! (I only use about half the sauce as made in the recipe. It's mucho better.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

I want to fold my dishwater hands around a dry Martini, not a wet flounder

As part of our Valentine celebration, the boy and I made homemade gnocchi. Quite an involved process, but so worth it. This meant that an elaborate dessert idea shared with me by a good friend was scrapped in favor of the humble cupcake. I used the same recipe my mom used when we were kids. It is from the very funny I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken. I'm pretty sure it may be the only recipe she ever used from there—many have things like frozen potato soup or frozen fish sticks as main ingredients. But the writing is hysterical and when I saw a copy in a used book store recently, I had to shell out the $1. It features terrifically charming drawings by Hilary Knight (of Eloise fame) and is a book "for those of us who want to fold our dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder…" How could you not love it?!?!?
• 1 1/2 c. sifted flour
• 3 Tb cocoa
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 c. sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 5 Tb cooking oil
• 1 Tb vinegar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 c. cold water
Put sifted flour back in sifter (or sieve), add cocoa, soda, sugar and salt and sift this right into a greased 9" square cake pan. Make three holes in the the dry mixture. Into one, pur the oil; onto the next, the vinegar; into the next, the vanilla. Now pour cold water over it all. You'll feel like you're making mud pies now, but beat it with a spoon until it's nearly smooth and you can't see the flour. Bake at 350º for half an hour. (For cupcakes: bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes.)

Maybe next time I will branch out and try Peg's Hootenholler Whiskey Cake!! (The first instruction: "First, take the whisky out of the cupboard, and have a small snort for medicinal purposes." I'm thinking Amy Sedaris is the reincarnation of Peg Bracken circa 1960.