Icebox miso

February 26, 2009

icebox_miso

I posted about icebox risotto earlier this week and I’m now getting around to posting about my icebox miso.  When cleaning out the refrigerator last weekend, these are the odds and ends I pulled out that made me think of miso: 2 carrots, 1 baby bok choy, 2 cups rice, one half onion.  The soup is very easy to make and quick.   First step is to make the dashi if you don’t have any on hand.  Additions to the dashi can be just about any vegetable or meat you like, plus miso paste.  Miso paste comes in light, medium and dark.  I used medium for this recipe.

Dashi

  • 12 inches of Kombu (giant kelp)
  • 4 cups bonito flakes, loosely packed
  • 2 quarts water

Combine kombu and water, slowly bring water temperature up and simmer for 4 minutes.  Remove kombu, bring broth to boil, take off heat and add the bonito flakes.  Let bonito flakes steep for 2 minutes and then strain.  The flakes hold quite a bit of water, so remember to press all the water out of them.

Miso Soup

  • 2 quarts dashi
  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 12 oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups precooked rice
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons medium miso paste

Thinly slice vegetables and cube tofu into 1/2 inch pieces.  Bring dashi to a low simmer and add all the ingredients, except the miso paste.  Allow the water to just return to a gentle simmer and reduce heat to low.   Slowly add miso paste to dashi 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time, until you’re happy with the flavor.  Do this by scooping out 1/2 cup of dashi and blend with miso paste.  Then add the mixture back into the soup.  Make sure the vegetables are slightly softened and other ingredients warmed through and serve.

By Kenton

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Orange Pinwheel Biscuits

February 24, 2009

orange-pinwheel-biscuits

Years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Meta Given’s The Modern Family Cook Book (1968). She told me that no kitchen was complete without this cooking treatise. At the time, I did not understand. Now, I do. For pure feel good food, Meta Given cannot be beat.

Today I was hungry for cinnamon rolls. But when I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is spend time making a yeast dough, letting it rise, etc. So I went to Meta Given and she didn’t let me down. Tucked away in the bread section of the cookbook, I found “Orange Pinwheel Biscuits”.

It’s simple really. Preheat your over to 450 degrees. In a sauce pan, heat the follow until the butter is melted:

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoons orange peel
1/2 cup sugar

Then mix up your favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe. Alton Brown at the Food Network has a good one. After kneading, flatten out the dough to about 3/8 of an inch (to about the size of a 9×11 pan). Spread a mixture of cinnamon/sugar over the dough.

Cinnamon mixture:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspons cinnamon

Roll up the dough like a jelly roll and cut into 12 slices. Pour the orange/butter/sugar mixture into a 6×10 pan. Lay the dough slices into the syrup cut size down. They should fit a little tightly. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

Given, M. (1968). The modern family cook book. Chicago: J.G. Ferguson Publishing.


Icebox risotto

February 23, 2009

icebox_risotto

Cleaning the refrigerator had been long overdue.  So I finally screwed up the courage this past weekend, and while doing so made an inventory of the bits of food that needed to be used soon.  I’m trying to get better about using all the food we purchase, so I let those found bits drive what I was going to prepare.  What I had to work with: 2 chicken breasts, 2 carrots, 1/2 cup cream, 1 red bell pepper, 1 acorn squash, 5 green onions, salad greens, 3 strips of bacon, 1 baby bok choy, 1 tomato, 2 cups rice.  I decided to use the majority of the ingredients for a risotto and the rest for making kimchi and a miso soup.  I had never made risotto before and I was in the mood to pair a dish with wine, so I dug out Andrea Immer’s, Everyday Dining with Wine. The Butternut squash with bacon and Sage risotto recipe, paired with a dry Riesling, was the winner.

The wine

alsace_riesling

Neither of us could remember tasting a true dry Riesling before.  We chose one from Alsace.  The nose on this wine was subtle but nice.  Neither of us could really nail the bouquet in words.  I was thinking of a light floral and Melissa was thinking of grass.  The color was light gold, I’m guessing due to the age of the wine.  The taste was one dimensional and I don’t mean that in a negative sense.  It had a light citrus quality, reminiscent of lemon.  It didn’t clash with the “vinaigrette” dressing I made with lemon juice, mustard and canola oil.  The pairing with the risotto was equally as successful.   The Riesling offset the richness of the dish, subtly cleansing the pallet.

The Risotto

I made a few modifications to the recipe in order to fit in the leftover ingredients.  Acorn squash was substituted for the butternut squash.  I added chicken, red bell pepper and cream to the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Bring the stock to simmer in a saucepan, then reduce heat so the stock is just under a simmer.  Saute chicken and peppers, then lower heat and keep warm.  In the pan you plan to cook your risotto, crisp bacon and pull out to cool.  Pour off bacon fat and add 1 tablespoon of butter.  Once butter has melted, cook shallot until translucent, then  stir in sage and squash.  Add wine and 1 cup stock, bring to a light simmer and cook squash till it’s softened.  Add rice and 1 cup stock, stir frequently until rice just absorbs stock.  Keep adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, until rice becomes al dente.  Stir in remaining butter, Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, chicken and bell pepper.  Plate and top with crumbled bacon to serve.

By Kenton


Sweet Sunday Smoothies

February 20, 2009

smoothy

One of my favorite Sunday morning treats is a smoothie. It doesn’t take long to whip to them up and you can use a variety of fruits so it’s likely that you always have the ingredients on hand.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I usually keep a few bananas frozen in the freezer for baking purposes. But they’re also handy to keep around for smoothies. I think of the banana as the foundation of my smoothies. The basic recipe is

  • 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate (you can use a fresh orange but it doesn’t come with as much flavor)
  • 1 cup fat free milk or vanilla soy milk (we often use half a cup milk and half a cup soy)
  • 1 cup other fruit (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, etc.)

Put them in the blender and let ‘er rip.

Most fruits will work although I don’t recommend kiwi. I had high hopes for kiwis since their flavor often reminds me of strawberries. But the banana-kiwi-orange results were very disappointing.

Kent likes to add honey to the mixture, but I think Mother Nature loaded the fruit with enough sugar that we don’t need to contribute more. Although, I have to admit that Kent makes a mighty fine smoothie.


Tunisian chickpea soup – Leblebi

February 19, 2009

leblebi

When I was in the Peace Corps I worked out of an office in Kairouan, Tunisia.  One morning a counterpart invited me over to this small eating joint, next to the office.   He wanted me to try leblebi.  Let me tell you, the stuff looked awful.  A thin broth containing chickpeas, spooned over hunks of dry bread.  The cook asked me how much harissa and if I wanted an egg on it.   I told him “zeed” (give me more) a couple times for more harissa, and said yes to the egg.  I thought, what the heck, a raw egg can’t hurt the dish any…  My counterpart and I sat down and he showed me how to stir the mass into a big glob of gook, and we dug in.   As unappetizing as the dish looked, it sure was tasty.  The garlic, cumin and harissa made a nice spicy broth. The bread mixed with the water created a heavy oatmeal like texture, and the chickpeas were delicious.  I ended up eating leblebi just about every morning, until one day the cook told me, “no more.”  I asked him, “When will you have some?”  He replied, “Next year, leblebi is a Winter food.”  I was crushed, no more belly warming, stick to the ribs breakfast, for a year?  I survived, but barely.   Here’s my recipe.

Leblebi:

  • 2 cups dry chickpeas
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Day old french bread, torn or cut into bite sized chunks

Garnishes:

  • Olive oil
  • Raw egg
  • Harissa

If using dry chick peas, soak overnight and drain.  Heat pot over medium heat, add tablespoon of oil, heat cumin and garlic to release flavors (a minute or less).  Bring water, salt and chickpeas to a simmer.  Cook until chickpeas are tender.  Serve in bowls over day old bread.  The garnishes are optional, but a splash of olive oil, raw egg and more harissa to taste is nice.  Mix this all into a mush with your spoon and enjoy.

Author: Kenton


Cooking perfectly fluffy rice

February 17, 2009

fluffy_rice

Last weekend I cooked Chicken Korma and reported that the rice dampened the flavor of the dish.  I have a history of hypertension, and although my blood pressure readings were normal the last time I visited the doctor, I still try to limit sodium where I can.  So instead of adding salt to the cooking water, I abstained.   I followed the directions on the package, sans salt, and the rice came out sticky like it usually does for me.  Having had basmati rice at Indian restaurants before, I knew it could fluffy.

So I consulted Cooking, by James Peterson.  The solution was simple, prepare it “…in the same way you cook pasta.” So I brought a gallon of water to boil, added a tablespoon of salt and a cup of brown basmati rice.  Once the water began to boil again, I reduced to a simmer.  Once I saw the kernels start to plump up, I began to check.  When the rice was al dente I poured the whole lot into the colander.  Low and behold….. the rice was fluffy!  Not only that, after spooning leftover chicken korma over the rice and tasting, we discovered the dish had much better flavor and texture than before.  A small adjustment in technique can really make a difference.

I found cooking a cup of rice in a gallon of water is a little overkill, in terms of water.  Next time I’ll try a half gallon of water and a half tablespoon of salt.  If anyone has a preferred method of cooking fluffy rice, please share.

Author: Kenton


What the World Eats

February 16, 2009

what-the-world-eats1A fascinating book on how and what families around the world eat came out a year or so ago that anyone interested in food should check out.

Author Faith D’Aluisio and photographer Peter Menzel take you on an eye-opening journey in What the World Eats, an around the world, photographic tour of families surrounded by the food from their weekly meals. Page by page you see the way meats dominate some cultures while other families are surrounded by colorful fruits and vegetables. Interspersed between the family narratives are charts and graphs adding statistical background to the personal stories. For instance just after reading charts on population density and the dominance of urban populations in the world, the reader can learn about the Aboubakar family’s effort to provide nourishing meals in a refugee camp in Chad. Photo galleries comparing common themes of food such as kitchens, street food and fast food are also sprinkled about in striking juxtapositions. A few recipes are available. If I have one criticism, it’s that there are not more recipes.

For more information, see Time’s photo exhibit at http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1626519,00.html

Or listen to an interview with D’Aluisio and Menzel on NPR at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5005952

Or even better, visit the book’s web site and order the book for yourself – http://www.whattheworldeats.com/index.htm