Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cilantro Thai Chicken

This easy chicken recipe is from Artsy Foodie, but I think I found it through Pinterest. The marinade recipe calls for fish sauce; if you don’t like it or if you are avoiding fish, you can always make vegan fish sauce to keep that umami flavor. You can also substitute 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari sauce if you are gluten-free), though it’s not quite the same. I used Red Boat fish sauce, and really loved the result! The Asian flavors were great here. I served it with a carrot salad inspired by this recipe, though rice would have been a good idea, too.

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. fish sauce (or see above)
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Pour marinade over chicken breast and let flavors sink in for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

Prepare your grill or broiler. (I chose to use the oven, so I cooked the chicken at 350 °F for 35 minutes, then put it under the broiler at 500 °F for 5 minutes, though I could have broiled it a bit longer.) Cook until temperature registers 165 °F on the meat thermometer. Let the chicken breasts rest for 5 minutes before serving, to prevent the meat from drying up.

Fig and Raspberry Bakewell Tarts

I saw this recipe on The Kitchn last month, and because my grocery store still had fresh figs, but I didn’t know for how long, I decided to make the tarts. I have recipes that are similar to this already; I love the combination of almond frangipane and fruit jam, not to mention how versatile this dessert is. I stuck pretty close to the original recipe, even adding lavender flowers to my raspberry jam – though of course, you can use just about any jam you want. I thought the figs were great when the tarts were freshly baked, but they gradually got tougher and chewier as the tarts got older. You could omit them or use another fruit instead. Bakewell tarts are easy to make and not too sweet, so I thought they were a perfectly reasonable way to end a meal.

For the crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch pieces (you could use frozen vegan margarine)
2 Tbsp. to ¼ cup ice water

For the filling
2 cups almond meal
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) vegan margarine (or if you want, unsalted butter at room temperature)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest
¼ cup raspberry jam (the Kitchn write used raspberry-lavender jam)
3 or 4 figs, cut into 12 (¼-inch thick) slices
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

For the crust
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the food processor running, slowly add ice water until the dough just holds together. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 °F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 12 (4-inch) circles and place them into the tin. Prick the bottoms with a fork and chill for 10 minutes.

Fill each crust with beans or weights and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove beans or weights.

For the filling
Combine almond meal and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and process until smooth. Add eggs and lemon zest and process into a uniform, smooth paste.

Spread 1 teaspoon of raspberry jam at the bottom of each crust. Fill each cup just to the top with the almond mixture and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Gently press a fig slice into the top.

Bake for 40 minutes until set and golden. Cool in pan on rack, then use a small offset spatula or knife to lift each tart from the pan.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Persian Rice

This recipe, from Bon Appétit, stayed in my stack of recipes for a while. You see, it’s made in such a way that the bottom layer of rice is almost burnt, clearly stating that “The browned, crusty layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the pan is considered the most treasured part of this Middle Eastern classic.” And I was so worried about the burnt-on crust that it didn’t even occur to me that I would undercook it and there would be no crust! When I noticed that the rice was done, I simply took the pan off the heat, before the 20-25 minute mark. I obviously should have left it on longer! It tasted really good, though, and I can see how having a layer of browned rice would have really made this stand out. This dish serves about 8 as a side dish. I served it with roasted pork tenderloin with Dijon mustard and herbes de Provence, at the Engineer’s request.

2 cups basmati rice
3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
pinch of saffron threads
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (lactose-free)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter or vegan margarine

Place rice in a medium saucepan; add 2 tsp. salt and cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain rice, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid.

Place saffron and ½ cup reserved cooking liquid in a small bowl; let saffron soften for 5 minutes. Place yogurt in a medium bowl and stir in remaining 1 tsp. salt and saffron water. Add rice and stir to coat.

Melt butter in a large deep nonstick skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat bottom and sides of pan. Add rice, mounding slightly in center. Poke 6–7 holes in rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Cover with foil, then a lid. Cook, rotating skillet over burner for even cooking, for 10 minutes (do not stir). Reduce heat to low; cook, adding more reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if rice has not finished cooking when water evaporates, until a golden brown crust forms on bottom of rice, 20–25 minutes. (Don’t take it off the heat too early, or you won’t have enough of a crust.)

Remove lid and foil; invert a plate over skillet. Using oven mitts, carefully invert rice onto plate; use a heatproof spatula to remove any crust remaining in skillet.

Batch of links

- With Halloween coming up, I wanted to share these amazing pumpkin carvings.

- When you’re cooking and something goes awry, don’t apologize: simply rename the dish. Melissa Clark gives some good tips in the article and reminds us that it’s often the apologies that will ruin a dish, but if it tastes good, the people eating it don’t know that it veered from the cook’s expectations.

- Bon Appétit recommends a $20 chef’s knife, for those who want quality kitchenware without breaking the bank.

- The Kitchn had a good tip: freeze leftover ingredients to use as pizza toppings. It turns out that my beloved mini San Marzanos (or at least their regular-sized cousins) are the ideal tomatoes for pizza sauce.

- A gimmick that I actually would use: Scientists have come up with dissolvable strips to heal burns in your mouth. I think they should be served alongside every pizza!

- Here’s an infographicto identify your pasta by its shape. Pretty complete, but lacking things like fettuccini!

- Since I moved to South Texas, I sometimes miss the rain. I was therefore quite tickled to find Rainy Mood, a rain simulator that is surprisingly lifelike. If I liked sleeping with white noise, I’d consider leaving my laptop running overnight. It seems to have no effect on Darwin, though, who mostly ignores it (despite being terrified of actual storms).

- A great article about the inhabitants of Ikaria, the island where people forget to die.

- It’s not easy being white, a satire article about racism (which is still very much on the news given the upcoming election).

- A nifty video: The truth about dishonesty.

- The Ghosts of World War II: An artist has superimposed pictures of soldiers taken during World War II with pictures of the same locations taken recently.

- A great article written by Alana: In defense of Instagram. I thought this would particularly interest the Engineer, since he scoffs at Instagram (and Facebook and Twitter). I personally like Instagram and would use it much more if I had a smart phone (as of now, I only use it when I take pictures with my iPad, which isn’t often; I wish I could upload pictures onto the program, though!).

- Scientists are looking at sustainable methods of dealing with super weeds, the latter being created by the increasing use of pesticides.

- Finally, in French: Séralini’s rebuttal to criticism about his study (educating, but not entirely convincing on certain points).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two new chocolates

I decided to treat myself and buy a bar of chocolate that had received rave reviews one or two years ago: the Bacon Raleigh Bar, by Xocolatl de David, an artisanal company based in Portland, Oregon. It had to be shipped, so I waited until the weather cooled a bit, but it got here in an insulated envelope with a cool pack, so everything was in good condition. It is a flat rate for shipping, though, and you can really put a lot of chocolates in the package, so plan ahead. (This bar is also expensive, at $3.00 for 25 grams.) It’s got the same composition as a Mars bar (nougat topped with caramel, the whole thing coated with chocolate), but higher quality, of course! This one has bacon caramel with fleur de sel and is coated in dark chocolate, so the smoky-salty flavor stands out particularly well. It does contain a small amount of cream and butter, as well as nuts and, surprisingly, eggs, but it appears to be gluten-free. As long as I eat only one bar, the lactose doesn’t affect me. And it’s so good! Very decadent, and definitely only an occasional treat, but I’m glad I got to taste it. (It should be noted, however, that the Engineer declared it “unnatural” and hated it. So I get to eat his bars.) Xocolatl de David also has chocolate confections with pig skin or foie gras, for the more adventurous.

Then there’s Godiva’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bar. If I compare it to one of my favorites, Lindt’s Sea Salt bar, I’d say Godiva’s is actually better. It tastes richer and bolder, like someone turned up the volume on flavor. Let’s look at it in detail, then, since the broad similarities are obvious. The first ingredient is chocolate (or cocoa), not sugar, and it contains butteroil, which the Lindt bar does not. The serving size is the same in both cases; Godiva has 10 more calories, for a total of 200 per 40 g serving, and more sodium, though slightly less fat and carbohydrates. It actually has 3 g of fiber per serving, but the main difference is that Lindt doesn’t have any iron, while the Godiva has 30% of the daily value! Predictably, it’s more expensive than the Lindt ($5.00 for a 3.5-oz bar, compared to a little under $3.00 for Lindt). As for allergens, they both have milk ingredients and traces of peanuts and tree nuts, but the Godiva also has traces of wheat, whereas the Lindt appears to be gluten-free.

If I compare the Raleigh bar to the Godiva bar, though, the clear difference is that the Raleigh bar was a curiosity, but I won’t order it again, whereas I’ve already bought a second Godiva Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar, before even finishing the first! I’m craving it, I’m hoarding it, I’m making it last.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sesame Ice Cream with Orange-Blossom Caramel

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appétit. I never got the caramel to become as dark or as thick as I wanted it, and I knew it would be a pain to serve it with the sesame ice cream, so I ended up adding it directly to the ice cream base. I’d recommend this route even if your caramel turns out fine; you could mix it in the ice cream base by hand when you transfer the mixture from the ice cream maker to the freezer; that way, you’d have streaks of caramel in the ice cream, and I think that would be a beautiful effect. Taste-wise, this was wonderful: the sesame taste is quite present, and the orange blossom complements it beautifully. The caramel is salted, which I love, but you can reduce the amount of salt (and use table salt) if this isn’t your thing.

Lactaid has stopped making lactose-free half-and-half, which I only remembered at the store. So instead of using 1 cup of half-and-half and 1 cup of milk, I put a heaping tablespoon of plain lactose-free yogurt in a measuring cup and added coconut milk beverage (NOT coconut milk from a can) until I had two cups. This helped to get the right texture and fat content. You could use lactose-free milk or your favorite non-dairy milk. Another option is to use ½ cup of soy creamer and 1 ½ cups of lactose-free milk of your choice.

In the picture, there is only one scoop of ice cream, which looks a little sad. That’s because I took the picture after lunch, and I was trying to be reasonable with my serving size in the middle of the day. That being said, I encourage you to have two scoops, which is what I ate in the evenings after dinner.

For the orange-blossom caramel sauce
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. kosher salt (which makes for a salted caramel)
¼ cup water
6 Tbsp. soy creamer (or lactose-free cream)
1 tsp. orange-blossom water

For the ice cream
¾ cup sesame seeds
2 cups soy creamer (or lactose-free cream)
1 cup lactose-free half-and-half (see note above)
1 cup lactose-free whole milk or non-dairy milk (see note above)
1 cup sugar, divided
pinch of kosher salt
8 large egg yolks (ideally from pasteurized eggs)

For the orange-blossom caramel sauce
Stir sugar, honey, salt, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns amber in color. Remove from heat; carefully stir in creamer (mixture will bubble up), then orange-blossom water. Let cool. (Caramel sauce can be made a week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before using. You can also make the caramel sauce while the custard mixture is chilling in the fridge, before freezing it.)

For the ice cream
Toast sesame seeds in a large heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add cream, half-and-half substitute, and milk. Bring barely to a simmer, stirring often, over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing firmly to extract all liquid; discard sesame seeds. Return cream mixture to same pan; add ½ cup sugar and salt. Bring barely to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Whisk egg yolks with remaining ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl. While whisking constantly, gradually add hot creamer mixture to yolks, then return mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard is thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon, 3–5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Set bowl over a large bowl of ice water; stir custard until cool. Cover; chill overnight.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. (This is when you need to decide if you want your caramel sauce directly in the ice cream or as a topper. You can put it in the ice cream maker along with the custard mixture to blend it in completely, or fold it in with a spatula when you transfer the custard mixture to the freezer.) Transfer to a container, cover, and freeze up to 3 days ahead.

Divide ice cream among bowls; drizzle orange-blossom caramel sauce over, if desired.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The Engineer and I took a little trip last weekend; we spent about 24 hours in Austin and had lunch in Lockhart on the way.

We started off with lunch at Kreuz Market in Lockhart; we were lucky enough to get there about 5 minutes before the lunch crowd, so there was very little wait for us. Kreuz (which I’m told is pronounced “Krites”) is widely regarded as one of the best places serving barbecue in Texas. From the parking lot, the smell of barbecue is mouthwatering. Look at that picture of the piles of wood that will feed the fire! The menu is very simple, and you order the meat by the pound (or quarter-pound or half-pound), and it is served to you on butcher paper, with a plastic knife and a few slices of white bread. You can buy sides, like German potatoes, macaroni and cheese or an avocado, which come with a plastic spoon, and a drink. Then you get a table and eat. There is no barbecue sauce (as the owner believes good barbecue has nothing to hide), and you do not get forks (“They are at the end of your arms”). Seriously. We had half a pound of smoked turkey, half a pound of boneless prime rib, and a hot sausage, with sides. The Engineer loved the turkey; the beef was underdone for our taste; the sausage was great, with skin that snaps and insides that are somewhat grainy, but it was oilier than I ever expected! While we both enjoyed the experience and will consider taking houseguests there, the food itself wasn’t as good as I was hoping.

In Austin, we started with a self-guided tour around some of the historic parts of town, including a quick visit inside the Capitol. While we very much enjoyed the Capitol grounds and statues that are on it, we were surprised by the “selective retelling” of the Civil War: there’s a monument with the names of people who died during that period, with an engraving practically making them out to be martyrs and explaining that they died because they stood up for their rights. What the monument plaque conveniently omits is that this included the right to OWN PEOPLE! I’m Canadian, so perhaps I can be somewhat objective in the sense that this war wasn’t in my country and I have no ancestors who died in it, but I believe that from a humanity standpoint, it’s a good thing that those who won the war were the ones who wanted to abolish slavery. I find it flabbergasting that 150 years later, revisionist history still runs rampant in some places – no wonder some Southerners are still resentful about the outcome of the war, if they’re only learning about a small part of one side of it! We also got a laugh at the statue of Angelina Eberly, just because of what seems, with today’s eyes, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation: Sam Houston wanted the Texas capital to be moved from Austin to Houston. The populace wouldn’t go for it, so he decided to steal the government archives in the middle of the night and forcibly move the capital. Angelina Eberly, an innkeeper, realized what he was up to and fired a canon into a building, thereby rousing the population, who went after Sam Houston and got the archives back. So the capital of Texas is still Austin, thanks to Ms. Eberly.

We visited Barton Springs as well. It’s late October, and since we’re Canadians, and the pool in our community closed last month, we didn’t really think we’d swim. But it turns out the temperature was around 85 °F, and the water is almost always at 68 °F, so we bitterly regretted our decision not to bring our bathing suits. This swimming spot is part of the Colorado River, and the spring-fed water looked SO inviting… We’ve decided we’re definitely coming back, and this may even be feasible as a day-trip from San Antonio, so probably next April or May we’re planning on swimming there.

We walked on 2nd Street, where we were impressed by all the cool stores and restaurants. One store that I really liked was Mercury, which had an eclectic mix of really nice things, plus a taxidermy fox with an eye patch that immediately made me think of The Bloggess. Just one street over, on 3rd, there’s also a new store that just opened (we happened to visit on its first day in business). It’s called Serve and had beautiful kitchenware (dishes, pots and pans, tea towels, plus spreads, jams, chutneys, etc.). I managed to exercise an incredible amount of self-control and walked out with only a new Le Creuset pie bird, leaving behind a huge turquoise ceramic bowl I was drooling over. If I ever see a smaller version, I’m going for it (I just don’t think a big ceramic bowl would be practical right now).

For dinner, we went to Second, the bistro version of the fancier Congress, which is conveniently located at 2nd and Congress. I liked the décor, and loved the fact that the napkins are tea towels. There were way fewer people than I expected, given that this is a renowned restaurant on a Saturday night during the Austin Film Festival… But hey, that worked out really well for us. (We only had a light dinner, since we had already had frozen yogurt at Berry Austin hours earlier.) I must mention that I loved the presentation of non-alcoholic drinks in the menu: under the heading Zero-Proof, the drinks were listed with the same care as the alcohols regarding the company and place of origin (so Coca-Cola from Monterrey, Mexico and Diet Coca-Cola from Atlanta, Georgia). I had a Bundaberg ginger beer (Australia), which I absolutely love. The Engineer started with the pepperoni soup (in tomato broth, topped with mozzarella and croutons), while I had a small plate of roasted pumpkin gnocchi with citrus browned butter, cranberries and a pumpkin seed gremolata topping. The gnocchi were out of this world! I’d seriously consider asking the waiter for two or three servings in a big plate for dinner. Note that in the picture below, I had already eaten three gnocchi; it’s a plate that’s bigger than an appetizer, but smaller than a main course. We then shared a bianco pizza (ricotta, goat cheese and grana padano) topped with arugula; the Engineer proclaimed that the dough was “dynamite”, and I really, really enjoyed the flavors. We had a fantastic meal, and I’d love to go back there.

We finished the weekend with a quick trip to the flagship Whole Foods, which spans an entire city block, with an 80,000-square-feet store and a terrace, plus parking outdoors and indoors, including for electric cars. It was fabulous. Good thing we don’t live in Austin, because I might just insist on making it my go-to grocery store, and then we’d be poor.

We also went to the Austin Zoo, which is remarkable for being a non-profit animal sanctuary. All the animals there were rescued or surrendered by their owners, including ex-circus animals, lab monkeys and exotic pets. Keep in mind that in Texas, it’s still legal to own apes, big cats and bears as pets, and it’s hard to care for such animals properly and humanely, so many of them are abused. The zoo also had free-roaming peacocks, and goats. We enjoyed feeding the goats a lot more than we thought we would! They take food from your hand with only their lips, barely grazing your skin, so there was no danger of being bitten and it’s totally child-friendly.

The Engineer asked what they mean when they say “Keep Austin weird”. I think perhaps “weird” is not the right word; I’d probably choose “avant-gardiste” (sorry for the French, but it’s the word that seems best to me right now). Maybe “alternative”, “cool” or “edgy” would work, too. This is because Austin seems to have slightly different values than the rest of Texas, or at least it modernizes itself ahead of other places. It’s a blue city in a red state. It’s the birthplace of Whole Foods and has tons of acclaimed restaurants and food trucks, including vegetarian places that are somewhat hard to come by in most of Texas, a state known for its barbecue. It has public parking spots for electric cars. It’s full of performing and visual arts; there are film festivals and music festivals that draw international crowds, not to mention all the concerts and indie music in general. There are cyclists and pedicabs, quirky stores and small businesses, bats, a children’s museum, incredibly inviting recreational areas in the middle of the city, hipsters wearing hipster glasses… I don’t want to dwell on a grass-is-greener mindset, but suffice it to say that Austin is probably more my kind of city than San Antonio. It’s definitely worth a visit!

Les changements des autres

Parfois, on décide d’apporter des changements dans sa vie, mais d’autres fois, ils nous sont imposés par les autres. Il y a de grands changements traumatisants, bien sûr, mais je veux parler ici de plus petits changements, des « problèmes de pays industrialisé ». Comme quand le format ou les animateurs d’une station de radio changent, ou encore un magazine. Je pense plus particulièrement à Bon Appétit et à Coup de Pouce.

Bon Appétit, un magazine culinaire anglophone auquel je suis abonnée depuis deux ans, a changé l’année dernière. Je m’étais abonnée parce que j’aime manger, oui, mais aussi pour la chronique de Molly Wizenberg. Or, elle n’écrit plus dans la nouvelle version! J’ignore si elle a pris cette décision elle-même, mais reste que c’était décevant. Quant au nouveau format, avec Adam Rapoport comme rédacteur en chef, je ne l’ai pas aimé au début. Pour la première fois en dix ans, il y avait quelqu’un sur la page couverture au lieu d’un plat, et pas n’importe qui, mais une vedette! Ce n’est pas ce à quoi on s’attend de la part d’un magazine sur la nourriture, et le tout me semblait frivole. Je trouvais le nouveau magazine simpliste et j’ai même pensé arrêter mon abonnement. Cependant, depuis ces premiers mois, je trouve que le magazine a remonté la pente. J’y trouve encore des recettes que je veux essayer, même si j’avoue que certains des articles ne m’intéressent pas. Mais vu qu’avec tout achat de 50 $ ou plus en magasin chez Sur La Table, on obtient un renouvellement de notre abonnement, je risque de recevoir ce magazine gratuitement pendant un certain temps!

Coup de Pouce a aussi voulu se donner un coup de jeune, avec un graphisme allégé et des chroniques pertinentes. Bon, j’aimais beaucoup le magazine avant le changement, j’y étais abonnée depuis déjà plusieurs années. Là, je trouve que le graphisme est trop épuré et ressemble à celui d’un publireportage, ce que je n’aime pas. Par contre, l’entrevue avec une personnalité est plus longue et mieux menée, alors de ce côté-là, le nouveau format me plaît. Le magazine est très volumineux, avec 300 pages, mais j’imagine que c’est en partie une anomalie, pas une caractéristique de la nouvelle version; on verra le mois prochain. Le site web a eu un coup de jeune lui aussi, et dans ce cas, le format allégé est préférable. Il y a davantage de chroniques, mais j’ignore si le besoin était vraiment là. Je n’ai en tout cas pas l’intention d’arrêter mon abonnement, alors on verra bien si je finis par aimer le nouveau magazine davantage.

Quand de tels changements dérangent, je crois que c’est en partie parce qu’ils sont hors de notre contrôle. Ils nous bousculent dans nos habitudes, s’immiscent dans nos rituels mensuels, n’étaient pas désirés. Mais je crois que ces changements dérangent aussi parce qu’en plus d’être imposés, ils ne sont pas toujours annoncés. Par exemple, Mélanie Thivierge avait annoncé un mois à l’avance qu’elle ne serait plus la rédactrice en chef de Coup de Pouce. Linda Priestley l’a remplacée, mais il me semble qu’elle est restée très peu longtemps avant d’être remplacée à son tour par Geneviève Rossier, sans préavis cette-fois. J’ignore les circonstances de son départ, qui coïncide avec les grands remaniements, mais seul un courriel reçu il y a quelques semaines le laissait présager. La version papier du magazine n’en a rien dit à l’avance. Le seul changement que j’avais remarqué avec Mme Priestley, mis à part le fait qu’elle n’a bien sûr pas la même voix que Mme Thivierge, c’est que le magazine me parvenait bien plus tôt dans le mois (il n’y a sans doute aucune différence au Québec, mais pour les abonnements internationaux comme le mien, ça fait du bien!). Je ne pourrais même pas vous dire avec certitude qu’elle y était pour quelque chose, par contre.

Alors voilà, quand on se fait imposer des changements par les autres, le mieux reste d’essayer de s’adapter et de trouver le côté positif des choses. J’envoie mes commentaires à la rédaction de ce pas!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Batch of links

- I recently mentioned bokashi as a compost method, but I found something that looks even simpler and still requires mostly green matter, along with some sawdust pellets. It’s a composter by NatureMill. It’s compact and good-looking enough to be right in your kitchen, next to the trash bin, and it promises a fresh batch of compost every two weeks! Reviews on Amazon are mixed: some rave about it, but others cite a lack of quality control and non-existent customer service from the company. I still think it looks like a good option and I’m keeping it in mind, more so than bokashi.

- Here’s a really interesting article on food waste in supermarkets, discussing solutions like new business models, in-store sales, and consumer behavior.

- What kind of American English do you speak? According to this fun quiz, I speak general American English (50% general American English, 25% Yankee and 25% Dixie – guess that’s Texas rubbing off on me, y’all).

- A very interesting article about the fact that people’s morals and perceived disgust is related to their being liberal or conservative. It turns out that conservatives tend to think morality implies respecting authority and are more easily disgusted than liberals. This is also why some people interpret the same message differently, without even thinking about it, simply based on something for which they are prewired.

- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While I agree that it’s important to raise awareness of this disease as well as foster efforts to find a cure and help those affected, blow-drying my hair does not help cancer patients. And those little games on Facebook where you write some cryptic message in your status, like the color of your bra or whatnot, don’t raise awareness either. First, it has nothing to do with breast cancer and everything to do with a childish need to draw attention to oneself only. Second, it’s always women who do this and email their female acquaitances, making sure to tell them not to tell any men, so that they’ll be wondering what the cryptic status updates mean. So obviously, it’s not raising cancer awareness for them. Moreover, if those women were as aware as they claim to be, they would realize that men are affected by breast cancer, not only because their sisters, mothers, wives, daughters and friends can have the disease, but also – newsflash – because MEN CAN HAVE BREAST CANCER.

- MythBusters finally proved that both Jack and Rose could have survived the wreck of the Titanic by floating on that door. So there, it’s official.

- Super Wikipedia article on Quebec French profanity.

- The Kitchn wrote a post about prickly pears, which are basically cactus fruit. I’m wondering if one can eat the fruit of ANY cactus, because I do see some “in the wild”, so to speak, and I’m wondering if I can forage prickly pears. Anybody know?

- I talked about GMOs in the last batch of links. I’ve now heard that a case regarding a Monsanto seed patent infringement will reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months. The federal court already found in favor of Monsanto, but personally, I hope the decision gets overturned. I am highly uncomfortable with a practice that prevents farmers from using part of their harvest for reseeding next year’s crop, not to mention the pressure that Monsanto puts on the farmers to buy their seeds and pesticides.

Speaking of which, on November 6th, California has to vote for (or against) Prop. 37, which would require labeling of GMOs as such. If it goes through, which I really hope it does, it will have a ripple effect on the entire country’s labeling, as most companies abide by the nation’s strictest regulations (and can then sell their product in any state). Today, 61 countries in the world have such laws already in place, so I think it’s time for the FDA to get with the program. I really like Mark Bittman’s ideal food label, which takes into consideration GMOs but also criteria like nutrition, “foodness” and welfare, giving the products a traffic-light score. An actualy example might look like this. It takes a lot of factors into consideration and is also very easy to understand.

Finally, here’s a video about Prop. 37. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Korean-Style Steamed Eggs

I made some of these Korean-style steamed eggs for dinner, using one egg per ramekin. I used two pasteurized eggs and two eggs from free-run hens; you can see the difference in the picture below (pasteurized on the left, free run on the right). Eggs from free run hens really do have a brighter yolk. I tend to buy pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs whenever there’s a chance I’ll be eating them raw, though, like in custard-based ice cream (recipe to follow). I really wish there were such a thing as pasteurized eggs from pasture-raised hens! I’m sure they would be expensive, but I’d pay the price. I’m already paying extra for either of those characteristics, which are the only two I look for, albeit for different reasons.

These steamed eggs were good, but I would like more flavor next time. I’d consider adding maybe a bit of sesame oil to the mixture, or perhaps throwing in some grated ginger or garlic. Perhaps I’d use vegetable broth instead of water? I made the recipe as is written below, but the variations are definitely worth considering.

4 eggs
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup water, plus more for filling pot
1 scallion, chopped
½ tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Combine the eggs, salt, and water in a heat-safe ceramic bowl, such as a ramekin. (I used 1 egg and ¼ cup water per ramekin.) Whisk until well combined and foamy.

Place the bowl in a pot or deep pan. Fill the pot with hot (not boiling) water to come halfway up the sides of the bowl. Cover the pot, preferably with a clear glass lid so you can easily watch the water and eggs. Cook over low-medium heat for 12 minutes, making sure the water stays at a gentle simmer.
Sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds on top of the eggs and continue to cook for about 3 minutes or until the eggs are set. They should be firm but still jiggly. (In my case, I may have cooked the eggs a few minutes less than called for, since my ramekins were small.)

Carefully lift the bowl from the pot and serve.

Some variations:
• Add chopped vegetables like red bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, or onions to the egg and water mixture
• Add red pepper along with the scallions and sesame seeds
• Substitute brined baby shrimp, fish sauce, or soy sauce for salt
• Substitute stock for water

Mushroom Popover Pie

This recipe came in handy when I was looking for a vegetarian recipe and didn’t have much inspiration. It’s actually quite tasty, though I’d use less salt next time. The pie was thin and not too filling, so I’d serve it alongside something more substantial, like a green salad with vegetables, for a light meal.

2 Tbsp. butter, margarine or vegetable oil, divided
½ cup minced red onion (about ½ a medium onion)
½ lb. white mushrooms, stems removed, chopped into ¼-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
¼ lb. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped into ¼-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 tsp.)
1 ¼ tsp. table salt (I’d use less)
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. dried rosemary (I used some chopped fresh rosemary from the garden)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup lactose-free milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 °F. Add one tablespoon of the butter to a 10-inch stainless steel or cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. When butter has melted add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about five minutes.

Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ tsp. salt, thyme, and rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from mushrooms has evaporated and they start to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and onions to a bowl.

Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, flour, remaining ½ tsp. salt, and black pepper in the jar of a blender. Blend for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth. (I did this in a bowl and it was fine.)

Clean the skillet and wipe dry with paper towels. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and turn the heat to low. When butter has melted, swirl the pan so the butter coats the bottom and sides of the skillet. Turn off the heat. (I didn’t do this, because I didn’t want to burn myself or waste too much time waiting for the skillet to cool. I just put in the rest of the oil, spread it around in the heated skillet, and put the mushroom mixture back in.) Add the mushrooms and spread into a single even layer. Pour in the batter. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the mixture has puffed up slightly and is starting to brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

Carefully remove pan from the oven, immediately slip a silicone oven mitt over the handle (I learn from my mistakes), and cut the pie into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paprika-Chipotle Sauce

I don’t often make sauces or dips. I think it’s because both the Engineer and I have cut back on snacking, and we tend not to eat those types of thing for dinner (though there’s something to be said for a weekend lunch cobbled together from leftovers, with cheese and hummus and crackers). I also don’t make spicy foods. I stayed away from this sauce recipe for a while for those two reasons, even though it seemed lovely. I found the recipe on Gluten-Free Girl, who raves about it and calls it crack sauce (not the same as my crack sauce).

I decided to get my act together. I made the preserved lemon rind called for ahead of time, which is actually really easy: thinly slice some organic lemon rinds, without the pulp, and put them in a jar of coarse salt (I recommend organic lemons, here, because you are eating the rind itself.) I also bought some chipotles in adobo sauce for the first time. I used Nayonaise, which is a brand of vegan mayonnaise; you’re free to use your favorite vegan brand, or regular mayonnaise if you want. Then I made the sauce, which took all of two minutes. It was a delightful shade of red, and wow, was it good! I don’t remember ever using this much paprika before, but it’s worth it. It makes a lot of sauce, though, so if you aren’t having a party, make sure you have enough things to dip, or perhaps use it as a salad dressing (Gluten-Free Girl had it tossed with some cucumbers, dolloped on green beans and smeared in a taco). I served it with oven-fried onion rings and sausage.

1 jar (16 oz.) veganaise (or mayonnaise)
1 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I used 2, and it was just as hot as I wanted it; I froze the rest)
3 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/8 lemon rind in salt (see note above)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and let it run.
When the sauce is bright-orange in color and smooth, take a taste. Maybe you want more of lemon, or another chipotle pepper. Trust your taste buds.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

Once again, I’ve let things slide a bit here and have to catch up on recipes I haven’t posted. How about some onions rings, to make it up to you? I was hesitating between two recipes; one is from Jamie Cooks It Up and is relatively healthy, with milk and breadcrumbs. The other is from Zoom Yummy and, instead, calls for yogurt and crushed potato chips. I usually try to eat healthy, but I also want taste, and let’s face it, the second option sounded more appealing. (Though in either case, I think you could substitute panko, which would be tastier than breadcrumbs, but healthier than chips.)

I was a bit intimidated, but the recipe wasn’t hard to make. I ended up using more chips than called for; I would crush them even finer next time, and perhaps I’d think the yogurt out a bit further. Apart from that, it was a success, and the Engineer made his happy face. I served this with sausages on the side, and a paprika-chipotle sauce for dipping.

¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne or Korean pepper

1 cup plain lactose-free yogurt
2 eggs
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 cups finely crushed potato chips
2 onions, peeled and cut into ½-inch rings

6 Tbsp. vegetable oil such as safflower
salt (I omitted it only because I forgot)

Preheat the oven to 390 °F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne or Korean pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, eggs and ½ cup +2 Tbsp. flour. Whisk until a smooth batter is formed.

Crush all the chips finely and place them in a bowl too.

Cover two baking sheets with a piece of parchment. Drizzle with 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil on each, then pop it into the hot oven for 8 minutes, or until the oil just starts to smoke.

In the meantime, toss the onion rings in the flour mixture until they are evenly coated. Dip each ring into the batter. Let the excess batter dribble off a little, then coat the rings with the crushed potato chips.

Place the rings on the hot baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes, then flip each ring over before baking for another 8 minutes, inverting the sheets (top-to-bottom and front-to-back).

Sprinkle with salt while the rings are still hot. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Ça fait longtemps que je ne vous ai pas parlé de mon jardin! Il s’y passe quelque chose de merveilleux : les plus grosses plantes que j’ai parties à la graine! Commençons par le commencement : je sais que ce n’est pas la saison des tomates, l’automne. Mais ce qu’il faut savoir, c’est que le climat du Sud du Texas permet deux récoltes par année, alors que la période la plus chaude de l’été est peu propice au jardinage (sauf pour le melon d’eau, paraît-il). Bon, en théorie, j’aurais dû partir mes semis de tomates au printemps, pour une récolte au début de l’été. Sauf qu’à partir de la mi-mai, je n’étais plus chez moi! Je suis revenue à la toute fin de juillet, alors ce n’était pas du tout pratique de commencer à jardiner avant ça. Et puisque les paquets de graines indiquaient des périodes d’entre 80 et 90 jours jusqu’à maturité, je me suis dit que j’avais le temps d’essayer ça avant le premier gel (habituellement mi-novembre). J’ai tout planté le 1er août, en me disant que c’était plus une expérience pour savoir comment bien partir des semis qu’une tentative de récolte fructueuse. J’essaie quatre variétés anciennes (heirloom), qui m’ont l’air délicieuses : big rainbow, supersteak, brandywine et noire de Crimée.

J’ai essayé deux méthodes à la fois ce coup-ci, vu mes piètres résultats les dernières fois (tout ce que j’ai réussi en semis n’a pas survécu assez longtemps pour être planté dehors, ou est mort rapidement après le transfert, avec l’exception de mon romarin). Il y avait parfois des problèmes de moisissure, difficile à éviter sans tomber dans la sécheresse. Là, je me suis équipée et j’ai essayé un système de semis dont les petits pots sont, de un, sous une lampe spéciale pour les aider à pousser et, de deux, sur un tapis humide qui permet de donner juste la bonne quantité d’eau aux semis. En parallèle, suivant les conseils de ma mère, j’ai planté des graines dehors, directement dans un pot de terre, question de pouvoir essayer deux méthodes en une saison.

Les semis ont poussé bien plus vite dans les petits pots à l’intérieur, mais ils étaient étiolés malgré la lampe. Je pense aussi que ça pourrait être à cause du substrat : j’ai utilisé les petites pastilles de terreau vendues avec l’ensemble, mais c’est vrai que ce n’est pas l’idéal! À l’extérieur, j’ai rempli un pot avec environ 2/3 de terreau, puis 1/3 de terreau à semis, et j’y ai planté mes graines. Le pot était sous un arbre, à l’abri des rayons du soleil pendant la période la plus chaude chaque journée (et à l’abri du plus fort des rares orages); j’ai arrosé tous les matins. Les graines ont mis du temps à germer dehors, mais elles ont fini par se montrer le bout des feuilles, et tout de suite les semis étaient plus en santé que ceux à l’intérieur. Plus robustes, deuxième paire de feuilles sortie plus tôt, vert plus foncé, et une fois parties, je ne pouvais plus les arrêter. Quand j’ai fini par sélectionner les meilleurs spécimens de l’intérieur pour les transplanter dehors, ils étaient minuscules comparés à ceux qui y avaient toujours été, et un seul a survécu.

Ces photos ont été prises aujourd’hui, donc un peu plus de deux mois après la mise en terre. Et ce matin, pour la première fois, j’ai aperçu deux tomates! Toutes petites, encore vertes, et pas identifiées (seuls mes semis intérieurs étaient identifiés, parce que je pensais que ce serait eux qui pousseraient). J’espère que la température me permettra d’en récolter quelques-unes, que les écureuils ne viendront pas les manger… S’il fait trop froid, je pourrai entrer les pots pour la nuit. Histoire à suivre.

Mon citronnier Meyer va nettement mieux que l’année dernière lui aussi!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Brown Rice Salad with Crunchy Sprouts and Seeds

I had a dry spell. Not in the sense that I didn’t make anything to eat, but in the sense that what I made was dry! It started with a gorgeous orange blossom sesame cake topped with pistachios. I was looking forward to it so much, and when I finally tasted it… Dry was my first thought. And my second, and my third one too. Even with the orange blossom honey syrup on top, even with maple syrup after that. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but too dry to be enjoyable, even though I only baked it 30 minutes (perhaps I should have checked earlier?). When I covered it with a lid overnight, the Engineer and I joked that I wasn’t actually protecting the cake from drying out, I was protecting the kitchen from being dried out by the cake! It was a bitter disappointment.

Then I made this salad recipe from Bon Appétit. I used more rice than it called for, because ½ cup of rice for an entire salad (especially one called a brown rice salad) didn’t seem like enough. And when I served it, I absolutely loved it. I had reduced the amount of olive oil to ½ cup and even thought about reducing it further next time, because it seemed like a bit much. But the second night, however, this salad had become very dry, and I suspect it’s because of the extra rice I threw in. I’d therefore recommend making it with only ½ cup of rice, and use your judgment for the oil (I’m writing down the recipe as it was published, because I think the oil helps the leftovers stay moist). With the right amount of moisture, it’s a delicious and healthy salad! The recipe makes a generous 6 servings, perhaps more.

1 cup (packed) chopped fresh chives
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt plus more
1 ½ cups mixed dried sprouted legumes (such as mung beans and lentils)
1 ½ cups grated zucchini, lightly squeezed to remove liquid
½ cup cooked brown rice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup toasted salted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted salted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted unsalted almonds
freshly ground black pepper

Purée chives, oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor until smooth. Strain chive vinaigrette through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl.

Cook dried sprouted legumes in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Cover pot; remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes; drain. Rinse legumes under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add zucchini, rice, scallions, seeds, nuts, and chive vinaigrette to bowl with legumes; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Garlic Pasta

This recipe was originally for creamy garlic pasta. I used soy creamer, but I have to say that it didn’t really bring anything to the dish, and I thought the pasta actually looked better before I added it, so I’ll omit it completely in the future. They have the distinction of being cooked by adsorption, like cocoa nib and zucchini pasta, using broth instead of water, which makes them extra flavorful. It’s an easy dish, and very satisfying.

2 tsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ lb. spaghetti or angel hair pasta (I didn’t listen and used gemelli)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.

Once it is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce the stove to medium heat and mix in the parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

All in the name of scientific discovery!

I like finding a recipe that combines unexpected tastes and pulls it off really well. That’s how I felt the first time I mixed strawberries with balsamic vinegar (just top fresh strawberries with sugar, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper and fresh mint). There was a scene in Full House – which I looked for on YouTube and couldn’t find – where one of the men was explaining to one of the little girls that she couldn’t just mix two ingredients that she loved together and expect the result to taste good. If you like chocolate and you like cheese, it doesn’t mean that chocolate and cheese go together. And yet, chocolate cheesecake works…

So when I saw recipes by Maille for desserts that included their Honey-Dijon mustard (I believe I got this in the mail), I was intrigued. On their French website, they even have a berry Dijon and a coconut Dijon mustard… One of their recipes was for mini-cheesecakes (the link I just gave is to a version of the recipe that looks both more precise and more accurate than the printed version I have), but the one that I tried was Chocolate Fondant à la Maille. Chocolate and mustard, together? All in the name of scientific discovery for you, dear readers!

Our verdict: not worth it. The mustard is not delicate enough. I had reservations to begin with, so I made 4 ramekins as the recipe suggested (though with a soy creamer instead of the whipping cream), keeping the rest of the chocolate batter in the fridge. When we decided the mustard did not have a place in this dessert, I made the rest of the ramekins with only chocolate, and that part of the recipe is a keeper. It reminded me a bit of a plain version of my chocolate and beet pudding cakes, or perhaps my chocolate raspberry mink cakes. These cakes don’t contain gluten, and if you choose not to bake them and serve them cold, they are like a chocolate mousse. That’s the recipe I’m giving you, because it’s the one I can stand behind; if you want the mustard version, click on the previous link and attempt at your own risk and peril.

9 oz. 70% cocoa dark chocolate
1 ½ sticks vegan margarine
1 ¼ Tbsp. rice flour
1 ¼ Tbsp. powdered cocoa
8 eggs, separated
½ cup sugar

Grease 8 ramekins. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Melt chocolate and margarine in double boiler.

Mix egg yolks with flour and cocoa.

Pour melted chocolate and margarine into egg mixture and stir.

Beat egg whites until bubbly, and then add sugar. Blend egg whites into chocolate mix.

Fill the ramekins with the chocolate mixture. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Cool, invert to remove from the mold and serve. (Or, if you used pasteurized eggs, refrigerate overnight and enjoy chocolate mousse.)