Cooking with the Metric System

Cooking with the Metric System

“Tomorrow we’re going to make soup and bread,” my foreign friend informed me.
“We’ll cook in kilo!” I delighted.
“We’re making soup,” she pointed out, “we’re not using measurements.”

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Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipes are meant as inspiration. You don’t like almond extract? Skip it. It calls for margarine? Halve it. You ran out of rosemary? Use oregano. At least, that’s how I interpret recipes. Except, sometimes, I want to make sure that the cookies I’m making are guaranteed to turn someone’s day around. At those desperate times, I need to make sure that the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies – because those are the one thing that we can all agree make the world a better place – turn out the way that the general public thinks they should. So, I follow the actual recipe. And each time I follow a recipe, I am shocked by how well it turns out. It turns out that I’m not the only one. I recently learned that there’s a small but strident group that don’t follow recipes except for the rare occasion – rare occasions on which they’re inordinately pleased by the recipe-following results. However, while I simply can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, other people are taking a stand by refusing to be dictated to by a list of ingredients and instructions. So this recipe goes out to those who believe:

I have enough people telling me what to do. I’ll put as much baking soda in these as I want to, thank you very much.

Hear their rallying cry, and fear their wanton disregarding for your baking soda beliefs. But don’t worry about how the cookies will turn out; these ones are nearly error-proof.

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips

Cream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape/drop cookies on to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.

Peasch Preparation: Clearing the Cabinets

Peasch Preparation: Clearing the Cabinets

Pesach was nearly upon us, which meant food shopping would have been excessive. So, I took what I had and made a meal of it. And perhaps next year, I’ll be able to eat it on Peasach too!

Arzo con frijoles, with Peanut Sauce

1 can black beans, rinsed

1/2 c rice

1 c water

1 can diced tomato

2 tbsp cooking peanut butter

8 oz spinach

hot sauce, as desired

1/2 cup shelled peanuts, for garnish

Put all ingredient in an uncovered pot, bring to a boil. Cover, lower flame to a simmer, cook for 30-40 minutes. Eat in between pesach cleaning and shopping – or for sephardim, any time.

Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

I went through a phase where I tried to replicate a recipe without re-reading it. Sometimes that works out great. Other times, such as when I made this pilaf and forgot the rice – but not the amount of water you’d need to make it cook through – it did not work out at all.

Live, learn, and then remember that without the rice, a rice-and-lentil pilaf is just a bunch of lentils swimming in spice.

Rice and Lentil Pilaf from “The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes”

dallop oil for sauteeing
1/2 c onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp silvered almonds
2 3/4 c water
3/4 c brown rice, uncooked
1/2 c lentils, uncooked
1/4 cup craisins
2 tsp soy milk
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

sautee onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add in all ingredients, bring to a boil. Cover pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not uncover. If time allows, let sit for 5 minutes after removing from flame, fluff rice, and serve.

Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

A movie rat taught me how to make ratatouille – but by then it was already too late. My mom interprets, rather than follows, recipes. So when she made ratatouille, it followed the traditional dish in the sense that there are vegetables and an oven. But let’s just say that no Frenchman – or rat – worth their salt would recognize the dish as one of their own. After watching the movie, I looked up an actual recipe. I read it about halfway through; then decided it was more time-consuming than tasty, no matter how it turned out. So, I stick with my mom’s recipe, adapting it as the season and my pantry dictates – not unlike the French.

It’s a dish that receives both rave reviews. Though when I refer to it as ratatouille, the response is inevitably the same: it looks nothing like what the Disney rat made. True enough, but would you want to eat something that looked like a rat prepared it?

 

My Impression of Ratatouille

2-3 zucchini, cut in spears

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1-2 colored peppers, cut in spears

1-3 carrots, sliced

Options:

1 can diced tomato, 1 can tomato sauce, spices as desired; or

1/2 jar pasta or marinara sauce

 

Method 1:

Oil the pan, dump vegetables on it, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Drizzle a small amount of oil, or just use spray oil to coat. Toss vegetables and arrange so that they cover the pan evenly. Roast at 375 for about 45 minutes – maybe closer to an hour. Stir every 10-20 minutes. After they’re roasted, put everything in a pot and added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce and spiced as desired – in my case that means basil, parsley, and anything else that looks green appropriate.

Method 2:

Alternatively, you can sautee everything in a pot and, when cooked, add the tomato-based products.

Method 3:

Follow the direction in Method 1, pouring jarred pasta or marinara sauce to the pan of veggies – about 1 cup. Continue as directed above. Easy, breezy, beautiful – and delicious.

The Original Crowdsourcing

The Original Crowdsourcing

I need a Kitchen Mailbox contingent. Kitchen Mailbox is a brilliant invention of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; it’s a coterie of cooks with memories longer than time itself. Kitchen Mailbox is the place to go if you want to know how a bakery, defunct for nearly 50 years, used to get its chocolate chip cookies to the perfect gooiness. If you can’t figure out what happened to that recipe for Strawberry Shortcake you clipped from the Pillsbury Best cookbook of 1983 – the recipe that was the source of countless birthday cakes for your son who is now a groom and wants that exact cake for the wedding – you write a letter to Kitchen Mailbox.

I’m not sure who is the source of the Kitchen Mailbox knowledge, but there is always a response. In other words, Pittsburgh had a Reddit for all things culinary, decades before anyone knew they needed one. While we’re on the topic, can anyone find me a recipe for cabbage strudel?

Tu B’Shvat: A Holiday for Cookie Eaters

Tu B’Shvat: A Holiday for Cookie Eaters

From Special Correspondent Dena, here is the Tu B’Shvat Cookies recipe that can’t be beat. You will have to use your judgement regarding exactly how much of each ingredient use, since Dena doesn’t feel bound by recipes. Oh, and she also add chopped dates and/or figs to these. Moral to the story: go to town with the seven species and you probably won’t go wrong.

 

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Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

I came with an agenda, but I needn’t have bothered. Innocently, I glanced at Bubby’s bookshelves and remarked “Oh, is that New Kosher Cuisine?” As the conversation had been tangentially related to food, the comment wasn’t totally off the mark. Though the reason I asked was because I intended to leave with her copy of the cookbook in my possession.

“Yes,” said Bubby, “Do you want it?” No beating around the bush needed.

Possibly because she hasn’t used the book in my lifetime.

There was just one condition – Bubby – who claimed she’d never met a mandelbroit recipe she couldn’t ruin and who hadn’t cooked with sugar in decades, wanted that recipe copied out before she handed over the book.

Here’s the secret: bake the mandelbroit loaves at 350 for 20 minutes, then remove them from the oven, slice them up, and broil on each side for 30 seconds. Or more, if you prefer your mandel burnt. And since you have that, there’s no need for you to walk off with my copy of New Kosher Cuisine.

Mediterranean Meal

Mediterranean Meal

I have as much storage space in my apartment as a midshipman at sea: lucky if I can smuggle some granola bars and a bottle of whiskey on board. If you don’t pack in enough food, you may go hungry late one night. But bring on board too much and you may get court-martialed – or your food disposed of. While none of my roommates have had the ability to court martial me, some have made me wish I’d been dishonorably discharged from our lease agreement. So, rather than anger anyone I limit my food purchasing. Since it’s vital to always be stocked for a natural or national disaster, that means I’ve cut corners. For example, I only have one type of grain at a time in my kitchen. If I already have rice, I’m not buying millet. If I have groats, barley won’t make it on the shopping list.

As with every rule, to this one there is an exception. That exception is Smitten Kitchen’s Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad. The food on that site is reliable and tasty and they only promise what they can deliver. So, when this recipe promised “..if I had more of this Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad right now, I’d eat it for lunch and then dinner again,” and, “I have done you a disservice by not mentioning this for two weeks, as you could have have already eaten it twice! Maybe even four times!” I went out and bought all the ingredients – even though I was only half-way through a bag of rice. And it was worth it the lose of storage space to have this salad on hand.

It was so good that it made me reckless and I decided that any recipe labeled Mediterranean had to be good. So I let the internet lead me away to the sunny shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It took me straight to The Mediterranean Dish’s Za’atar Roasted Chicken Breast.

While I trust Smitten Kitchen to know what’s best for me, I don’t know The Mediterranean Dish from a hole in a wall. So, rather than follow the recipe, I adapted and adjusted and the result is:

Mediterranean Sumac Chicken, based on a true recipe

3-4 lbs chicken

1/2 c lemon juice

1 c olive oil

2 tbsp sumac

2 tbsp allspice

2 tbsp cinnamon

2 tbsp za’atar

2 tsp paprika

10 cloves of garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

1 lemon, sliced.

Marinate chicken in all ingredients. If you have the time, combine the oil and spices into a marinade and let sit overnight. Otherwise, the add the oil and spices to the chicken already in the pan, coating evenly. Add in garlic, onion, and lemon. Roast at 400F for 45-60 minutes – for the first 30 minutes, cover the pan.

Next up on my Mediterranean menu: baklava?