torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
It would seem that Hungarian wax peppers are a good stand-in for New Mexico or Anaheim peppers in cooked-chile dishes. We have a recipe that called for canned mild green chiles, so I pulled in an armload of wax peppers (twice as much as we needed, and the plants aren't bare), took off the stems and seeds, and steamed them in the microwave. They have a little bite, about as much as a jalapeno, but without the bitterness that Anaheims and New Mexicos are prone to. I think that they'll be just fine once diced.

I originally grew these guys for throwing into omelets at the last minute (crunchy!) but if they serve as a fresh substitute for canned chiles, I may end up using them for a lot more stuff. They have a good size and shape for cooking or frying, and thin walls with good flavor.

(Hungarian wax peppers, by the way, are the hotter cousin of the almost-identical banana pepper, but even wax peppers don't run as hot as serranos. Quite manageable.)
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Today, Amanda came over and helped me stem the tide of produce.

While waiting for her, I went to the irrigation supply store (well, two of them) to get stuff for a client and two replacement sprinklers for the front lawn. Then I came home and hacked down the tall weeds at the corners of the lawn; from first slice to stuffing the green bin completely full was about 20 minutes, which may be some kind of record.

I went on to harvest the last of the potatoes and four juggler's-pin-sized Armenian cucumbers. I guess we'll be eating a lot of salads and tzatziki. Then I ran the tomato sauce (made two days ago) through the food mill to extract the seeds.

When she got here, we picked a week's worth of tomatoes -- I estimate about 25 pounds, and we didn't touch the cherry tomato. Staggering in, we started by canning fifteen pints of tomato sauce left over from Wednesday's efforts, then she pitted the second harvest of nectarines while I blanched and peeled a load of Podarok Fei tomatoes (they're very solid, so I figured I'd try canning them whole). She helped me can those up as well, and we ran those dozen or so pints with two pints of juice and a leftover pint of chicken stock that didn't seal two days ago. They all did just fine.

The nectarines are almost all frozen and in bags now, and the only urgent thing I have left is to trim some of the cracked and damaged tomatoes we picked today, so they can go into the freezer for later rounds of sauce. The rest of the tomatoes will be eaten, given away, or tossed into the freezer as well. Thank goodness I spent day before yesterday clearing a third of the chest freezer for things like this...

The plants are still gearing up, so I'm in for more days like this. At least we know that we use most of our preserved tomatoes for sauce (cacciatore, casseroles, and Indian masalas), so I don't have to try to can coherent chopped or whole tomatoes for the most part. Still, I need to make sure I can put some time aside every week or two to cope with the bounty which has finally descended on us.
torquill: The magician Howl (happy things)
I am, at this moment, cooking a steak for my lunch.

The stove is not on, nor is the oven. The grill is cold. No microwave is involved. Yet I am assured of delicious, tender steak before the end of the next half-hour.

The secret is sous-vide. And Kenji, bless his foodie heart, figured out how to easily (and cheaply!) perform sous-vide in an ice chest.

No, I'm not kidding. I pulled out the standard-size ice chest, filled it with a combination of hot tap water and boiling water, and put two gallon ziplocs full of a chuck cross-rib roast (sliced into one-inch-thick steaks) into it, along with the attendant garlic, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. With the probe telling me the water was a comfortable 136F, I put the lid on, and it's been sitting there for about a half-hour. It can continue to sit all afternoon if I need it to.

I've done this before a year or so ago, with a standard chuck steak. The cheaper and tougher the meat, the better it turns out. And boy, is it worth it, to have melt-in-your-mouth seasoned steak for $2.99/pound. I'll freeze what I don't eat today, as it's easy to thaw and sear it later.

There's just something so delightfully wrong about getting excellent steak by putting a very cheap cut in warm water and ignoring it. The only reason I don't do it more often is the hassle of pulling out and filling the ice chest... which is really not much of an obstacle. Hmm.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
I can't tolerate more than tiny amounts of alcohol. That's always been the case; my first introduction to booze was a few ounces of hard cider, which just about put me on the floor. As a result, I've never really known what I was missing. I drink non-alc bubbly on holidays with my teetotaler mom, and as I like sweet wines, Fre is just my speed. When I took a class on the types and making of wines, I did wish I could actually appreciate the finer qualities of the varietals, and perhaps someday I'll see how many sips I can handle and whether they even taste good. But on the whole, I've just skipped the whole thing.

Recently, however, I decided to try beer. Rambling on my travels with John Barleycorn, on the wagon )
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (weirdness)
Today's musical began an hour or so ago with Fenric's opening bugle, when he realized that was no ordinary bird warming up on the counter -- it was one of the magical Willie birds!

He's been quiet since, though you couldn't pry him out of the kitchen with a crowbar. I expect the main overture to start in a couple of hours, and the climax of the piece involves circling furry land sharks in the dance of Pulling The Turkey Out.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I am thinking about posting a bunch of the Indian food recipes I've been using, since I had to tweak so many of them (sometimes enormously) and even those that I use almost straight could use a boost in their Google rankings. Anyone who's tried recipes off the internet knows there's no easy way to tell whether a given recipe has ever been cooked, let alone how good it actually is, and some of them give you the impression they came from a universe where different physical laws apply. I don't feel authentic enough to create a blog for it (hi, I'm a self-taught amateur from California) but I can at least share some tasty stuff.

I won't create a filter, since I want them public, but they will be tagged and cut-tagged appropriately. If you have any questions about technique or ingredients, please feel free to comment, as I want random strangers who aren't incredibly familiar with the cuisine to be able to look the recipes over, collect what they need, and feel reasonably confident of success.

Most of them are adjusted to serve 6-8, so watch the quantities involved. (On the other hand, many of them freeze wonderfully.) I may make a post just about ingredients. We'll see what happens.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I love trifle. I got to have it a few times (my mom's side of the family is full of Angliophiles) before I developed an allergy to wheat. Since then, I've had to pass up eating the trifle at Cuthbert's in Dickens Fair, which looks so good it just about kills me to resist it.

This week, I realized that I had some leftover sponge cake in the freezer -- I had a craving for lemon ginger cake some weeks ago, and the recipe I tried made three cake tins worth (I only had two, whoops, pie tin to the rescue!) Two of those went in the freezer for later. It thaws tremendously well, as it turns out... So I pulled one out, sliced some strawberries, bought a little jar of blueberry preserves, and whipped up some crème anglaise because it looked quick and easy. (It was.) I was distracted, so the vanilla sauce wasn't as smooth as it should be, but you don't notice when eating it.

I portioned out the lemon ginger cake, topped it with a dab of jam, strawberry slices, and vanilla sauce, and served it to guests on Thursday. It was awesome. It was so good that I grabbed a quarter of the other cake tonight and repeated the trifle just for me, with some of the copious leftover crème anglaise (I really need to cut that recipe in half). (Or maybe not, if having it on hand means I get trifle whenever I want it. Too bad it doesn't freeze.)

I still have a few little jars of lemon curd in the cellar if I want to increase the lemon quotient later... om nom nom. :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
I am looking for places to purchase, in a brick and mortar store:

- Golden syrup (aka light treacle), essentially like karo syrup except made from sugar cane;
- Spumoni ice cream for my home freezer.

I haven't seen the former at Cash & Carry, though I'll ask next time I'm there.

The latter may not exist short of driving to a shop that makes spumoni and asking for a take-home, but I thought I'd ask to see whether any of the more niche ice cream manufacturers have hit on the idea of stocking the grocer's freezer with pints of spumoni. Yes, I know I can drive to The Old Spaghetti Factory and buy a scoop at a time, but it's a bit silly to go through all of that if I don't have to.
torquill: Coveralls with the patches "Henry's Garage" and "Forensics" (henry)
I did quite a bit today, and I'm sort of winding down before going to sleep. So here's my quiet yatta:

Busy, busy )

Still feeling quite good, and looking forward to tomorrow; I need to put plastic down against the rain, put up blankets against the frost/snow, and hone the scythe blade. I'm told the handles will unscrew, they're just reverse-threaded, so I'll set my dad loose on that. Once I remove the blade, of course. :)

Tom Baker wrote a nice eulogy for Nicholas Courtney.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I had a craving tonight, so I fixed myself some fried chicken. I had the tail end of a gluten-free loaf I baked two days ago, so on a whim I crumbled that up, then made a batter similar to that for pakora: chickpea (besan) flour, salt, pepper, a touch of cayenne, and water. I cut a 1-pound chicken breast into strips, battered them, dredged them in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried them a few at a time for 2-3 minutes at 325-340 degrees. They came out exquisitely tender, moist, and crunchy, just what I wanted. I was running a bit low on protein lately, and this really hit the spot. Besan flour was exactly the right thing.

Deep-frying is made so much easier by a probe thermometer. I've also learned what the chicken says to indicate it's done: it often starts to rumble, like somebody dripped water in, and the temperature suddenly climbs. That's when I need to pull it out, roll it around in paper towels, and put it on a rack. I should try this with fish...

The other day I made an Indian meal and finished it off with a firni, which is like kheer with no rice grains left in it (sort of a soft custard). The recipe directs the cook to make almond milk from scratch, and I figured I could shortcut that by buying some instead. Or maybe not: all commercial almond milk I could find had soy in it, and one of my friends is sensitive to soy. I ended up making it by hand after all. I never would have expected that, though.

I have another meal coming up, and I'm torn between trying to make a mild vindaloo (hey, it might work), a biryani, or some ground beef ball thing (what, I'm not sure). We've done tomato-based curry, cream-based curry (roganjosh), saag paneer, chicken tikka, and various side dishes like daal and chana. I'm holding off on chicken tikka masala until I can extract a recipe from the owner of my favorite restaurant. Thoughts?
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (omg)
Bahahahahaha!

They look tasty -- but I'd spend WAY too much time trying to ensure color-correctness...
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
Green tomato pakora is awesome.
Sweet potato pakora is pretty darn good, too, if you cut the pieces small.
I'm quite happy with my homemade batter mix.

I've gotta keep an eye on how much of that tamarind-date chutney I dip the finished pieces in, though -- as tasty as it is (I'd put it on toast), it seems to be the main source of heat in my pakora, and it can get a little... warm.

Deep frying is easier than I thought it was, and the result really isn't greasy. All sorts of cooking appear to be easier than I thought they were, lately. I guess after stretching the laws of chemistry and cooking by doing experiments with gluten-free bread, a lot of things seem simple by comparison. Or maybe it was making puff pastry by hand... :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (bean)
With 24 mature plants (26 counting the small-fruited ones) I'm hauling in 40-50 pounds of tomatoes per week now. Given that I planted for canning, I'm not complaining -- it means that when I'm done giving tomatoes away, I still have piles for preserving, enough to do a batch of sauce or cut tomatoes on any given day. I'm just managing to stay ahead of it, too.

So far, I've made pizza sauce (it tasted wonderful in the pot, I hope oversweetening it was enough to cut the acid I added to the jars), tomato chunks, and the diced/shredded tomatoes we use for casseroles because they're so soft. The last type is never a goal, but sometimes they just end up soft that way, and we have uses for them. Chunks or diced always produce tomato juice, so I have that too. I'm currently waiting on a batch of plain sauce to thicken up on the stove.

Future recipes include a yellow/green sauce (that should be interesting), tomato soup, and tomatoes with celery and pepper, like the seasoned sliced tomatoes we often get. I plan on a lot more tomato chunks and sauce, as they're versatile. Paste is hard, so I may not do that unless it's by baking rather than stove top.

This is the tomato year I've been working toward since 2003... I suspect the jars I put away now will last us for a while. :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
"Hmm, I feel like some rhubarb cobbler for dessert."

Go downstairs, get shoes and flashlight, head out to the garden. Pull a good double handful of rhubarb stalks. Bring them inside, wash and trim them. Cut them into 1/2" pieces, as the plant variety is such that peeling is unnecessary.

Pull out a small casserole and dump the pieces in. Look up a rhubarb pie recipe for the flour:sugar ratio, eyeball the amount of fruit, and estimate amounts. Pour the flour and sugar mix on. Toss some oatmeal in a bowl, add a half-handful of brown sugar, a dollop of flour, and a few tablespoons of butter; mash it together. Cover the top of the fruit with it.

Look at a few more recipes, set the oven to 425F, toss in the casserole dish, and set the timer to 35 minutes as a first guess. Head back upstairs. Watch old TV shows while the aroma of cobbler wafts up the stairs. Go down and pull it out. Watch some more TV until it's cool enough to touch. Eat dessert. Elapsed time since the rhubarb was pulled off the plant: 90 minutes.

I can cook well enough I don't need recipes for everything. I have a garden which provides us with something we all love, year-round, 24 hours a day. I have an hour in my evening which I can devote to combining the two.

This is the life I'm slowly working toward, and I love it.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
Thanks (in a tangential fashion) to [livejournal.com profile] pecunium's recent musing about fish, I seem to have found a decent substitute for canned tuna, in taste and texture if not convenience. I'm happy about that.

cut for the uninterested... )
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (weirdness)
When I was in Whole Foods the other day, I discovered purely by accident that Weetabix has spun off a whole-oats version. (Yes, it is called "Oatibix".) I gleefully snatched up the box before I thought about what I was doing. I'm now nearly halfway through a surprisingly heavy box of edible brillo pads, and looking forward to the rest. God only knows why. I missed Weetabix more than I realized, despite the fact that the substance it most closely resembles is particle-board, and it has a little less flavor than Cheerios. With a pinch of brown sugar it's pretty decent, though, and I've been toying with ideas for how to toast the pads without a toaster oven. They'd shed horribly in the toaster.

I've been looking for a gluten-free version of shredded wheat for years, and I've never found one. That's another cereal that many people have to be forced to eat, but which I actually miss. I have no idea what process is involved in making it, but I'm a little surprised that in the sea of gluten-free wafer cookies and gluten-free pretzels, there's nothing at all like Triscuits or shredded wheat. I'm sure it's technically feasible.

I'd adore a wheat-free version of Grape-Nuts, too. I know that malt is an essential part of the flavor, so getting rid of the barley (and thus gluten) is out of the question, but I could eat it so long as the wheat vanished. I miss it perhaps most of all -- crunchy, soggy, it never really mattered, I ate it anyway. I've always preferred things like Kix and Chex to Lucky Charms, even as a kid... I also miss the dark flavor of a good raisin bran, as apparently oats and rice don't have that depth of flavor (or light crisp flake, even). Sigh.

Maybe when I'm done researching bread I'll go into the cereal business. :)

Edit: The Internet to the rescue. Complete with barley malt, which most recipes lack.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (bean)
Why oh why do I let people dump 60 pounds of fruit on me every autumn?* First pears, now feijoas. Still working my way through the backlog (I'm glad they're keeping so long). Boy.

In other news, I harvested sweet potatoes larger than my two fists; the total usable crop fills a six-gallon bucket, with only one split one. It was a good year. Fortunately, sweet potatoes actually like neglect...



*Hint: it's because they're tasty.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I'm not a big coffee drinker. I suppose it was inevitable that when I went to the Pacific Northwest for college in the mid-90's, I'd pick up latte drinking, though. I've kept with the occasional cup since then, mostly to warm up or relax after a stressful class... I got a home espresso maker for Christmas one year, the kind that steams milk and yadda yadda, and used it occasionally. The last time I pulled it out (I was having a bad day), the pump quit. $100 for repairs? sigh. I don't drink them often enough to know who the good barristas are around here, which means that just going out (hard at 2am anyway) results in expensive undrinkable coffee half the time. I managed to fix the last latte from Panama Bay, but it took some doing.

I looked around, and didn't like the idea of paying $60-80 for a newer machine I'd only use once in a while, but all the stores had were basic coffeemakers and professional-style espresso machines. [livejournal.com profile] mactavish made the offhand comment that her espresso maker works on the stove, and that made me curious. So I went looking.

It turns out that, while such macchinettas are quite inexpensive ($10-20), and effective enough that the design has stayed the same for most of a century, no brick and mortar store carries them west of Manhattan. So I took a chance and ordered one, and waited 10 days for delivery. It came yesterday, and I played with it today.

After brewing and throwing out two rounds of coffee (to break in the aluminum finish), I made a mocha with the third. I have to say: it brews fast (2 minutes), it's easy to clean, it's quiet, it fits neatly on our smallest stove burner, and it's quite cute. It also makes very good coffee. I like my lattes and mochas to taste like premium coffee ice cream, the sort that has coffee grounds in it, without bitter or sour notes... this has a very slight bitter edge, but I suspect I can solve that by lightening the coffee blend a little. Otherwise it's at least as good as anything I've paid $3 for at a shop. I can brew good decaf rather than what the shop has on hand, sweeten it exactly as I like it, add chocolate or molasses (or not)... with no more hassle than the other machine gave me. Less, actually, as I don't have to worry about whether I've tamped it so firmly it'll burn.

So, all in all a good purchase. Thanks for turning me onto it, [livejournal.com profile] mactavish. :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
Today:

I whipped up two 2L bottles of root beer, because I really need something fizzy to drink that doesn't have high-fructose corn syrup in it. I would have made birch beer too, but I discovered I was out. Darn.

I actually ate food. Yesterday I accidentally fasted for 23 hours. Whoops.

I helped [livejournal.com profile] eastbaygreg and his dad put together a fence for the side of his house; this has been in the making for a while, and today was finally the day to drill post holes (with a tractor, no fools we) and pour the concrete around the anchor poles. Lots of hauling and mixing of 80lb bags of concrete. We made a great team, and the line of poles is neat, plumb, and firmly set. Sunday will see the fence completed. Woo!

I relaxed a bit with some TV while eating dinner, and caught up on LJ and FB.

I ordered more Gnome birch beer extract -- and discovered that The Home Brewery has outdone my usual mail-order place, Northern Brewer. Home Brewery has started carrying a line of extracts from Rainbow Flavors; they have the usual root beer, sarsaparilla, cream soda, birch beer, orange soda... cherry, strawberry, and lemon-lime, that's different... wait, eggnog? spruce beer? passionfruit?

Needless to say, I spent a little more than I expected; I drew the line at $30 with shipping, but I got spruce beer, their birch beer, and passionfruit in addition to my Gnome red birch beer (which is actually pink and kicks like a spearmint horse). I'm exceptionally curious about these three, and I'm glad [livejournal.com profile] foogod coaxed me into using 2L bottles, as it'll be much easier to do a small experimental batch of these without the undertaking of two dozen longnecks. I still like glass bottles, but two-liters are fast and small-scale.

I then finished the introduction for my review article. I desperately need to spend some serious time on this, as I'm getting closer to the deadline than I'm comfortable with. But I finished a major section, yay!

Yesterday I spent working on the RV, repairing the door, adding a water tank drain, and getting new keys made. I just need to load it up with the stuff we have here before it heads back over the hill.

Tomorrow will be two parties, one of which will have me working with yeast and honey and hopefully not requiring that I stand all the time; my feet hurt. Then I'll help assemble the facing boards for Greg's fence on Sunday, and possibly finish up with a tiki party in Berkeley.

Whew.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I decided that I've had sufficient luck with root beer that I should take a stab at ginger beer. I hate the stuff on store shelves, as it always has some nasty cloying taste associated with it. I tried a commercial extract, and discovered that the only flavoring in it was ester of pine resin -- it tasted, as you might expect, exactly like a pine board. eww.

So, since I wanted something that tastes like ginger, I took a hand of fresh ginger, some sugar, a little yeast, and water. I worried a little bit that the yeast might take exception to very fresh ginger (it's a pretty good antimicrobial) but apparently I needn't have worried. At all.

What follows is a tentative recipe for my trial batches of ginger beer. It is not alcoholic at all, but it has some heat to it. Do this only if you like ginger (a lot). :)

Recipe! )

This makes a very clean, crisp ginger beer with enough heat to warm your belly afterward; it's a great way to settle an uneasy stomach. I may try [livejournal.com profile] foogod's advice of adding a touch of cardamom to the brew, but I like it plain just fine. Yum. :)

There are alcoholic versions out there, brewed like beer... CHOW makes a very traditional non-alcoholic ginger beer using a "bug", or starter. I like dry yeast because it's reliable, quick, and needs no maintenance, but I imagine a bug gives it more character.

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torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
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