Archive for February, 2009

Building a Better Broth

February 17, 2009

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The vegetable stock that I had made for the roasted carrot ginger soup was a relatively simple affair – onions, leeks, celery, and dried thyme.  No carrots since there would be plenty in the soup, no tomatoes because they suck this time of year, and no fresh herbs because I didn’t have any on hand.  But maybe these key ingredients led to the lack of complexity in the soup?

For this week’s Saturday Soup, I tried a different, more disciplined route with The Daily Soup’s vegetable stock.  No scrimping.  It was chock full of ingredients – onions, leeks, celery, carrots, tomatoes, fresh thyme, garlic, parsley, white wine and bay leaf.  All the fresh ingredients cost about the same amount as a quart of fancy organic stock in the tetra packs, and made twice as much. Usually a repository for spent ingredients, it seemed a shame to throw out half a pot of newly bought vegetables.  The hodge podge did indeed make a better stock, and undoubtedly, will make a better soup.


Stimulating the economy $150 at a time

February 12, 2009


 To get us out of our economic crisis, I know that as a good American I should SPEND SPEND SPEND.  I did a lot of that pre-crisis, which set off my own financial crisis.  With my current fiscally responsible budget, I spend every last cent of my allowance without guilt, and I try to be a responsible consumer.  Who’s economy do I want to stimulate?  Who do I want to keep in business?

Met with the question on Saturday to buy soup ingredients, I shopped at the Farmer’s Market and the local Korean deli, not Pathmark.  More like emptying my pockets, a handful of vegetables and a fruit was $9.  I mean, really?  For 3 carrots, celery, a leek, 2 onions, ginger and an apple?  I’m stunned.

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This week’s soup was Tom Valenti’s Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup.  To save money, I made my own vegetable stock, while I roasted the carrots – sorry mega food processing company for not buying your manufactured carton of stock.  For all the steps involved and its seductive title, the soup was good, but not terribly distinctive.  Rich and velvety with a spicy kick from the ginger (or my over-zealous peppering of the stock and carrots), it wasn’t as sweet as expected, I wanted brighter flavors.  I’m still looking for the carrot ginger soup of my dreams, and while tasty, this isn’t quite it.

The Littlest Fridge

February 11, 2009


I knew that when I got my undercounter refridgerator that I would be cramped for space.  Slightly larger than a dorm fridge, it’s probably good for me to have a small fridge given my hoarder tendencies.  The challenge lies in its organization.  Fairly uniform storage containers to stack, bagged produce in the drawer, short jars and ziploc-ed breads and meats on the short shelves.  Everything has a home.  


Until recently, the eggs were homeless, being shuttled around from long skinny carton to the smaller dinky tray that came with the fridge.  A new ceramic egg crate solves this problem, fitting perfectly on the short bottom shelf.  And it’s cute, something that I can’t say about the dink tray.


Hot Chocolate Pudding

February 10, 2009

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I was lucky enough to receive a pretty tin of MarieBelle Hot Chocolate, a well deserved treat during last week’s temperature drop.  The “mix” is made of chocolate shavings that gets melted in a one to one ratio with water, meant to be more like espresso – thick and robust – instead of chocolate tinted water.  It’s almost too thick for my taste, to the point that when it cools, it congeals into a pudding.  Reading the ingredients, there’s potato starch, which I’m guessing is the thickening agent.  Although elegant and flavorful, I’d still rather drink my hot chocolate than eat it with a spoon.

Outsmarting the smoke alarm

February 9, 2009


I know the paramount importance of a smoke alarm.  So much so that it’s hardwired into my apartment, I don’t even have  the option of turning it off.  Which presents a problem whenever I cook up anything that smolders.  The piercing alarm is enough to make my ears bleed – safety first, deafness later.  It has functioned as negative reinforcement, deterring me from cooking anything that would smoke.  I’ve contemplated a fan above the cooktop, but where would I plug it in?  They’re so unsightly, a repository for grease and dust.  I’ve tried using a room fan close to the cooktop to blow the smoke away, but that seems to make the gas flame hotter, like fuel for the fire, not really solving my problem, and it still sets off the smoke detector.  The trick is to get the smoke away from the smoke detector.  What works is using the room fan on the smoke detector while I cook.  Although this defeats the purpose of detecting smoke, if there was a fire (God forbid), wouldn’t I be the first to know?


Saturday Soup

February 6, 2009


Along with my cookbook addiction, I am a recipe hoarder.  If there is a recipe that remotely interests me, I cut it out and stow it in a file.  It’s a sickness.  I can usually stop myself at Things That I Shouldn’t Make like cakes and breads and anything “cream of”, but I do have a taste for the novelty – you can bet that the woven bacon thing in the Times is in there – and I must have at least five recipes for carrot ginger dressing.

In my excavation, I came across an old recipe for caldo verde, surely not the only one in that bulging file.  This one, from an old Marie Claire, could be in made 15 minutes.  It was Saturday, I had all day, I could afford to be leisurely.  The recipe called for mashing the potatoes to quickly thicken the soup, which I didn’t do since I like chunks of potatoes and time would take care of flavor and thickness. I also added white beans for more heft and because I like them too.

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Caldo Verde

-in a large stockpot, heat 3T olive oil over medium

-add 1 finely chopped onion, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes

-add 4 minced garlic cloves, stir to coat

-add 5 cups of water and 2 chopped potatoes

-bring to a boil, simmer until potatoes are done, about 10 minutes

-in a small skillet, heat 1 cup thinly sliced chorizo over medium, about 2 minutes

-deglaze pan with 1/2 cup soup stock

-add chorizo, liquid, 2 cups chopped kale, and 1 14-oz. can white beans

-bring to boil, cook 2 minutes

The Winter Fix

February 5, 2009

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Now that the Fort Greene Flea Market has been shuttered for the winter, if I want papusas, I have to learn how to make them.  The slaw was easy enough, and I had plenty of it from last week.  I found and adapted the recipe from Marion Cunningham’s The Supper Book, where I also found her recipe for papusas.  A simple mix of masa harina, water, and cumin, stuffed with cheese, it was even easier than the slaw.  There was no special timing or technique involved, a literal slapping together of ingredients.  



-mix together 2 cups masa harina, 2 cups warm water, 1T ground cumin and 1/2t salt

-form a ball from 1/2 cup dough, flatten, add 1/3 cup shredded cheese, salt and pepper, reroll, and flatten

-heat 1t oil in a medium pan, add flattened papusa

-cook each side until golden, about 3 minutes each

-serve with slaw

Change I can believe in

February 4, 2009


I have promised myself that I was going to deal with all the little things that annoy me in my apartment.  The major stuff has been taken care of, except for the oven, now it’s time to sweat the small stuff.  The bothersome, but not debilitating details; the things that bum me out, but are livable.  In other words – stop procrastinating.  By the end of each month, I want to have dealt with something, big or small.  An easy enough time table and easy on the wallet – I’m on a budget, remember?

For the month of January, I finally dealt with my cutlery tray.  I have lived too long with the lame-o drawer dividers knocking about.  I decided on a clear acrylic set after contemplating a more substantial bamboo – first at Crate and Barrel whose expandable rack would’ve fit perfectly, but was disturbingly shallow; then at both Kmart and Bed, Bath, & Beyond which were both sold out.  No more waiting, I snapped to a decision with the acrylic.  I’m actually happy with the acrylic – it’s practically invisible, like Wonder Woman’s plane.  Most of all, it fits in the odd-sized custom drawer without losing much space.  I almost wish I had done this earlier, but I am more appreciative after six long dysfunctional months without it.

Super Bowl Snacking

February 3, 2009

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Seeing that I still had boxes of Chex cereal from Christmas, I thought I’d give Chex Mix another try for Super Bowl Sunday.  As the Apps Tsar, I wanted to deviate from the classic with Martha Stewart’s Cereal Mix with Olive Oil and Parmesan.  Tremendously simple, it only requires a simple toss of said olive oil and parmesan.  The most complicated thing for me was splitting it up in three batches for the toaster oven.  I tweaked the pretzel rounds with Newman’s own salt and pepper pretzels for more bite.  A dusting of herbs like thyme and rosemary would have been a nice touch.  The Chex Mix made it out the door this time, but I have to admit that as much as I like olive oil and parmesan, I love butter and Worcestershire Sauce more.