Archive for April, 2010

So Smart

April 29, 2010

For the Littlest Kitchen, I often shop in the bulk section, without the bulk.  I usually walk away with 3 or 4 teeny tiny bags of grains or beans no bigger than 1/2 cup, only what I need.  It’s a lot of bags which doesn’t sit well with me eco-consciously.  Sure, I could reuse them, or it could be repurposed for produce, travel, or cat litter, but they ultimately get thrown away in a giant landfill, never to decompose.  There must be a better way.

The Brooklyn Kitchen has a good solution with their reusable muslin drawstring bag.  For only $1, this little bag can save me from disposing more plastic, trumping bulk and pre-packaged goods.  So simple, so smart.

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Ghee to My Heart

April 27, 2010

After a month of meatloaf, I needed to veg out for a while.  Luckily, from the files come seven varieties of raita.   A topping, a side dish, a dip, it completes vegetarian meals nicely. But more on that later…

 I consulted Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for Indian inspired dishes.  Healthy was on my mind, but I’m not sure that I got it with the Indian-Style Saute of Cauliflower and Greens.  A virtuous combination of potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, watercress, and carrot, it also had ghee, Indian clarified butter.  I’ve never cooked with ghee before, but I know I like it given my dopamine high from the ghee dosa at The Temple Canteen, and my love for brown butter.  If there was a greater word for love, it would be how I feel about ghee right now.  The nutty, silky flavor permeates through the quick saute, emerging through the spices.  The heady aroma is addicting, with every bite, I want more.  Think Pavlov dog.  Think crack cocaine.

   

I’m so into ghee that I try to incorporate it into other dishes from the book.  Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger is a tomatoe-y stew for which I took great liberties and lessons from the previous recipe – ghee instead of oil, more garlic and ginger than required, canned diced tomatoes instead of the underripe ones right now, and a quick toss of spinach in the mix.  Sadly, the ghee was buried by the tangy tomatoes, not the best use of its talents.

  

The ghee becomes and overachiever in mujadarrah, Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions.  Basic and plain, dressed up only with the sweetness of carmelized onions, ghee makes it rich and indulgent, delivering butteriness in every bite.  Absolutely delicious, but probably not the ascetic dish that it’s meant to be.  Going to show, who needs meat when I have ghee.

 

The Meatloaf Menagerie, part 1

April 13, 2010

It’s not unusual to find in my recipe clippings file, full page of variations of one dish.  Hence, the pancake chronicles, six pancakes in six weeks.  From a 1997 New York Times Magazine, I pull out a meatloaf manifesto.  Now, I like meatloaf, a lot, but not this much, as I am essentially making the whole thing, and eating the whole thing.  For practical purposes and lack of equipment (no Dutch oven, no food processor), I only make two of the four – Choucroute Loaf and Bill Blass’s Meatloaf.

  

The Choucroute Loaf is everything that I like about meatloaf  – it’s easy to make, it uses up random leftovers, it’s light, it’s fluffy, it tastes good.  It is made sweet with chopped apples and applesauce, and made savory with smoked ham, rye bread crumbs, and horseradish.  I almost don’t mind eating the whole thing, especially over a bed of spinach for a more heathy meal.

 

Bill Blass’s Meatloaf was the opposite experience.  Practically the $50 meatloaf, I had to buy everything new, including twice the volume of meat and the wild goose chase to find Heinz Chili Sauce.  The bacon on top became a grease bomb in my oven, splattering fat everywhere, ensuing a four day clean up.  And the result?  Eh, a slightly glorified hamburger, dense and kind of bland.  Everything that I don’t like about meatloaf.

Pita Please

April 8, 2010

  

No one can hoover a bag of pita chips like I can.  I love that every bite is a surprise – shatteringly crisp or heartily crunchy.  Before I know it, they’re gone.  When I am lucky enough to get fresh pita from Damascus Bakery, I make my own, since the fresh pita doesn’t stay fresh for very long.  Appreciating that I took the time and effort to make the chips – and knowing how much oil is on them – slows down the urge to eat it all in one sitting.

Pita Chips

-split through the seams of 4 pita bread to create two halves

-combine 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2t sea salt, and 1T mixed minced herbs (thyme, rosemary, zaatar, etc.)

-lightly brush both sides of pitas with olive oil, careful not to saturate too heavily

-broil each side for 2 minutes until golden brown

-when cool, break into chip size pieces

The Queen of Queens

April 6, 2010

The subway adventure this month brings me back to Flushing in search of Bori Gogae, a Korean takeout mentioned in the Times a few years back.  The problem with keeping such old clippings is that after a few years, these places may not exist anymore.  Such is the case of Bori Gogae.  Traveling almost an hour to get to my lunch destination to see it gone, is disappointing to say the least, but it frees me up to be impulsive and to try new places.  Or act out of desperation.  Lunch at a dollar dumpling place near where Bori Gogae once stood was mediocre, not a newsworthy destination.

 

I didn’t want to repeat my journey from a couple of months ago, so I carved a new path, ultimately to the Queens Museum. The main road of discovery was Main Street, from 41st Avenue to the Botanical Garden.  A condensed Silk Road, I venture from Asia to the Middle East in a matter of blocks.  A stop at Traditional Xinjiang Barbecue on the corner of 41st and Main exemplifies that fusion with their $1 cumin-encrusted  kebabs.  Fresh beef, lamb, and chicken skewers are worth the wait of doubled park cars and repeat customers.

On Main Street, there is no lack of Chinese grocery stores, it’s a matter of deciding on which one.  A & N appeared to have good produce and an interesting prepared section.  Beautiful baby bok choy was $1 a pound.  My dim-sum-on-the-run continued with a chive pancake – an oversized dumpling filled with chive, egg, and mung bean noodles.  Still on Main, but off my geographical trail, I stop into the Latin Bakery for the rosquita de queso, my favorite donut shaped cheese bread.  As the Chinese filters out, there becomes more halal butchers and middle eastern grocery stores, the turning point being the Patel Brothers, the Indian super store.

On the way to the Queens Museum, the Western Beef on the corner of College Point Blvd. and Fowler is Central and South America under one roof.  Aisles are figuratively named by country – Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and mysteriously, Croatia.  I could go spend crazy, but I hold back with the sole purchase of a box of Pacoquinha, a peanut halva candy from Brazil.   I’m overloaded, on my back and in my belly, is this how Marco Polo felt?

New A & N Food Market

41-79 Main Street

 

Latin Bakery

41-41 Main Street

 

Western Beef

44-44 College Point Blvd.

Grainiac

April 1, 2010

One of the many things that I love at Korean restaurants is the mixed rice instead of white rice.  Usually a colorful mix of brown rice, red beans, mung beans, etc., it seems so healthful.  Happily, I found an organic 10 grain mix at Han Ah Reum, which also has barley, oat groats, and quinoa.  My cholesterol is lowering as I speak!  It has a grainy, chew-y texture, more substantial than any of the elements on their own.  I like to burn the bottom for a little more crunch and a bit of smoke.  The only drawback is at $10.99 for a 3 lb. bag, health comes at a steep price.

I suppose I could make my own, but what a harmonious mix.  And so much easier to pick up one bag, than ten.  I stumbled across Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, a combo of Israeli couscous, orzo, red quinoa, and split garbanzo beans.  Hmm, it’s tasty, but let’s face it, this is pasta, not grains.  More so, it’s to be made in stock and butter.  Hardly healthy.