November 30, 2004

cauliflower that even cauliflower-haters will love

I made this tonight for a group of friends, some of whom are vegetarian and needed something yummy to substitute for the turkey tetrazzini I made to use up the last of the damned turkey. (Tallasiandude has declared a moratorium on turkey consumption because all the tryptophan gives him hangovers.) It went over huge, and I have nothing left to photograph -- the veggies loved it, the carnivores loved it, and one friend who hates cauliflower loved it. It comes out savory and spicy and a little tangy, and nice & soft & brown & roasty. Easy as hell, too -- make a spice vinaigrette, toss with veg, roast. I got this recipe out of Bon Appetit Sept 2004; it was credited to reputedly-fabulous LA restaurant A.O.C. and billed as Roasted Curried Cauliflower. I made a half recipe using one head of cauliflower.

12 cups cauliflower florets (4 lbs)
1 lg onion, quartered
1 tsp coriander seeds (or 1/2 tsp already ground)
1 tsp cumin seeds (ditto)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3.5 tsp curry powder (I used madras)
1 tbsp hot paprika (I used hungarian hot from Penzey's, which is pretty spicy -- supplement with cayenne if yours isn't spicy)
1.75 tsp salt (I used kosher salt & it was plenty salty, so if you use table salt, I might cut back a little)
fresh ground pepper
fresh cilantro (very optional)

Preheat oven to 450F. Put florets in large roasting pan or cookie sheet. Separate onion layers and add to pan. Toast coriander & cumin over medium heat 5 minutes till slightly darkened, then crush in a mortar & pestle. (Frankly I think you could skip this step, especially if using already-ground spices, but then again I am lazy and kind of a philistine when it comes to toasting spices.) Combine all the spices & salt & oil & vinegar and whisk or shake to blend. Pour over vegetables & toss to coat. Spread in a single layer, grind some pepper over, and put in oven. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. I found that 35 was just a shade too long and they were starting to burn, but my oven runs hot. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro if desired. These can hold 2 hours, and are good at room temperature or hot, and can be rewarmed at 450F for 10 minutes if desired.

I am actually thinking about making up a batch of the spice blend, so I can have it on hand to use for roasting vegetables in this way at the drop of a hat. Spice, vinegar & umami -- what's not to love?

Posted by foodnerd at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2004

turkey, REALLY old-school

My parents live in an 1825 farmhouse in the boonies, and have a big fireplace with a brick beehive woodfired oven. They use it once a year to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, which comes out amazing because the heat is very high at first, with a long slow heat to follow. The meat stays moist & tender & flavorful -- it's just great.

The one problem has always been that the outside has a tendency to burn to a crisp because the heat is so high at the outset (between 500-600F). Over the years we've tried lots of things, like covering the bird with an oil-soaked cloth, putting water in the bottom of the pan, etc. Last year's innovation was to cover the bird with a pound of bacon underneath the oiled cloth, which worked great, because the bacon burned to a crisp instead, leaving mahogany skin underneath. Bacon makes *everything* better.

This year, we let the oven cool down much more than usual (because I was too slow finishing the stuffing, whoops), to just above 400F or so. This means we don't have enough residual heat after the turkey finishes to bake our usual pots of beans, but I'm willing to sacrifice, because the burning-to-a-crisp situation is much improved. The bacon is almost edible, if a bit well-done, and the skin is gorgeous and the meat is delectable as usual. Next year, I'm agitating for even more preliminary cooling. I'm sure it will make my father completely insane, because he has waiting issues -- he can barely stand to let the bird sit & reabsorb its juices for more than 10 minutes after it is done. *grin*

The basic method for brick oven usage is to build a wood fire inside the night before, and let it burn down. In the morning, shovel out the ashes, and build another fire, which you time so it'll have burned down by the time you want to start baking. Shovel out the coals & ashes again, and when the temperature is where you want it, bung in the bird and shut the door. The whole fireplace structure will be hot to the touch, because the bricks have absorbed so much heat, and the cooking is done by the heat radiating back out from the bricks. That's why the temperature comes down so fast, from 600F+ to below 400F in just a few minutes after the coals are removed, but then stays between 375 & 300F for hours. It's nice to come in from a walk outside in the cold raw woods and warm your hands up by fondling the toasty fireplace wall.

The rest of dinner was even better than usual, if we do say so ourselves. We had mashed potatoes with the usual complement of dairy-based fats, mashed buttercup squash, smashed rutabaga & carrot (YUM), green beans, brussels sprouts picked out in the yard that morning, creamed onions (my father's sweet & tender garden onions made these *so* much better than the slightly tough, sharp supermarket onions that never seem to meld right with the cream & butter), bread stuffing with sausage, sage & mushrooms sauteed in sherry, dripping gravy, corn pudding (from my friend M's family recipe, soon to be a foodnerd family recipe - yum!), relish tray of olives & sweet gherkins & carrot sticks, and jelly-style cranberry sauce still bearing the shape of the can. And because too much is never, ever enough, especially on Thanksgiving, we had four desserts: apple pie -- please note my mother's fabulous pie crust, which I have never been able to equal; marlborough pudding (an old 18th/19thC recipe of custard laced with sherry and stewed apples and nutmeg & baked in a pastry shell); pumpkin pie from my jewish grandma's asskicking recipe (a shot of whisky is the secret ingredient); and sailor's duff, another recipe of M's for a steamed molasses-based pudding-cake, with unbelievable sauce of whipped cream enriched with a cooked egg-sugar mix, and for which I am forbidden to post the recipe, lest I be hunted down by M's family members and shot. Oh, and vanilla ice cream and regular whipped cream. And port.

We had to go lie down for a while after dinner.

12/8/04 addendum: In addition to the creamed onions recipe in the comments, by popular demand here is the Marlborough Pudding recipe.

2 large apples
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sherry
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons nutmeg
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lemon , juiced
1 sheet puff pastry dough OR 1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 350F. Stew apples until very tender -- push through fine sieve (or food mill) to make puree. Mix together 3/4 cup apple puree, sugar, sherry, butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemon juice, & nutmeg.

Line deep 8" pie plate or square pan with pastry. Pour in apple mix. Bake about one hour or until set -- knife inserted in center comes out fairly clean. Cool before serving. (Old Sturbridge Village recipe. )

Posted by foodnerd at 08:36 PM | Comments (7)

November 21, 2004

IMBB10: Chocolate Afghans

I am still in the throes of work hell, so baking was an utter impossibility for me this weekend, but I know what cookie I would have made: chocolate afghans. All over New Zealand, we found these fabulous crunchy chocolatey cookies wherever you might find a big thick chocolate chip cookie here in the US. We happily gobbled them up with our tea, and eventually happened on the best cookie in NZ as far as we could tell, at the DeLambert Cafe in Oamaru on the east coast of the South Island, 70 Thames St, Oamaru. 0-3-434 8884. (Apparently it is/was for sale. Oh, the temptation.)

The picture above is from the last batch I made for the MoveOn bake sale, so unfortunately they're wrapped up in plastic for sale, but you can get the general idea: thick chocolate cookie, with thick fudgy icing, and a walnut half on top. The web turns up not very dang much on these cookies, but my friend Ian did some experimenting and pointed questioning of his Kiwi pal, and came up with the following recipe.

200g (a little less than half a pound) unsalted butter
1/2 cup = 1.2 dl sugar
1 1/4 cup = 3 dl flour
4 tablespoons = 60 ml cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder (can try using up to 2 tsp)
2 cups = 4.5 dl corn flakes (I would measure before crushing). You can also use Weetabix. (Note: Foodnerd recommends Weetabix if available for better crunchiness.)

Frosting (this made almost twice as much as I needed):
200g sweetened cooking chocolate
2 scant tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cream (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup but this would
have made it too runny)
walnut halves

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then stir in dry ingredients. Note that this dough is really stiff and will take a lot of elbow grease to incorporate properly. Crush Weetabix/cornflakes (more or less fully depending on taste) and fold in well. (It works best if the crunchies end up inside the cookies not on the surface.)

Use your hands or a tablespoon to form dough into fairly large cookies, almost golf ball size (this recipe made only 18-20 cookies). Place on greased cookie sheet and press down slightly. They'll be a bit thick.

Bake about 13 minutes; better to undercook rather than overcook & make them too dry. Cookies should still be soft and fragile when you take them out of the oven, but they will harden somewhat after a few minutes of cooling. Let them cool enough on the tray or they'll smush as you lift them.

To frost, melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler and add cream until you get the right consistency. After cookies have cooled somewhat, use a spoon to cover them generously with frosting and then put a walnut half on top.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:55 AM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2004

life is fun with... Twisties

The foodsluts spleen & littlelee have returned from Fiji and New Zealand, bearing gifts as you knew they would. (They managed to find the one thing I would most want from NZ - more to come on this in a future post.) They apparently befuddled supermarket cashiers, baggage handlers and customs officials around the globe by buying nearly 20 bags of various potato chips and lugging them home in a huge Fijian flour sack. We snarfed up the bounty in another installment of our now-infamous blind chip tastings. (We're getting really good at figuring out what flavor things are supposed to be.)

There was roast lamb with mint (good, but inferior to the version we got in London), spicy tomato & vinegar (really good), burger (not so hot), chicken (bland), chilli & sour cream (yum), and a shocking number of pizza flavored chips. Who knew Fijians & Kiwis & Japanese would all have a fetish for pizza-flavored snacks? The absolute best snack of the bunch wasn't a chip at all, but more of a cheeto-shaped corn snack, with staggeringly realistic-tasting pizza flavor crystals: Twisties Pizza, from Fiji. Tangy, sweet, spicy, tomatoey, & a strong oregano flavor. Too bad it was only a snack-size pack.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2004

finally, those damn tomatoes get fried

In an act of sheer pigheaded will, I carved out time to fry the last two green tomatoes. I sliced them about 1/4" thick, dredged in beaten egg thinned with a tablespoon of water, and then in seasoned breadcrumbs (I used italian flavored ones, with some extra black pepper and hot paprika added). Fried them in about 1/8" of canola oil over medium heat just till golden brown & crunchy. Served with plain baked chicken legs & rice & veg. Yum.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2004

matsutake adventure

I keep reading about matsutake and how magical and delicious they are, but I'd never even seen one before last Saturday [really more like 3 weeks ago, I'm a little behind, sorry], when I found some wrapped tidily in plastic at Kotobukiya in the Porter Exchange. Each pack of 2 mushrooms was at least $7, and I did waver in an attempt to be fiscally responsible, but I came home with two adorable little brown mushrooms.

Having no clue what to do with them, but operating on the assumption that simplest would be best, so as to clearly showcase the flavor of the shroom, I did what any cook would do: I Googled. had a very simple matsutake rice recipe, which seemed perfect. And it was. The aroma & flavor of the mushroom goes all through the rice, extending and amplifying itself. It's quite lovely: it tastes a bit like a woodland floor smells, and it's strongly savory in the most delicate way. (Of course, like truffles, these mushrooms aren't necessarily worth the price, but setting filthy lucre aside, they're wonderful.) Given what I read, the forest floor echo seems about right for the "pine mushroom" (they really do smell a bit like pine needles when they're raw), and a hot dish of piny earthy rice was exactly what I needed on this blustery autumn day. Let's hear it for seasonality.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)


Most recipes for yakitori I've tried didn't taste anything like the glorious stuff I've had in izakaya in Japan and in one fabulous, lamented Brookline restaurant (how we miss you, Kiyoshi-san, o drunken master of the charcoal grill). But I happened on one here, which I've stripped down to its simplest to great effect. The vinegar is the key. You can make this for a crowd pretty easily if you've got a big enough grill. I slice the meat before serving, so it's easier to nibble.

pack of boneless chicken thighs
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar

Mix soy, vinegar & sugar in a marinating dish. You want to stir & stir, b/c it will stay gritty a long time - you could probably also heat it to speed up the melt. Marinate thighs about an hour, or less/more if you're busy. Grill them -- you'll get a bit of char on the outside, but meat will stay moist & yummy because of the salt & sugar.

Posted by foodnerd at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2004

more fun with green tomatoes

What with the general insanity in my world lately, I haven't gotten around to frying up those green tomatoes. And this morning I looked outside, where I've been storing them, and found them frozen solid. Oops. So I needed a way to cook a lot of them fast -- The Gift of Southern Cooking to the rescue, with a scalloped green tomato recipe. Slightly adapted by me because I love Lawry's seasoned salt on cooked tomatoes. Tangy, savory, and warming. Mine was very pretty, with mostly green tomatoes with a few red ones and nut-brown cubes of whole wheat toast making a nice contrast.

10 or 12 green tomatoes (if you have a few reds too, that's ok)
small onion
big clove garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 generous tsp Lawry's seasoned salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp or dash ground nutmeg
3 slices bread
few tablespoons butter

Melt butter, cut bread into 1/2" cubes, mix together and toast in oven 8-12 min at 375F. Cut onions & tomatoes into 1/2" cubes, mince garlic, and toss in a bowl with sugar, salt, thyme, pepper & nutmeg. Mix in the toasted bread. Butter a nonreactive baking dish (I used a big glass lasagne pan that i'd already used to toast the bread) and dump veg/bread mix in. Spread flat, cover with parchment paper, and bake 40 minutes or till tender at 375F. Take paper off, bake 10 minutes more to crisp up top. Serve hot. You could probably use foil instead of paper -- it called for both but i was too lazy, and the paper worked fine alone.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

100th entry: new fun with fish sauce

The always-fabulous K had us over to her place this weekend, and whipped up a terrific, blindingly fast pantry dinner: saute garlic & chili paste in oil, add shredded kale to wilt, then put over pasta and douse the works in vietnamese fish sauce. Add some grilled meat or whatever if you want protein. Delicious! You can add fresh lime, but i prefer the saltiness of the fish sauce on its own.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2004

it's worse than i thought

I have been nauseous all day out of fear and frustration and have lost my appetite. That is not a very good sign. Shit. Hey, you fuckers in the White House! Give me back my democracy, you thieving bastards.

I wrote this in anger and didn't post it. I feel like I want to post it now, 11/11/04, because I have taken comfort in the anger of other bloggers, and though I have moved through the rage to a cold determination to fix this mess as best I can, and the nausea has passed, I still am profoundly upset and frightened at the direction we appear to be going as a nation.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

curried squash soup

I suppose it actually would be nice if I gave the recipe for my soup, even if it didn't really help.

1 buttercup squash, cut in quarters & seeds/strings removed
madras curry powder
spicy paprika or cayenne
black pepper
1 bouillon cube (I used a mushroom flavored Italian one)
1/2 onion, diced
clove garlic, minced
few tbsp heavy cream
1/2 to 1 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup milk, fat level irrelevant

Wrap squash quarters in saran wrap and microwave until mushy & tender -- start w/ 5 minutes; mine took about 10. Saute onion & garlic in a bit of olive oil & a dash of salt in your saucepan until softening and just starting to color. Add a bit of water and the bouillon cube. Scrape the cooked squash from its skin & add to pot. Add curry powder & spicy paprika to taste. Add cream, milk & water until the soup is the consistency & richness you desire -- you may want to stop & puree the soup before you finish up adding extra liquids, so as to be sure not to misjudge consistency. Add a bit of fresh ground black pepper, adjust seasonings as needed.

I ate mine with a crumbled slice of wheat toast and some stinky old cheddar crumbled into it.

Posted by foodnerd at 09:42 AM | Comments (2)

November 03, 2004


When you have no fucking idea what to do and you're about to cry every five minutes and the world is crumbling around you, sometimes the only thing you can do is make curried squash soup and pretend that it makes you feel better.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2004

my very own porn

I've been looking for an excuse to make Renee's boozy potatoes (actually, Eric Gower's boozy potatoes) ever since she posted her porn-rific pictures of them. Finally got the opportunity, but sadly I didn't really have enough sake left in the bottle to do them justice. Even in this appallingly under-boozed state, and with a bit of mirin added as a Plan B, these taters were fabulously yummy! Whew! I am so running out to buy a new bottle of sake right away so I can make more.

I served them with some chive-flavored salmon cakes made from the new pink salmon in a pouch, which is quite nice and according to Cook's Illustrated is more cost effective than canned because there is no water weight. The accompanying wasabi mayonnaise is just a good thing no matter what you eat it with. Mmmm, wasaaaabi... mayonnaiiiiise....

Posted by foodnerd at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)