Despite the fact that I do, indeed, bake often, I trash a lot of what I make. Why? Because I'm haphazard. I experiment. I run out of vanilla extract so I put in mint. I substitute regular milk for buttermilk. I halve ingredients, I add stuff that I think will taste "fine" to the recipe. It doesn't. I don't have cooking skills. I need recipes. And more importantly, I need to follow them.
No one has ever accused me of being a perfectionist. In baking, I try to use the least amount of dishes and really common (and often generic) brands and ingredients. Since my repertoire is small, I've spent much time perfecting the simple pleasures (read: recipes) in life. I believe these treats are the perfect way to say "thank you" or "screw this diet" without having to do anything fancy and without having to take much time or energy.
On occasion, I'd like to share my honed recipes on Bites. Most aren't original to me — but I've done the legwork for you. I've tested and tested (and my colleagues have eaten) many a sweet, and these are the best recipes I can find.
Today: the classic chocolate chip cookie.
It's about okra.
Last week at the Woodbine Farmer's Market, a surprise monsoon sidelined all but two vendors, one being Delvin Farms. To thank them for braving the elements, I bought a pound and a half of okra, planning to fry it up in some cornmeal and bacon grease once I got home. Then it hit me: I've never fixed fried okra with fresh okra. I've always used a freezer bag and counted on the thawed slime to hold the breading.
So here are my questions:
1) Am I safe in cutting up the okra tonight, or should I wait and cut it right before use tomorrow?
2) If I cut it tonight, should I soak it in water?
3) Does it cook roughly the same amount of time?
4) Can you use buttermilk alone instead of egg-dip breading?
Any secret tips, recipe variations, etc. would be welcome. I bow to your expertise.
Aggressive, almost dictatorial, whatthefuckshouldimakefordinner.com is a hilarious antidote to pre-dinner dithering. Every time you visit the site, you get a different profanity-laced answer — which you can click to link to a tasty, expletive-free recipe.
And like a Magic 8 ball, you can keep trying until you get the answer you want. Click one of the salty retorts at the bottom and you'll get a different recipe, with or without meat.
It's like having a benevolent software version of Gordon Ramsey, barking out orders to get your dinner going.
Say what you will about fusion cooking, but the union of Jewish and Chinese cuisine is a match made in heaven in Soy Vay teriyaki sauce, which recently nudged its way into the Fox family repertoire. The kosher blend of preservative-free soy sauce, ginger, garlic, onions, soy and sesame oils and sesame seeds is pretty much everything I would put in a marinade if I happened to have all those ingredients on hand.
The label narrates the origins of the product--which is what results when a Chinese girl meets a Jewish boy and they compare family cooking habits. The label also recommends the Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce for fish, meat, poultry, tofu "and whatever else you may dream up."
After preparing Soy Vay salmon and chicken to rave reviews, Shiksa Fox pretty quickly dreamed up pork teriyaki to get rid of the frozen rolling pin of tenderloin at the back of the freezer. She was already eight hours into the marination before she began to worry about being struck by a thunderbolt.
In the end, the roasted pork--succulent, salty and nutty, with a dark caramelized finish--outweighed any non-Pareve guilt. I earned a "Mommy, you are a genius," and dinner went off without a smiting.
Sheila Lukins, one-time proprietor of the 165-square-foot-shop Manhattan takeout shop The Silver Palate and author of several cookbooks, has died at age 66 of brain cancer.
She and business partner Julie Rosso opened the shop in 1977, selling cocktail fare, salads, pastas, side dishes, cookies and mousses. They also catered, and made sauces and preserves. Their food incorporated a wider world of flavors, including Greek, northern Mediterranean, Provencal, and rustic Italian.
It wasn't just a store -- it was a force for cultural change, and soon the need for a cookbook was obvious.
The Silver Palate Cookbook was published by Workman publishing in 1980. Many Americans discovered pesto, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and arugula in its pages. It's been referred to as the "Joy of Cooking for a new generation of American cooks."
Its best-known recipe is Chicken Marbella, a marinated combination of unlikeliest ingredients (prunes, olives, 1/4 cup of oregano, brown sugar) that cooked into an irresistibly garlicky, sweet-tangy caramelized sauce.
You people just don't want me to succeed, do you? Just as I began to steel myself to make it through another Meatless Monday, what should appear in my Google Reader but this meatsterpiece?
You may remember Ben Frank, the Larry Flynt of his own food porn domain at the blog "I Ate That" from his beet battle with Crema's Rachel Lehman. Proving he's no one trick pony, Ben has offered his own Greek-inspired take on the classic cheeseburger and fries using gyro seasoning, Chèvre cheese and Parmesan roasted butternut squash fries.
Gallop your goat over here for the full skinny while I curl up with a nice wheatgrass smoothie for dinner. I think I can. I think I can.
The Wall Street Journal recently posted a story entitled "Vegetable Gardens Help Morale Grow," detailing the benefits of employee agricultural projects at several companies. If you don't believe the author's thesis--i.e. that growing stuff makes people happy--ask my 4-year-old, who recently brought home two Japanese eggplants from his pre-school garden.
"WE BROUGHT YOU EGGPLANTS!" He screamed, brandishing two shiny bulbs--one white and one purple--along with his empty lunchbox and a ream of crayon-scribblings.
For two days, he chattered about eggplant--the archetypal yuck food of my own childhood. He detailed the planting of the garden outside his classroom this spring, the subsequent monitoring over the summer and the ultimate harvest, during which he and a beloved teacher "sneaked outside to pick it."
On the afternoon before I actually cooked the eggplants for dinner, he took umbrage at something I said--something as baleful as "Sweetheart, it's time for a nap"--and he took aim at me with his greatest threat: "If you make me rest, I will not share my eggplants with you!" (Entry No. 1 in my journal of "Things I Never Expected My Children to Say.")
In the end, he rested, I cooked, and later we all dined on homegrown eggplant. Shaved into thin coins with the mandoline, sauteed with garlic in olive oil and sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan, the simple preparation earned the highest praise: "Mommy, you are a genius. I love eggplant." (Entry No. 2 in my journal of "Things I Never Expected My Children to Say.")
With harvest in full swing, who else is reaping the rewards of gardens at school or work? Specifically, how are you preparing your homegrown eggplants?
My carb du jour is orzo. The little rice-shaped pellets recently stole my affections from couscous, which was my pet starch earlier this year. Like couscous, orzo has a form that belies its substance. Both foods masquerade as high-fiber whole grains--looking like cereal separated from chaff--but they're actually shaped from ground semolina. The pretense amuses me in the same way that savory ice cream tickles my funny bone.
Despite the titillating trompe-langue, I still haven't managed to prepare an ace orzo recipe. There's always the cold pasta-salad standby with diced vegetables, olive oil and vinegar. Orzo adds heft to soup. And hot with butter and salt is a sturdy alternative to humdrum noodles. But if someone has a recipe that exploits the looks-like-rice-but-feels-like-spaghetti textural play, I'd love to have it.
Ask a parent and you'll hear it: the week before school starts is positively lethal. The children are bored with the pool, the neighbors, the toys, the television. But they're anxious about school, too.
We found an art project we'd never heard of: a recipe for moss graffiti. Looks like graffiti, eventually, but it grows bigger and greener and leaves the world more beautiful.
Moss Graffiti Mix
1 or 2 clumps of moss
2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 cups water or beer
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Corn syrup, optional
Wash the moss well to remove all the dirt from its roots. Combine the moss, buttermilk, water and sugar in a blender and puree. If the mixture seems like it will drip from a paintbrush, add enough corn syrup to thicken it to a paint consistency. Apply it to a brick or other wall. Check back weekly to spray the design with water (when it's hot and dry) or apply more moss paint.
We made a batch and painted a bricko block wall with it. If I were to make it again, I'd use half as much beer. That way, it will be thick enough that we won't have to add corn syrup.
One afternoon down, three to go.
Following up on an earlier Bites thread that may as well have been titled "What Good is a Banana Pepper, Anyway?" I have an answer.
The solitary plant that yielded a lone comma-shaped fruit a few weeks back recently rained down peppers. The expression "coals to Newcastle" came to mind, as did my father's saying: "The bad news is it tastes like shit, but the good news is there's enough for tomorrow."
Necessity being the mother of invention--and my necessity was to feed four adults with a bunch of near-their-sell-by-date ingredients and a half-dozen banana peppers that were so big they reminded me of the Gilligan's Island episode when they grow the super-sized radioactive carrots--I came up with this extremely precise recipe:
Mix some cream cheese with some feta and some bacon crumbles. Cut tops off peppers and extract seeds. Somehow or other, jam cream cheese-feta-bacon mixture into peppers. (Do not let guests see you do this--it's not pretty.) Place peppers in greased baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
The good news is it was fantastic, the bad news is I'm out of peppers. Hint, hint.
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