Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cleaning out the fridge

I had to empty out the fridge today. I am leaving for a week-long vacation to the Bay Area on Tuesday, and I realized I had a bunch of perishables in there. Last night I made the biggest salad ever to dispose of my vegetables. And this morning I saved the milk from its would-be obligatory welcome home after being gone for a while, having spoiled.
Typically when I have an excess of milk, I think: Pudding.
Actually, I usually think: Rice Pudding.
But I strangely had no more brown rice. I finished it and forgot to get more this week. I did, however, have couscous!
So I made a couscous custard, with the lone left banana and vanilla. Damn, I love custards! I am such a custard girl. If you ever want to please me, present me with custard. Any temperature will do, but warm is best.

Banana Couscous Custard
3 c milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 banana, cut into small pieces
1 T vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c whole wheat (or regular) couscous

In a big saucepan, heat milk, banana, vanilla, and cinnamon stick on low. Whisk occasionally. While milk heats, whisk 1/2 c sugar into the egg yolks in a medium bowl. When milk begins to simmer, temper the egg mixture by adding a ladle full of milk into the bowl and whisking. Add the egg mixture into the milk pot and whisk until well incorporated. Add remaining sugar, and whisk. Finally, add couscous, and stir a few times, with the custard still simmering. Turn off heat, pour into a big bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge to set, about 1 hour if you are impatient, or longer if you can wait, unlike me. Remove cinnamon stick. Serve in bowls just so, or underneath fresh fruit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Importance of Being Flexible

I want to start today's post with a funny story. At least it's funny to me. Around the beginning of my third year at Oberlin, I was in the Old Barrows kitchen getting ready for Pizza Night. As the head cook, I arrived in the early afternoon before any prep people started. I would make the dough, start the huge pot of sauce, and get any special toppings ready. On this day, I must have been very distracted. Or maybe I had a bit too much to drink before the party started... Whatever it was, I somehow forgot about the giant pot of tomato sauce on the stove. When I remembered it was there (maybe it smelled like burning? I don't remember), I ran to it with a long-handled spoon and stirred. Damn! Totally burned. Can you believe I burned the sauce? I thought, there's no way I can serve this. It's going to taste burnt. Just then, a few prep people arrived, and maybe a cook or two. They said, "What's that great smell? Smokey! What did you do to the sauce? It smells delicious!" No joke. I thought, are they serious? Well, yes, they were, and then I tasted it. ...And it tasted smokey! Like a nice chipotle kind of smokiness. It was pretty rad!

Now, while I don't advocate for burning tomato sauce intentionally, my point is, sometimes "burnt" is salvageable, especially if you are able to reconceptualize your original plan as something else.

Yesterday morning I tried to cook some black beans I had soaked overnight the night before. I rinsed the beans from their soaking water, filled the pot an inch from the top with clean water, added some salt, a chopped-up carrot, and a whole dried chili. I turned the pot onto medium heat, and I hopped in the shower. And then I sat on the couch, and then I caught up on emails, and then I watched some guilty-pleasure television. And in the middle of watching a show, I heard a noise like "shhhh". I thought, what's that noise? Is it the heater? no... Is it the sink running? definitely no... I told myself to forget about it. A few minutes passed and I jumped up! SH*T! I completely forgot about the beans! Darn darn darn darn darn! What a waste of a pot of beans! I turned off the heat. I removed the pan from the burner. I put on the tap and ran water into the pot of burning beans. I stirred. I tasted. Still hard. I put the beans and the new liquid in a deli container.

That evening, I chopped up some veggies, onions, garlic. I heated the diced onion and garlic on the stove. I added the beans with the newer liquid back into the saucepan. I put the heat on medium and I brought it to a simmer. And can you believe it? In about 20 minutes, I had cooked, smokey-tasting beans! So tonight and last night, I dined famously.

Green tortillas with homemade spanish rice, beans, a light pickle of vegetables, ripe avocado, and some white cheddar. Man.

Light vegetable pickle
1 c shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 carrots, grated
2 persian cucumbers, sliced into rounds or half-moons
1 red pepper, diced
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
2 t sugar
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients. Eat alone or atop rice and beans and avocado and cheddar. Yummm.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A little of this, a little of that

I always tell myself I must take a few cooking classes in foods I just don't have inborn tastes for but love to eat. For example, I have no idea how good Chinese food is made. I don't just have that palette like I do with other foods; I can't eat a great Chinese meal and say oh, there's this, this, and this in it the same way I can with Western cooking. It's way harder to replicate. So as embarrassing as this is, I took a page from Mom. I spied on her making us dinner a few weeks ago.
Here's my version of a little of this, a little of that and, I have to say, for a Honky, it's pretty decent/awesome!

1/4 c low sodium soy
1 T rice vinegar
2 T honey
1 clove garlic, grated
1" ginger, grated
1 1/2 T sesame oil with chili (or without)
vegetable oil
1 head bok choy, cleaned well and chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cake tofu, pressed and cubed

In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce through sesame oil. Let sit, 5-10 minutes. In a wok or frying pan, head 1 T oil. When oil is hot (not smoking), add tofu. Cook until puffed a bit and lightly browned. Add sliced garlic and cook 30 sec or so, add bok choy and stir it up. It should make a loud sizzling sound. When the green parts of the bok choy are wilted, add your sauce, stir for a minute, turn off heat.
Serve with brown rice.