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Poached quince

Jan. 7th, 2017 06:04 pm
wshaffer: (food)
Safeway has been surprising me by having quinces in there little section of exotic fruit, right between the dragonfruit and the mangoes.

The first time I ever cooked quinces, I bought a couple at a farmers market from a farmer who was surprised that "someone your age" knew what a quince was. They were the size of grapefruit, and hard as rocks. I had to hack them up with a cleaver, and developed blisters on my hands in the process.

The ones I've been getting at Safeway are smaller, about the size of a large apple, and while they're still tough little fruit, they don't require a cleaver.

Here's how I've been cooking them:
2 quinces
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
1/2 cup honey
pomegranate molasses (optional)

Cut the quinces into wedges. Remove the seeds and the woody stuff that encapsulates the seeds.

Put the quinces wedges into a saucepan, and add enough water to just about cover them. Lightly bruise the cardamom pods (I just put them on the counter and squish them a bit with a can or the flat of a knife) and put them and the cinnamon sticks into the water. Add the honey. Drizzle in a little pomegranate molasses.

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 90 minutes.

Remove the quince and set it aside. Fish out the cinnamon and cardamom and discard. Turn the heat up to high and boil the cooking liquid until it's reduced down to a syrup. Strain it and let it cool.

Serve the quince drizzled with the syrup. (The syrup is also nice on plain yogurt and I bet it would be nice on ice cream.)
I threw this together when I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs that needed to be used up. I've been taking the results to work as part of my lunch for the past few days, and the results are tasty enough that I wanted to make note of this for future reference.

I did not measure anything in this recipe.
What you need: ~1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, some fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce. Some minced fresh garlic probably would not go at all amiss, but I didn't use it.

Grate or mince a thumb-size piece of ginger finely. (I used a microplane grater). Put the ginger in a bowl or dish large enough to hold the chicken. Slosh in about equal parts soy sauce and rice vinger. Dribble in a few drops of sesame oil. Add Sriracha to taste.

Put the chicken in the marinade you've just made, and stash it in the fridge for an hour or so. (Or longer, if you've actually thought to plan in advance.)

Preheat the broiler to high and line a broiler pan with foil. Put the chicken thighs on the pan, drizzle with a little extra marinade, and broil until they're done, flipping them over halfway through.
I was braising some chicken in the oven this afternoon for dinner, which involved having a pot in the oven at 300 degrees F for a couple of hours. I scrubbed a few sweet potatoes, pricked them a few times with a knife, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven for 2 hours while the chicken was cooking. They were probably some of the best sweet potatoes I've ever eaten - sweet, slightly smoky, and so tasty that we ate them without any additional toppings. (Although, they'd probably be even more delicious with a bit of butter.)

Roasted Pears

Dec. 25th, 2015 08:54 pm
wshaffer: (Default)
Every Christmas season, my manager gives her employees a little gift of herbs or spices of some sort. One year it was a little bag of mulling spices; another year it was a few little packets of spice mix from Penzey's. This year, it was some cinnamon, some vanilla sugar, and some unsweetened cocoa. I've been trying to think of some interesting things to do with the vanilla sugar.

My first attempt turned out very well. It was based very loosely on a recipe from Sally Swift's The Improvisational Cook. Very loosely in that I think the only ingredient that the two recipes share is the pears. But since the whole point of Sally Swift's book is to teach you how to tweak the same basic recipe to produce a variety of different things, I think Ms. Swift would be content.

This would be awesome served with vanilla ice cream, but I didn't plan far ahead enough to have any on hand.

2 medium-sized pears, cored and cut into quarters (I used Anjou pears, because I had them on hand)
3/4 tsp. vanilla sugar
ground cinnamon to taste
2 tbsp Navan vanilla cognac
~1/2 tbsp butter

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Line a 9 x 9 baking pan with aluminum foil, and lay the pear quarters in it.
3. Sprinkle the pears with the cognac, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into little bits and dot it over the pears.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the pears over and baste with the pan juices and bake for another 30 minutes.

The pears get soft and gooey and beautifully caramelized around the edges.

Serves 2.
My contribution to this year's Thanksgiving dinner this year will be a) my now-traditional chocolate mousse and b) some kind of vegetable side dish that is not squash (because someone else has squash covered). My initial inclination is to do green beans, because I like them, but I have half a mind to do try something new that I haven't made before. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving side dish that is:
a) based on a vegetable that is not squash.
b) can be made ahead or at the very least can be prepped ahead and just needs to finish cooking on site?

Bonus points if you've successfully fed it to children and/or picky eaters.
Tonight I took a shot at replicating a recipe I had at a tapas restaurant not too long ago: sugar snap peas sautéed with garlic, mint, and sherry. My version turned out very tasty, although not quite as amazing as what I'd had in the restaurant. I did something like: sauté 15 oz. of sugar snap peas in butter for about 5 minutes, then toss in 3-4 cloves of sliced garlic and 1/4 cup of sherry, cook until the sherry is reduced down, then stir in 1/3 of a cup of thinly sliced fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I also made home made frozen yogurt by putting 2 cups frozen raspberries and 2 cups greek yogurt into the food processor and blending them with a little sugar-free almond syrup. It was refreshing!
I improvised this to use up some ginger and spinach that needed to be used up:

1 tsp. mustard seeds
thumb-sized piece of minced ginger
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 pound baby spinach
~3/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1. Heat some oil in a pan to medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and the ginger and sauté for a couple of minutes. (I get the impression that you're supposed to cook mustard seeds until they "pop". I never quite manage to get mine to pop, but they seem tasty any way.)
2. Add the other spices and cook and stir for about 30 seconds.
3. Add the spinach and cook until it's done.
4. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool for a bit. Then fold in the yogurt.

It was quite tasty. Next time, I think I'll squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on it, or, if I can find some, substitute some sorrel for a bit of the spinach.
I don't think asparagus is even properly in season yet, but it looked so lovely when I was at the supermarket that I couldn't resist. Here's what I did with it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

  2. Break off the woody bottom ends of the asparagus spears. Put them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle liberally with olive oil.

  3. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they're cooked through and starting to brown a bit. Give the pan a good shake or roll the aparagus around a bit with a spatula to encourage them to brown evenly. (My asparagus always end up more browned on one side than the other. It's fine.)

Make more than you think you need - these get eaten fast.
[ profile] mrissa had a post on things people do with food, talking about those things that really seem too simple to be "recipes" but are nevertheless ideas worth sharing about how to make tasty food. This fits the bill. I made it one evening when I was kind of craving spanakopita, but was not at all up to fussing with phyllo dough. I've made it a few times since as a side dish, usually with broiled fish.

You need:
2 bunches of leafy greens or 1 bag of the precut, prewashed stuff. (I've made this with chard and kale. I imagine that mustard greens, collards, or spinach would also work.)
2 medium sized leeks.
As many minced cloves of garlic as taste and your patience for knife work dictate.
A handful or so of crumbled feta cheese.

The trickiest part of this recipe may be finding a pan with a lid that will contain the volume of your uncooked greens. I use a big sauté pan, but if I didn't have that I'd probably use a soup pot.

  1. Wash your greens, cut out the tough center ribs of the leaves, and cut or tear the leaves into roughly bite-sized pieces.

  2. Cut the tough green leaves off the leeks. Slice the pale green/white parts in half lengthwise, and then slice the halves into half moons maybe a quarter inch thick. Dump the slices into a colander and rinse them well to get the sand out.

  3. Heat some butter and olive oil in your pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until they are soft. If you have the patience, cook them until they start to brown a bit - it's a nice touch, but the dish is still good without it.

  4. Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds. Add the greens and put the lid on the pot for a few minutes to help the greens wilt down.

  5. Remove the lid, and cook, stirring, until the greens are cooked through. If you're using chard, this will only take a few more minutes. Kale takes longer.

  6. Turn off the heat and stir in the feta cheese. Serve.

Goat cheese instead of feta would probably be a nice variation.

Three things

Apr. 18th, 2011 02:11 pm
wshaffer: (short)
A few quickies to clear out of my blogging queue:

A laugh: I like big butts and I cannot lie, but is there some evolutionary reason as to why?. I think this may be the reason the internet was created.

A recipe: Quesadillas, with a twist. I actually haven't made this exact recipe yet, but the basic idea of scrambling an egg, adding it to a hot pan, and then laying a tortilla or other flatbread on top so that the egg gets bonded to it as it cooks is brilliant. And it provides an answer to that age old dilemma, "Do I want a quesadilla or an omelette?" Yes!

A signal boost: Vera Nazarian has sadly lost her battle to avoid foreclosure on her home, and is moving cross-country. If you'd like to help her out, you could a) buy a book or two from her Norilana press, and b) spread the word. Norilana has quite a wide selection of books - I'm pretty sure that if you're at all interested in SF/fantasy, you can find something there of interest. I went for the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, which I've heard good things about.


Apr. 3rd, 2011 08:21 pm
wshaffer: (Default)
I made homemade pizza tonight. Homemade half-wholewheat crust (recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything), homemade tomato sauce (recipe from How to Cook Everything), store bought mozzarella cheese (because there are limits to my mania for homemade).

Making the dough for the crust was easier than I'd anticipated, partly thanks to using a food processor to bring it all together. Shaping the pizza was a bit...interesting. Bittman's instructions said to take a ball of dough and pat it out flat on an oiled baking sheet. So, I take my dough, slap it into kind of an ovoid, plonk it on the baking sheet and pat. Sproing, the dough springs back. Pat. Sproing. Pat. Sproing. Pat, pat, pat, pat, pat, smack, stretch, wallop, pow! (Pause, and survey result.) Ah, screw it, let's throw some sauce on it, maybe it'll come out.

Which accounts for why the finished pizza looked like this... )

Still, it tasted pretty good. I've got some work to do before I can give the local artisanal pizza joint a run for its money, but I've been served worse pizza by people who had better claim to know what they were doing.