Pineapple upside down cake

February 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm (Cake, Derek's faves, Dessert, Mom’s recipes)

When I was a kid my mom used to make pineapple upside down cake quite frequently.  It was one of my brother’s favorite desserts, and he often asked for it for his birthday.  My mom made the cake in her cast iron pan, which fit exactly 6 pineapple rings around the circumference.  It was perfect, since we had 6 people in my family.  There was also one ring of pineapple in the center of the skillet–that ring always went to the birthday boy (or girl).  This recipe makes a short, fluffy cake with a hint of pineapple flavor.  But the cake is really just a carrier for  the real highlight–the caramelized pineapple rings and ooey-gooey butter/brown sugar mixture.  My mom made a vegan version of pineapple upside down cake, but below I’ve written up the non-vegan version.  Use your favorite egg and butter replacements to make it vegan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Campanelle with two mushrooms and rosemary

February 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm (C (1 star, edible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I asked Derek what he wanted for dinner, and he very quickly replied “mushrooms”.  Perhaps his decision was influenced by the very tasty mushroom soup I made last week.  I got out the cookbooks and started looking for mushroom recipe.  I found a bulgur mushroom pilaf that I plan on trying, and a pasta dish in Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, which I’d made once before.  Based on the note in the cookbook I hadn’t been that excited about it, but I wasn’t sure how carefully I had followed the recipe, and I decided to try it again.  Below is the recipe, with my modifications and my version of the instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms
  • 3/4 pound campanelle, orecchiette, or small shells
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about .8 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
  2. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup hot water.  Soak until softened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Chop the onion, garlic, and rosemary.  Start cooking the onion.  In a large saute pan heat the butter and oil.  Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute more.
  4. While the onion cooks, thinly slice the mushrooms.  When the garlic is done cooking, add the mushrooms to the saute pan.  Saute until golden brown and the liquid they give off has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the pasta.  Cook until al dente and then drain.
  6. While the pasta cooks, prepare the porcinis.  Carefully lift the mushrooms from the liquid.  Wash them if they feel gritty.  Chop them.  Add the choped porcini mushrooms to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to release their flavor.  Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan, and bring to a boil.  Cover and remove from the heat.
  7. When the pasta is done, add it to the mushrooms along with the cheese and parsley.  Toss over medium-low heat just until the cheese melts and the pasta absorbs the liquid in the pan.  Serve immediately.

My notes

Based on the post it note comment I had stuck in the cookbook, I upped the garlic from 2 medium cloves to 2 large cloves, and increased the rosemary from 1 tsp. to 1.5 tsp.  The recipe recommends orecchiette, but I didn’t have any so used campanelle instead.  Also, the original recipe calls for 1 pound of pasta, but we always find that the pasta to sauce ratio in Bishop’s recipes is too high, so I reduced the pasta to 3/4 pound.

The recipe worked fine.  All the instructions seem correct and the recipe came out as (I imagine) it was intended.  But I didn’t care for it.  Even increasing the rosemary and adding more as a garnish, I couldn’t taste much rosemary flavor.  The flavor of the mushrooms didn’t excite me, and I found the dish overall a bit boring.  I had to add more cheese to get it to taste like much at all. I also tried adding a little soy sauce, but it was too strong for the delicate flavors.  My post it note from my last attempt sums it up:  “Okay, not great.  Bland at first, improved by adding more rosemary.  Recipe calls for too much pasta, use 3/4 pound.  Not creamy enough to warrant all that butter.”  I’ve tried a number of mushroom pasta dishes in the last few years, and none of them has excited me.  Maybe I just don’t like mushrooms and pasta?  Or maybe (as Derek claims) I just don’t know how to cook mushrooms!

Derek liked it more than me.  He happily went for seconds, and said I should make it again.  I froze the last serving and Derek ate it for dinner the night we got back from our overseas flight from Austin.  He said it was still good, even after it had been frozen and defrosted in the microwave.

Rating: B-

Derek: B

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Broccoli, carrot, tofu stir-fry in ginger sauce

February 8, 2010 at 1:09 am (C (1 star, edible), Chinese, Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

I cannot make Chinese food to save my life. My special talent is ruining stir-fries.  Yet I keep trying.  Today I started with a recipe for stir-fried tofu and bok choy in ginger sauce from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe and modified it to fit what was in the fridge.  I ended up with a tofu, broccoli, carrot, scallion, ginger, garlic stir-fry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sticky toffee pudding

February 6, 2010 at 11:46 pm (Dessert, Epicurious, Necessarily nonvegan, Pudding, unrated)

Derek has been raving about sticky toffee pudding for a little over a year now.  I finally got to try it when we went to Scotland last September.  I tried a number of different restaurant versions, and although I don’t know exactly what it’s supposed to taste like most of them seemed to miss the mark a little.  Derek wanted to try to make it at home, and I said fine–next time we have company.  Well, a few weeks ago, right before leaving for Spain, we ended up with 5 guests over for dinner.  The menu was mostly Italian (salad with roasted winter veggies and walnuts, white bean soup with fennel and rosemary, and cacio e pepe pasta).   But our dessert was Scottish.

Derek looked around online to try to find a recipe for the kind of moist sticky toffee pudding that he prefers, and ended up selecting a sticky date toffee pudding recipe that had excellent reviews on epicurious.com.  I printed out the recipe, but unfortunately didn’t read the reviews myself.  If I had, I would have been more prepared for what followed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cabbage noodles

February 5, 2010 at 8:33 pm (Cruciferous rich, Jewish, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

In college I roomed with my best friend from high school.  She was also a vegetarian, and trying to keep kosher to boot.  Unlike me, she was lucky to have a grandmother that was a) still around, b) in town, and c) a good cook.  Her grandmother was Hungarian and would regularly stock our mini-fridge with various vegetarian Hungarian dishes.  My roommate was kind enough to share her grandma’s food with me.  One of the dishes that I remember fondly is “cabbage noodles.”   Despite the name, the noodles aren’t actually made from cabbage.  As far as I recall, the dish was simply lots of rich, oily cabbage mixed with curly egg noodles and plenty of salt and some black pepper.  I don’t know what kind of fat Sarah’s grandmother used to cook the noodles, but I recently found a recipe on Salon for noodles and fried cabbage, or “Hungarian ice cream” that seemed similar, and it calls for butter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cacio e Pepe

February 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek had had a really excellent version of cacio e pepe in one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, and was very excited about trying it.  Mario Batali’s version has quite a bit of olive oil and some butter, but the Cook’s Illustrated recipe looked unusually light for a cream pasta.  They cook the pasta in very little water so that the water ends up very starchy, and can be used to help make the sauce more cohesive.  We decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mushroom, fennel, noodle soup

February 4, 2010 at 1:01 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, My brain, Pasta, soup, Starches)

I went to a Bauch, Beine, Po class tonight, and it just about killed me.  (That’s Belly, Legs, Bum for all you anglophiles.)  I had absolutely no energy afterward to cook dinner.  Also, I hadn’t been shopping for a few days and had very little in the fridge–just a large pack of crimini mushrooms and a small head of fennel, plus a number of leftovers.  My mom suggested I make soup, and so I did.

I quartered the mushrooms, and sauteed them in a little bit of butter briefly.  (Maybe 1.5 tsp?)  Then I added a little white wine and let the mushrooms soften slightly.  I added about 4 cups of water, a few big pinches of truffle salt, a couple pieces of dried porcini mushroom (crumbled), some freshly ground black pepper and one no-salt bouillon cube, and let it all come to a simmer.  Meanwhile, I used my mandoline to slice the fennel very thinly.  When the soup started to boil I added the fennel and offed the heat.  I also added a cup or so of leftover “cabbage noodles” (a variant of this recipe, which I will hopefully blog about shortly).  I let the soup stand while I toasted two slices of rye, multi-seeded bread.  I then broke a clove of garlic in half and scraped the garlic all over the now-crusty bread. (I learned this trick from my friend Amira, who learned it in Italy.)  I topped the soup with cubed pieces of the garlic bread, and a little freshly grated parmigiana-reggiano.

It hit the spot.  Derek liked it too.  There wasn’t a whole lot of  broth, but it had an intense, mushroom flavor.  The mushrooms were still pretty fat and juicy, and the fennel was lovely (as always in soup).  The raw garlic  on the “croutons” (and to a lesser extent the black pepper) added quite a bit of heat.  Rating: B+

Derek said it was satisfying and earthy, but not overcooked and stewy–more like some stuff with a little light broth in the bottom.  It reminded him of fancy restaurants where they bring you a bowl of something then the waiter pours a little broth over it at the table.  Rating:  B+

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Back to normal life

February 3, 2010 at 2:43 pm (Menus)

After returning from Madrid, Derek and I have been struggling to return to “normal” life and deal with all the backlash that comes from being gone for one (or more) weeks.  Consequently, my cooking has hewed very closely to the tried, true, and quick.  What we’ve been eating this week:

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