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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Bless me Alice, for I have sinned ...

and bought some extremely unseasonal Antipodean blueberries for my breakfast bread and my yogurt. And I'd do it again.

Blueberries, Greek yogurt, and honey is a divine breakfast.

I will atone by eating lots of local asparagus.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Safety First!

I was bringing some raisins to boil in some rum (to make Nigella Lawson's banana bread) and left them ON the heat after they started boiling.

Don't do this, because rum reaches ignition point really quickly after that.

My hair was singed but fortunately I have no injury except to my vanity. God must be making special provisions for my idiocy.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Read the labels

The California Club rollup has had one big hitch; apparently I didn't check the labels of the guacamole I bought and got a VERY picante brand. To the point where my mouth burned and I hiccuped when I ate the sandwich. (Although my sinuses cleared out pretty well, no small feat in allergy time.)

Otherwise it seems like a worthy effort, so I'll try it again some time.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The first day of Spring means it's asparagus time!

As the swallows return to Capistrano, so do I post my recipe for roast asparagus at about this time. Heh. This time it was on the Ship's recipe thread.

Berkeley Bowl (that place is easier to deal with on a weeknight) had tips for $1.29/lb, so I got two big bunches. One is going to become asparagus enchiladas, and the other will become asparagus-pancetta soup that the amazingly energetic Deb made the other day. Sounds like as good a reason as any to use up the chicken backs in the freezer for stock.

I have also been on a roll-up sandwich kick since I got some lavash from Trader Joe's. I got sliced turkey breast at the B-Bowl deli last night and will be doing a "California Club" (turkey, guacamole, bacon, tomatoes). The roast beef with horseradish cream cheese and pickles was pretty good. I might make some hummus to go with the Middle Eastern chopped salad (today for sure, Rocky) and that might get in a roll too, especially since pre-roasted red bells called out my name at the olive bar.

The weather still continues warm so room temp food is fine by me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Orange Nut Bread

Or, is my breakfast dilemma finally solved?

Ever since Safeway and Andronico's both decided that Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits or sausage-and-egg biscuits were too downhome for Berkeley, I've been scrambling (ha ha) for breakfast options. It must have protein and it must be freezable and portable. Although I would prefer that it be somewhat healthy; for a while I had been eating bacon-and-egg breakfast burritos from the frozen section and my cholesterol shot through the roof. (Which also cuts McDonald's out as a regular option - their sausage and egg bikkies have a LOT more calories and fat than Jimmy Dean's did.)

I also learned that I function a lot better on a good breakfast (in other words, I am not a low-blood-sugar bitch to my co-workers).

I made raspberry-lemon muffins throughout the summer (leave in the freezer at work, take 3 out a day) but had to stop when I got ill and raspberries got expensive.

I ordered Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook, looking for winter-fruit muffins, and found it good. The applesauce muffins were good. The pear muffins were sticky but good. So those were an option if I got busy enough to make them.

A couple of weeks ago I had a notion to make sour cream coffee cake. I started leafing through my cookbooks. The Muffins book has some quick breads and coffee cakes. It did not have sour cream-walnut but it had an interesting looking orange-nut. It was fairly low fat too - 2 eggs, only 2 oz butter, and no milk or oil. (not counting the nuts of course). I added cranberries and it was a smash success. It also seemed easier to manage than muffins for some reason.

I've made the bread since with strawberries and it was also very good, and still easy. So it's one for the repertory. Here goes:

Orange Nut Bread
Beth Hensperger, with variations by Charlotte

325 oven, 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 pan (Measure!). Preheat oven, put 2 large eggs out to come to room temp, melt 2 oz (1/2 cube) unsalted butter, and butter or spray pan.

In a bowl, mix:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 (var. 2) orange (microplane graters rool)
3/4 cup or more of chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts

until evenly distributed.

[If you wish fruit - add chopped rhubarb, cranberries, strawberries, or whole blueberries here.]

Mix liquid ingredients together (I use the Pyrex cup I juice the orange into):

3/4 cup fresh (strained) orange juice (n.b. 1 large orange is about 1/2 cup, you can make the rest up with milk or cream)
the 2 oz melted butter
the two large eggs (beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) essence.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and fold the liquid in till batter is smooth.

spoon into prepared pan and bake 50-60 mins, till loaf pulls away from sides and the top is browned and firm. (a skewer should come out clean). Cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 min, then remove and cool fully.

The other Breakfast Discovery is Ore-Ida "Potatoes O'Brien" - I cook a small amount at a time and mix with scrambled eggs, beans, salsa for Breakfast Burrito (occasionally without tortilla). This can be done ahead and containerized, and is especially good with the canned spiced pinquito beans.

I have started eating yogurt again due to the mention of "Greek yogurt" at Trader Joe's; it's awesome with fruit and lavendar honey but it's a bit too much work for a weekday breakfast for me, at least till I get better at night-before prep. Has been a good snack on weekends though.

I still love sausage and egg biscuits (don't laugh, I lost twenty pounds in six months on a regime that was either those or oatmeal for my breakfast) but at least I am now freed from the tyranny of the buyers.

Midweek report

Still eating through the fridge. Roast beef rollups (first set) were good. I'm also thinking of bacon-and-something rollups for breakfast. Today's lunch will be pork chop and soybean stuff.

The weather is continuing very fine but I am concerned that it may stop once I actually make the chopped salad (hee hee).

The orange-strawberry-nut bread is very good. It's a definitely entry in the Breakfast Dilemma stakes.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Danger zone ...

I have heard a lot of press about Marcona almonds, so when I saw some in the Cheese Board's cold case, I bought them.

Dangerously addictive. Like buttah.

The weather still continues warm, so I got some roast beef to make roll up sandwiches for my lunches and dinners. Since I have soup and Soybean Stuff (finally made), I am fairly well set up. I will make the orange-nut bread with strawberries some time this weekend and hope to finally put together the Middle Eastern chopped salad.

I also got a pound of bacon - today's lunch was BAT (Bacon, Avocado, Tomato) on sourdough and quite good it was, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Midwinter Summer

I have neither made soybean stuff nor done my taxes.

Since it is close to 80 F here today, I did, however, very much enjoy my dinner of steak and potato salad.

I will be obtaining raspberry icecream at the store Real Soon Now.

Then I will sit down with the paper!

Monday, March 08, 2004

Is My Fridge Burning?

After I posted my IMBB entry, I did a major cleanout of my refrigerator and pitched all the budding science experiments. One good thing to come out of it was that I found I had tri-tip after all, so I had my Santa Maria Sandwich for dinner tonight. Mmmmmmm good! I even stopped by Trader Joe's to get the ObPotatoSalad to go with it.

The links to all the "Is My Blog Burning - the Tartine Edition" are here. What a talented and inspiring bunch of entries! I see other people did goat cheese and/or tuna tartines - great minds think alike.

Yesterday was a busy and exhausting, but very productive, day in the kitchen. It took me much longer to make the minestrone than usual, because I de-ribbed an entire bunch of chard first. I still have chard left after making myself a generous goat cheese-chard "tartine" and putting a lot in the soup.

I roasted peppers and after the soup was done, started looking around my recipe books for sour-cream walnut coffee cake. I didn't find a recipe for it in the first two books I looked in (one my reliable Fannie Farmer. Horrors!) and came across a recipe for Orange Nut Bread in my Williams-Sonoma Muffins book. Decided to make it since I had the oranges. Decided to tweak it by chopping up the remaining good ones of the fresh cranberries in the bottom of one of my veggie bins. It was outstanding and went together FAST, FAST, FAST ... melted butter means no creaming involved. Definitely a keeper - rhubarb, blueberries, or strawberries next time maybe? Recipe probably tomorrow since I really should either organize my tax stuff or go into the kitchen and make "Soybean Stuff".

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Is My Blog Burning? The Tartine Edition

I haven't been cooking much lately due to study commitments and not feeling well. And last weekend (when I usually do my production cooking for work lunches) I was out of town. So lately any meal where I did a substantial bit of the prep (as opposed to take-out) has been an accomplishment.

But when the lovely, charming, and talented Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini suggested a food-blogging theme event (sort of like our virtual or real "cook-ins" from rec.food.cooking) of open-faced sandwiches ("tartine" in French), I was up for that.

You see, I hadn't had any bread in the house for a full week and more; the last went moldy before my trip and I had no opportunity to go to The Cheese Board for more. So I was ready to have Things On Bread this weekend when I finally got there for my City Bread fix. City Bread is their extra-sour sourdough, available plain or seeded, and I am utterly addicted, and not much inclined to try making my own bread because I can buy bread this good.

(BTW - the collective now has a cookbook.)

I even had the theme all planned out - Goat Cheese Toasts, one of my favorite things, and an All-California comfort food - although it's funny to think that goat cheese was practically unknown here when I was a girl. These are often known as "crostini" on fancy Italian (or Italianoid) menus but I like the reverse snobbery of using the perfectly good English word "toasts". (According to our organizer, the bread for the tartine can be toasted or not according to your preference.)

Yesterday's first effort was (to standardize the nomenclature) Goat Cheese Tartine with Marinated Roasted Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Capers. I made them in my standard way: cut off a good slice of bread and toast it lightly in my toaster oven, crumble soft goat cheese on top and toast some more, spread the warmed cheese around, and top. I chopped the tomatoes and olives to give a more uniform size. I decided against arranging them in stripes because it looked pretty enough mixed up. The goat cheese was a garlic-and-herb flavored variety that I had in the fridge and needed to use up but plain would have been fine due to the "zinginess" of the tomatoes (marinated in herbs, oil, and garlic after roasting - note, NOT sundrying, although sundried would work in smaller quantities).

I went shopping again after this and came home famished, probably because I had only a blueberry muffin for my late breakfast. I needed a protein infusion, fast. I keep cans of olive-oil packed Italian-style tuna in my cupboard just for such emergencies. Within five minutes I was enjoying (nomenclature again standardized) a Tuna, Artichoke, and Caper Tartine. This time I did not toast the bread because it was fresh. I added kalamata olives to the mix but removed them because they didn't look right. Some green olives would have been fine if I had had some. I chopped the marinated artichokes into more-easily-edible cubes and mashed it in with the tuna. It wasn't on my theme but it certainly satisfied.

I am doing this entry at about noon on Sunday. My goat cheese toasting is not done for the weekend, since I plan to make minestrone some time today and have a bowl with the following accompaniments: Goat Cheese and Chard Tartine and Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Tartine. Chard toasts, or goat cheese and chard toasts, were a serendipitious discovery - we were discussing Oliveto on our bay area food newsgroup (ba.food), I browsed the menu, and there they were on it. I said "I can do that!". I will de-rib and steam some chard (rest of the bunch and the ribs go in la bonne soupe!), and then saute it briefly to flavor in olive oil in which some garlic has been warmed. I call it "Italian-style chard". This is very simple (I steam the chard in the microwave) and very, very good. The peppers I can roast on my stove's grill portion while I am dealing with the soup. I might get fancy and garnish the chard with some chopped olives or the red bell with some capers. Or maybe not.

Had I had some bread around this week when I had the tri-tip from San Luis Obispo, I probably would have put together a Santa Maria Sandwich: Buttered garlic toast, slices of tri-tip, mashed pinquito beans, and a smattering of tomato salsa on top. Potato salad and/or green salad on the side, please, and it goes equally well with lemonade, beer, or a hearty Central Coast red. I am not calling this one a tartine, standard nomenclature or no, because the locals would laugh.

Off to contemplate roasting vegetables and chopping for soup. I am not hungry at the moment because I had a (homemade) breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes, pinquitos, and salsa before I went to church, and I stopped at Trader Joe's afterwards and had some Greek yogurt and blueberries for a mid-morning snack. But it's a very pleasant and sunny day, and I will very much enjoy working in my sunny kitchen and listening to my Sunday afternoon radio shows. Anyway, if I start now I will have something to eat around 4 pm when I get hungry again. Bon appetit!

Friday, March 05, 2004

In Praise of Pinquitos

Since I was away all last weekend in beautiful San Luis Obispo, this week has been catch-as-catch-can, especially since I have been fighting cramps and a bad sore throat. I am actually looking forward to doing some cooking this weekend.

(Not that I needed much food after the way I ate in SLO. Dinner at McLintock's downtown and breakfast at the Creole place by the hotel was plenty of food! And soooo goood.)

I got some tri-tip sliced and to-go from a deli downtown ("The Old Country Deli", and I'd go back). So on Tuesday night I thought, well, if I go to Andronico's and get some potato salad, I can have a Central Coast 'Que dinner.

Even better, Andronico's had canned pinquito beans in their canned goods section. I was looking for pintos. The pinquito is unique to the region and one of the staples of "Real" Santa Maria style 'que. So I had the genuine article - tri-tip, salsa, potato salad, pinquitos - as served up on 'que trucks in the central coast, without soaking and cooking the beans.

Those beans were really tasty because they are cooked with some spices. They were utterly fabulous the next morning in my breakfast burrito. They will definitely become a staple.

The "beef, beans, bread, and salsa" is a meal that's been around the Central Coast cattle country since before the Americans were, but pinquitos seem to be a fairly recent innovation, as is the marinated tri-tip (which used to be "junk meat" but is now expensive - sorta like flank steak and skirt steak).

I got some local seasoning blends and will look forward to trying them out on things.