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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Migas (Mexican breakfast)

I still had a lot of broken tortillas left after the soup episode. Fortunately I remembered hearing about migas on a food newsgroup. This is apparently one of these homey dishes that every Mexican knows about but rarely makes it to menus because it's, well, leftovers.

But recipes were available on the web and I decided to roll with it for my breakfasts. It was pretty tasty so I will keep it in mind when I have corn tortillas around, which I don't often. It's pretty flexible; I used what I had around, and finished it off before I got the chance to cook the chorizo I got from Fatted Calf.

Migas (one way)

2 (or did I use 4? it's been a long day) corn tortillas, cut in strips
4 Anaheim chiles, chopped
4 eggs (you could use more)
4 Roma tomatoes, cut in chunks
handful cooked beans

Fry the tortilla strips and peppers together until the peppers are fairly done and the strips are soft. Break eggs in a bowl and mix, as for scrambled eggs. Add tomatoes and beans to frying pan. Add eggs and stir to coat. When the eggs are cooked, it's done. Eat with more tortillas if you have them.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tortilla Soup

My work schedule has been playing havoc with my determination to Waste Less Food recently, much to my distress.

But I was very pleased when A Plan Came Together and I was able to use up some of the broken tortillas that were part of the big bag I bought for the enchiladas. I had a bit of a sore throat and fancied some tortilla soup (aka Sopa Azteca, a stalwart of Picante Cocina Mexicana, where I first had this). I usually use stale commercial chips for this, but remembered that I can, indeed, fry up my own chips.

Soup and Sleep are Good Things!

This makes two huge (dinner-size) bowls. There are certainly more authentic ways to make it, but it's my Mexican penicillin.

Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca)

Per bowl: 1 large handful of tortilla chips - I fried up 2 corn tortillas for each and 1/2-1 avocado, cut into chunks. The chips can be stale but do not use raw tortillas.

Heat in saucepan:

1 can chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
(you can doctor up regular tomatoes if you don't have the toms-and-chiles)
1 can chicken, or one cooked chicken breast, diced

till boiling.

Arrange tortilla strips and avocado chunks in bowl.

Pour soup over. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime in each bowl. Eat.

Other traditional garnishes are finely chopped raw onions and Mexican oregano. Most "real" sopa azteca has cotijo or similar cheese. I left all of those out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Asparagus Enchiladas

Or, something that sounds weird but tastes great.

Back in the days when I used to eat out a lot, we ate a lot at a place called Christopher's Nothing Fancy Cafe. One day when we went there (my kitchen remodel took place in spring), they had asparagus enchiladas on the specials board. It sounded weird but, hey, it was worth a try.

Turned out to be incredibly delicious. The combination of corn tortillas, salsa verde, and asparagus turned out to be great.

After I got a working kitchen and a job that didn't require me to work eighty-plus hour weeks, I read a Cook's Illustrated article about enchilada making. In it they said to prep the tortillas by spraying them with cooking spray and sticking them in a 400 F oven on a cooky sheet for 4 minutes. I was off to the races. I quickly tweaked the recipe to have the black beans inside as that saved on the quantity of cheese I used.

I am horrible about quantities as I eyeball everything. And the last time I made it (for the church dinner) I made sixty, so used what started out as 1.5 lb black beans dried and 8 lb asparagus (for about 20 cups' worth filling). For a dozen (the better to use up a package of tortillas) I use a BIG can of commercial green enchilada sauce, it seems like about a pound of Jack cheese, one can of cooked black beans, and the better part of a 2# bunch of asparagus. The asparagus can be cut into useful bits before stir-frying, or roasted in a 450 oven as spears for 6-8 minutes, then cut up.

I often stage the prep by grating cheese and making filling the day before assembly.

So here's the drill:

Preheat the oven to 400 or 450 (depending on whether you are roasting spears or heating tortillas)

Prepare filling by mixing cooked black beans and cooked asparagus together. The more asparagus the merrier.

Grate cheese (I love my food processor)

Pour green enchilada sauce in the pan and tilt so everything is covered

Spray tortillas on both sides with cooking spray and Heat up in 400 F oven on a cooky sheet.

Roll the enchiladas and place in pan. I use a 1/3 cup measure for the larger-sized corn tortillas and put a good tablespoon or so of cheese on top of the filling.

Pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce evenly over top and use a wooden spoon to coat all tortillas as evenly as possible.

Top with more cheese if you like

350 oven for 25 or so minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Barb's Brownies Save the Day!

As I mentioned in last night's post, I had a little problem with the lemon bars I was planning to serve for dessert, and while I had all the fixin's for another batch, I had both used my 13 by 9 pan and had a mixer which was starting to complain.

"Brownies," I thought. "Everybody likes brownies." And my copy of the rec.food.cooking cookbook was handy, so I didn't even have to google up the recipe for some of the BEST BROWNIES IN THE WORLD.

Everybody loved them. They were fudgy genius.

These won blue ribbon (first prize) at the Minnesota State Fair in 1997. As Barb says, "I use real chocolate, unsalted butter, and cake flour. Don't complain to me if you don't."

I will note that for large-group consumption I usually leave the almond extract and nuts (which I love) out, as there are a lot of people who have nut sensitivities.

Barb Schaller's Famous Orgasmic Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from recipe in Cook's Illustrated

Makes 1 13 by 9, or two 8 by 8 pans of brownies. Recipe can be halved successfully. Prep time: 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 cup (8 oz/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate (Ghirardelli is a good brand)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (I used all vanilla)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 1/3 cup (6 oz) cake flour
1 tea baking powder (and you can be sure that I got the right can out this time)
1/2 tea salt

Melt butter and chocolate together in 2 quart (medium large) microwave-safe bowl, or double boiler. (about 2 minutes with my microwave) Stir until smooth.

Mix in sugar, then beat in eggs one at a time with flat wire whisk. Mix in extract(s). Stir in nuts, if using.

Combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl and fold into chocolate mixture.

Spread batter in 9 by 13" pan lined with baking parchment (or 2 8" square pans). Bake for about 33-35 minutes. Do not overbake; tester may have fudgy crumbs on it, but not wet batter. Cool and cut.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Quick post

Much as yesterday was a day when many good things happened, this morning was a series of Bad Things Happening:

The ants invaded my kitchen.
Maggie wouldn't stop jumping on the counter and had to be confined to quarters.
My mixer started making funny noises again.
I sliced my hand slightly with the food processor blade when washing it.
And I put baking soda instead of baking powder in the lemon bar mixture. (As one of the ladies at the church who was a Home Ec teacher said, "You'll never make that mistake again.")

But the enchilada assembly went well (it would have gone better had I known that several people wouldn't show!) and I had enough time to make a batch of Barb Schaller's Famous Orgasmic Brownies, which were a BIG hit (and did not require the ailing mixer).

More, including recipes, later.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Roast Asparagus

I probably put this on this blog before I figured out how to do a recipe sidebar, back in the early days. I noted, when reading the first month's archive, that I talk through how to make my asparagus enchiladas, but I didn't start sidebaring until I started with the IMBB stuff.

But anyway. I'm semi-famous for this in some circles. Someone I know (who grows asparagus in his market garden) says that he introduced this to the cooks at his club and they now serve it labelled "Charlotte's Asparagus". It deserves to be widely known, whether or not you feel like attaching my name to it. I originally got it from Janet Fletcher's book, Fresh from the Farmer's Market. I start eating it the minute the first spring asparagus dips down to a price I'll pay (under $1.50/lb) and eat it constantly till the Washington asparagus gives out in June and I start anticipating Real Tomatoes.

I am making a bunch of this now for the enchilada filling. I would probably normally stir-fry a small amount but I am doing this in quantity.

Roast Asparagus

Preheat your oven to 450 F.

Wash asparagus spears and snap off the tough ends.

Get a cookie sheet with sides and lay the spears in a single layer on it. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over them (no more than 1 tablespoon for a panful) and shake salt/pepper over them. Mix the spears up with your hands so that the oil/salt is well distributed and lay the spears flat again.

Cook for 6-10 minutes (depends on thickness).

How much to cook depends on how much you can get and how much you like asparagus.

Busy day

I actually got to sit down for a longish period this afternoon, which helped with the tired factor after being on my feet for much of yesterday and two long stretches this morning.

The big feeding the multitudes thing was a great experience. The smaller one went pretty well and I now know how to make coffee in the church's coffee maker. I am getting ready for the final one, but am in relatively good shape, as I have figured out how to make the FP grate cheese. Now to clear out fridge space ...

Serene of The Reluctant Vegan taught a number of us how to make an easy and very non-vegan (1/2 lb butter!) toffee. Too addictive; I had four pieces, small ones but four, as I was roasting asparagus tonight.

Edited to add: Link to Recipe

And I have a real hot water bath-type canner now, courtesy of Ayse; so I can really jam in future. Yippee!

I also realized I totally spaced on the last Is My Blog Burning? yesterday due to my activity. I'll still do the thing I was planning to do, but it went clear out of my mind.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

You Better Shop Around

Note to self: When planning enchiladas for thirty, it does help to check around on the price of jack cheese. The Berkeley Bowl, however wonderful, does not have the best price on absolutely everything. Indeed, its jack is twice as much as the Cheese Board (which must be doing a loss-leader thing, at $2.50/lb). Guess which cheese I am grating first.

The good news is that I figured out how to make my FP grate cheese again, and the Bowl had a providential special on asparagus ($1.09/lb).

Off to participate in another Feeding of the Multitudes experience.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lady Marmalade

Or, "When Life Gives You Lemons, Part III".

Of course, having a large bag of Meyer lemons of various shapes and sizes finally propelled me to look up recipes for lemon marmalade. I got a award-winner from a pal of mine (it's her mom's), and I will probably try that when I get the next bag, but I was looking for something that used sliced-up lemons (in other words, I wouldn't peel them first ... taking advantage of the Meyer thin peel).

I found this recipe in various places on Epicurious.com:

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

1-1/2 lbs MEYER LEMONS (5-6)
4 cups WATER
4 cups SUGAR

Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart non-reactive pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes.

Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.

Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4" inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.

Put jars in a water-bath canner filled with boiling water, to cover jars by at least 1 inch. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool. Yields approx. 6 half-pint jars. Marmalade will store in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.

I posted it on rec.food.cooking hoping for some advice from the jam makers; unfortunately the principal one was away with a family health crisis, but I did get one person saying "that doesn't look like enough sugar". This, and recipe-maker's comments that the second stage took a lot closer to an hour than fifteen minutes, turned out to be correct. I ended up adding a cup of sugar (half cup at a time) to the mixture during the final boil, and I did indeed measure the fruit mixture after boiling down. I think next time I might take a leaf from my rfc advisor's book and add some fresh lemon juice at that stage to perk up the flavor a bit, or maybe make lemon-ginger next time and have the ginger counteract the bitter peel flavor somewhat.

But it tastes good. I got four jars and a custard-cup full. I will go and stick my finger in the custard cup for a taste occasionally.

It set up well before gel point (220 F) by my thermometer. I did soak the lemons and seeds for three days, as I cut them up on Saturday and was out late on Sunday and Monday, so didn't make it up till Tuesday. (I was still fishing seeds out of the marmalade. Meyers are very seedy.)

I need to get myself a "real" water-bath canner if I continue to do this, because my big pot isn't tall enough to cover the jars with water, but among the last things I heard before finally falling asleep last night was the satisfying "pop" of the lids making their seal as they cooled.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy V-Day To All!

The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case it certainly applies. The picture was provided by Dr. Biggles, the crazy, meat-lovin' phool behind MeatHenge, as his way of thanking me for the gift of the subject. I didn't win the contest (no surprise as my entry was not particularly meaty), but I got a very special post of my own instead. I present this photo, in lieu of the actual item, to you, my readers, as a way of expressing my regard:

food pron at its finest

Many thanks to the good Dr., and I shall post the recipe when I get a little better organized, and link.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Feeding the Multitudes, Part I

My church is full of music- and food-lovers. During term time, there is an Evensong service once a month, followed by an organ recital on our mighty Flentrop by a guest organist, followed by an extremely festive reception in the social hall. This attracts a number of people who are not regularly part of our parish, who like Evensong (with incense, great early music), organ music, or both, especially when followed by FREE FOOD.

(BTW, if you're around Berkeley, and interested, by all means drop me a line for the details. We'd love to see you!)

I was blown away by the quality of the spread the first time I went; mind you, I knew the parish had good eats, but it was really quite impressive. As I have become more involved, I expressed interest in helping out with this. Last night I was finally able to not only make it to the service, but be part of the kitchen crew.

It was a good exercise. Not only did I start learning where things are in the social hall kitchen, the crew is fun, and I got the gratifying feedback of seeing my efforts devoured as if by a Biblical horde of locusts. I had thought, no way are people going to eat this all, but I was so wrong. It was amazing.

The woman who organizes these receptions has been doing this for a while and is a real pro. She is pleasant to work for and well organized. She had shopped well and done some prep work at home, but a lot of it got assembled on site, or was otherwise made from raw ingredients.

She also executed a great save; she had forgotten to put the yeast in the pizza dough, which she realized when she checked its rising and it hadn't. She proofed it out, kneaded it in with some more flour, and it worked! Yeah, Nancy! You rock!

Le Menu:


Curried chicken salad sandwiches (cut in triangles, of course)
Rosemary foccacia and olive oil
Hummus and pita (raided from the sacistry... someone had accidentally purchased garlic pita to use for communion, so we ate what didn't get consecrated in the morning)
Crudite platter - yellow bells, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, with garlicky sauteed green beans in the center (this looked stunning)
Ranch dip
Hot artichoke dip
Brie and bleu cheese
Baguette slices
Devilled eggs
Polenta squares topped with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato
Cocktail weiners in barbeque sauce
Guacamole and tortilla chips
Pizza topped with chopped red bell peppers and onions
(brought out after most of the other food had disappeared and pounced on with glad cries)

On the dessert table:

Banana bread
Molasses bread
Valentine candy (left over from coffee hour)
Lemon cake squares topped with custard and a raspberry

Wine and punch

I was a bit discombobulated at the end of this and shouldn't really have gone out of the kitchen except to serve, as I ended up asking one of the gentlemen in the schola (music group) if he was a regular part of the parish (ooops). I accentuated this somewhat by getting a tiny bit squiffy on the last of the Two-Buck Chuck.

I also attended the entire Evensong service (although I shot out of there pretty rapidly at the end) and about half of the organ recital.

I say "Part I" as I am going to be spending a lot of next weekend cooking at the church. More on that later.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

When Life Gives You Lemons, Part II

winter harvest

It's citrus season here in Northern California and the backyard lemon trees have fruit dropping off the branches. Besides harvesting three dozen standard lemons from a friend's trees, I have gotten some Meyers from coworkers and friends. Meyers are a common backyard lemon up here in the north, as they are sort of inbetween lemon and orange, and thus a wee bit cold-hardier than regular lemons; every little helps if we get one of our rare pretty-cold snaps.

The mystique about Meyer lemons and the Chez Panisse gang probably started because someone had a boatload of lemons in the backyard and a clever pastry chef did something about it. So now they're trendy, and people outside the growing area envy us our Meyers, as they don't often get shipped out-of-area (and were, until recently, not that available commercially even here ... you had to know someone with a tree to get some). Of course, I will say that the perfumed skin smells absolutely divine.

I have made a couple of batches of Mom's Lemon Curd recently, to rave reviews from the recipients. My mom is the regular recipient of large bags of Meyers (I had to tell her how trendy they had become in the chi-chi baking world ... again, like I said, this is a regular backyard tree where I come from), and pays the givers out in curd.

I have some notes on the recipe:

the right tool for the job

A Mexican-style lemon juicer is your friend. Actually, I'm going to get the "orange" size when this one wears out. I gave Mom one two Christmases ago and she really appreciates not having to fish the seeds out of lemon juice. Her labor is greatly reduced.

I really love my fine Microplane for zesting them. I gave Mom one of those, too, although she usually uses a potato peeler and finishes the chopping in the food processor.

You do want to watch out for the scrambled-egg effect when cooking the curd. Strain if necessary.

A thermometer will read about 130 F when it is done. I also use the spoon test (does a finger trail stay?) and the drop test (take some up in a spoon, drop it back on the pot, and see if it leaves distinct drops).

The jars for this one do not have to be sterilized the same way as jam jars would, as you will be refrigerating or freezing it. Just make sure they have gone through the dishwasher, or been washed out in hot water, recently.

And be sure to have an English muffin around the house when you are done so you can toast it and WIPE OUT THE PAN with it. Cook's treat.

Mom always gives a six pack of English muffins with the curd when she gives it to someone for the first time. After that, people are usually happy to supply their own muffins :).

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Forty Days of Lentils

The fabulous Stephanie and her husband Dave are doing "Forty Days of Lentils" (Sundays and some feast days off) for Lent. Stephanie is a far better person than I and will be trying something NEW with lentils every day (and posting recipes). I, myself, would probably make up a big pot of my curried lentil soup, learn to make pilaf, scrounge another recipe or two, and look forward to Easter :D.

The recipes are friends-locked, for copyright purposes, but I shall at least be trying the first, which was lentils cooked risotto-style with aromatics and red wine, from the Zuni Cafe cookbook.

Stephanie also provided us with this info from the Lentils and Dried Peas council. I knew about the fiber, and knew about the "grown in the US" (the high desert of the Palouse, mostly), but didn't know about the folic acid. Extra good stuff!

I probably won't eat beans every day of Lent, but it's something to strive for. It's "eating poor", and they are awfully good for a body ... I have lost both significant weight and significant cholesterol when I have gone on "bean soup for lunch" diets.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Inspired by this bit of liturgical tomfoolery posted by Dave, I decided to abandon previous dinner plans and make pancakes for dinner tonight (Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras).

I used the recipe in Fannie Farmer. I seem to recall that I had used it before, but it had way too much baking powder in it and the cakes tasted off. They were fine with the last of the June Taylor pear-vanilla butter, but not really good on their own. More butter? More sugar? Less BP? Maybe the next time I get an urge for homemade pancakes (which isn't often), I will remember which recipe I used last time. (It was good.)

Perhaps next Shrove Tuesday I will feel energetic enough to make English/French style pancakes (crepes in French) instead.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Winter Wonderful, Part Two

I missed my Saturday market run due to system work (which made me cranky, but I can swing by the Tuesday market). I finally got to Trader Joe's to buy milk and essential groceries yesterday.

After a refreshing nap, I made the following:

Roast chicken with Greek-style potato wedges (olive oil, lemon, salt, toss to cover, then roast with chicken)
Roast cauliflower (see previous entry)
Roast broccoli

The taters weren't done to my liking when the chicken was, so I removed the bird and put the taters back in. When they were done, they were divine; mealy and tender inside, roasted nicely with hints of chicken and lemon.

No pix because I was hungry and just kept eating them. Anyway, the pan had burned bits (which I had to soak off overnight).

I ate all the broccoli, half the cauliflower, half the potatoes (and I'd used all the Yukons in my fridge - about five medium), but none of the chicken. So I think I caught up some on my "strive for five" veggie consumption.

Remaining cauli and taters are with chicken legs for my lunch. It's a monochromatic meal but I don't care. I have some green beans for the rest of the chix.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Recherche des Poulets Perdus

Memories of Chickens Past, or, FridgeHenge.

Soup's On!

Here at Love and Cooking HQ we have been on a Mad Skillz improvement project.

You see, we (and I include thecats in this) really like roast chicken. And we (well, I) have a really good general recipe, thanks to the fab-yoo-lous and highly recommended guide to Getting Dinner on the Table, How to Cook without a Book.

Roast Chicken

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Wash a whole chicken.
Cut the wings off.
Cut the back out.
Whack that bird to make it lie flat.
Drizzle some olive oil in your roasting pan.
Put the bird in, skin side up.
Lift the skin up and season the meat under the skin. Regular old salt will do, but I really like Trinidad Seasoning from Penzey's Spices. It's fab on roast pork too. Get a big jar.
As I have a lemon tree, I slice a lemon up and stick the slices under the skin as well.
Put the back, wings, and neck in a freezer bag and freeze for stock.
Stick the pan in the oven. Bird should be ready in 35-45 minutes, depending on the size.
Be sure to clean your cutting board, scissors, and knife off with boiling water. (Safety first!)

Where the Skillz Upgrade comes in is that I was unhappy with the way I was cutting the back out of the chicken ... mystery bones ended up with the leg sometimes and not others, and the whole thing usually looked like Freddie Kruger had gotten to it.

So I was determined to learn how to do this properly. I mentioned this as a New Year's resolution at the forums at C & Z, and I was given a lot of encouragement and thrown some helpful tips. One of which reminded me that I have a copy of Essentials of Cooking, which has pretty good pix of the process.

So I've been cutting up a lot of chickens lately. I felt like ole Freddie at first, but now I think I've got the basics down. I'm taking a short vacation from roast bird, or I would show one in its Golden Lemony Goodness.

This has generated a lot of chicken parts in my freezer. So much so that the door was starting to have trouble closing. It was time to Do Something About It, in other words, make some chicken stock.

frozen bird bits

Mine is really basic; I put the parts in the pan, cover with filtered water, and bring to a boil. Then I reduce the heat and cook it till the meat falls off the bones, which takes a couple-three hours.

Have a bowl handly to dump the scum/foam into; once the scum has more or less finished rising, you can let it simmer away with only occasional attention from you (checking cooking level, replenishing water).

You can add carrots, celery, bayleaves, or other herbs if you like.


When it looks done, strain it into a fridge-worthy container. I like using my Pyrex quart measures. Use the finest strainer you have available to avoid the little bits getting into the broth. Discard the meat and bones (or cool them and feed them to your pet). Stick the broth in the fridge so that the fat may rise to the top and be easily removed. For food safety purposes, multiple smaller containers are better than one huge one.

Then later, of course, take the fat off the top. It's all about the MEAT.

This was A-One, primo, finest kind chicken broth. It jiggled so you KNEW it was good.

shake it!

I got seven cups of broth. I used one quart to make a variant on my quickie Italian Wedding soup.

It was even quicker than that as I left the onion out, boiled the carrots and celery in the broth as I simmered the meatballs, and left the eggdrop out. I used chard instead of escarole, which seems to be hard to find these days. It made two big bowls. Le Yummers. Meatballs and tender vegetables, what's not to like?

(I had some Trader Joe's globes of meaty goodness in the fridge, so the cleanup theme continued.)

I used the rest to make chicken-noodle soup for someone who was in need of it.

If I have time, I will detail my other meaty adventures from the freezer. (no time to really cook this week)