Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Side Dishes (part 2)

Finally, it is time for my second installment of Hanukkah side dishes – and this time I bring you the recipe for noodle kugel. Kugels are a very common Ashkenazic side dish, and they can range from sweet to savory, but in my family the sweet has always reigned supreme. This recipe is actually courtesy of my mom’s good friend, and our next door neighbor growing up, Joan Futterman. Joan is a fantastic cook, and her Kugel recipe is, well, also fantastic.

Sweet Noodle Kugel
Servers at least 10

  • 16 ounce wide egg noodles
  • 16 ounce container cottage small curd cottage cheese
  • 16 container sour cream
  • 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 3 chopped or thinly sliced peeled large apples
  • â…“ cup cinnamon sugar mixture
  • â…“ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick melted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Cook the noodles until al dente, and drain
  3. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, except for the graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon sugar
  4. Fold mixed ingredients into noodles
  5. Put mixture into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish
  6. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon suger on top
  7. Bake uncovered for 60 minutes. Check after 50 minutes to make sure it is not burning
  8. Let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. The kugel may be served hot,at room temperature, or even cold

And yes, this is not a dessert, this is eaten with the main course!

posted by neil at 10:56 pm
under cooking  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Side Dishes

Last night I had some friends over for Hanukkah dinner. I made a bunch of things, but the two things I want to talk about the most are the some of the side dishes. Tonight I’m going to talk about the relatively healthy one, Kasha Varnishkes – which are buckwheat groats and bowtie pasta. The buckwheat is a very nutty/earthy grain, which is a great complement to a hearty meat dish, such as the brisket I served.

Kasha Varniskes
From The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith.
Serves at least 4, and up to 8.

1 Cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil (I had a plethora of fat from the chicken soup I made)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 Cups chicken stock
1 Cup bowtie pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Start water boiling for pasta, but do not cook yet
  2. In a small bowl mix the kasha and the egg, make sure all the grains are coated with the egg. Put a medium nonstick fry-pan over medium high heat, and cook the kasha egg mixture, stirring and pushing down with a wooden spoon, until the egg dries and the grains are mostly seperated. Set aside.
  3. In a heavy 4 quart pan pan, heat the fat or oil and saute the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the kasha is tender, and the liquid is absorbed. Cook the bowties at the same time.
  4. Add drained, al dente cooked bowties to the buckwheat. Mix well and serve hot.

Stay tuned for a MUCH less healthy side dish in the coming days!

posted by neil at 9:31 pm
under cooking  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Comfort Food

Everyone has some comfort food or other – something that makes them feel comfortable, and likely reminds them of happy times during childhood. Unfortunately, just because a food is comfortable, doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make – especially when it’s holiday dinner type food!

Growing up in a family of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent, holiday dinners (save for Thanksgiving), were composed of more or less the following:

  • Gefilte Fish
  • Chicken Soup with Matzah Balls
  • Braised Brisket
  • Kugel or Kasha Varnishkas

The first is easy enough to get out of a jar, as long as you eschew the stuff actually labeled Gefilte, which is mostly carp, and mostly terrible (and I think why the food has such a bad name), and go for the stuff labeled “Whitefish and Pike in broth”. I’ll admit, it may be an acquired taste, but we’ll get back to it later.

The rest of the items pretty much require some home cooking – although I do know of at least one place in the area that serves proper Matza ball soup. The problem is, it is the sort of cooking that requires making a lot of food, not food for one or two people. You can’t braise a 12-16oz brisket for two people, and you can’t really make much less than a gallon of proper broth for the soup. So I was in a quandry, how can I get a hold of such foods without traveling back home for a holiday. Oh – I could host a holiday dinner myself.

Earlier this year I came up with the idea of hosting a Passover dinner. Not a Seder, since those are long and can be kind of dull, but a dinner in the spirit of the Seder, with a few of the oddities, but not the retelling of the entire Passover stories. The four glasses of wine? YES. Me being me, I kind of delayed scheduling it until two weeks before passover began, when I was sitting at a wine bar with Mackenzie and some friends. We were discussing a planned Easter dinner, and the realization of the overlap between Passover and Easter hit me. It was time to schedule, and it turned out that Monday April 18th (Tax day) worked for people’s schedules, and also happened to be the first night of Passover. So dinner was scheduled.

To make a long story short, I spent the day before making food – making stock from a chicken (alas, I couldn’t find a stewing hen, so a big roaster)(As a side note, I’ve been making a lot of stock in the past couple of months, and freezing it. However the stock I’ve been making is the sort from a cooked carcass, and while good, is just not the right sort of Matza ball soup), and braising the brisket. I also made Charoset, a passover dish made of apples, nuts, wine, cinnamon and sugar, but that was just a few minute endeavor to save time the next day. The real important thing here is that both the soup and the brisket benefit from a night in the freezer. In both cases it makes it easier to remove excess fat (save the schmaltz for the matza balls!), and for the brisket it makes it tastier and juicier – plus it’s a lot easier to cut a chilled, cooked brisket.

The night of, I came home from work a little early, and got started right away chopping the vegetables (carrots and parsnip) for the soup, and preparing the matza kugel so I could just put it in the oven at the right time. Meanwhile, Mackenzie made some chicken liver pate – not exactly the chopped liver of my youth, but still delicious stuff! Timing was tight but everything worked out.

As to the food, all of it being my first attempt, I was quite pleased with the results. The gefilte fish was enjoyed by everyone, despite me being the only person there who had eaten it before. The soup with matza balls was popular – even though I forgot to add some salt while I was heating it up – but this was easy enough to adjust at table. The brisket, well, I think I could have let it braise a bit more. It was tender, and tasty, but it wasn’t as tender and fork edible as I would prefer. That didn’t stop 8 people from eating over three quarters of a 5 and 1/3 lb brisket. There was just enough leftovers for everyone to have a slice or two for lunch the next day, along with some of the braised (and super soft) carrots and potatoes.

I’d offer recipes here, but I didn’t really have any, save for the kugel. I asked my mom and she basically gave me some stories about how to do the brisket and charoset, which are both pretty simple mind you, but very imprecise. If anyone is dying for any information, I’ll provide it.

I’ll close with this question – what are your comfort foods, and are they easy to make or do they require pre-planning like the ones I listed above?

posted by neil at 9:17 am
under cooking  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who the heck thought to eat this?

“What the heck is that thing? ”

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were asking that question. Well, it’s celeriac, or celery root, which evidently is not the root of a regular celery you eat, but a special sort grown for its root. It’s actually something I’ve been aware of for a while, but we didn’t get it in the CSA last year, so it wasn’t until this winter that I started to actually cook it. It turns out that, at least sauteed/braised and smashed, to be a lovely food. I’m sure there are other ways to eat it as well, but this is a good introduction. I have another celery root (I traded out a bag of miscellaneous “stir fry” greens in this weeks box for a second, orphaned celeriac).

Smashed Celeriac
From Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

Serves 2 generously

1 Celery Root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
Salt and Pepper

  1. Peel the celeriac, which basically means cutting the outside and pithy layer off with a knife. Cut a small slice off one side to make it stable, then cut it into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Put the olive oil in a casserole, or saute pan, with a lid and heat at medium high for a few minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and celeriac, stir to coat with oil, and saute for about five minutes until it is lightly browned.

  1. Put the heat to low, then add the water or stock to the pan. Stir quickly and put the lid on. Simmer for 25 minutes until tender. Adjust seasoning if needed. Smash the celeriac with a spoon. Serve

Do any of my small number of readers have any favorite celeriac recipes I should try? There is one in the fridge which will need to be used in the next couple of months…

posted by neil at 10:16 pm
under cooking  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dinner Guests

Mackenzie and I had Suki from [Super Duper Fantastic] and RV over for dinner. As has been my trend when having people over for dinner, I made Zuni Roast Chicken and Bread Salad. They actually brought the chicken over this weekend (hurray for the Whole Foods sale last week!), and brought a delicious side of broccoli and kale.

While there is a bit of plan-ahead on the recipe, and it’s sort of involved, it takes less than 90 minutes to prepare, so it is suitable for on occasional weeknight. Do you have any go-to recipes that you make when you have company over for dinner (particularly on a weeknight)?

The upshot of roasting two chickens in less than two weeks is that I have been able to finally, really get the hang of chicken carving.

posted by neil at 10:30 pm
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Overnight Omelet

This is a picture of an overnight ‘omelet’, an incredibly satisfying weekend brunch food, albeit one that requires a little bit of forethought to have. Basically you need to do all the prep work the night/afternoon before, and then spend an hour waiting for this savory bread pudding to bake, all the while smelling its deliciousness. Well it’s worth it.

Overnight Omelet, from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010

serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
3 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup milk (recipe says whole, lowfat works fine)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

  1. Grease a 3-cup baking dish (about 7 1/4 by 5 1/4 inches). Spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread, then cut the bread into 1-inch pieces. Scatter half onto the prepared dish and sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat with the remaining bread, and then cheese.
  2. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl, then poor evenly over the bread. Gently press down on the bread to help it soak up the egg mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap an refrigerate for 8 least 8 and up to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to bake, adjust and oven rack to the middle position and head oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dish and bake until golden brown and puffy, about 1 hour. Let cool 5 or so minutes before serving.

You can vary this basic recipe quite easily, varying cheese and adding additional dry ingredient, but be careful to not disturb the bread matrix too much.

posted by neil at 11:01 pm
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yet another food post

Yes, three in a row.

So, I roasted a chicken tonight, using World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe from Michael Ruhlman. Highly recommended as a lazy Sunday roast dinner. Smashed celeriac (which might be the second best vegetable of 2011, by the way) was the side.

Mackenzie made the leftover meat into chicken salad (yay lunch tomorrow!), and the carcass is in the fridge ready to be turned into stock later this week. But this got me thinking two things:

1) I should roast chicken more often, this is good (and easy and economical)
2) If I do so, what are other recipes for the leftover meat?

posted by neil at 9:11 pm
under cooking  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Bread Post

As promised, one of the subjects I am blogging about this month is bread. I have posted about bread a couple times in the past – once to ‘pan’ the infamous no-knead bread recipe that’s been floating around for a few years, and at least once to sing the praises of kneaded bread. Well, rest assured this is a kneaded bread. Kneaded in my KitchenAid.

To start out my bread making for the month (I plan on baking bread at least a few more times), I made some Challah. Challah, of course, is Jewish Sabbath/Holiday bread. It’s a very rich dough made with eggs and butter, and slightly sweetened. It’s great for eating slice with some butter, and even better for french toast.

The recipe I followed is from Baking Illustrated – if there is interest I can post it, but for now I will just paraphrase a bit. After kneading in the standing mixer, you do a double rise, then divide it into pieces so you can braid it. Traditionally, one might use a six braid pattern to create a tall loaf, but this recipe cheats by making two separate braids, and stacking the smaller on top of the larger using an egg wash to bind them.

This seems like a pretty good idea, but the way it rose in the oven caused the top braid to fall sideways a bit. I also over cooked the bread by a couple of minutes – of course, last time I tried to make bread in my flat (using my own starter) I righteously burned the bottom, so this is a step in the right direction. A little more practice and I’ll have the oven down.

It might not be the prettiest bread anyone’s ever made, but it looks OK. And the crumb is fantastic. We had some with dinner tonight, and I predict breakfast tomorrow will be french toast!

Now the question is, what kind of bread should I make next?

posted by neil at 10:28 pm
under bread,cooking  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vegetable of the Year (2011)

The year is early, but there is a strong contender for vegetable of the year already. It is:

Roasted Romanesco.

For those that don’t know, romanesco is a cultivar of cauliflower, or broccoli. It’s more like the former, but not completely unlike the latter. And since those are both cultivars of the same species, I think the specifics aren’t important. What is important is that roasting it creates a delightful, and healthy vegetable side dish.

Approximate recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Cut off thickest part of stem out of head of romanesco. Break off big ‘bit sized’ branches. When they start getting small, cut out the rest stem into the middle, and slice into bite sized chunks. Quarter (or sixth, depending on size) the top bit.
  3. Toss romanesco with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and some kosher salt. You can add a couple of cloves of minced garlic too.
  4. Put romanesco in a baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes until browned and crispy.

Of course, I’m sure there are many other things you can do, this is just what I’ve done so far, and immensely enjoyed.

Also coming soon: A post about bread!

posted by neil at 8:56 pm
under cooking  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What’s a Pantry?

Even though I enjoy cooking, one thing I don’t really like is grocery shopping – at least in a planned sort of way. I am very ad hoc when I go grocery shopping, I rarely make a list, and if I do it’s just the 2 or 3 items I need to make some particular recipe. Now that I have room in my pantry, and a desire to cook MORE food at home, I have to change these ways. To this end, I need to assemble a must have list of shelf stable items. But how?

I bought America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010 earlier this year, and I’ve been very pleased by the book. One of the nice features, besides recipes scaled down from the normal 4-6 servings you find, is that it has a section in the front for recipes that use left over portions of items (mostly canned goods) use din other recipes. I figure I’ll start by getting the items covered in that section, but then, what to get?

Do you fill your pantry with dependable foods that you use often? If so, what are your top few pantry items that you always have on hand?

posted by neil at 12:35 pm
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