Wednesday, October 9, 2013


The prodigal chef returns. 
Obviously, I have not made this blog a priority.  There are several reasons, some of them petty, some of them dreamy, and some of them practical.  The main reason that I do not write about food anymore is that I have shown very little creativity with it the past year.  I've been boring to a large extent, but another truth is that once a man has 50 original and excellent recipes, he does not need many more.  On those rare days I am not laid up with food poisoning yet again or out in the mountains (now as a group leader and organizer often), I just whip up something I have been craving for months, already documented here in the old posts.  

There was an exception recently though, when a dented can of beets (29 cents!) reminded me that I used to slave over the stove some rare nights to make "maroonara" sauce; a beet-tomato blend that goes amazing over eggplant and pasta.  Well, I was struck by a sudden epiphany and realized I wanted that sauce, and that canned beets would be easier.  They sure were.  The result was better than ever thanks to Herbs de Provence.  Here is the easy recipe:

Maroonara Sauce

Simmer over stove on low-medium heat for 30 min or so: 

1 can tomato sauce (unseasoned)
1/2 can beets (take a potato masher to them, or use a fork to chop them up)
 3-4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tspn balsalmic vinegar
Herbs de Provence
Garlic powder
Onion powder
White pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

That's it.  I had delicious pasta for a week.  As a matter of fact, I am making another small pot of this lovely little sauce right now.  Try it with a few shavings of your favorite mid-price cheese.  I am using fontinella right now, but want to try feta as well.  I also suggest a few pistachios, which as I've said before, is a luxury on pasta.  You can't beat 5 gourmet meals in a week for under $3 total!

But here is where this article gets truly interesting- are you ready?  I was out of tomato paste one night while making a pizza, which sounded delicious beyond the bounds of depression (which does come on when mountain season ends, a man has dealt with lingering foot problems all summer, he's constantly getting sick, a check for 4 figures has disappeared in the mail, and his car has been in the shop for a week while waiting for $10 worth of teeny bolts to be shipped to his mechanic for a not-that-serious repair).  (Long sentences and bad punctuation: how did you do all these months without them?!)  Well, rather than walk to the grocery for a second time that day I decided to try my maroonara sauce on the pizza.  I hesitated because that would burn up half my reserves, but live a little, you know?  Its easy to make more.

That pizza was another in my recent line of successes.  I have had several of the best pizzas of my life this year, all in a row.  My "Beetza" was by far the best though.  Tangy, and a little exotic, I wolfed it down in a single sitting.  I am going to make another Beetza soon.  Here is the recipe below.  It too is easy.

Make your favorite dough and get it laid out flat.  I am doing just a plain wheat dough right now because it rises better than other rarer flours I like to play with.  I use 50-50 split of whole wheat and white flour.  

Spread maroonara sauce liberally, and then choose your toppings and cheeses.  For my exact picks, read the next paragraph.

then sprinkle over freshly washed sprouts (my mix is alfalfa, cabbage, Chinese red cabbage, radish, and clover and I grow them myself).  Then sprinkle your Herbs de Provence- not too heavily because it is in the sauce too.  Then toppings: 1/3 of a zucchini, julienned, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced, a handful of diced black olives, 12 slices pepperoni, a few pinches of pineapple, and 3 oz mozzarella cheese.

My other pizza glories were using white sauce.  You can buy a Soup Starter at the store that is a basil alfredo base.  As a soup, I think its paltry, or as a sauce over noodles.  But on a pizza with plenty of fresh tomatoes, zuchini, peppers, olives, and spinach leaves, with a bold cheese mix such as cheddar and parmesan, it is really excellent. 

Well, this was fun- and shockingly short for me.  There may be hope for me yet.  I hope the 3 or 4 people who still remember Camila and I ever existed as Internet muses, or sprites, of spirits, or whatever, and who come across this post will enjoy these easy ways to sneak beets into the diet.  The only thing better is the Beet Beer from the Beers of the Apocalypse Series, but that is off the market now, I believe.  Stay tuned, because I will surely write another article within the next twelve months.

Probably a tribute to pumpkin in the next thirty days I think.  After my first pumpkin ravioli from scratch.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Baking with Emulsions

You can make a variety of vibrant fruit breads with bakery emulsions, and I will give you several recipes.

Coming to you live from the DATC Computer Library, I am back with a long overdue post.  It took a little time adjusting to a new technology program I signed up for and to get used to being up by 6 am every day.  That is not the easiest thing to do when one has been on a swing or night schedule for 5+ years.  But I am almost back to normal.  I go 40+ hours a week, do not have to drive as I got a discount student bus pass, and so far I completed 2 courses by testing out, and 2 courses the old-fashioned way, in 1/2 the time I was told it would take because the program is self-directed.  So I am pretty busy.  But I am still cooking and will try to remember to post now.

Emulsions are a useful chemistry technology.  They have been used in painting and baking for many centuries.  An emulsion, to spare a definition, is a thick syrup-like mixture which holds its flavor better, especially during baking.  These are a near priceless commodity, but you can find them for $7 or less per bottle.  I recommend checking your local Ross Dress For Less Store in the hopes of finding some for $2.99.  They are used in place of traditional juice or zest.  For instance, I have on my shelf at home, orange, raspberry, lemon, and almond emulsions, and a bottle of chocolate essence, which is similar.  Of those, I do not like the almond but heartily recommend the others.  Zests, made from a peel put through a fine cheese grater or a special zester tool, combined with juice, make a dough harder to work with, can introduce pollutants you don't need in your diet, and will lose their flavor no matter how much you put in.  The emulsion solves all these problems, especially when combined with black truffle oil which heightens and compliments flavors in cooking.  As an added bonus emulsions are very stable and will not spoil, ever, for all intents and purposes, even at room temperature.  What a deal. 

Black truffle oil smells disgusting on its own, but I braved it in my baking and adore it now.  Just don't drink it straight or anything, and use small amounts when you start out with it.  I do not like it in pasta sauce and have done little other experimenting.

I think I can't say anymore without being dull.  The recipes are below.  All are quick breads which take less than 15 minutes of work, not counting the bake time, and these will make 6 muffins or a small loaf of bread, approximately 6 inches long.  These are not translatable- what I mean is that if I list the recipe as a bread, it probably would be hard to make muffins out of, and if I list it as muffins, it may or may not make a good bread also.

Raspberry Honey Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
3 fl oz honey
1 tsp raspberry emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil  (or replace with an additional 1 tspn of emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp black poppy seeds
1 tsp lemon emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min.  This is not the traditional cake-style fluffy dessert lemon-poppy seed bread.  Its a robust little number that retains all the sweet and aromatic pleasantries of the other, but with added health benefits.

Orange Cranberry Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1/8- 1/4 cup craisins or chopped fresh cranberries
1 tsp orange emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed

Oil your baking tray and fill 6 cups as evenly as possible.  Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min.  Check at 25 min. 

And here is a bonus simple recipe without emulsion

Morning Glory Muffins

Run 1/2 carrot through a fine cheese grater, or a zester if you have one, or shred it any other practicable means to start.  Add to:

 1 cup bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 fl oz molasses
1/8-1/4 cup dates or raisins
Water as needed

I make this as muffins but it can be a bread also, with no conversion trouble.  Bake at 350 F for approximately 20 min.  May take a little longer.  Check at 20 min though. 

Coming Soon (hopefully): Making ravioli from scratch with stamps- plus a basic all-purpose pasta recipe, home-fermented kefir sodas, how to start a barter club, and a recipe for apple-fig dumplings.


Friday, January 18, 2013

I've Gout You Under My Skin

Skyscraper piles of snow, deadly flu epidemics, sub-zero nights, and a good old-fashioned vintage winter with all the added horror of modern smog.  AKA I've missed you too, so here are 2 recipes at the bottom.

Gout was a fine word to open a game of Scrabble with the other week, because it reminded me of the need to read about gout symptoms and see if maybe instead of some mysterious new form of pain I just had gout in my feet.  Turns out I did.  This surprised me as gout comes with a stigma and is lumped in with diabetes in the minds of most; one of those semi-culpability diseases people can cure by just putting the fork down or using it to scoop lima beans rather than jelly ones.  I'm not exactly in terrible shape, though by my standards, I've let myself go recently.  Well, turns out gout is just a form of inherited arthritis, and if there is one thing I collect, other than hippos, old music, old cartoons, squashes, and several other things, its any kind of arthritis there is.  Precocious arthritis is my hobby. 

Gout basically is a swelling and stiffening of the feet, also marked by redness, pain or itching or burning, and not wanting to move at all.  Its usually in the big toe, but because I'm never normal, mine was in the fourth toes.  This is charming to discuss, surely.  I had some minor gout, but a little gout goes a long way, as the saying goes.  Made famous by Henry the 8th, the late Ben Franklin, and many a comic strip French chef, gout is actually a hereditary disease triggered by diet, and specifically, uric acid from purines.

Purines come from a surprisingly-benign, or even, healthy list of foods.  The most taboo food items are: mushrooms, cauliflower, lentils, beans, red meat, and sweets such as honey.  (So you can see why gout is synomymous with Henry the 8th, he the man who by force of will power (less-ness) changed the Western diet to a sugar-based one after his first taste of the white powder, and he the man who invented such delicacies as "sugar-crusted roast Turkey drumstrick", and "syrup-dipped pig's feet" with jellied jam sauce.)  The expended list adds chocolate, beer, wine, oats, leafy green vegetables, baked goods with leavening agents, dried fruits, and eggs.  Also, by the way, peanuts are not really a nut, but a legume, so peanuts and peanut butter also trigger gout.

That doesn't leave me much to eat does it?  And if you look back at my most recent posts, you'll notice that I was basically on the perfect diet to discover whether or no I am susceptible to gout.  I was practically begging for gout.  Hell, I ate like a gallon of wild mushroom soup followed by pot roast chili- fabulous and recipe to come below, and preceded by "Canaan Pie", made with cream and honey and dried fruits.  I also satisfied a craving for cauliflower for the first time in a year.  Live and learn. 

Gout is cured by drinking exasperating amounts of water and avoiding foods which contain purines or uric acid.  Protein in the diet should be reduced and pretty much nothing but rice and fresh fruit is acceptable.  Go over that list again.  Its extensive.  Vitamin C is helpful.  Also, there is no better medicine than dried cherries.  As far as medicines go, this last one is pretty delicious.  I now have 3 lbs of dried bings around for flare ups, though this was my only noticeable gout incident to date. 

The best treatment is prevention.  Spread out the taboo foods, or eliminate them. 

Well, after my gout cleared up thanks in large part to several days of hunger, I succumbed to this flu which is apparently ravaging Utah and everywhere else, and had some infected sinuses.  I started to feel poorly, then spent a 36 hour period with an animal's wiped mind, laying in a fetal position wrapped inside blankets and still shaking with cold.  I slept 29 out of 30 hours at one point, sitting up just long enough to do the necessities and fill in one sudoku puzzle.  Now I'm still recovering from that.  So I have not been out skiing while failing to post to this blog, I promise you that. 

Enough moping.  My other news is I registered for college courses and will learn web development, including writing code in HTML and several other languages.  This should provide me work, and hopefully that work will be stimulating, or at least, not unbearable.  I am curious about programming, but its so new to me, I don't know what to expect.  I had some financial aid to utilize or lose soon so the whole thing is paid for, and I will treat this like a job, a job that doesn't pay but should eventually.  I will be going full-time, so we shall see how much cooking I do, and whether or no I can offer a recipe every week.  That will depend on if I keep trying new things and finding the time to do so.  I think I will.  I started today and now I get a 4 day weekend.  But I can do most of next week's work at home with a tedious text book.  Hurray.

Pot Roast Chili

This is a very good option for a chili, a little more deluxe than ground chuck varieties. Also its a second recipe to use with roast cuts.

1. Slice 1 lb beef roast or pork roast/loin into 1/2 inch slices, season if preferred, and bake in oven 90 minutes at 375 F.  I did not season my beef roast as it was a nice fatty cut and I let the fat do the work and get all melty.
2. On a range top, in a large pot, combine: 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can butter beans, and 2 cans pinto beans, all part-drained, with 1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh is that is a palatable option), 1/4 butternut squash (pre-baked), peeled and diced into cubes, 1 cup golden corn kernals, 1/2 green bell pepper diced, onion (or powder), and seasonings.  I suggest: coriander (coarsely crushed), cinnamon, minced garlic, green chives (if you did not add chopped onion), brown sugar, mustard, and white pepper.  Bring to a light boil, then simmer 30 min.
3. Serve as 2 dishes.  Its a vegan chili with the meat available to those who want it, as complimentary dish, or to be dipped into the chili. 

I will never make a chili again without butternut squash.  Its a colorful, healthy, and satisfying addition, helping to replace meat, but not conflicting with it.

Thai Lemon Butternut Squash Soup

Finally found a butternut squash soup recipe I like.  Invented this one after finding a markdown deal on some "La Tourangelle Artisan Thai Wok Oil".  This oil is good for wok cooking, or as additive in soups, and consists of Thai Basil and Lemongrass in Safflower oil.  My roomate claims it smells like Fruit Loops, which I find insulting, as he hates sugared cereals and thus, Fruit Loops, but I think he's just not familiar with the scent of lemon or of Fruit Loops. 

For your soup you need:

1 large pot
1 butternut squash, baked or boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes.
16 oz vegetable broth
16 oz water
1/3 cup wok oil
onion powder
white, red, and black pepper
1/8 cup brown sugar

Add all into your pot and boil for 30 minutes.  Then let cool, put through blender or food processor, and reheat to desired temperature for consumption.  Pretty easy and pretty basic.  Might be improved by adding some noodles or fresh leaves, or peanuts, or something else I am not thinking of, but as an experiment, I just made it as basic as possible.  The above recipe would reduce to a very thick near syrup and will probably take water before serving, but you can also serve it very thick.  Will make 8-10 bowls.

Next post will be about fruit emulsions and how to use them.

Rather than a music recommendation I offer you a book this week: Parnatti's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.  Great fun.  Delightful 2 page or less stories about where almost everything you've ever touched in your life or heard in your life comes from.