Monday, October 17, 2011


I'm disheartened by the latest crop of cookbooks trickling out over the course of the last, oh, ever. What is it with this trend for oversimplification of cooking? On the one hand, I get it: you want to make cooking accessible to people who didn't grow up in a kitchen-centric culture. I'm totally down with books that teach budding cooks the basics, and help to get folks off on the right foot as they learn that making things from scratch really doesn't have to be intimidating.

For someone like me, though, who has the basics and then some well under my belt, it's frustrating not being able to find "authentic" recipes. I say that with a grain of salt because the word itself is so loaded with falsehoods, but let me phrase it this way: if I want to learn how to make, say, coq au vin and I've never made it before, I don't want 'Sally Smith's Easy Four-Ingredient Coq au Vin! Now, Simplified for the American Cook!' No. BOO. Those recipes are a dime a dozen. And yes, they can be useful if you want something like the "real" recipe, but don't have the time/ingredients on hand.

What I guess I wish more cookbooks did, though I know this would be prohibitively expensive/probably unprofitable from a publishing POV: provide the "real" from-scratch recipe, then a "quickie" version.

Or just, you know. Give me a few versions of the "authentic" recipe, and somewhere between them I'll come close to the essence of what the recipe's all about, and then I can choose how and when to take shortcuts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another week down!

I was pretty good this week, though not in regards to actually blogging. Let's take a look.
This was a quick-and-dirty mid-week meal, but it was actually pretty good. Turkey sausage sauteed in coconut oil, Portobello mushroom cap with red onion, sauteed in bacon (om nom nom), and Brussels sprouts seared in a little grass-fed butter, then tossed with sea salt and freshly-grated Parmesano.

Thursday's CSA box held some promise, but failed on a few counts. The speckled Romaine, while beautiful, didn't survive to the next day despite careful handling. And the radishes were horrifically overripe, which is sad, because they looked so pretty. I baked the spaghetti squash that night; my last attempts at spaghetti squash (nuking it since it was too warm to heat up the oven) were underwhelming, but baked with just a little rub-down of olive oil, this was transcendental, which led me to try....

Paleo lasagna! Ok, this might be the least photogenic meal ever. Seriously.

That's just not pretty. But it is absolutely delicious. I layered shredded baked spaghetti squash with a quickly-browned filler (broccoli, turkey kielbasa, red onion, a little garlic) and Trader Joe's tomato sauce, then sprinkled with Parmesano. Unsurprisingly based on the amount of veg and lack of pasta, there was some liquid at the bottom, but it drained off very easily (yup, just tipped the dish over the sink...) and it was superb.

Today's trip to Whole Foods was totally necessary; as you can see, I'm stocking up on some staple items--trying to weed out less-optimal versions of things like soy sauce (I'm trying organic whole-soybean non-GMO tamari and organic coconut aminos), and even playing around with stuff like household cleaners. I'm trying out two kinds of fabric softener. They smell awesome, we'll see if they work.

Now, you can see the pumpkin spice Silk in there. Yes, it's pure sugar; it's a seasonal evil. I.. sort of wanted it. What I wanted even more was the nearly two pounds of calves' liver, which I soaked in raw goat milk and then pan-seared. Let me tell you, I wasn't going to even try taking a picture of that, but nothing says breakfast like squiggly bits...

I also made a bastardized daube (ok, ok, so if it's not a real daube it's just a braise) with gorgeous beef short ribs, parsnips, celery root, carrots, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, and apple cider. You know it's good when it's tender, and that you did a good job searing it when it comes out five hours later still looking delectably browned. It's pretty heavy, though, so I just fished the meat and veg out of the sauce rather than serving it as a stew.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lazy Sunday turned into busy Sunday.

People always talk about spring cleaning, but I can't be the only one who does autumn cleaning. It's that weekend when you realize, oh snap, it's time to put the spaghetti-strap tops away and bust out with the down jackets. Of course, the weather here doesn't do a nice, gradual transition; no, it swings wildly from too hot to too cold, and doesn't give you any time to adjust.

For most of this weekend I've been raiding the closet and trying to de-clutter. That's sort of my theme for the upcoming season--an early New Year's resolution? I want to get serious about getting rid of all the stuff I hold on to because it holds memories. Clearing away stuff makes space for new ones, and I'd rather be living in the present and future than in the past. I'm also getting serious (again) about my health by eating cleaner, taking out more time to go to yoga, and trying to hack away at debt. I want my life to be sleeker and more functional. Maybe keeping myself focused on my goals will keep me from getting into my usual winter funk.

Ugh, but back to Sunday. It started out languid and early, and a pot of coffee later I was zooming around. I had cooked down a sugar pumpkin earlier (in all honesty, if it hadn't been so hot today I would have roasted the bad boy) and boiled the potatoes from my CSA box and, all in all, got more accomplished than anticipated.

Late lunch/early dinner came out blander-tasting than anticipated:

So the game plan was kofta. I peeled and mashed the cooked potatoes, then added in jalapeno and Scotch bonnet peppers, fresh cilantro, some turmeric, garam masala, garlic, red onion. I formed that into patties and rolled them in garbanzo bean flour, then pan-fried in butter. I made a quickie raita with labneh, grated cucumber, and plenty of sea salt (since I was a putz and forgot to add it to the kofta). Bland, the texture wasn't exciting, and my spicing was off. It's been so long since I've made malai kofta or korokke that I've forgotten just how much spicing the humble potato can handle. (Ate three of those, tossed the rest, alas.)

The cat-in-law is growing in her winter puff. She already looks like she's gained half her body weight in fur. She spent most of the day airing her belly in a patch of sun.

There's just no way to make my kitchen lighting better. Here's a hint of the mess in my kitchen by suppertime. The artistic dribble of coconut milk and scattering of hot pepper seeds are, I assure you, not intentional. To make the quick bisque, I sauteed red onion, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, garlic, and ginger in a little extra-virgin olive oil; I added a bit of parsley root and celery root, a pear, then the cooked pumpkin from earlier, and covered everything with chicken stock. Brought to a boil, reduced, simmered while I cleaned. I added a dash of turmeric for color and a pinch of curry powder. Pureed with an immersion blender and stirred in a can of coconut milk. To finish, I drizzled in a teaspoon of hazelnut oil and another of maple syrup, then made a quick-and-dirty dukkah of pumpkin seeds, butter, and curry powder. The seeds gave this a great texture, definitely needed, but something about the type of hot peppers I used and the coconut milk made this taste like Generic Thai Soup rather than a spiced pumpkin soup. Again, roasting the pumpkin would have made this special.

...I'm so not ready for it to be Monday.

Sunday brunch.

Was totally craving pancakes. A lot. Or French toast. Instead, I decided to be good.

Sweet Italian pork sausage (in natural casings), horseradish mustard (with nice, clean ingredient list), and radish salad (sliced radishes, labneh, sea salt, pepper, and red onions because I didn't have any scallions).

And of course coffee with raw goat milk. I also cooked that sugar pumpkin, we'll see what sort of trouble I can get up to with it later (probably nothing terribly exciting).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday farmer's market!

Sort of slim pickings at the farmer's market today, but I still got some goodies. From upper left: Mutsu apples, Bartlett pears, raw goat milk (a first at this particular market, so I couldn't say no), beautiful radishes, Northern Rebel apples (I got them just for the name--but they're super tasty), and a nice slab of big-eye tuna, which was about as sustainable as they had.

So, this was breakfast! Big-eye tuna sashimi, two grated radishes with the juice squeezed out (my cheap excuse is that I didn't have daikon), and a bit of soy sauce to dip it in. I rounded the meal out with one of those Northern Rebel apples and coffee with raw goat milk.

Dinner was the deja vu meal I've been eating all weekend to get rid of the bigos (that, sausage, and squash), though dinner was a bit early.

And a salad to finish out the day. Romaine lettuce, avocado, one of those Bartlett pears (absolutely gorgeous), raspberry-ale soaked Parmesano, and raw hazelnuts toasted in grass-fed cultured butter... with a vinaigrette made from apple cider, extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut oil, and raspberry balsamico.

Hodgepodge noms.

Three parts: kuri squash, bigos, and sausage.

The sausage is just Trader Joe's basil pesto chicken, sliced and browned in coconut oil.

The bigos was really a quickie way to clear out a lot of stuff in the fridge: I sauteed onions, garlic, shredded carrot, a couple bay leaves and allspice berries, and shiitake mushrooms in sliced bacon and its lovely fat, then topped it with an entire bag of sauerkraut and let that bad boy simmer on low for as long as I could handle waiting. Cheap, easy, dirty, healthy, and man, it's like the never-ending pot.

Kuri isn't my favorite squash, mostly because there isn't a lot of thickness to the flesh (versus an acorn or kabocha squash, for example) but I cut it up and roasted it unseasoned in extra virgin olive oil (and a drizzle of rice bran oil), then toasted some pumpkin seeds in the same coconut oil I fried the sausage in. It's like candy, and you can (should!) eat the skin.

I think I had this meal three times since Friday! Finally finished off that bootleg bigos today...

Primal shopping at Trader Joe's on Friday...

The fridge was looking a bit empty. Let's see what we ended up with.

Basil pesto chicken sausage, a small sugar pumpkin (for roasting), Thompson/Concord cross grapes (these, sadly, are disappointing), bacon (naturally), turkey kielbasa (surprisingly clean ingredient list), sprouted tofu.

Boreal blueberries? Oh, I think so! Also, chicken broth, pork sausage, and avocados.

Not too shabby!

What eggplants see in their nightmares...

Or, the makings of baba ghanouj. (On the upper-left burner: beets simmering with a bit of lemon peel to maintain color; on the upper-right, no flame, raw goat milk transforming into cheese step by step.)