Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Food and Choices

I shop, primarily, at Rainbow Co-op Grocery and the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. I shop seasonally within my geographical region (in the majority - there are some exceptions - yeah, we don't grow coffee beans in California), purchase organically grown food, or food where no pesticides or hormones have been used.  I buy meat that has been ethically raised and slaughtered, check my Seafood Watch iPod app before I buy or order fish or seafood. I eat meat or fish or seafood about three times a week on average. I buy as many un- or minimally processed foods as I can. I do not knowingly purchase GMO foods and I try to use as much of the food I purchase as possible without waste. 

Why? In part, because I can.  I am single, employed with enough disposable income and time to enable my choices.  I spent about three months back in 2007 thinking about how I could change my relationship to food - not just what I wanted to or should eat but everything to do with food the food I choose and purchase. It is a process.

I do not adhere 100 percent to my own personal guidelines, nor do I voice them unless asked when I have been invited into someone's home. I will not criticize others' choices - I do not live in their shoes. I do the best I can when I'm traveling.

I know that on extreme ends of the spectrum - and I am not going to assign a label to either - I am considered un-American, naive, over-privileged, under-informed, half-assed and just plain wrong.  I can live with that. The only thing I find offensive is when people are willfully uninformed, willfully unwilling to try and understand others' point of view or circumstances and willfully unmindful about their own choices.

(I LOVE "Portlandia" - it is a multi-part original comedy series on IFC. The description is of a, "...dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon.". Check it out.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on Kale De-Stemming and Pre-Cooking


I eat a lot of kale - both cooked and raw. I am lucky to be able to get it year 'round at farmers markets.  The size varies by season.  Right now (February) the stems are generally pretty short (5-7") from stem-end to tip of the leaf, but during the warmer months, very often twice that - or more. Every week I cook up a bunch (or two) to store in the fridge for daily use or use it in a few dishes or a salad.  Many recipes advise you to de-stem by cutting out the stem from the entire leaf.  If I am going to use only four leaves of kale this is fine, but if I am de-stemming two large bunches, I start to feel a little stab-y.

Sometimes I just cut off the woody part of the stems from the bottom of the leaf and don't bother with de-stemming.  If the leaves are tender, it's just not necessary.  I have tasted the stems and as long as it's not woody or stringy, they are generally tender enough, especially if cooked.

How to De-Stem Kale

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roasted Meyer Lemon Slices

You can use any type of lemon.  I prefer Meyers or any type with a thin-ish peel (and therefore less pith). I recently used these (chopped up) in a kale, olive and caper recipe (to be posted) and am planning to pop them into a variety of dishes.  I store mine in a zip-lock bag with a little olive oil slurped in to keep them pliable.

Recipe: Roasted Meyer Lemon Slices

Review - Kitchen Calculator App

I was a music major and had to take, "Math for Music Majors".  No, that's not a class that marries math with music.  It was a class for music majors who didn't give a rat's ass about anything other than music (me) and (historically) had the attention span of a bivalve (just guessing here about the attention span of a bivalve) for math and science classes (also me).

When I need to convert units when cooking, it's not something I'm going to be able to do in my head. Ever. Ergo, it is handy to have a helper just waiting to do my bidding.  I have no idea where or how I found this app, but I use it enough to rate it as "Worth the $".

Publisher: Forward Leap, LLC
Price on review date: $2.99
Runs on: iPod and iPhone
My Rating: Worth the $

In addition to the ability to convert by weight, volume, temperature and  dimension, there is a calculator (+/-), a quick start guide (?) and a settings button (check mark), which allows you to select US or UK units.

 Note: the vendor has a new(ish) app: Kitchen Calculator Pro that includes the ability to:
  • scale recipes;
  • convert ingredients from weight to volume (cups to grams, ounces, etc.)
  • display results in standard cooking fractions
  • 'grow' a database of ingredients, based on the built-in database of common ingredients from the USDA.
Am I going to shell out the $3.99 for the 'Pro' version?  Probably not, although the weight-to-volume (and vice versa) feature is attractive. It's annoying that I cannot pay an upgrade price instead of having to re-pay for the features I already have.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raw Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I first ate this at Seester #1's house one Thanksgiving and I was well and truly hooked. There have been weeks where I ate this five days in a row.  Sometimes I wash, dry and prep the kale and then wrap it in a length of paper towel, then store it in a plastic bag.  It will stay fresh for several days.

I most often see this kale labelled as "Dino" because of the pebbled surface of the leaves.  There are many types of kale, but this is my favorite and I can't imagine making this salad with any other type. See: Kale (Wikipedia) and Google Image search for "kale varieties".

A Crazy Good Make-Ahead Creamy Mac & Cheese

Several people asked for this recipe from Seester #1:

"I used a 'make-ahead' recipe from Cook's Country, amping up the mustard x2 (no need to use dry; I used Dijon), the cayenne by x3, adding Worcester--about two teaspoons, and replacing some of the Colby with Fontina, another good melter with a more interesting flavor.

The recipe was developed to allow making it in advance without it drying out while in the oven-- a problem with baked mac n'cheese. You'll see it references freezing it prior to baking and to quicken defrosting, using 2 8" pans instead of 1 larger one. I didn't freeze it; I simply made it the day before so used a larger pan."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baked Corn Pudding: Simple and Delicious

This recipe has been updated, see: Baked Corn Pudding - Version2: Updated and Improved

No cream, no aromatics, no bacon, no cheese (gasp!).  Corn, butter, salt. and pepper.  Eat it and be happy.

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp iodized salt)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter + more for greasing the baking dish
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt  (a small pinch iodized salt) for the top
  • Pepper to taste

  • Box grater or corn creamer
  • A big, wide bowl in which to grate the corn
  • 8" square baking dish, greased with butter (compare the a volume of corn to the volume of your baking dish before greasing it - use a smaller or larger size baking dish as necessary)

  • Preheat oven to 400 F (204 C)
  • Using the box grater, remove the meat and juices from each of the ears working very close to the cob - you want this to be very mushy and milky.  For me, cutting the ears in half makes them easier to handle.  Once you have finished the corn, season with salt and pepper, tasting the mixture.
  • Pour the corn mixture into the baking pan.  Smooth out the top and dot with butter.  Sprinkle the top with the additional salt.
  • Bake on the middle rack at 400 F uncovered for 45-50 minutes (start checking it at 40 minutes), or until the top is golden brown around the sides and the corn is bubbling.  Remove from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Brussels Sprouts with White Beans and Pecorino

This is a Thanksgiving "must have" for me.

From: Epicurious: Bon Appetit, November 2005
Serves: 6 as a side dish.

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth (or water, for a vegetarian dish)
1/2 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup coarsely grated young pecorino like Pecorino Toscano

Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. When just about to smoke, add half of the brussels sprouts. Cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add remaining brussels sprouts, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer brussels sprouts to same bowl.

Add remaining oil to skillet; increase heat to high. Add garlic; sauté until brown, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add broth and brussels sprouts. Cook until brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add beans and butter; stir until butter melts and broth is reduced to glaze, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Take off-heat and stir in the cheese.