Saturday, February 28, 2009

A nest of cheese

A quick way to add a special touch to a soup or salad is to make some Parmesan cheese crisps to put on the side of the dish. For just one or two, I use a fajita skillet and do them on the stove. Heat the skillet over medium heat. When hot, put couple of tablespoons of Parmesan (the grated stuff in a can will work fine, but freshly grated cheese will give your crisps a more lacy texture), and spread it around into a round. Repeat on the other end of the skillet. When the cheese melts completely and starts to sizzle at the edges, they're done. Remove to a plate to cool.

Another thing you can do is make them one by one and drape them over a shot glass to make little nests. Use a paper towel to keep from burning your fingers as you form them. As each cools, make the next in the skillet. When you have a plateful, fill them with a teaspoon of hummus each and top with a sprinkle of basil threads or a pimento. Voila! Canapes.

Photo © Lori Korleski Richardson

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tortilla chips, hold the oil

I love Mexican food. I love going out to a Mexican restaurant and being presented with a big basket of piping hot chips. I love their crunchy mouthfeel, their salty corn taste. The one thing I don't like is the calories, 138 per ounce.

When I'm at home, I cut the calories way down by baking my chips. (One corn tortilla has 58 calories, 61 per ounce). No, I don't spritz them with the oil mister. I simply douse the tortillas with water, break them into eighths, sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt, then put them on a cookie sheet and stick them
in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown. I then turn off the oven and let them sit there for at least 15 minutes until they are very crispy and no longer stick to the cookie sheet.

They hold up well for dipping into bean dip and salsa, but don't use them for any dish where they need to be in liquid for long, because they will dissolve.

Top photo: The raw tortillas, torn into eighths
Bottom: Ready for the salsa

Photos © Lori Korleski Richardson

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A bad taste, wherever its origin

Photo illustration is copyright AAAS

When another person’s behavior leaves you with “a bad taste in your mouth,” is that phrase more than a colorful metaphor? A new study of the facial muscles of disgust suggests that moral judgment may have deep biological roots. A distasteful drink, a repulsive photo, and unfair treatment in a game all raise the upper lip and wrinkle the nose via the levator labii muscle, according to experiments by Hanah Chapman and colleagues. The study provides some of the first direct evidence that the human moral system is built—at least in part—from more ancient evolutionary adaptations, the Toronto researchers say in the upcoming issue of Science magazine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Will the cookie crumble?

Horrors! The economic downturn has resulted in smaller Girl Scout cookies; a story in the San Jose Mercury News today cites worries that the long-standing tradition may be on its way out. Life without Do-Si-Dos? No thin mints? Read the story here.

Photograph from the San Jose Mercury News

'Shrooms with a view

Gina Kim, a food writer for The Sacramento Bee, took a tour de mushrooms at the Martini House in the Napa Valley recently and Scott Craig did a video of the hunt and the cooking of the fungi. Watch it here.

Spinach - the raw truth

We've all heard that spinach is good for you, but did you know it's better for you cooked? For one thing, cooking compacts the vegetable; it's easier to eat a quarter cup of cooked spinach than 2 cups of raw and you get the same amount of nutrition. And cooking spinach breaks down the oxalates in it and prevents the formation of unabsorbable mineral complexes in the body. Oxalates are bad because when they don't find enough calcium in your bloodstream, they bind with calcium in your kidneys, causing kidney stones. So if you like spinach salad, have a glass of milk with it.

If you want to learn more about the health properties of spinach, go here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spinach - good for you, and tastes even better

I am slowly going through a big tub of baby spinach -- it's not that easy to do, cooking for just one or two at a time, but it's almost gone. Here's the side dish I prepared last night.

Lori K's spinach-'shroom medley
Serves 2

1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, halved and sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
Garlic salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
4 cups baby spinach, raw

Heat oil over medium heat in a deep saucepan. Sauté the onions until almost opaque, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are very tender, seasoning with the garlic salt and pepper. Add the spinach, cover and turn up the heat to high. When the spinach has wilted (it won't take more than a minute or two), uncover and stir thoroughly. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eat like a "Slumdog"

Riding the wave of "Slumdog Millionaire," here's an easy recipe for potato curry.

4 medium potatoes
1 big onion
2 tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 teaspoons red chili powder, divided
Garam masala
cilantro leaves for garnishing
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon crushed ginger
4 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 cup frozen baby green peas (petit pois)

Wash potatoes and peel them if you want them to look pretty. Otherwise, leave the nutritious skins on. Chop them into 1/2" thick cubes.
Chop onion finely. Chop tomatoes and cilantro.
Heat a wok or a sauce pan. Add oil. When oil is heated, add cumin seeds. As the seeds sizzle, add asafoetida and turmeric powder. After this, add 1/2 tsp chili powder in the tempering. This gives the gravy a nice deep red color. Also if you add chopped cilantro at this stage, it enhances the flavor of the curry.
Add onions and fry until they become light brown. Add chopped tomatoes and saute until they soften, blend with the onion and oil separates from the mixture. Then add crushed ginger and garlic. Fry until just aromatic.
Add peas and diced potatoes. Mix and add 2 cups hot water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid and check if potatoes are tender. Add salt, masala and the rest of the chili powder and mix. Let it simmer uncovered for 5 minutes to thicken the gravy.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with plain rice.
Note: You can find the garam masala and asafoetida in Indian groceries. You can make this dish without them, but it won't taste authentic.