Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bittman's move a big loss for the Gray Lady

Mark Bittman is leaving The New York Times to join a food startup that will "make it easier for people to eat more plants." He's been with the paper of record since 2011, serving as food columnist. As he says on his blog: “Oh,” say my friends, “you move to California and join a start-up.” Yup. Corny as can be.

Bittman has done a wonderful job of getting people into the kitchen again, by demystifying the process it takes to put food on the table instead of putting it on a pedestal that only great chefs can aspire to top. He shares the secrets of those high culinary priests, not on slick shows that take an unseen staff to prepare and produce, but in clear language and simple steps that busy cooks can easily follow.

His new venture sounds delightful, but he will be missed by those of us who follow the Times. Here's his last column for the New York Times.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Squashed tacos that are anything but flat

Remember the time that you "lost" a zucchini while picking the others, and the next time you harvested, it was big as a kiddie baseball bat? And you GREW it, so you wanted to do something with it? I mean, besides throw it in the compost heap? You probably stuffed it with sausage and baked it, right? How did that turn out for you?

Well, I didn't have zucchini that big, but I did have three squash of different persuasions that I needed to fix before going out of town. And I had chorizo. And a red onion. And tortillas.


And they were fantastically delicious. When people talk about using meat as a condiment, I think of sausage in general. It's too greasy to use on its own, yet it's well-spiced and flavorful in many kinds of dishes.

By pairing it with a fairly bland vegetable, such as squash, you get the pow of the sausage and a lot of nutrition as well.

Lori K's Chorizo Tacos
Serves 4

½ pound chorizo (see note below)
3-4 squash (zucchini, patty pan, yellow ... any summer squash)
¼ red onion
Salt to taste
8-12 corn tortillas
Cilantro leaves
Lettuce, sliced
Guacamole (optional)
Tomatoes, diced (optional)

Put the chorizo in a cold cast-iron skillet and turn burner to low. As you wait for it to start frying, gather your condiments and cut your squash in a rough dice. Small dice the onion.

Put the tortillas in a towel or warmer and set them in the microwave.

Chop up the sausage as it fries. When you flip it, add the squash. Cook until the squash is tender but not mushy, about 8-10 minutes. Salt if you think it's needed.

Add the onion and heat the tortillas in the microwave for about a minute. One by one, fill the soft tortillas with the drained mixture, add cilantro, lettuce, guacamole and tomatoes, and enjoy.

Note: Be sure to use the raw Mexican sausage in this dish. The one I used for this dish came from The Rock Barn, via Relay Foods. The Spanish version is not spicy enough and more vinegary. For vegetarians, there are very good vegan chorizos available. I often use them because they are much less greasy and still have the punch and flavor of the meaty kind.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Funny name for a fabulous treat

Chocolate lovers, this is your dream. It's a cake and pudding all in one, and comes in a little ramekin for you alone. Top it with whipped cream, strawberries, gelato, ice cream, Grand Marnier or Baileys Irish Cream, or a combination of the above. It's very rich, so it's best to make it in 4-ounce cups.

Muck-muck Cake
Serves 8

7 ounces fine dark chocolate, broken into small pieces (I've made it with Scharffen Berger 70%,  Lindt 85%,  Baker's semisweet chocolate and Safeway real semisweet chocolate chips. Buy the finest you can afford. You won't regret it.)
14 tablespoons butter (2 sticks, minus 2 tablespoons. Use the extra to brush inside the ramekins.)
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
1½ cups confectioner's sugar
¾ cup flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush 8 3-inch ramekins with a tablespoon of melted butter. Set all of them in a 9x13-inch pan. Fill the pan with about a half-inch of water.
Place the butter in a 2-cup glass microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave for a minute and a half or until butter is completely melted. Stir in the chocolate. Microwave for 30 seconds more if the chocolate doesn't completely melt when stirred.
Beat with a whisk the eggs and yolks in a 4-cup glass measuring cup. Slowly add the butter and chocolate, then the sugar, then the flour, until completely combined.
Pour into the ramekins, then put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes (if you get distracted, or like only a little goo in the middle, a somewhat longer time is OK). Remove from oven and serve immediately with a dusting of confectioner's sugar or the topping of your choice.

Adapted from recipe given to me by Linda Wallihan in Sacramento

Friday, May 1, 2015

Crispy tacos in oven? Sure, if you don't like corn

I got really excited when I saw Food & Wine's Mad Genius tip for this week was crispy tacos, baked not fried.

The one problem: Justin Chapple used flour tortillas. I'm from Texas and NO ONE USES FLOUR TORTILLAS FOR TACOS.

Flour tortillas have their place: Freshly made, they wrap up fajitas. They make gooey, yummy quesadillas. Filled with rice and refried beans and other good stuff, they are burritos. They take the place of bread at the table. But they aren't tacos. Tacos are made with corn tortillas.

So after viewing the video, I tried to do the same with corn tortillas. I usually make soft tacos because  I hate to fry things, but every now and then, I have a hankering for a crispy taco. If I could do that in the oven, I would be one happy camper.

Sad to say, it did not work. I ended up crisping up the experiment in a warm oven to make chips.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A late winter's salad

Signs of spring cheer the heart, but it's only mid-March as far as produce goes in the East. If you like a salad for lunch, think beyond tomatoes and lettuce. Here's one that's colorful and hardy for a cool, rainy day.

A late winter's salad
Serves 2

½ cup cooked wheat berries, chilled
½ cup cooked French tiny green lentils, chilled
4 mini bell peppers, sliced
Handful of haricots vert, or tender green beans, cooked and cooled
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons quality olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Celtic gray salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss all in a bowl and serve. Also good over a bed of tender field greens or arugula.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi day pie – a rustic quiche

I was supposed to host a brunch today for my fellow nerds who wanted to mark the best Pi Day of our lives (3/14/15 9:26:59) by eating pie together. Alas, the best laid plans were laid aside when I slipped on ice in my driveway last Sunday and fell hard and twisted my left knee. It's healing, but I couldn't possibly host anything today.

But we did have pie this morning. I decided to try to make a pie that didn't require a lot of measuring or extra fat and could be committed to memory. Here's what I came up with and it was very tasty.

If you don't have ham, use crumbled cooked bacon or sausage or sliced hot dogs. If you don't have chopped fresh kale, used thawed chopped spinach squeezed until dry. Any medium hard cheese you like will do. Chopped green onions or any color chopped bell peppers would be good, too. And if you like it spicy, use cayenne pepper instead of nutmeg. If you don't have a 7-inch spring-form pan, an 8-inch pie plate will do.

Lori K's rustic quiche for two 

½ stick of frozen butter (2 oz)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ice cold water

2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup skim milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 slices of deli ham, chopped
½ cup chopped kale
¼ cup part-skim mozzarella

Grate butter into mixing bowl. Add flour and salt and combine well. Add water slowly until it looks like everything is sticking together but not not sticky; you might not need the full amount of water.
Knead a little until it holds firmly together in a ball. Flatten the ball a bit, put it back into the bowl and put in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Heat the oven to 475°.

Make the filling: Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk and spices. Roll out the dough so that it's large enough to cover a 7-inch spring-form pan. Press it around all the bottom edge, and flatten the folds. Take off any overhanging dough (you can roll it out thinly and bake at the same time to make crackers; they may be done before the quiche is, so keep an eye on them if you do this). Sprinkle the kale, ham and cheese on top of the dough, then pour the filling over.

Put in the oven on a baking sheet and turn the heat down to 375. Cook for 20 minutes. The sides will slip down and it will look like a rustic tart. Take out of the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes.

Friday, February 13, 2015

World's best Valentine save

Photograph ©2015, Lori Korleski Richardson
It's Feb. 13, and you realize that you haven't gotten your sweetie anything for Valentines Day.

(It happens. I remember one night a city editor at our newspaper ran around gathering up all the red and white carnations the pizza guy had delivered with the pizzas so he'd have something to bring his wife when he finally got off work one Feb. 14.)

Don't sweat it. Tonight, make sure you have the following available:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Nuts (optional)
Sea salt or kosher salt

 Tomorrow morning, suggest your love attend a matinee with a friend, something you know she wants to see but you don't. While she's gone, turn on the oven to 170 degrees, open a 12-ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips (make sure they are real chocolate) and empty it in an 8-by-8-inch pan that you have lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Spread them out. Then open a can of fat-free sweetened condensed milk and pour it over the chips. Put the pan in the oven. It should take about 15 minutes to melt. In the meantime, get out some vanilla extract, sea salt (or kosher salt) and if she likes nuts, a small bag of chopped pecans, walnuts, filberts, macadamias, pistachios or almonds. When you take the pan out, add 1½ teaspoons vanilla and mix the chocolate and milk quickly, gently (you don't want to tear the foil) and thoroughly. Smooth it out so that it goes into all the corners. Add the nuts and press them into the mixture, then lightly salt it all over. Put it in the refrigerator to set up for at least two hours. Take it out of the fridge, turn it out on a chopping board, peel off the foil, and cut it into little squares. Put the squares on a pretty plate, wrap in plastic, and put a bow on top of it.

Could hardly be easier. And hey, it's chocolate!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Grapefruit: Sweetened by broiling

Grapefruit is an odd fruit. It's too big to be eaten in one sitting by one person, since each half looks like a little bowl. It's best shared, but many older couples can't do that, if one is on statins.

And although it tastes of summer, all fresh and juicy and tart, cold from the refrigerator, it ripens in the winter.

And my favorite, Texas Rio Red, isn't as available in stores in the East as the Florida fruits, which aren't nearly as sweet.

To get around this, you can use your broiler to punch up both the taste and the sweetness. Some people like to put some brown sugar on top, but I like them plain. Just half your fruit, put it on a pan suitable for broiling, and put it under the preheated broiler until the rind is good and toasty. The fruit will be warm, the cells swell to almost bursting and all you'll need to enjoy it is a grapefruit knife and/or grapefruit spoon.