Monday, December 18, 2017

A star pepper

Here's something you don't see every day; a pepper with not three, not four, but five ribs. And it came from my community garden (getting peppers in December isn't an annual occurrence, not even in Sacramento). Delicious in our weekend omelette.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Good salmon, bad eggs

Eggs still are a mystery.

The trick to beautiful hard-boiled eggs is not to use ones that just came out of a chicken, not to overcook them and to cool them down in ice water immediately after cooking.

I thought I had done everything right when I recently cooked 18 of them for two parties on consecutive nights. And the first night, all was well. The shells, gently cracked all over, came sliding off like a dream, and the yolks were a lovely yellow through and through. I put the rest of them in the fridge. The next day, every last one of the yolks were covered in gray. I felt as bad as a young wife cooking a first meal for my husband and burning the rice.

Worse, there was nothing on the internet that could tell me what had gone wrong. It wasn't like all the eggs weren't cooked the same amount of time, or in a different pan. Sigh. More experimentation to come.

On the fish front, here's a really easy way to poach a skinless, boneless salmon fillet for one.

Lay the salmon flat in a microwave-safe pie plate or bowl. Season with herbs of your choice (I used Montreal Steak Seasoning this morning) and cover with wine or beer. Cover the dish and cook for 2 minutes. Remove carefully (it will be steamy hot) and chill. I topped it with some homemade mayonnaise. Yum!

Homemade mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
16 ounces olive or canola oil

Beat together the yolks and the seasoning ingredients. Add the oil, a drop at a time at first, then in a slow, steady stream. Keep beating until all the oil is absorbed. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

An improved gazpacho, just made for ripe tomatoes

Gazpacho is the perfect soup for summer, especially when your plants start over producing. Even little ones make a crazy good soup. I used to use a tablespoon of sherry, but this year, I tried it with a shot of vermouth and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. It was perfection.

Prep time: About 15 minutes

Serves 3 or 4
Note: I like seeds and skins. Add more prep time, and some tomato juice, if you want to remove both.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 large, young lemon cucumber, roughly chopped

½ red onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Two ½-inch slices french bread or 1 slice ciabatta, torn up

A few basil leaves, tarragon and/or parsley

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

A shot of dry vermouth

A drizzle (up to a teaspoon) of balsamic glaze

Salt and black pepper

1 avocado, quartered and thinly sliced into fans (optional)

Put the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, olive oil, bread, parsley and/or basil, garlic, vermouth and balsamic glaze in a blender; season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth, adding up to ½ cup water if necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate for up to a few hours before serving or serve immediately. Garnish with avocado fans, if desired.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A balsamic glaze you can trust

I love using balsamic glaze on many things: meats, salads, vegetables, ice cream. It even makes kale chips delicious. But looking on the back of the label of a bottle someone had given me a while back, I was disappointed to find out that balsamic vinegar wasn't all that was in it.

Granted, this is not a very expensive glaze (about $4 for 5.07 ounces). But for about the same price, you can make a glaze that has none of those added ingredients (although I do add a little kosher salt to intensify the sweetness). If you have a half hour or less, and a glass or nonreactive (glazed) iron saucepan, you can make some yourself.

Lori K's balsamic glaze

The amount of vinegar to use should be twice the amount your bottle holds. Add a pinch of salt for every 10 ounces of vinegar.

10 ounces balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt

Bring vinegar to boil in nonreactive saucepan. Add salt. Turn down heat to medium low so that it's still on a low boil. Stir occasionally. In about 15 minutes, check to see if it has reduced by half; if it hasn't, keep it on the heat until it does. Cool and pour into a bottle. Does not need to be refrigerated.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Hashing out a quiche

Quiche is a way of making a couple of eggs seem like a lot more food. Plus you get the mix the healthful (spinach) with the not-so (bacon). But most quiches, even the most delicious ones, often suffer from a soggy crust.

If that's been your experience as well, here's a variation to try. Another bonus: It's gluten-free.

Lori K’s Hash-Brown Quiche

Serves 2 with a side of fruit for breakfast; 4 with a large salad for brunch

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more in a mister
1 box of Golden Griddle hash browns, reconstituted (you will have at least 4 servings left over)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of spinach, washed well and drained
2 eggs
¼ cup of heavy cream*
½ cup of 1 percent milk*
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper
¼ cup of cooked crumbled bacon
1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan

Heat olive oil in shallow 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add approximately 2 servings of the reconstituted hash browns, covering the bottom of the skillet completely. Season with a little pepper and salt, but be aware that the bacon and Parmesan are also salty. As the hash browns  cook, make sure the edge is as even as possible, pushing them away from the side a little.
Put the washed spinach in a food processor and chop. Pour it out onto a clean old dishtowel, fold over the sides and over the top and put in the microwave for a minute. Starting at the end you put the spinach, roll up and squeeze until the spinach has most of its moisture removed. Put back into the food processor, add the eggs, cream, milk and seasonings, and process until well blended.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F or 300 degrees in a convection oven.
Mist an 8-inch pie pan with oil and invert it on the raw side of the hash browns in the pan. Flip the hash browns into pie pan; they should come up the sides a bit, so mash them down to form a crust in the pan. Spread the bacon crumbles over the hash browns.
Pour the egg-spinach mixture over the hash browns and bacon. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the quiche.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the center is firm. Cut into quarters and serve.

* You can use ¾ cup half&half, a mixture of sour cream and milk, or evaporated milk, depending on what you prefer or have on hand.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Just for the halibut

Want a fancy dinner, fast? Think fish. Think thick. Think halibut.

Jim saw a nice piece of freshly caught Pacific halibut at our neighborhood grocery, Taylor's in Land Park. He got about ¾ pound, which was enough for the two of us and some leftover for lunch tomorrow. But he wanted to get on the road tonight (it was supposed to start raining in the morning) so he asked if dinner could be ready soon.

I cut two small Russet potatoes in half and put them in a cast-iron skillet, cut side down, in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. They cooked for 6 minutes, until they were golden brown. I put them cut side up on a microwave-safe plate, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and hit the 1-potato setting on the microwave (about 4½ minutes).

Meanwhile, I washed and put a big bowlful of baby Swiss chard (that I just trimmed from the big pot they are growing in) in a microwave-safe bowl and seasoned it with garlic salt. I put it near the microwave and waited for the potatoes to finish.

Then I heated a tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet on another burner. I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper and put it skin side up in the skillet. It needed to cook 6 minutes to get a nice golden crust, so while that was happening, I prepared the simple sauce: 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons capers, a sprinkling of whole thyme leaves and 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped finely.

The fish got flipped, I turned on the oven, and then I added the sauce ingredients to the pan. When the butter browned, in about 2 minutes, I scooped up as much of it as I could and put it on top of the fish, then turned the heat off (the fish would continue to cook as long as it was in the pan).

I put in the dinner plates in the oven to warm.

I checked the potatoes, and they were soft in the middle, so they came out and the chard went in, covered with a plate, for 90 seconds. It was still very green, so I gave it another 30 seconds. It would have been prettier if I left it very green, but I like my greens a little on the soft side.

I gently lifted the fish off its skin and cut it in thirds, plated it, the potato halves and the chard on the warmed dish and served it. Total cook time, about 11 minutes. Not bad.

It was simple, and simply delicious.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A great, big, beautiful dal

Indian food, with its gorgeous colors and calliope of tastes in every single dish, has always been a mystery to me. I've enjoyed it at restaurants, both holes in the wall and white-tablecloth establishments, all around the world. But when it has come to home cooking, I've often been reduced to TastyBite pouches over rice. Not bad, but I longed for more. And fresh vegetables.

So I was delighted to take a class from Sudha at the Charlottesville Cooking School on Barracks Road before we left Virginia. We had a small class of four (the other classes I've been to there have been a dozen or so), and she taught us a few basic North Indian dishes and explained what ingredients to look for in Indian grocery stores.

We made a dry dal, paneer, rice and chipatti bread.

Sudha taught mostly by doing, and she chopped vegetables into the pans as she cooked, much like my grandmother did, not in tiny chef dice but in big, hearty chunks. Lest you think she was from another era, she used a MagicBullet blender for her sauces.

I wish I had the recipes to pass on, but really, recipes are not the point. Spices and technique and practice are. But I am happy I bought a spice tin like Sudha had; having all the basic spice on hand, not in a bunch of lined-up jars, so I can add a little or a pinch more as I cook, has made a change in how I cook, and not just Indian dishes, either.