February 2010

Ladies Home > Stacy's Cooking Journal

Tortilla de Patatas

Another staple. This time I kept the 6 eggs, but used more chopped onion (about 1/3 cup) and only half of a medium-large red potato. I found this proportion very agreeable. I used the extra virgin olive oil with abandon.

Soon Dubu Jigae and Cucumber Banchan

Again! A new confirmed staple. Although I am ready to try something besides the cucumber. I think I am becoming a cucumber.

I adjusted the portions of the Soon Dubu:

  • 3 square packs of soft tofu (before used 2)
  • 4 cups water (before 6)

I also first made a course puree in the food processor of:

  • 2 T fresh garlic
  • 3 fresno peppers, 2 serrano chilis, and 1 habañero pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 T coarsely ground Korean chili pepper powder

I sauteed the puree in my soup pot. When fragrant, I added the water, tofu, mushrooms (both oyster and shiitake), and 1 T of gochujang, boiled, and the simmered for 30 minutes. Add salt and sugar to taste (I think I added 2-3 T of sugar this time). I then added 1 T of sesame oil and 3 large chopped scallions and simmered 15 minutes longer.

With the increased amount of tofu and decreased amount of water, the impact of this stew was far greater and much more representative of how it should actually taste. Success!

Olivada and Goat Cheese Spreads

I made the olivada and goat cheese spread I made a couple of weeks ago (below, under Split Pea Soup). Since I liked the olivada so much, I went ahead and bought an entire medium-sized container of Kalamata (pitted) olives. I used the smaller half of a lemon. Sadly, the grocery store was out of basil, so I just used the standard fresh thyme instead.

For the goat cheese spread, I mashed up a small pack with a ridiculous amount of honey and lightly mixed, so you could still see streaks of honey. I held off on the walnuts and cranberries for a change. Delightful! Served with a baguette and the eggplant bruschetta I made a few days ago (having finally purchased more olive oil and doctored it up).

Red Lentil and Tomato Stew

The old standard. See January.

Pasta and Sauce

What with all these meals full of veggies and bereft of pasta and cheese, my body has gone into spasms. I began to crave pasta and sauce. The desperation was intense, but I had run out of sauce and had little space in the fridge.

I decided to make a small amount of quick sauce. Here's the superfast recipe:

  • 2 large cans of pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 T chopped garlic
  • dash of dried oregano, or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand
  • 1/2 T sugar, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

I quickly sauteed the garlic in olive oil and then dumped in the rest. I brought to a boil, and then simmered for 30 minutes. It tasted absolutely delicious, especially after the long hiatus. I topped with a blend of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheeses. The blend is my new thing. I love it.

Tabbouleh and Hummus…Again!

This has clearly become a Stacy Staple. I have been eating hummus on my breakfast toast for years. Every. Day. If I don't get my fix, I feel very confused and lost. In the past, I have always bought the packaged hummus at the store, but with the purchase of the food processor, I can now make it easily at home. And since it tastes so, so superior to the store versions, and since it lasts forever, I am saving myself a good deal of money and giving myself great pleasure in adding it to my routine. (Side note: I have upgraded to using a full lemon.)

Since I'll be getting the food processor dirty anyway, when I know I'm going to make hummus, I also buy the ingredients for tabbouleh and then make both at once. I make the tabbouleh first since the food processor requires only a quick rinse after. Generally, I have without fail been food processing the parsley, which works great. Chopping an entire head of parsley with a knife will no longer be tolerated. Depending on my mood, I'll then process the tomatoes and red onion or cut those by hand. The lazy way results in decimation, but honestly, it doesn't taste much different. (Main problem: a few too big hunks of onion.) The tomatoes release more water in the processor, but these juices just get sucked up into the bulgar.

The real key to good tabbouleh is this: use a lot of extra virgin olive oil. I mean, really go nuts. Not drizzle, but pour. POUR it. You should feel deep misgivings as you do so. Only then will you know you've added enough.

When eating, I've enjoyed adding hunks of feta cheese to the tabbouleh. I also sometimes make the hummus/tabbouleh/feta stack on top of a piece of toast. Yum.

Eggplant Bruschetta

This time I first broiled one eggplant, sliced in half, cut with little "vents," salted, and slathered in olive oil, cut side up, for about 20 minutes on high. It still wasn't quite ready, so I flipped and baked at 400 for about 15 minutes more until the eggplant was very mushy. I separated the eggplant from the skin. Although the eggplant was relatively small, it was still quite seedy and made me sad. It didn't yield very much; I needed to have used at least 2 eggplants.

I then roasted, cut side up, 2 tomatoes for 30 minutes or so. I slipped off the skins.

In the food processor, I added the tomatoes, eggplant meat, 6 leaves of basil, salt, and sugar to a food processor and pulsed a few times until coarse. Sugar was the magic word here.

My main problem with the eggplant bruschetta that I make at home is how watery it often is. The following things might eliminate some of the water: broiling cut side up (so water evaporates), maybe even leaving oven door slightly ajar or cooking off some of the liquid on the stove. I tried the latter once and it was fairly successful. I also think an unholy amount of olive oil lends the necessary "richness" to the bruschetta. Sadly, I am actually out of olive oil (!!!) and it's a blizzard outside. Sadness.

Erica's Black Bean Soup

See the recipe here.

I made this soup this past weekend in preparation for a big winter Olympic event! Success! I served it with out-of-the-box cornbread, which was well received, but a little on the dry side. This might be either because the pan I used (8x8 as called for by the recipe on the box) was too big, making the cornbread too thin, or because the boxed ingredients had a blend of whole wheat in it.

  • Claire was right. You should use the entire bunch of cilantro. I was a bit wary of this, having over-cilantroed soups in the past. But I was persuaded to do so by the fact that in the recipe above, the word "ALL" was written in caps. Stewing the cilantro for 15 minutes or so allowed it to blend nicely with the soup's other flavors. To chop, I stuck the whole bunch in the food processor and pulsed. Never again will I hand chop bunches of herbs!
  • Next time I'll use less tomatoes. I think a smaller can would do me. As it was, they added an almost sour note to the soup that I didn't like but remedied with sugar. Perhaps this would be less pronounced if using fresh tomatoes, but then, one would have to use fresh tomatoes.
  • I did use the immersion blender on it. I tasted the soup before and after and would say both ways are nice, but different. I didn't over-process; just a couple pulses for texture. Basically, mashing up the beans a bit makes the soup feel heartier, but the broth is silky smooth and delicious as is.
  • I used dried beans instead of canned. Soups are the perfect occasion for this process because you have to cook the beans for a long time anyway, and for those of us not using chicken stock, the flavor of the beans greatly enhances the base. I find black beans to be the most troublesome to cook. They take so long. I soaked them overnight, drained, and then hard-boiled the next day for 10 minutes. I then cooked them as the base of the soup stock for the next 2.5 hours. While at last properly done, they were by no means "soft." I should confess that the beans were pretty old, but I've had fairly consistent trials with black beans.
  • In addition to the spices called for, I also chopped up a few jalapeños to sauté with the onions. I have come to enjoy using real peppers in dishes because they bring such nice flavorings in addition to the heat.

Overall, I'd say the black bean soup was a success, but probably, alas, not a staple. I'm not exactly sure what the strange alchemy is that makes a dish a "staple," (by staple I mean, I can eat it with great gusto on a daily basis), something like tomatoes+cheese+pasta or rice. Hmm. That might indeed be it for me.

Soon Dubu Jigae and Cucumber Banchan

A Korean meal of soup + vegetable banchan + rice, and maybe an omelette, is fast becoming a staple around here. I would like to report from this batch that first, adding oyster mushrooms to the soon dubu, because I do not use seafood, makes an incredible difference. Always use! And second, for the cucumber salad, I think peeling, seeding, and salting the cucumbers first, and then squeezing out as much water as possible with a cheesecloth (this feels like a bother, but it is actually much quicker than squeezing the water by hand) is what really allows the flavor of the dressing to permeate the vegetable.

And a final point: use as many cucumbers as you can without becoming completely fatigued. From long experience, I am here to report that whether you are making Chinese or Korean cucumber salad, the result is always the same: it's impossible to stop eating it. I long to have leftovers, but I never do because I'm apparently capable of eating at least 2 cucumbers in one sitting.

I've been playing around with the proportions of the flavorings to the cucumber salad. It's still in process, but this time I first made the paste:

  • 2 Tb of gochujang
  • 1 Tb of sesame oil
  • 1/2 Tb of rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

I mixed about half of the resulting paste into the cucumbers (3). The water of the cucumbers broke it down more and the paste distributed into an easy dressing. I ended up adding more salt and sesame oil to taste, so clearly these hadn't been enough in the original. I also probably didn't need to use as much gochujang (since I had half leftover), but I just stuck it in the fridge for the next veggie.

Split Pea Soup

Very enterprising Sunday. I made a bowl of Split Pea Soup, Tortilla de patatas, and 2 quick appetizers to go along with a French baguette. Here are the details. Split Pea Soup: it's been so long since I made split pea soup (sad) that I completely forget the recipe I used to follow. Did I use potatoes or not? Did I add cumin?? These questions tormented me. This time around, I used 2 very small yellow onions, diced, 2 carrots, peeled and sliced, 2 stalks of celery, sliced, 3 cloves garlic, and 1/2 bag of split peas. I added about 6 cups of water. I did add about 1/2 Tb of cumin, but this turned the soup an unpleasant color when combined with the green of the split peas. I remembered that I liked my split pea soup to have a lot of garlic and black pepper. Of course I added an overwhelming amount of salt. The method was to first saute the veggies (I used too much oil this time) and then add the water and split peas directly to the mix. I cooked about 40-50 minutes, simmering. It looked quite horrible, thanks cumin! But tasted fine. To solve the problem, I removed the brand new immersion blender from the box and attacked it! This was very exciting, perhaps the highlight of the whole affair. It worked like a dream, was quick to clean up, and I didn't have to perform the odious move of the soup to the blender. Success!

The tortilla de patatas (recipe listed elsewhere on the site) came out ok, but I fear I put in too many potatoes and not enough salt. I like to taste the egg a bit more. Too much potato and the tortilla tastes bland, in my opinion. I did think of poor Claire's mishap when she attempted to flip the tortilla, so I did this extra carefully over the cutting board. Here's also a crucial tip: don't forget to unload the final tortilla onto a paper lined with a paper towel to absorb some of the copious olive oil you used to cook the thing.

Finally, I made a couple of quick appetizers. The first is an olivada composed of kalamata olives, fresh basil, garlic, and fresh lemon juice roughly pureed (by pulsing) in my food processor. Don't skimp on the basil. This appetizer is highly addictive when served over fresh bread.

The other appetizer was a dressed-up goat cheese. I took a small log and mashed it up with

with a good deal of honey (2-3 Tb? I just squeezed), chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, and a little salt. Very sweet and tempting, a nice contrast to the olivada.

Making all this food and cleaning the mess took forever. Let’s just say that after I ate, I tried to read but instead fell asleep and didn’t wake up until it was dark out.

Korean Food!

Here is the spread: Doenjang Soup, simple green onion frittata, and banchan (Korean side dishes) of spinach, cucumbers, and bean sprouts.
All of these recipes will be revealed in time, but I’ll try to get the basics of my experiments here.

The Doenjang soup involved first sautéing plenty of garlic, onion, and relatively thick half-slices of zucchini, then scooping about 1 Tb of doenjang paste (similar to miso) per cup of water. Because I am not using a meat-based stock or adding any meat, I added some rehydrated, chopped shiitake mushrooms. Salt. Cubed firm tofu. Cook for 30 minutes or so. Done!

For the frittata, I simply added chopped green onion and salt to the scrambled egg mix and cooked as normal.

Spinach: Sauteed in garlic. Then transferred to a large bowl to mix with sesame oil, dash of rice vinegar, salt, green onion, toasted sesame seeds, and a healthy scoop of Korean red pepper paste.

Cucumber banchan: I peeled, seeded, and sliced 2 cucumbers. I salted this and left it to sit while I was preparing the rest of the meal, about 40 minutes. I then squeezed some of the liquid out using cheese cloth. I added the following flavor mix: sesame oil, rice vinegar, salt, sugar, Korean red pepper paste, toasted sesame seeds. I found that adding more rather than less of the red pepper paste is key here. And I kept adding salt and sugar until bliss arrived.

Korean Sprout Salad

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