Tag Archives: semi-successful recipe

Steamed potatoes and kale (but not bok choy)

Ploughman's lunch, with a cameo by Marc's elbow

Ploughman’s lunch, with a cameo by Marc’s elbow

In the continuing saga of my Rouxbe adventures, it’s time for more steaming practice! Today’s lesson was supposed to be steamed potatoes, steamed kale, and steamed bok choy. Alas, my fridge runs extremely cold and the bok choy froze, making it inedible for cooking. (Or at least, I think so. Does anyone know if leafy green vegetables are okay to use after they’ve frozen? It looked pretty yucky to me, anyway.)

The steamed potatoes were finished with some bacon lardons (that’s “chunks” for the unenlightened — yay fancy cooking terms!), dried Egyptian thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. The kale was more simple, with just butter, salt, and pepper. Oh, and I put some lemon slices on the bottom of the steamer because I had them lying around and it seemed like the sort of thing that might go nicely. In retrospect, while the kale was still tasty, this was a mistake. I forgot rule #1 of cooking green vegetables: no acid! That might explain a few of the brown bits on the kale when I took them out of the steamer. Oh, well. Live and learn. They were still tasty.

Potatoes took about 19 minutes in boiling-water steam, the kale was about 4 minutes in simmering-water steam.

Because this didn’t seem like enough food to make a meal on its own, I also added some homemade anadama bread and cheddar cheese, and Marc and I had a very tasty ploughman’s lunch. Even the kale, which I’m not generally fond of, was very tasty. All told, not bad for a half-hour in the kitchen!

Avocado snack and boiling vegetables practice

I’ve been following along with my Rouxbe course pretty solidly for a few weeks now, and most of the exercises I’ve come to recently have been dealing with vegetables and specifically with boiling vegetables. (The next lesson will be steaming, but for now we’re at boiling and simmering.) I’ve learned a few very useful things. Did you know that vegetables are generally broken up into three categories? They are! Green vegetables, white and red vegetables, and orange and yellow vegetables. Boiled green vegetables should be cooked uncovered without an acid; white and red should be covered and have an acid added halfway through; and orange and yellow vegetables can go either way. (They’re the bisexuals of the vegetable world. Racy!)

In any case, I haven’t made a “real” recipe for this adventures in cooking lesson, even though I bought the ingredients for one. My house is full of leftovers and it just doesn’t seem like the time. So instead I present to you one snack and three exercises. Onwards!

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Red lentil coconut soup (plus a bonus feature!)

Now that I’m getting back into my Rouxbe cooking lessons, it was time for some more tasty practice. Today’s lesson: submersion cooking techniques (poaching, simmering, and boiling), as demonstrated by making a soup. There were a number of soups to choose from, but I settled on the red lentil coconut soup. (For those not on Rouxbe, you can see the slightly-modified recipe here.)

(Much more detail on my experience behind the cut… plus a bonus feature!)

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Minestrone soup

Tonight was another practice night from Rouxbe. Today’s lesson: minestrone soup. Ostensibly, this was more knife skills practice, the last of the knife skills lessons before moving on to other stuff. (Next up: pan frying.)

The short version: Very tasty, but too finicky and long for me to make again. The long version is behind the cut.

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Osso “Buko”

In my continuing quest to learn to cook, I’m using two main sources: a lifetime membership to Rouxbe, and the much cheaper book The 4-Hour Chef, by Tim Ferriss. Tonight was an adventure from the latter source. His first adventure, you might say.

See, instead of most cookbooks (even most beginner cookbooks) that might have a whole bunch of appetizers, then a whole bunch of soups, then a whole bunch of poultry dishes and so on, Ferriss organizes the main section of his book (“Domestic”) from easy to less-easy. A list of the recipe titles, in order, can be found here (pdf). You might notice the first one is Osso “Buko”, a sort of cheater’s version of Ossobuco. Ferriss calls this “an amazing standby dish that will never fail you.” I decided to give it a try.

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Gnocchi

So, here’s the thing. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with a good friend’s family and brought home quite a lot of leftovers: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. Most of it got eaten in fairly short order, as tasty the second time round as the first. But the mashed potatoes… they didn’t reheat very well. And we had a fairly large container of them. I didn’t want to waste them, but I didn’t really want to eat them, either. What to do, what to do…

I did as I always did in this circumstances, I asked The Google. And The Google told me a whole bunch of things I could do with leftover mashed potatoes, but the one that really piqued my interest was gnocchi. See, gnocchi are my favorite pasta, bar none, and if I could do this properly, life would be sweet indeed. (Sweet and savory. Because gnocchi are best with butter and sage.)

A tour of quite a number of cooking sites revealed that this was going to be more “test and see how it turns out” than I’m used to. I prefer to use precise recipes, and this one… well, this was gonna be anything but.

In any event, I took the 2-ish cups of (cold) mashed potatoes, cracked in an egg, and stirred that around for a while. Then I added a cup of flour, mixed it some more, figured it wasn’t quite enough, and added a little more. Dumped the whole thing out and kneaded it for a while until it became (as the recipes instructed) a sticky dough. I had no idea whether it was too sticky, too smooth, or whatever, but I figured if I could roll it out into strips, it was good enough.

And roll I did! Into about 8 “snakes,” which I then cut up into little “pillows,” that seemed to be pretty delicate. Didn’t bother running them over a gnocchi board (because I don’t own one) or the tines of a fork (because they seemed too delicate), so I just left them as-is. Popped them into boiling water in three batches, and boiled until they rose to the top and then another 2-3 minutes past that, about 5 minutes overall. Drained for a while on paper towels, then served with butter and sage.

They were pretty soft (though they’re firming up as they cool down) and very filling, as gnocchi tend to be. I have no idea why they were so soft: too much or too little flour, too long or too short a cooking time, too much handling… no clue. But it worked out.

In the end, this isn’t the sort of recipe I’d make every day — because I have no interest in boiling up potatoes solely to use as gnocchi when store-bought gnocchi is both more convenient and better quality — but if I ever find myself with some extra mashed potatoes lying around, it’s certainly the sort of thing I can see myself making again. Success!

The quest for Grandma Eva’s mandelbread, part 1

Sadly not my Grandma Eva's mandelbread.

Sadly not my Grandma Eva’s mandelbread.

When I was a kid, my absolute favorite cookie of all time was my Great-Grandma Eva’s mandelbread. I was not alone in this: they were a family favorite that no one could get enough of. And no one could ever replicate properly. (Some family members say this is because Grandma Eva made them by hand; she always insisted it was because she stuck her thumb into the dough just before forming it into loaves.) I used to make it with her when I was little, but alas she passed away before I ever thought to get the recipe from her. No one has it that I’m aware of. It’s lost in the mists of time.

Now, the thing about Grandma Eva’s mandelbread is that, unlike most mandelbread or biscotti recipes, they were not twice-baked. This gave them a soft, crumbly texture instead of the hard, tooth-breaking texture of most of its ilk. I decided, for posterity and in homage to Grandma Eva, that I would start trying to find a replacement recipe that — I hope — might one day be as good as hers.

These are not those cookies. They’re quite tasty, but they’re not Grandma Eva’s mandelbread. More testing will be required.