Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cabbage and Leek Gratin: SO Not Vegan

...and it's not much of a looker, but it's delicious.

I pulled this (almost) entire from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers cookbook, which J's parents gave me for my birthday last year. Here it is with Deborah Madison's proportions, but mostly my prose:

1 1/2 pounds green cabbage, Savoy if possible, chopped into 2" squares
3 fat leeks, white parts only, quartered & chopped
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
3 eggs
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or dill

1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter or oil a 6-cup gratin dish (I used a glass pie plate)

2. Put water on to boil for the cabbage, and when it boils, add some salt and the cabbage and leeks & boil for 5 minutes. After that, press as much water out of the vegetables as possible so it doesn't dilute the custard (I squeezed the water out using a lint-free tea towel).

3. Whisk the flour, milk, sour cream, eggs, and herbs together, then add the veg. Season with salt. Pour into the dish and bake until firm and lightly browned, about 45 minutes.

Now, what I did differently: the major difference is that I used marjoram instead of the the parsley or dill--mainly because I was in the mood for marjoram, and also because I think it goes nicely with egg. I also added about 3/4 cup white cheddar to the mix, in part because I was not planning to make the mustard cream sauce that DM suggests to go alongside it (though that would be good, too--I just didn't have any shallots or white wine vinegar in the house).

I also just realized that I think I only put in 1/3 cup of milk, too, but it worked out beautifully anyway. I can't think how the extra milk would have changed much about it, though maybe it'd have been creamier. Anyway, no loss!

Making it again, I would continue to use the marjoram, but I would also consider making a breadcrumb crust for a little textural contrast. This one doesn't want a full-blown crust, I think. But DM is right about Savoy cabbage being a better choice than quotidian green cabbage. The cheddar was a nice choice, but for those of you out there who don't have to avoid rennet I can see various delightful variations on the theme. I think Cheshire would have been perfect in this, but I couldn't find any. And if I weren't allergic to pork, I think a bit of bacon would add a lot.

Now, because this recipe is SO not vegan, I expect I may be attempting a lactose-free version for J sometime soon! So I wonder if substituting silken tofu for the sour cream and soy milk for the milk would work. In that case, I think I would use dill instead of marjoram to compensate for the tofu's blandness.

The whole thing was very quick & easy to assemble, and the baking required no attention at all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Goth Chicken

According to its package, that chicken enjoyed her life. I made sure she--or, at least, I--enjoyed her afterlife. If I had known that carcass was going to contribute to as much and as various deliciousness, I'd have documented it along the way, but I had other things on the mind, like passing my dissertation proposal defense and keeping Kleenex in business with spring tree pollen allergies.

First I roasted her with some potatoes, and had steamed asparagus on the side. Divine. And much to my delight, the package also contained two livers, which I fried up as an appetizer. Glory days.

A few sandwiches later, I pulled apart a thigh and a leg and made green curry with the rest of the asparagus and some bamboo shoots I found in the cupboard.

Then, Saturday, I sent her off in style as enchiladas. I had in mind to try to replicate the enchilada half of Charlottesville Guadalajara's "#F" (would half of #F be # C?), which I did, except that my cheese wasn't right and I didn't also try to replicate their salsa--so really, I just had chicken enchiladas, which were gorgeous. If I had known they were that easy, I'd have been making them all along!

The rest of the carcass is in the freezer, awaiting inclusion in stock.

Saturday was a day of recreational cooking all around: I also made my first cake from scratch. Devil's food. Much better than Duncan Hines. That recipe, like the enchilada sauce recipe, came from Joy of Cooking. I didn't take a picture, though, because I decided not to ice it, so it's not all that pretty--but it sure does taste good.

And a couple of weeks ago, I made latkes, but forgot to write about that. Not kosher, but totally fun to make in that way that frying things can be. I et them with garlic mayonnaise alongside pinto beans and asparagus.

In gardening news, my parsley sprouted but hasn't achieved its real leaves yet. And I found the perfect use for the cable box:

That's chard in the tupperware, waiting to sprout. Chard seeds look like they're from outer space. I have some lettuce seeds started elsewhere, but there wasn't room on the cable box for them, too!

The Book I'm Not Reading: I'll know as soon as I come up with a revised research plan!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Celebration of a Rite of Passage

Thanks to all-y'all who have sent along good-luck wishes about my proposal defense--I passed, and assuming I also passed my Irish translation exam last week, I'm now ABD! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Hell of a Horoscope

I often forget to check Free Will Astrology, but I'm always glad when I do. In addition to my own fabulous horoscope--

"The great theme is not Romeo and Juliet," said poet Anne Sexton. "The great theme we all share is that of becoming ourselves, of overcoming our father and mother, of assuming our identities somehow." This is certainly your great theme, Capricorn. And it's especially important for you to devote yourself to it now. You're at a turning point in your life-long transformation. You're being presented with a clear-cut choice between sinking back into the ill-fitting yet comfortable mold that others have shaped for you, or else striding out into the frontier in a brave push to become a higher, deeper, more complete version of yourself.

--fellow Charlottesville-o-holic Danny Schmidt got a shout-out on the Leo horoscope:

This would be a perfect time for you to write your ultimate personal manifesto. I'm talking about composing a sweeping statement of the core ideas that fuel your lust for life. To get you in the mood, take a look at the following lyrics from Danny Schmidt's song "Company of Friends." "I believe in restless hunger . . . I believe in private thunder . . . I believe in inspiration . . . I believe in slow creation . . . I believe in lips on ears . . . I believe in being wrong . . . I believe in contradiction . . . I believe in living smitten . . . I believe our book is written by our company of friends."

Too cool, man, too cool.

In other news, I finally made it to that East Village bodega and got me a nice big box of Barry's Tea.

P. S. Nice of you to stop by and leave a comment, Justin from Harney's. I'll definitely check out that loose Assam.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Story of My Life

(except that I can't speak in a London accent.)

Final Verdict

...on the Harney's tea: the other day, I tried a single-bag cup in the afternoon, and I stand by my initial reaction. Not much flavor, and for an Irish breakfast tea, it's missing whatever tea leaf it is that gives Barry's its reddish color and, I think, some of that particular flavor. So basically, that puts it on a level with Twinings, except that Harney's is more expensive.

This morning, having no other choice (except to drink coffee, which I decided against), I tried two Harney's tea bags. That made an acceptable (if not exciting) cup of tea, but one I can deal with until I can get to the bodega in the East Village. And in the meantime, I unearthed some aging loose Assam from the cupboard for afternoon cups of tea.

It's possible that other Harney's blends are worth buying--just not the Irish Breakfast.

In other news: great fun at the Ceol session last night!

The Book I'm Not (Re)Reading: Nancy Fraser's Unruly Practices.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Promissory Note

Looking at my blog hits from the last day or so, I notice that someone with an IP address from Harney & Sons tea company visited my blog, presumably after Googling "Harney's Irish Breakfast" from two posts ago. I wonder--was that visitor looking for online public opinion about the tea? If so, fair play to you!

If so, and if you, my unnamed Harney's employee, happen to visit again, this post is a promise to try the tea later in the day, when I am awake enough to think about it beyond "I can't taste this!" There are several reasons I prefer Irish tea for breakfast: first, it's more bracing than other blends, and I stew it so that I get that extra hit of tannin to help wake me up (I think this is one reason I often buy Lyons instead of Barry's, because Lyons is a little sharper than Barry's Red Label). Second, I often wake up slightly congested, so that the characteristics of finer teas can be lost on me that time of day. Finally, the volume of tea in a bag of Barry's or Lyons is probably about 2 or 2.5 times that in a Twinings bag or in a Harney's bag, and I think that makes a huge difference. So, for flavor, I intend to try fecking in *two* tea bags of the Harney's for a fair comparison. That's not cost-effective for me in the long run, since I paid about $5 for 20 tea bags at Citarella, and I can get--hmmm, 40 Barry's or Lyons bags for $8 at the bodega.

I appreciate that Harney's is a (fairly) local company (they're in Millerton, NY), and if they could replicate a real Irish teabag, I'd happily switch over. But I suspect that my preferences put me in the minority of American tea-drinkers, so that's not likely to happen.

Another Mystery

Here's another consumer conundrum: neither CVS I've been to recently has had Aim toothpaste. I know it's not a major brand, but it's been a stalwart--but it's AWOL, at least at CVS (I haven't checked Duane Reade yet).

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Mystery

Yesterday the stash of tea I brought over from Ireland ran out. I've been watching it dwindle over the past week or so, and haven't had time to get to the bodega in the East Village that, strangely, carries Barry's and Lyons. Usually, when this happens, I happily settle for the Yorkshire Gold that I found in various places along the paths I tread most often: Citarella, Whole Foods, etc. But as of last night, I have been to two Whole Foods locations and one Citarella outpost, as well as our local yuppie Union Market, and not a box of Yorkshire Gold to be found!

It's weird.

So I did what I could to avoid Twinings, and wound up with a box of Harney's Irish Breakfast. Except for the caffeine content, I may as well be drinking hot water. Twinings may even have more taste.

I guess I need to make time to go to that bodega. It's a shame I don't have the coordination or force of will first thing in the morning to deal with loose tea, but so it goes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oh! Four Tuna!

This redefines the state of ROFLMAO. I laughed so hard I cried. And, if you have headphones, it's safe for work.

(Thanks to Nicol for putting this on her blog, and apologies for "stealing" it. But it's too good not to.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

R.I.P. Cheeky Monkey

After several years of faithful (and often unremitting) service and comfort, my Cheeky Monkey hot water bottle from Sophie bit the dust this afternoon. He will be missed.

A memorial service was held this evening at curbside.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coco Bud

Well, ok, more like "Coco Negra Modelo"--it's what was in the fridge.

I'm batching it for the next several weeks while J's in Florida, so today--knowing that my overwhelming work would get the better of me by evening, and that I'd be kind of lonesome too--I picked up a couple of chicken thighs. I wanted to get breasts, but I figured organic chicken was worth the price (it was), but the life of a grad student being what it is, thighs are about all I can afford right now. But never mind that--they were divine.

By the time I started swearing and flinging books around (gently--wouldn't want to startle the kitty!) I'd just about decided to do a coq au vin, but couldn't be arsed to go down to the wine shop. So I figured I'd just stew the chicken with celery, carrots, onion, and a bit of garlic--and then spotted some leftover beers from the other night. In I fecked one, and the result was gorgeous--well, to eat, not to take pictures of, or at least, that's my excuse for not breaking out the camera before I scarfed down most of it.

I made it pretty much the way I made coq au vin a few months ago in Cambridge, except for the beer, and I also didn't thicken it at the end. Again, couldn't be arsed.

The Book I'm Not Reading: don't even ask.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recent Cooking Endeavors, Etc.

It's been a hectic week, and the next two are likely to be just as bad, if not worse, as I get ready to take my Irish translation exam and revise and defend my dissertation proposal. But once I leap these two hurdles, I'll officially be ABD.

Anyway, despite the busy-ness, we've eaten well:

Last weekend, J made pizza crust, and so we had pizza several times this week. This one is vegan:

Then, Friday, I made another batch of granola. I've been doing this off and on since I lived at Twin Poplars, where Rowena showed me how. This batch is particularly tasty: in addition to the oats, oil, and honey, I put in raw sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. The trick with making granola, I've discovered, is to make sure to soak the fruit for a little while before toasting the whole thing--otherwise, the fruit gets hard and dry.

Lately, we've gotten some nice wines from the local wine shop, whose name--I'm a little embarrassed to say--I don't think I've ever noticed. It's on 7th Ave between 14th and 15th, and the folks who work there are nice, helpful, and have good senses of humor. But my not remembering the name of the shop is only indicative of the problem I have remembering the names of wines I like, so I'm going to try to begin taking pictures of the labels and posting the pictures here with a little commentary, however minimal.

The one on the left is, I think, my favorite since I've been back in NYC, and it was perfect with the pizza. The one on the right wasn't particularly memorable--nice enough, but nothing stuck in my mind about it. We also had a nice French one, but that bottle got recycled before I thought to take a picture of it.

In other news, I started some parsley and marigold seeds indoors yesterday. Not much to see right now--just wet brown dirt in a container. I haven't ever had much luck starting plants from seeds, probably because I tend not to pay attention to when and how they're to be sown, but I have some hopes for these. I'll be curious to see how the marigolds do--I saved the seeds from last year's, but have no idea whether the seedlings I bought last year were hybrids or what. Possibly they'll do nothing, but we'll see. Next on the list are basil, arugula, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I'll buy rosemary and lavender already started, I think.

And finally, the kitty doesn't want J to go on her next residency:

Bye, J--we'll miss you!

Monday, April 7, 2008

GI Joe PSA Parodies

J discovered these the other day, and we've been getting a huge kick out of them. Definitely bizarro, and some are definitely not safe for work....

There are lots more on YouTube, as well as the original PSAs.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cabbage Rolls of Bliss

Yesterday afternoon, I randomly started thinking about the cabbage rolls my mother used to make very, very occasionally--perhaps because they involved multiple steps, and multi-step recipes weren't generally the Done Thing in our house. They involved ground beef, cabbage, rice, and tomato sauce, and they were much better than the sum of their parts. Then I thought about the vegetarian ones Veselka makes...but then a bag of potatoes started grabbing my attention, and I decided a baked potato would hit the spot and be much less work.

But then, alas, I wasn't pleased with the vegetable accompaniments available at the store, except for the cabbage, which winked at me, and I thought, "What the hell." Good thought.

I think I managed to come pretty close to Velselka's version, though mine would have been even closer if I'd had regular stock cubes on hand. What I had were tomato-herb cubes (Kallo brand--in general, their stock cubes are my favorites, but I have never seen them for sale in the US; for an all-purpose vegetable stock cube bought here, my favorite is the Rapunzel brand), which accounts for the reddish color.

First, I cooked a cup of brown rice with the stock from one cube. After that was done, I sauteed a bunch of "baby portabello" mushrooms, a shallot, and a couple of cloves of garlic, and added that to the rice with some extra salt and some fresh dill. While that was going on, I had a large pot on the boil to soften the cabbage leaves. I stuffed 'em, smothered them with a simple thinnish gravy (butter, flour, stock), and baked them for a little over half an hour, spooning the gravy over the tops occasionally.

We et them with baked tofu in front of Firefly. Divine. And I still have a good deal of cabbage left for something else. Braising, maybe? If it were a bit warmer, I'd consider making my first slaw of the season, but we'll see.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Finally, A New Post: Bean Thing and Pepper Distress

No, folks, I haven't sworn off blogging like An Briosca Mór--I've just been in transit since the day after my last post! But I'm home now with a vengeance, grounded by the nasty cold that seems to have made the rounds: J seems to have had it in Banff, and most of my DC circle was in various stages of it when I was down there last week.

Of course, head colds are a great excuse for using hot peppers in everything: the other night, I made a chipotle black bean soup and jalapeño cornbread, and last night, I made a bean casserole using the leftovers of the soup, plus more jalapeño peppers, onions, garlic, a can of red beans, and some leftover tomato sauce from J's brilliant Sunday night pasta. It was fabulous, and reminded me of Twin Poplars days, when Rowena made some version of bean casserole frequently.

Unfortunately, mixing hot peppers and a head cold tends to intensify one of the occupational hazards of capsaicin, and I wasn't careful enough getting the jalapeño juice off my hands, and these were more potent than I'm used to jalapeños being. Luckily, I didn't rub my eyes, but I did blow my nose, and somehow my fingers came into contact with the inside of my nose rather than the tissue. YIPE! Damn, did that hurt. I raced to the bathroom to try to wash off the burning juice, but the soap only compounded the irritation, and spread the pain to the previously unaffected nostril.

(By now, you're wondering why I'm writing in public about the inside of my nose, but bear with me--this is a public service announcement!)

So I came back into the kitchen, swearing and saying OW, and knowing that I wasn't going to enjoy my dinner with my nose burning off from the inside. But the Internet is a wonderful thing, and so for all-y'all out there who might someday suffer such a thing, I'm here to say that rinsing off the juice with vegetable oil does do the trick. Some Q-tips, some olive oil, and voila, no pain!

And the kitty looked on....