Archive for the ‘Could be helpful’ Category

Gotta gotta have it

What could be better than a post that both links to a fine blogger and also writes itself because it’s just a point to a fine blogger? Good bar of chocolate maybe. Marrying your best friend. Sunday dinner and a new recipe. Ok, a few things, but it’s still pretty damn cool and anyway, I digress. This post is about something else…

Namely, cool stuff you might need, all compiled into a nice list (with pictures!) courtesy of Lynn at A Hot Dish. I love both the list (practical and useful with photos of the items and clear explanations of why you need them) and the blog name – I have no doubt that Lynn is a hot dish herself as well as being able to make a casserole that will both kick your ass (in a gentle comfort food kind of way) and make you weep from homesickness.

The only thing I see missing is a potato ricer, but that’s just because I’m crazy for gnocchi. How about you? Anything you’d want to add to Lynn’s list? It’s almost Christmas…


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A fine chap named Chuck Westbrook has suggested an idea for increasing readership of under-read blogs that’s so genius, it kind of looks like a pyramid scheme…

Before you run in fear, check it and join in the fun.  Every two weeks, a new blog.  Broaden your horizons.  Do a good blog deed.


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Gnocchi update

A few days ago, I made one of my kitchen arch-nemeses, gnocchi, with much success and froze a batch.  Making good on my promise to report back on the should-be-simple-and-cheat-yet-surprisingly-difficult-and-infuriating lumps of potato and flour, I’m happy to say we ate the frozen gnocchi last night and the “cooking first then freezing” technique worked extremely well!  If you use this technique for storing gnocchi, be sure to drain them well (which can be tricky since they want to all stick together once they dry out) and spread them on a cookie sheet without letting them touch each other and freeze completely before transferring into a freezer bag or other container.  When you’re ready to eat them, just heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan, and fry ’em up.  They’ll cook pretty quickly, so have your saucy-sauce ready to go.  It’s like having your own frozen food, only better!


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A few days ago, in an effort to share the little I know about cooking cheap (I’m still learning here), I posted a recipe for Easy Lentil Dal made with pink (or red) lentils.  Ever the experimenter (remember, we’re cheap around here), I tried the same recipe this morning with brown lentils (I had a half cup that’s been sitting around forever) and I am surprised to report that I like them even more than the red lentils.  They are meatier (sorry vegan* friends) and a little less like…ok, this is a bit gross, but a lot of Indian cuisine reminds me of (extremely delicious) baby food.  The brown lentils definitely lessen that quality.  And best of all – they’re cheaper.  Go brown!

The only thing that’s different between using the brown lentils and the red is the cooking time, which should be increased to about 40 minutes total.  I definitely recommend the mashing with a spoon bit from the other recipe with the brown lentils.  Makes much more of a difference.  In fact, if you like it thicker, add another 1/2 cup of lentils to the mashing bowl than the recipe calls for.


Trying to keep this short (right) – I’ve had two major cooking disappointments since moving to the glorious sprawl that is LA Metropolitan.  One was a fresh pasta that I labored over for hours.  Long story short, I slid all the pieces into the cooking water and they all stuck.  The only thing that’s caused me to actually throw food, aside from this pasta, is gnocchi.  In restaurants, I love it.  At home, it drives me batty.  It’s just potatoes and flour, how hard could that be?  Plus, it’s just potatoes and flour, which means it’s FREAKING CHEAP.  The last time I tried to make it, I used Julia Child’s recipe, absolutely certain that it would turn out.  Julia had never failed me.  Never say never.  To call the little lumps of hell that took me hours to roll out “mush when cooked” is an understatement.  So when we had some potatoes in the kitchen that were about to go off and I said “oh I’ll make gnocchi!’ the husband and I looked at each other like “really?”

Happy to say, I found a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated online yesterday afternoon and ended up with this:

The photos a bit crap, but you can see little gnocchis in there, covered in pesto and cheese.  Amazing!

I swear I’m not a secret blogger for Cook’s Illustrated (although I’m looking for a job, so if someone wants to hook me up with that gig, I’m there) – I just can’t seem to screw up one of their recipes.  This one was so simple and I have no idea why it worked while the others didn’t (one of the downsides of the online Cook’s is no 1,000 words on the trial and error used to get to the technique).

Last note – I fried these.  That’s how I like my gnocchi.  I think they would have been a bit gooey if I hadn’t, but that could be due to having used a lot of flour.  My recommend for this recipe is to do what it says and test the gnocchi in a small pan to make sure you’ve got the flour/potato ratio right.  I think the less flour, the better.

(No More Tears**) Gnocchi from Cook’s Illustrated online

To insure that gnocchi are the right texture, bring a small saucepan of water to simmer while mixing the dough. Roll a small piece of the dough into the rope shape. Cut off a small piece or two from the rope, shape them into gnocchi, then drop them into the simmering water. If the gnocchi are too mushy, put the dough rope back into the potato mixture and add in another tablespoon or two of flour. It’s better to take the time to test one or two gnocchi than to ruin the whole batch. Also, be careful not to overwork or overknead the dough; you simply want to incorporate the flour into the potatoes. Avoid cooking the gnocchi at a rolling boil since violently churning water makes it difficult to determine when the gnocchi are floating. Even gently boiling gnocchi may bob temporarily to the surface, but don’t lift them out until they float.


2 pounds russet potatoes (or other baking potatoes), washed
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus more as needed
1 teaspoon table salt , plus more for cooking liquid


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes until a metal skewer slides easily through them, 45 minutes to 1
hour, depending on size.

Hold potato with a pot holder or kitchen towel and peel it with a vegetable peeler or paring knife; rice peeled potato into a large bowl. Peel and rice remaining potatoes. Cool until potatoes are no longer hot, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle 1 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt over warm potatoes. Using your hands, work mixture into a soft, smooth dough. If dough is sticky (which is often the case), add more flour as needed, up to 1 1/2 cups total.

Roll about one-quarter of dough into a long 3/4-inch-thick rope. If rope won’t hold together, return it to bowl with remaining dough and work in more flour as needed. Repeat until all dough is rolled.

Cut rope of dough into 3/4-inch lengths. Holding butter paddle or fork in one hand, press each piece of cut
dough against ridged surface with index finger to make an indentation in center. Roll dough down and off ridges and allow it to drop to work surface (or don’t). (Gnocchi can be placed in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerated for several hours. Or, baking sheet can be placed in freezer for about 1 hour. Partially frozen gnocchi can be transferred to plastic bag or container, sealed, and frozen for up to 1 month.)***

Bring 4 quarts of water to low boil in large pot. Add 2 teaspoons salt or to taste. Add about one-third of the gnocchi and cook until they float, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (about 3 minutes for frozen gnocchi). Retrieve gnocchi with slotted spoon and transfer to warm, shallow serving bowl or platter. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi. Gently toss gnocchi with sauce (pesto, butter and sage, tomato, etc.) and serve immediately.


*And vegitarian friends too – it’s just more fun to say “vegans.”
**From me anyway.
***I actually skipped the refrigeration step, but I won’t in the future.  For freezing, I cooked half of my gnocchi in the boiling water, drained, and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  When they were frozen, I put them in a zip lock (freezing this way prevents them from freezing into one big clump).  I’ve done it this way before and should be able to take them right out of the freezer and fry them up.  I’ll report back.

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For those of you with a scale (or a specific weight of butter, which is a little odd without a scale, but I’m not judging), here’s a helpful butter converter for…converting your butter?  From volume to weight.  From Traditional Oven.  Check it.


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How did I manage to do that?  Apparently, yesterday was the third annual day to celebrate bread around the world via blogs, and I MISSED IT.  And yes I meant to use all caps and yes I know I’m not supposed to.

Well, water and bygones and split milk and all.  Nonetheless, I have a lovely loaf that I made and am posting in honor of World Bread Day 2008, which was organized by the amazing Zorra.   This post was originally titled “True (bread) confessions.”  I think it fits nicely in the spirit of World Bread Day, showing the good and the bad of baking your own loaf.  The recipe used here is “Cook’s Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread.”

Happy one-day-after-the-fact World Bread Day to you!

True (bread) confessions…

I could write about bread indefinitely.  I love bread.  I love the way it feels, I love the way it smells…sorry – vague (and fairly naughty) Bill Hicks reference.  Bread is my food.  And lately, thanks to my (last-one-to-the-party) discovery of no-knead bread, I’ve been shamelessly bragging on my bread attempts but I have to be honest…while the bread has been turning out like this

It’s only the top the top of the bread.  The bottom of the bread is an entirely different story.

The bottom is…it’s just ugly.  There’s too much flour and the parchment paper sticks to the bottom.  This photo is even a bit of a cheat – I’ve scraped off almost all of the flour and most of the paper.

No-knead dough is very wet (which is what I think makes for the big lacy holes in the crumb that are so yummy – wait, how can nothing be yummy?) – that’s the reason that so much flour is required to keep it from sticking to the paper.  Any ideas how to keep any of it from sticking without adding flour?  Any genius ideas on something I can use here instead of flour altogether?


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It’s morning (it was when I wrote this) and I’m still in that time where I can somehow justify just messing around instead of getting anything productive done.  Scrolling through the ever-growing list of blogs I’m following (what HAPPENED to me??), I came across this idea on Awaken Your Superhero:

[In the midst of all the panic about the economy]…Maybe you make Enterprise PR Software or underwrite private student loans, but that shouldn’t stop you at all from offering a money-saving recipe that your grandmother taught you [on your corporate blog].

And I thought “I don’t make Enterprise PR Software (don’t know what that is), I don’t underwrite anything, and my grandmother never taught me any money-saving recipes, what can I do?”  And then I thought, “I have a baking blog and maybe one or two of the six people reading would like a money-saving recipe that we make at home!”  A while back (well before the economy went into the toilet), we switched up the way we eat, mainly due to the fact that we are a. extremely cheap and b. extremely cheap.  One way we’ve “economized” is to…oh, it pains me to say this because I can just see my mother jumping up and down in a fit of being right…stop eating meat.  Not entirely, but not nearly as much as we used to.  It’s just too expensive.  What is not expensive is lentils.  Not even the fancy expensive kind is (are??) expensive.  About $4 for a big bag of red lentils that will last at least four or five meals for one or two people.  And they are really nutritionally sound*.  And…here’s the most important part…they’re really really easy and good.  If they weren’t, we wouldn’t bother eating them.  We’re cheap, but still not cheap enough to eat stuff that tastes like crap.

Easy Lentil Dal

1 cup red (or pink) lentils
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (Aw merde!  I just did a spell check and I’ve been mispronouncing “turmeric” my entire adult life.)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rinse the lentils and pick out any weird stuff (like rocks).  Drain them really well and put them in a med-small sauce pan.  Add turmeric and salt and water.  Bring to a boil, skim off the foamy part (although I don’t know why you need to do that – if you skip the skimming and nothing bad happens, let me know).  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, covered.

This is where the recipe gets all crazy and threatens to be complicated.  My expert sources say you should take a half cup of the lentils and mash them with a spoon.  I think you should just take a big ol’ whisk and stir.  The lentils will break up just fine if you’re using the red ones.

Simmer uncovered for another few minutes and let it get thicker.  Meanwhile, heat the oil and cumin in a small frying pan.  After about two minutes (seeds are toasty but not burned!), add the chilies and cook for another 30 seconds.  Take the pan off heat, maybe add a little more oil to cool it down (just a little), add the cayenne pepper and stir.  Add this to the lentils**.  Add the lemon juice and gently stir.

Last note – this stuff will thicken up as it sits around, and I think it gets better as it does.  It’s pretty thin when you first take it off the stove.  If you want to make it to eat now and like it thicker, try taking away one cup of water and let me know what happens.

Cheap yummy eats.  And yes mom, no meat.  It’s even vegan.  Dig it.


*There’s like 30% of your daily fiber and protein in one serving of lentils.  You have to look that up yourself.  I’m done.
**The original recipe also calls for adding half the oil and cooking more, and then half the oil on the top as you serve.  Too complicated for me, but as you like!

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