Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Honey Garlic Short Ribs

If I could choose only one animal to eat for the rest of my life, it would be pork.  Bacon?  Sausage?  Bratwurst?  Ham?  Tenderloins?  Chops?  Prosciutto?  Yes, please.   

Slow-braised short-ribs?


These are a remarkably simple recipe that Mom found: salt and pepper a rack of short ribs and slow roast in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour.  Meanwhile, mix a half cup honey, half cup soy sauce, three tablespoons of molasses, and two crushed garlic cloves together in a saucepan.  Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for five minutes.

After the ribs have roasted a full hour, baste with the sauce and turn the heat up to 350 degrees. 

Bake another half an hour, re-basting every ten minutes.  

By the time you serve, the meat will be tender, falling off the bone.  Tie a napkin around your neck, forego fork and knife, and give thanks for the miraculous pig.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things You Can Wrap With Prosciutto

I think this may become a running list.

And the first entry is ... ASPARAGUS:

Bake it in the oven at 350 until the prosciutto gets crispy and the asparagus soft.

Serve with ANYTHING.

Olive OIl Poached Lemon Fish

One of the greatest joys of food blogging is discovering other food bloggers in the food blogosphere, each busily cooking and arranging and photographing and then rearranging and photographing again and rearranging perhaps one more time until our significant other is looking at us and clearly thinking IT IS ALL GETTING COLD CAN WE PLEASE JUST EAT IT ALREADY.  


One of the numerous food bloggers I follow is Adrienne at Hungry Bruno, from whom I boosted the following delicious olive-oil poached fish with lemon and capers:

It's outrageously simple:  thinly slice two lemons and use half the slices to cover the bottom of a glass baking dish.

Layer fresh filets of any white fish that looks good at the fish counter (we used cod) and sprinkle with capers, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.  (We didn't have any fresh parsley at the time, so we used a little dried instead, but this is not a substitute I would recommend, in a perfect world.)

Layer the other half of the lemons on top, then pour in enough olive oil to cover the fish.

Stick it in a 250 degree oven and allow it to cook ever so slowly, the fish poaching in the oil rather than broiling or baking.  Leave them in for an hour or a little longer, until the fish is flaky.

Serve with your veggie of choice, and try to restrain yourself from being a creepy lemon paparazzo who keeps everyone else from their meal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Rant

Last night, Mom and Matt and I cooked a delicious dinner of enormous Philly-cheese-steak sandwiches, dripping with tender roast beef and carmelized onions and peppers, each decadently coated in a layer of munster and swiss, melted and blistering from a quick tour under the broiler.  

As we munched our way through these, Mom brought out a Wall Street Journal article she'd wanted to share with us, found here.  It was about weight loss, "hedonic impulses", people's differing chemical abilities to resist culinary temptation, obesity, and the like.  It suggested that some people are simply more controlled by those impulses than others, and purported to explain why "some people can resist dessert while others can't".  

And it included a quiz.

Readers could rate statements, then add up their score to discover how controlled they are by their hedonic impulses.  The gist was that the more strongly you agreed with the statements, the less in control you were when it came to food, and the more likely to be unhealthy.  These statements included, among others:

"I love the taste of certain foods so much that I can't avoid eating them even if they're bad for me." 

"I think I enjoy eating a lot more than most other people."


"It's very important to me that the foods I eat are as delicious as possible."


It is this kind of attitude -- that there is something wrong with you, that you are too controlled by your "hedonic impulses", if you want your food to be as delicious as possible -- that is the foundation of the messed up relationship America has with food.  Don't enjoy food too much, or you'll be a fatty!  FEAR DELICIOUS FOODS. 

Let me tell YOU something, Wall Street Journal.  

When I was at my heaviest in college, I would stop by the McDonald's on campus twice a week, guiltily (and/or drunkenly) cramming in French fries and hating myself as I ate.  The Armadillo Grill's nacho cheese dip was a similar guilty pleasure, but so guilty it almost wasn't pleasurable.  I would eat these terrible, empty, tasty foods, feel absolutely horrible about doing it, resolve over and over and over again to diet (meaning cut out all carbs, or all fats, or eat only Lean Cuisines for a month, or only V8 for a week leading up to a fraternity formal) and then, inevitably find myself back at the counter where the McDonald's worker knew me by name. 

I didn't savor food.  I didn't enjoy it that much.  I feared it, feared facing down things I wanted to eat and knew I shouldn't.  So I just crammed it in and felt guilty and fat.  And as a result, I WAS fat.  

The truth is, you simply can't lose weight successfully -- for the long term -- if you see it in black and white.  Brussels sprouts are terrible, but you have to "be good" and eat them.  Chocolate cake is an enemy to be resisted at all costs, and if you have a bite, you've failed.    

No.  Speaking as someone who has lost forty pounds in the last four years, slowly but surely, one of the things that most appealed to me about the whole foods/slow foods movement was its message of truly LOVING food in a healthy, normal, positive way. Brussels sprouts are dang good, if you cook them how you like them.  And a small piece of that chocolate cake isn't going to derail everything you're working toward.  On the contrary, if you deny yourself all the pleasure in eating, eventually you're going to be back there at the McDonald's counter once again.  You do need control, and you do need awareness of your choices, and yes, sometimes you do need to say "I've had enough" ... but you also need to love every bite of the food you're putting in your mouth and not feel guilty about that.  

I still have a little way to go on my own weight loss journey, as I work to lose another ten in time for my marriage to the THINNEST MAN EVER BORN. (Author's edit: I have recently been notified by Kim that I am, in fact, marrying the SECOND THINNEST MAN EVER BORN.)  And I still have nights where I come away from dinner and realize I'm stuffed full, having eaten much more than I really needed or wanted to.  But focusing on whole, slow, natural foods, and on how much I enjoy the acts of cooking and dining with loved ones, brings me great, great joy.  Savoring small portions of truly mouth-watering meals, feeling great about what I've made and who I'm eating it with, knowing exactly where the meal came from and loving how it tastes: dining makes me feel like a part of the planet.  I don't fear food anymore; I give thanks for it.  Good food really is a gift from God.  

So thanks very much, Wall Street Journal, but I'll keep my hedonic impulses.

And damn it, yes, I DO want my food to be as delicious as possible.  

That is all.

Oh, wait, also --

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good Brown Bread

A quick, no-rise loaf of hearty brown bread, from 1990 Gourmet Magazine recipe:

I like yeastless breads, because I lack the patience and foresight required for baking risen bread.  I feel like I always want fresh-baked bread at about 4:37 in the afternoon, when it's absolutely too late to start something that needs kneading and hours to rise.  And if I happen to think of my craving the next morning, when there WOULD be time for all that, I simply can't be bothered.

And then I go to the bakery instead and walk out with about four different breads, only one of which I actually wanted.

And a croissant.

So yeastless breads are a good lifestyle choice for me.

This one has molasses and brown sugar, raisins and wheat germ, and a hearty dose of buttermilk to add moisture.  Could it please combine a few more of my favorite things?  Like cheese?  Maybe we could get some cheese in there?  Or chocolate?  OR PEANUT BUTTER?

Mara and I cut slices when it was still hot from the oven; the little pat of butter we put on each slice melted immediately, making that wonderful bright/salty/buttery marriage with the dark/sugary/heavy bread.

Good Brown Bread
1.5 cups wheat germ
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. baking soda
.25 cup packed (dark) brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk
.5 cup dark molasses
.5 cup raisins

Combine wheat germ, wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar in a big bowl.  Combine the buttermilk and molasses, then add to dry ingredients.  Stir in the raisins last, and bake in a lightly greased loaf pan at 350 for one hour.

Mustard Salmon with Bruschetta Melts

Sorryyyyy again for the long delay in posting.  But I have a huge back-up of delicious, home-cooked meals to share with you, so I hope to make it up to you with an orgy of mouthwatering photographs.

Such as:


This was salmon rubbed with mustard, a recipe courtesy of our friend Elizabeth.  We slathered the filets in a mixture of melted butter, two types of mustard, and brown sugar, then baked for twenty minutes, broiling for an extra ten.  The broil gave the brown sugar a crunch, making a wonderful sort of mustardy-sweet crust on the tender fish flesh.

We ate them with simple oven-melted bruschetta slices.  Just slices of fresh French baguette, each topped with a slice of tomato, a leaf of basil (fresh picked from the garden, of course), and a chunk of mozzarella from the cheese counter, then set under the broiler for ten minutes:

Pull them out when the cheese begins to blister and the bread begins to brown, and OH SWEET HEAVEN that's my favorite part of summertime.

We also boiled some sweet corn (wait, maybe THAT'S my favorite part of summertime) and voila:

Elizabeth's Mustard Salmon
1/2 stick butter, melted
3 TBS country dijon mustard
2 TBS regular dijon mustard
3 TBS brown sugar
1 lb salmon

Mix butter, mustards, and brown sugar.  Slather onto fish filets.  Bake at 375 for twenty minutes, then broil an additional ten minutes.

Extra topping can be kept in the refrigerator for next time, and is also (apparently) delicious on pork or chicken.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Korma Simmer Sauce

The ideal, really, of a slow foods diet is to do all your own mixing and cooking from fresh ingredients.

But sometimes, you've spent the entire day doing research into motions to suppress the statement your client made to the police while he was handcuffed on the side of the road, and the spirit just isn't in you to simmer and season for three hours.

On days like this, you either guiltily get take-out or hope there's something exciting in your pantry you can just open with a can-opener that won't break the rules.

Okay, so I'm not completely sure what tapioca starch is.  But we have tapioca and we have starch in the house, so I let that one slide.  Plus, it's organic tapioca starch!  Right?

We threw it in a pan with some roughly chopped carrot, red onion, green and bell peppers, frozen peas, and a sliced chicken breast.  And simmered.  Simmer sauce!

Meanwhile, there's a great crop of assorted lettuces growing in my mom's garden, lovingly tended by my green-thumb niece.  We picked and rinsed some for a bright summer salad:

(A couple of those leaves were a surprise spicy arugula.)

We served it all with a little basmati rice from our favorite Indian place, the Jaipur, and BAM.  The sauce was a mellow and fragrant, a little sweet, as kormas should be.  Paired with our spicy, tangy salad, and it was a summer feast in less than thirty minutes.

Risen Buckwheat Cakes

My family loves brunch.  When at least two of us get together on a Saturday or Sunday, you can pretty much guarantee that something will be whipped together, fried in butter, slathered with maple syrup or jam, and eaten with bottomless cups of coffee.

This can present a problem for the size of my thighs.

Solution: risen buckwheat cakes!

We fry them on the griddle like pancakes, but they're made with yeast as well as baking soda, so we mix them up the evening before and let the batter rise overnight.

The molasses gives a hint of sweetness to balance the nutty buckwheat.

Because the buckwheat flour is so hearty, they're a heart-healthier option than our other favorite recipes; I think Jenny once calculated the Weight Watchers points on these, and got ten pancakes for one point.  NOT. BAD.

Last weekend, we had these with heaping bowls of blueberries, stacks of free range/organically raised chicken sausages, and of course, the requisite bottomless cups of coffee.

The recipe was passed down to my mom from my grandfather, possibly passed on to him from his mother, which means that A) it's golden for my whole foods diet and B) some of the directions in the recipe are a little quaint...

Risen Buckwheat Cakes:

1 packet yeast
1 TBS cornmeal
1 tsp salt
Approximately 2-3 cups buckwheat flour
Approximately 1 cup white flour
3 TBS dark molasses
1/2 tsp baking soda
Approximately 1/2 cup milk

The night before:
Heat one pint water until lukewarm (not hot).  And half cake yeast (we translate this as one dry packet) and stir until dissolved.  Stir in one tablespoon cornmeal and one teaspoon salt.  Then sift in enough buckwheat flour, mixing a little white flour as well, to make a medium-thick batter.  Let rise overnight in a fairly warm place.

The day of:
Add three tablespoons dark molasses and half a teaspoon baking soda.  Thin batter with milk.  Fry in batches on hot griddle.