I wrote that whole discussion about terminology, citing bean spread specifically. And now I sit here staring at a pretty little dish of… something… wondering what on earth to call it. Hoist on my own petard and all that. (Pea Pate has a certain logic – chick peas and peanuts – but it would be so misleading!)
So, we continue to continue as things have been…
The weather is jumping around, and as soon as we opened the window with the stiff hinges and stubborn latch, and put away the comforter, it turned chilly. Perfectly normal weather for April – but we haven’t been doing normal seasonal weather, so it feels odd. (And the weather changes are beating me up, as usual – tough on migraneurs.) I’m still obsessing about the phone and its camera, and Instagram, and OMG is Snapchat next? Or Facebook videos?? Have you seen what they can do there now? Am I going to have to make a video of zucchini cutting? (Which might actually be quite useful. Hmm. Have to think about that.) Continue reading
Allow me to introduce you to my favorite fish – bluefish.
The great difficulty in writing about cooking fish is that different kinds are more or less readily available in different parts of the country – let along the world! I have, for example, recipes for carp – a fresh water fish popular in Eastern Europe – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen carp for sale in my life, here on the coast. Meanwhile, bluefish are a seasonal fish here, coming North in the summer, and leaving us for warmer water in the cold weather – but they’re mostly line caught, and not processed and frozen (or canned) for the rest of the country the way Pacific salmon is, so I know that many of you can’t get it. Continue reading
Somehow that title sounds as if it should be the name of a really bad pseudo-Asian martial arts movie…
Anyhow – the inspiration. A short while ago, Inhabited Kitchen had a sudden, unexpected surge of visitors from Buzzfeed. I was somewhat flattered to discover that a staff writer had linked to an old post about roll cutting zucchini, and had specifically directed readers to that post for instruction.
So this was very nice and all – and welcome to any of you who discovered the blog through it! – but it also made me realize that it was nearly three years since I wrote that. And, well, most of you joined us more recently, and probably have not carefully read three years worth of archives… (I mean, thank you if you have, I hope you found them useful!) and when I wrote that I was still publishing on Blogger, and I didn’t yet know much about SEO and writing clear titles that help you figure out what I’m talking about. (And I didn’t know anything at all about taking or editing pictures…) So perhaps it is time for me to revisit some of the fundamental techniques I wrote about in the first year of the blog – when no one was actually reading it yet. I have several zucchini in the house…so this is a good opportunity.
Let me start with that roll cut. I have mentioned it in passing, over the years, because I use it all the time. I don’t think that it speeds up the cooking, particularly (which the article said) – but it allows the food to cook very evenly and improves the texture. Before I learned this, I used to cut zucchini, carrots, and other long round vegetables in coins, and then cook them – and they would go mushy. The roll cut gives you lots of surface, all very even – it is particularly wonderful in a saute, where you can brown and season that surface. It’s great for stews and other long braises, too – your vegetables are tender, not mushy, and absorb the flavors they cook with. I use the technique for zucchini, carrots, asparagus, daikon and other long radishes, but not layered vegetables like scallions or leeks – they’ll fall apart.
Cut the stem end off your zucchini, then hold your knife at an angle, and cut a wedge shaped piece. Then roll the vegetable slightly toward you, continuing to hold the knife in the same position – and make another cut. Roll again, cut again, and so on… You end up with a pile of oddly shaped, many sided chunks, that cook beautifully, and add interest to your food. I highly recommend it.
Now, let us move on to a series of techniques that build on each other. First, the easiest, most interesting, and most unusual (Isn’t that a nice combination?) – the fan cut. I’ve used this for zucchini, but also for small eggplant, carrots, and radishes.
Start by trimming your vegetable – cut off stem and blossom ends (and of course any damaged spots) and, if needed, cut it into manageable pieces. This zucchini was just large enough that I cut it in half across, and then split it again lengthwise (which gave me a flat surface – I recommend that you do this even with a small vegetable until you get the hang of this – it’s easier.) When I cooked the baby eggplant in the link above, I kept them whole.
Now, place the piece on the cutting board, and starting a little in from the end, cut a slice down all the way to the other end, so that it remains attached at just the first end. Continue doing this until the whole piece is sliced but holds together at one end – essentially, at the handle of the fan.
Hold that thought – we’re going to return to it…
Sometimes you don’t want a fan cut. Sometimes you want a julienne cut. (Sometimes you just want carrot sticks…) Well, if you already split the carrot lengthwise, but cut all the way to the end, instead of leaving the fan handle, you have carrot sticks. But maybe they’re too thick. Or maybe you’re doing it with this zucchini, and want sticks, not slices. You can actually leave that fan handle – it keeps the slices from sliding – but cut through down the middle, and flip each piece onto its side – you now have a little pile of slices. Now slice that – cutting through the handle. You now have matchsticks, or, if you cut it thinner than I did (I wanted you to be able to see clearly, so cut about a quarter inch) you have julienne. Look at that – you didn’t need a mandoline…
And if you are curious about zoodles, but don’t want to invest money or space in a fancy spiralizer (at least until you know if the family will like them) leave the zucchini whole, lengthwise, then cut about 1/8″ strips, and you have a pretty good approximation. They won’t curl as nicely, because they’re not cut around and around, but close enough to try the idea… (and no waste.)
And now – take your pile of matchsticks and cut them across, in pieces the same size – and you have dice. Why would you do that to an innocent squash or carrot? Well – think of packaged peas and carrots – they cook quickly, and are the same size, which can be useful in soup or sautes, or, perhaps, an omelet. Or, you can toss the zucchini dice with a little vinegar, let it marinate a while, then add it to salad, or pack it for lunch. I don’t dice these vegetables often, but it is good to remember the option.
So that’s three different results following one method along the full path. And now, returning to the fan cut – remember the fan cut? You can take your carrot or radish, drop it in ice water, and it will open out attractively, so you have a lovely garnish or relish tray. (And do I ever remember to do this??)
Or you can cook seasoned simmered fans. I use a fry pan for this, as it is flat, and put about half a inch deep of seasoned simmering liquid in it. That can be broth, it can be juice (orange juice would be a nice way to cook a big, fat, tough carrot.) I used water with a splash of rice vinegar and tamari.
Since there is a flat side, I put that down, and added the cold liquid to the pan, then quickly brought it to a boil, and let it simmer zucchini five minutes (covering the pan the last minute or so, to let the top steam) until done to your taste. Remove the vegetable carefully, so the fan handle end doesn’t break, and place it fanned out attractively on your plate. If you want, you can drizzle it with the cooking liquid. It’s not all about being, well, attractive, though that’s a feature – you get a nice subtle contrast in flavor and texture between the part in the simmering liquid and the rest. And it looks and feels quite elegant, though it’s really pretty simple.
- 1 zucchini
- ½ c water
- 1 T rice vinegar
- 1 T gluten free tamari (or soy sauce)
- Wash zucchini, and trim off stem and blossom end.
- Cut it in half crosswise, then again lengthwise. Carefully slice each piece from a quarter to half an inch from the end all the way down to the other end, with cuts about a quarter of an inch apart.
- Place, flat cut side down, in a fry pan. Add remaining ingredients, which will not cover the zucchini, and bring to a quick boil.
- Lower heat and simmer about five minutes, or until cooked to your taste.
- Carefully remove zucchini from the pan without breaking, and fan out over the plate.
Sure you can teach an old dog new tricks – as long as the old dog, or woman, is willing and curious…
So I’m still working with the phone – specifically, with the camera. (I seem to have everything else doing pretty much what I want it to.) It would be nice if anyone at all in the tech world wrote decent manuals… it would be even nicer if they updated the instructions they do have online, so they weren’t telling you to touch buttons that do not exist (I’m presuming they used to?) And, as a special favor to me, they might stop assuming that I wouldn’t even look at their product if I hadn’t been using a DSLR and Lightroom, and therefore know what they are talking about. OK – obviously I can take snapshots without a special app, but as long as I’m doing this, I want to do it well!
And then, there’s this. I’ve actually had it for a while, but didn’t want to write about it until I felt I had a clue – which seemed to be taking a while. But I will learn, I will, I will! (First lesson – most of what I learned with my stovetop pressure cooker 30 years ago does not apply here. This is much easier to use – which is good – but nothing I know about timing is now accurate!) I will probably mostly use it in much the same way I currently use the slow cooker – to cook ingredients. Beans, meat, root vegetables… I do, though, want to then use it for fast meals – the sort of thing you throw together, sometimes from those precooked ingredients, when you get home and need to put dinner on the table.
Meanwhile… I used the pressure cooker (one of these days we will both stop calling it the slow cooker!) to cook chicken, and then to cook brown rice in the broth left from the meat. (This was a couple of weeks ago.) And, well, something was wrong about the ratio or the timing or both – I ended up with overcooked, soupy rice. I shoved it in the fridge and we ate something else…
But then, the next morning, I realized that I more or less had congee… well, properly, I think it would be cooked even longer, until it was creamier, but close enough for breakfast. I heated my soupy rice in a pan, adding some chicken, and then cracked in a couple of eggs to poach. And it was a great breakfast! This actually is a picture from that first time – I forgot to take one the other day – but I’ve done versions a couple of times since. OK – I definitely want broth as the liquid, when I used plain water it was too bland. Leftover or frozen vegetables are a good addition. (I don’t want to get into cooking fresh vegetables first thing in the morning before – well – before breakfast! I need to be able to do this on autopilot…) Maybe someday I’ll figure out seasoning… My breakfasts tend to be streaky, so I don’t have to think in the morning, so I’m sure you’ll see this again…
Lunch is… everything in a pan? I should maybe take notes, as well as pictures. Cabbage, rice, and black beans, I see – I think some chicken, too, and broth? I must say, it totally looks like I Need to eat Now, what’s in the fridge? It has been a sort of crazy week, a bunch of things coming in on top of my usual schedule, so I guess it shows. Anyhow – I ate… and I like concoctions like that!
Now, this may astonish many of you, but until this week, I had never in my life made enchiladas. I’ve eaten them in Mexican restaurants, mind you (though I’m more apt to go for chile rellenos on the relatively rare occasions that I eat in Mexican restaurants…) Food is still relatively regional in this country – you visit me, and I’ll take you to a real Jewish deli, or real Italian (not a red sauce place) or other ethnic places rare in your region – or for seafood or fresh local produce, or… Mexican has not been our strength – I ate that visiting cousins in Texas and California.
But – for several years we’ve picked up occasional take out at a Mexican bodega in the neighborhood, where our tacos were filled with goat stew and chipotle chicken from a small steam tray at the counter. I can get dried peppers there, and queso fresca. And really, most Mexican food is naturally gluten free – I don’t have to adapt most recipes at all! So I need to learn this way of cooking – not Tex Mex, as most American is, but some, at least, real Mexican (which won’t be on the blog, as it would not be my original recipes) and also Anne’s New York Mexican-Influenced Cooking… All my breakfast tacos fit in that category already.
So I finally realized that enchiladas are a technique, not a recipe. That Enchilada Sauce is like Alfredo Sauce or Caesar Dressing – or Puttanesca Sauce – it’s not something that really comes in a jar. (I mean, you can have a jar of something that works, I’ve certainly used them, but it’s missing the point. Just as you can have a Real Recipe for a version that you like, but that’s not the only way to do it.)
So I threw together a chili sauce, sauteed cabbage and shredded pork moistened with the sauce, dipped tortillas in the sauce and assembled the dish. Sprinkled just a little cheese on top (I didn’t want the usual American cheese heavy version this time, though I might another day) and heated it all through.
OK, so we’re doing that again… It was fast, it was easy, it was good, and it totally lends itself to my Planning For Meals method of having food on hand to assemble into different meals. How on earth have I missed this? (Though maybe I should work on serving it without having it all collapse in a mess…)
So – phones and pressure cookers, congee and enchiladas – It’s a lot for this old woman! Sure keeps me from getting bored, though. What are you learning this week?
Come over to Jenn’s WIAW party at Laura’s Sprint2thetable.com and tell us all! (Why isn’t the new version of wordpress letting me give you two links in one line?? Apparently I have more to learn… That’s one thing about blogging – whenever you think you know what you are doing, something changes! I shall never be bored!)