Monday, November 9, 2009

Last week in food...

I will be the first to admit that sometimes I feel hopelessly technologically challenged. I seriously have been trying to upload a picture of pie for 45 minutes. Good thing the Boy-O is tired out from a long weekend and taking a deservedly long nap...

I've had this problem before: I take a photo horizontally, upload it into Picasa, and then somehow the computer sprites tweak it into vertical mode. I go in, change, save, reload - and it is still miraculously vertical. I've repeated this process now so many times that I'm about out of patience. So, If you would like to see this photo, click here.

And now, on with the Post:

Last week was busy in preparation for E and Laura's visit on Friday. I do like to clean and organize, this is true, but somehow I never felt like I had enough hours in the day. I realised around Wednesday that I feel this way since Daylight Savings time has robbed me of 60 precious daylight minutes. I now wake at 6:30 am, and am shocked to be turning on lights promptly around 5 pm. I know I'll get used to it, but the initial week always sends me into denial a little bit. Thankfully with the onset of shorter days and cooler weather, I feel re-inspired to cook. Some highlights from last week:

Spinach and bacon pizza with jalapeno Monterrey Jack cheese. I've decided on giving up my food snobbery of pizza dough construction (Sorry, Alex Guarneschelli...) and going with the "whatever is in the icebox" approach. It's good! I let a portion of the Artisan Bread in Five stored dough sit out covered with a towel for about an hour, and then added the toppings.

One pizza truth I will forevermore adhere to is the addition of the cheese after the pizza has baked 2/3 of the way. Oh, and bake at 500 degrees f. My own, unwritten rule is to only include 3 ingredients as toppings (not including the cheese), but I forgot about the onions until it was too late, so this one only had two. I just remembered that I also sauteed the spinach with sliced garlic, and that was a great idea.

It was even better a couple days later when I had it for lunch. I was cooking my beans via the Parson's Method (more on that below), and slipped it into the oven on its foil for 10 minutes.

Bay scallops with mushrooms, sherry "cream" sauce and polenta. I Loved this. My Husband Liked it, since he's not a huge fan of polenta. I hate to hear this, but secretly plan on making it for lunch every once in a while.

CSA farm box. I got a Harvest Share box from my new CSA, Highcross Farms on Thursday. Lots of late season produce including kale, arugula, parsley (even though mine has suddenly turned into a hedge in the back yard), squashes, onions, brussel sprouts... 10 minutes after I lugged it in the door, I had the beets on a sheet pan destined for roasting.

Friday, the girls were coming, and I planned to make Crispy Kale, since I remembered reading about it in Bon Appetit several months ago. I actually received Tuscan Kale in my box, and was so excited since I have never seen it anywhere before. I went ahead and tried the same baking method with another spicy green (unknown variety to me) and some curly kale as well.

I think I preferred the curly kale, since it literally melted in your mouth, but they were all delicious. And my Husband loved it too. Crispy kale, yes and polenta, no? Go figure... another 10 years, and I should have this down pat!

Friday, I decided on a bean soup since it's flexible in the serving time. Rancho Gordo Midnight blacks, cooked via the Parson's Method mentioned in the book Heirloom Beans. I was so curious when I read this, I just had to try it. I figured a soup pot of beans was the best way to experiment.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. In a dutch oven, bring one pound of unsoaked beans to a boil in 6 cups of water. After it boils, put on the lid and slip it into the oven for 1-2 hours. I checked at 1 hour, and then again at 1:20. They were done enough to add the salt, so I added 1 t. and then back in the oven for another 20. Perfect black beans! And, a delicious soup. But some things no matter how delicious, do not translate well on film.

Now, PIE! All the pie talk last week did really wet my appetite for pie in the home. I wasn't sure what kind to make. I did know that I wanted to make Cook's Illustrated Magazine's vodka pie crust. I call it this to differentiate it from all the other pie doughs I've made. This one is really great, and the vodka allows for easier rolling since the liquid evaporates in the oven. It's flaky and tender so Alton Brown would be proud, and my friends agreed that it was pretty darn tasty, so I'll take it.

The guts included a layer of what was essentially cranberry jam. The recipe was peeking out at me from behind the vodka pie dough recipe. I don't know why I never thought to make it before. I do know that I'll be making it again. As for a photo of the finished product? You will have to click on over to my Flickr stream, since I'm nearing the end of my allotted computer time for one day. And, all this pie talk is making me hungry.


  1. Thank you. At least I'm not the only one who is sometimes flummoxed by simple technology! Lately I'm finding that even the simplest things can set me awhirl.

    That said -- my goodness, my dear, you've been eating well! Love your commentary on the pizza... and I'm intrigued by the new bean cooking method. (Also -- I read somewhere that the "don't add salt until tender" concept is a myth... could it be true?? Perpetual short-cutters like me would really like to know!)

    Could those unfamiliar greens be giant mustard? If so, they're some of my favorites. Not so much for "crispifying" but definitely for sauteeing/braising.

  2. My Mexican-American side of the family swears by never adding salt to beans until almost done. They also turned me on to cooking unsoaked pintos in a pressure pot for about an hour to make refried beans. I did it with some red beans that were just not cooking up at all even after many hours, and they turned out wonderfully.

    Cook's Illustrated says that you can add the salt at the beginning, and they tested it, (and I believe them!) but still I just can't bring myself to do it.

    Steve Sando (Rancho Gordo) says in his book that you should add near the end as well. The Parson's method that was included in the Heirloom Beans book did say that you can add the salt (usually 1 t. per pound of beans) at the beginning of the process, but Sando's co-writer Vanessa Barrington commented that the beans tend not to split (I'm thinking that they are just prettier) if you decide to add towards the end.

    I don't know. I just think that it's pretty cool that in under 2 hours and with unsoaked beans, you can have a perfectly edible product. I follow the Rick Bayless approach of adding the salt at least 20-30 minutes before their completly done, so that it has time to permeate the whole bean.

    Anyway, a long story short, I'm honestly thinking I'll never purchase a can of beans again!

  3. Oh, and I do think maybe it was giant mustard, though I've never tried it. Before crisping, (and it didn't crisp as well) it had a surprising bite, very hot. I liked it. Have to scour your site, Lo, to see if you have a favorite way to braise or saute greens!


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