Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday lunch: Is it spring yet?

Fried chickpeas with spices and sauteed pea shoots.

We got these pea shoots fresh, not frozen, from our CSA - it was great to have an early taste of spring. Our usual fried chickpeas served as an accompaniment.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday cat blogging, vintage stupidity edition

Oscar wearing paper bag, circa 2005.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday: Having our cake...and eating it, too

Golden cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and homemade royal icing.

This is a first for us - a cake made completely from scratch, down to the icing. A student in Lizz's lab is graduating, and following lab tradition Lizz provided the homemade cake. As you can see, the cake featured a scientific theme (an illustration of the localized surface plasmon resonance of metal nanopaticles), as well as other lovely details, all thanks to Giselle (and a cake decorating kit).

Here's a close-up of the blue rosettes and the purple ribbon along the side of the cake:

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there is in fact a distinction between frosting and icing. Frosting is the softer "all-over" layer, while icing is the harder substance used for the decorative elements.

Buttercream frosting is more or less what it sounds like: copious amounts of creamed butter and confectioner's sugar, plus a smaller amount of cream (or milk). The sugar and cream are added alternately to the butter until everything is blended.

Royal icing, on the other hand, is trickier (and more painful, if you don't have an electric mixer...which we don't). Egg whites are beaten with confectioner's sugar and a little vanilla until the mixture reaches the "stiff peaks" stage. Once it reaches this point, it can be separated into batches and mixed with food coloring. To make the decorations, it is spooned into a pastry bag and piped out through differently-shaped metal tips.

Not to be too modest or anything, but we thought that this cake was a rather amazing accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday: Less-than-photogenic zucchini soup

Zucchini soup.

This is a repeat of the Italian zucchini soup that we made (and loved) back in September. Here, we used frozen summer squash from Winter Sun Farms. The flavor was good, but somehow the photo did not quite do it justice. You'll just have to take our word for it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday: Mystery Dal

Mooth beans on brown rice.

Mooth beans are small brown beans, smaller than even mung beans and rather elongated in shape. For our Boston-area readers, we note that mooth beans are the main legume in the dal at Punjabi Dhaba. (For others, Punjabi Dhaba was our favorite Indian restaurant in the Boston area.)

The identity of this legume was actually the source of much debate back when we were living in Somerville. At that point we already had most of the basic dals - chana, mung, urad, toor, masoor - on our shelf. But none of them resembled the legume in the Punjabi Dhaba dal. We argued for months or more, pretty much any time that we went to the Dhaba (which was often), but we couldn't agree. They were far too small to be toor dal, but the wrong color and shape for mung beans.

One day, as we were shopping at our local Indian grocery store, we noted a new legume on the shelf - mooth beans. We realized immediately that mooth must be the mystery legume in the Dhaba dal. There ended the bitter debate.

Mooth beans can reliably be found in Indian groceries in New York, and are probably easier to acquire in Boston and elsewhere these days. We prepared them according to our standard dal recipe, but we did pre-soak them for several hours to speed the cooking a bit.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday: Cashew Curry

Coconut milk cashew curry on basmati rice.

For some reason unknown to us, cashew nuts go extremely well with cruciferous vegetables. In fact, a nice way to punch up plain broccoli or kale is a topping of chopped, toasted cashew nuts. This curry takes advantage of that natural pairing, adding green beans, tofu, and coconut milk. Served on basmati rice, it was a filling and straightforward almost-one-pot meal.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday: Butternut squash soup

Butternut squash and white bean soup.

It's been a soupy month here at D4SA - and here's another, using our frozen butternut squash puree and fresh golden russet apples. The recipe was adapted from one of Alice Waters' cookbooks by a Winter Sun Farms CSA member. I used navy beans, which lend themselves well to soups, but this would be fine with any white bean that you happened to have in the pantry.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 2/18/10


milk from Ronnybrook Farm
yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm
butter from Ronnybrook Farm

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday: Quiche Ambition

Pea shoot and garlic cheddar quiche with homemade crust.

Our fridge is currently stuffed with CSA eggs, and so a quiche seemed like a logical way to use some of them. A quiche is actually less work than you might think - with the exception of the crust, which is definitely as much work as you might think. In the past, we've (stop reading, Dad/Charles) actually purchased pre-made crusts to make quiche a quicker and easier weeknight meal, but tonight we decided to make everything from scratch.

We follow the basic quiche recipe in How to Cook Everything, and for the crust we used the suggested "Generous Pie Shell" recipe. It was indeed generous...with respect to butter, that is. Although the result was definitely better than a store-bought crust, I think we might have to try a less overwhelmingly buttery recipe next time.

Here's the crust before the addition of filling. Note the lovely scalloped edges, courtesy of Giselle:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday: Black-eyed pea and kale soup

Black-eyed pea and kale soup.

The earthiness of kale and black-eyed peas make them a natural match, and indeed they are often found together in Southern cooking. Here we pieced together a soup loosely following the recipes here and here. This was basically a dump and stir, but we did use our new dried thyme, in addition to a pinch of smoky paprika, as the seasoning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday: Stew Night

Saffron-cod stew with 7-grain toast.

We were looking for a recipe to replicate the fish stews that we enjoyed at Portuguese restaurants when were living in the Cambridge/Somerville area, and we found this take on the classic cod-and-potatoes combination. Unlike New England-style chowder, this stew contains no dairy. Instead, it is flavored with saffron, garlic, and onion. We didn't have leeks, prawns, or parsley, and we substituted homemade veggie stock for the fish stock.

Although this stew was pleasant and comforting, it wasn't as similar to those Portuguese stews as we had been hoping. The saffron flavor was perhaps a bit too subtle - we would definitely increase the quantity of saffron if we were to make this recipe again.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 2/14/10

frozen strawberries

cod from Pura Vida Fisheries
Bevan goat cheese from Ardith Mae farm

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Cat Blogging, bar prep edition

Oscar is convinced that if he just sleeps on these review books for long enough, he'll learn the material by osmosis.

It doesn't work like that, kitty.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday: Mung Dal and Pickles

Mung dal on brown rice with carrot-mustard seed salad and local pickles.

We've blogged about mung dal before - this is one of our standby dal preparations, taken from Madhur Jaffrey's Invitation to Indian Cooking. Here, we served the dal with rice, pickles, and a salad of grated carrots and mustard seeds. (Mustard seeds must be toasted in oil until they pop or else they have almost no flavor.) The wax bean pickles were recently obtained from Norwich Meadow Farms, and the cucumber pickles were purchased from Rick's Picks at the Union Square greenmarket. Both are highly recommended.

Since this dal recipe is so simple and versatile, we feel compelled to share it with you, faithful readers:

Moong Dal

1.5 c moong dal (hulled and split)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices peeled fresh ginger, 1 inch square and 1/8 inch thick
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp vegetable oil or usli ghee
pinch ground asafetida
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
lemon or lime wedges

Clean and wash the dal thoroughly. Put the dal in a heavy-bottomed 3- to 4-quart pot, add 5 cups water, and bring to a boil. Remove the froth and scum that collects at the top. Now add the garlic, ginger, parsley, tuermic, and cayenne pepper. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, lower heat, and simmer gently for about 1.5 hours. Stir occasionally at first, and more frequently toward the end to prevent the dal from sticking on the bottom of the pot. When the dal is cooked (it should be thicker than pea soup), add the salt and lemon juice.

In a 4- to 6-inch skillet or small pot, heat the oil or ghee over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the asafetida and cumin seeds. As soon as the asafetida sizzles and expands and the cumin seeds turn dark (this will take only a few seconds), pour the oil and spices over the dal and cover immediately. Let sit for a minute or so and then stir thoroughly before serving.


1. This recipe works for mung/moong dal, toor/toovar dal, masoor dal, and urad dal. Urad and moon dal are available with or without their hulls; hulled might be preferable, but you can actually use either in this recipe.

2. Serve the dal with rice and lemon or lime wedges. It's best to have something to go with the dal, like a vegetable dish and pickles. (Pickles are traditionally used to add a salty crunch to an otherwise mushy meal.)

CSA Haul, 2/11/10

In addition to the usual haul, today was the Merchant's Gate CSA Market Day - meaning we had the opportunity to order additional items from the farmer. We ordered a few extras: a few jars of tomato puree, dried herbs, and pickled wax beans.


garlic cheddar cheese
raspberry jam
tomato puree
pickled wax beans
dried thyme
dried rosemary

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday: Pea shoot and pecorino omelet

Pea shoot and pecorino omelet.

Pardon the rather minimal cooking here at D4SA, but we're both still recovering from this nasty bug. It was hard enough to drag ourselves off the couch to make this simple omelet. The fresh pea shoots were a welcome change from winter veggies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday: Banana Muffins

Half whole/half white banana muffins.

Mark Bittman recently published a recipe for whole-wheat muffins incorporating fruit or vegetable puree to lend a natural sweetness, moisture, and a lighter texture. Giselle made these muffins using banana, and they came out quite well indeed.

CSA Haul, 2/9/10

Lizz was still sick today, so Richard (not pictured) was kind enough to pick up our Winter Sun Farms CSA today. Thanks, Richard!

green beans
red tomatoes
curly kale
bell peppers
pea shoots
summer squash



Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday (with Gumbo!)

Vegetarian gumbo with homemade crackers.

Gumbo is a thick soup, really more of a stew, which puts the natural sliminess of okra to good use. It comes to us from Louisiana, and so we felt it was appropriate to make as we cheered on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

We had always thought of okra as the defining constituent of gumbo, but Wikipedia informs us that either okra or filé powder can be used as the thickener. (Filé powder is dried, ground sassafras leaves - we have yet to add it to our spice collection.) The recipe that we (loosely) followed actually called for both. Apparently this is not very authentic, nor is the addition of tofu. Gumbo would typically include shellfish, pork, or poultry.

In addition to the okra and/or filé powder, a roux base is used to make gumbo just a little bit thicker. To make a roux, flour is cooked in butter or oil over medium-low heat until it reaches the desired color, which can range from golden (a light roux) to copper-brown (a dark roux). Here, we started the gumbo with a dark roux.

To go with the gumbo, Giselle made crackers following Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything. These made use of our half-white flour from Cayuga Pure Organics, and they were topped with salt and nigella seeds.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday: Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian chili with smoky paprika.

Lizz is down with flu-like symptoms, so dinner tonight was this very simple chili.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday: This is your brain on tofu

Scrambled tofu with bell pepper, green beans and carrots.

By "scrambled tofu," we really just mean a stir fry with hard tofu crumbled in and cooked gently until warmed through. This is an easy way to use up odds and ends of vegetables you have lying around. In addition to a little ginger and garlic sauteed to start, we seasoned with some soy sauce at the end.

Friday cat blogging, obstruction edition

Lizz was going to make the bed, but as you can see, Oscar filibustered.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday: Peas, love, harmony

Yin (macaroni and cheese) and yang (peas).

Not much new to say about this meal - faithful readers will have seen it a few times before - but for your viewing pleasure, we have resorted to playing with our food.

Farmer's Market Supplement, 2/4/10


macoun apples

milk from Ronnybrook Farm
yogurt from Ronnybrook Farm
butter from Ronnybrook Farm
cheddar cheese from Millport Dairy
seven grain bread from Buon Pane
apple cider
buckwheat flour from Cayuga Pure Organics

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday: Bringing it dal back home

Chana dal with cucumber.

This recipe is an old favorite of ours - another filling dish that can be made when quality vegetables are sparse. Strictly speaking, it should be made with bottle gourd (dudhi or lauki), which is easy enough to come by if you frequent the Indian market. Cucumber makes an adequate substitute, however, and that's what we used here.

The recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East, one of our first cookbooks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday: Yo mama(liga)

Mamaliga with roasted beets and dill garnish.

You might better know "mamaliga" by the name polenta, which is the Italian iteration of this creamy food. Mamaliga/polenta is ground cornmeal cooked in liquid (typically water, or sometimes milk) until it reaches a final texture which can range from creamy-soft to stiff and cakelike. Cooled pieces of hard polenta can also be fried or broiled.

Lizz first encountered mamaliga on a trip to Moldova, where it may have been served with some type of cheese or cream folded in. Whatever it was, it was rich and comforting. Mamaliga is also made in Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and we couldn't find a consensus recipe on the internet, so there seems to be some variation in its preparation across the region. Here, we cooked our cornmeal with milk and then stirred in crumbled pieces of Bulgarian feta when it had reached our desired texture. (We left this mamaliga quite soft.)

The beets were just roasted, and we topped it all off with some chopped dill. We considered calling this "deconstructed borscht" and charging you all $15, but thought better of it at the last minute.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday: Thai stew

Thai kabocha coconut stew served on rice.

This easy stew (which basically just involves cooking the squash in some coconut milk, plus a couple other ingredients) was the first dish we had ever cooked using fish sauce. Fish sauce (or nam pla) is a condiment often used in Thai food which consists of fermented fish, often anchovy, along with salt and possibly some sugar. It can be added to dishes during the cooking process, but can also be served with the meal as a substitute for table salt, much as soy sauce is in some cultures. In this stew, the fish sauce added a little pungency along with its salty kick, but was surprisingly mellowed by the richness of the coconut milk.