Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tofu Eggplant and Kale Stir Fry Makes Me Happy

The story of this stir fry actually begins about 5 days before we made it, when our dad gave me one of those long slender eggplants (japanese? chinese?) for absolutely no reason (or rather, the reason was that they had been really cheap at Market Basket (or as he says, Marcheta Basketa), so he bought three and only needed two apparently). It sat on our counter forlorn and useless, being only one small eggplant, slowly shriveling, its glory fading...

Then a couple days later we grocery shopped together (Jenean was magically getting off work the same time as I was driving through the area so we met at the store). We've taken to only shopping with hand held baskets, hoping, it seems, to limit the purchases. This only sort of works... we're pretty overloaded by the end, stumbling messily up to the cashier (or I'm messy about it, anyway). I bought tofu, kale, brown rice, other things I can't remember. At home we realized I had already bought brown rice last time I shopped! Idiot! You know how you get it in your head that you're out of something? Then buy it ten times? Jenean has been doing this with shampoo lately.

Then a couple days after that we both got home at a normal hour, so we decided we'd stir fry the tofu WITH the poor little eggplant (thanks Dad! Like so many gifts you have given us, both material and otherwise, eventually we used and appreciated it!) and some kale, and whatever else.

First we started the brown rice,
Cook's Illustrated's way - baked in the oven for an hour, then a brief rest with a dishtowel over it (weirdly necessary!) and I really believe it's the only way ever to make brown rice. Having 4 pounds of it in the house, we decided to double the recipe to have spare in the fridge for another meal Jenean had planned.

Back to stir fry. Next we:

cubed and fried the eggplant and set it aside
cubed and fried the tofu and set it aside (I'm fussy with this step - turning so all sides are thoroughly browned and use way more oil than you think you should and don't TOUCH it at first or you'll just break it to bits! Let it sit there and get really brown and it'll come right up)
sliced and fried an onion in the now empty pan
chopped up and added the kale and stirred that around
soaked and squeezed and sliced some dried shitakes and added those
then Jenean minced lots and lots of garlic and ginger and threw that in

then I combined the water the mushrooms had soaked in (minus the grit at the bottom) with... a couple tablespoons or so of basically every asian condiment in my fridge:
oyster sauce
soy sauce
sweet chili sauce
toasted sesame oil (lots of this! I love this almost as much as marzipan. more maybe)
some rice wine vinegar

meanwhile, the kale softened, we could smell the lovely garlic and gingery smells smelling just right, so I whisked up all those crazy sauces and threw them in. Now, usually when i stir fry I add some corn starch to my liquid, so it gets thick and saucy in the pan. I didn't this time, and I may never bother to again, honestly. I got the pan really hot, and the sauce got just a little bit thick from boiling down (I think the oyster sauce helped), and it soaked into the eggplant and tofu, and it was great as is. We can leave King Corn out of this one.

J pulled out the sriracha to drizzle on top (the one asian condiment I had not yet added to the pot). Real good and easy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meat - A Great Side Dish

Elaine and I have had a produce CSA for 3 years through Stillman's Farm in Lunenburg, MA and absolutely love it. For those of you unfamiliar, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to support local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer in your area. Purchasing a CSA share in advance allows the small farmer to have seed money in advance to grow his crops and allows him to better estimate how much produce he will be able to sell all season long. Not only are we supporting a local family farm, we are also getting fresh seasonal produce, which is conscientiously grown with the health of the earth and the eater (us!) in mind. Plus, its a really fun challenge to use up all of our produce every week. We love it and next to baseball, its the best thing about summertime. To find a CSA near you, check out these great listings.

Stillman's also offers a meat CSA which we had talked about signing up for for WAY too long before we actually did it. At first we just though it would be a cool thing to do, now I practically think its mandatory if I'm going to continue to eat meat. Movies like Food, Inc. and books like The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food have gone over these point ad naseum so I won't continue to belabor them here (but if you haven't checked these out, I would really encourage you to do so), but needless to say, I am really not interested in being a part of the the industrial food chain any longer.

This is not to say that I didn't eat really cheap (yet delicious) Chinese food on Sunday night. I did. I am not perfect (surprise!) and I am not always going to choose local, sustainable, organic. However, I am going to think twice about what I'm putting in my body and the fact that I am so lucky to have the luxury of choice - to not simply have to choose the cheapest quickest option.

Our Meat CSA includes 10 lbs. a month of conscientiously raised deliciousness. We split this among the three people who eat in this home and once its gone, no more until next month. This may seem like not a lot of meat for three people, but, let's face it, Americans eat far too much of the stuff and as Michael Pollan says at the beginning of In Defense of Food, meat may be better approached as a side dish anyway. We are lucky to have grown up eating a lot of vegetarian meals, so it is not too hard for us to eat less meat. One month in, we actually had meat LEFTOVER at the end of the month and are finding it more of a treat when we do eat it. Plus, we aren't scraping the bottom of the barrel here, this meat is really good stuff.

Here's what we got this month:
  • Two thick cut pork chops
  • Ground pork
  • Beef chuck steak
  • Three chicken quarters
  • Three sausages
  • Country style pork ribs
We'll let you know what we do with all of it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weddin Cake Samples Part 1

Just in time for Mardi Gras, the lady who is going to make our wedding cake (maybe they'll be cupcakes? mini-cakes?) gave me two little samples to try out last tuesday. I was particularly psyched out of my mind about it since I'm giving up sweets for Lent.

The flavors were:

Chocolate genoise with caramel mousse filling and chocolate buttercream frosting, and

Almond butter cake with marzipan and raspberry jam filling and vanilla buttercream frosting.

Jenean and Axle F (my fiance's specially requested screen name) and I did the tough job of eating two pieces of cake each.

We started with the chocolate. Jenean and I LOVED the caramel filling, it was so delicious, as was the chocolate buttercream - very silky. Sadly, the chocolate genoise was super dry and not very... chocolatey. I think of genoise usually being soaked with some kind of simple syrup (it's the kind of batter they make ladyfingers out of, right? in turn soaked with rum and coffee for tiramisu for example?) so I think it never had a chance to be moist. Axel F hates dry cake. I mean, who likes it? But he REALLY hates it (yesterday he literally sent me a text that said "dry cake is the work of the _evil"). So that one didn't win.

Then we had the almond butter cake with the marzipan filling. Take how much Axel F hates dry cake, and multiply that amount by ten, and turn it into LOVE, and that is how I feel about marzipan, just ask Emily, she'll tell you. So I was highly inclined to love this one. I really liked the filling (obviously) and enjoyed the cake, which was dense but moist. The vanilla buttercream was a little heavy... which I didn't really notice until Axel F said it felt like he was eating straight butter. And once he said that, we had to agree, though Jenean said she enjoyed it anyway. So that one didn't really win either. However, despite Axel F's generally not liking either one, I think both have potential to be great, if certain things get tweaked (moist chocolate cake, fluffier vanilla buttercream? I hope these exist).

Fat Tuesday

Luckily, the first meal we decided to document took place on Fat Tuesday so moderation was not an issue and it also happened to be the day Lainie brought home some lovely mini wedding cakes for taste testing.

Although not traditional Mardi Gras fare, we had three sausages from last month's CSA, and decided to eat those up since we had just gotten this month's share. Sausage grinders with peppers and onions it is! This is how we did it:
  • Add water (1/2 cup?) to pan with sausages and let it ride until water evaporates
  • After water has evaporated, allow sausages to brown on all sides
  • Add sliced green peppers, sliced onions and minced garlic on top of sausages, like this:
See how easy? Just let everything cook together until it looks like this:

We bought a lovely Iggy's baguette instead of regular rolls and just cut off the ends and then into thirds. This bread will surely lead to bahn mi's.

Also on the menu were impeccably roasted potatoes (good job Elaine!) and roasted shrimp cocktail for appetizer. This is so simple and improves shrimp 100 fold, in my opinion. Simply put uncooked shrimp on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven for no more than 8 minutes. The shrimp are tender and flavorful. We made a simple cocktail sauce with what was on hand: ketchup, horseradish and Texas Pete's Hot Sauce.

Totally delicious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Um, Really? A Blog?

Hello Interwebs!

Young Elaine and I have decided to commemorate our last several months (waaaa!) as roommates, doing the things we love to do most - cook and eat. We don't claim to be superior chefs, eaters or humans. But we do know that we have connected with many of our most favorite people through our love of cooking and food. We hope that through this forum we can share: awesome recipes (that means we expect your contributions too!), our love of cooking and of each other.

Part of this endeavor will include our very own Supper Club, an opportunity to come together every so often for a family style meal, ideally completely co-operative and as organic, local and sustainable as we all can manage. But most importantly thoughtfully prepared, delicious and full of love. More details to follow, soon.

Let's do it!

Love - Us Guys