Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mmmm, Food

Let's be clear about something: Leland makes pretty much all of the food in this house. If I had to guess a percentage, it would probably be about 99%. Maybe even 99.9%. It's not that I'm a bad cook. I guess I'm fair to middling. I can follow a recipe. But I don't really like cooking, it stresses me out.

And before everyone chimes in at once, YES I ABSOLUTELY know how amazing it is that my husband cooks every evening and I do NOT take it for granted. Sometimes Leland will ask "what's it like to just sit around and have food magically appear on your plate?" Sometimes he is grumpy when he says this. And I always respond, "it's AMAZING. You should try it sometime!"

But I have picked up a few things from hanging around him (and his mom, and my mom, all good cooks).

1. Don't mess with it.
Usually this is communicated to me at high volume because I have an endless drive to stir things. I think this is pretty common. Don't mess with stuff! Just let it cook!

2. Always add salt and pepper to a savory dish and vanilla to a sweet dish
Even - no, especially - if the recipe doesn't call for it. Just a pinch of salt, a few twists from the pepper grinder, or a slosh of vanilla. You can't go wrong.

3. Throw a very generous pinch of salt in to the boiling water before you add the pasta
A VERY generous pinch. Somewhere between a pinch and a handful. As Leland says (every. single. time. he makes pasta), "the water should be as salty as the ocean".

4. Low-fat is for pansies
Leland likes to make fun of those people on All Recipes who mess with the ingredients to remove all of the flavor calories. "Instead of butter, I just added whispered 'butter' into the bowl!" Now, this is also a man who likes to say, "anyone can stop eating when they're full. It takes a real man to keep going", so let's take this directive in context.

5. Let the meat rest
Meat should rest for about ten minutes before serving. Or so people say. I don't really know why, and I can't testify that it actually makes the meat better. But if you say stuff like this, people will think you're a real foodie. (PS - Leland is going to be annoyed that I said I can't tell if it makes the meat taste better.)

And just for funsies, here are some of my favorite recipes. Most of them are so simple that even I can make them (though I usually make Leland do it instead). You may recognize a certain bacon-y theme. What can I say? Bacon is good. Bon Appetit!

Pumpkin Pancakes
Even Leland likes these and he doesn't like pancakes (I KNOW.) Great with bacon.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsps brown sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp vinegar
1 slosh vanilla

 Mix milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Stir the dry into the wet, just enough to mix everything up. Then cook them like pancakes, do I have to spell everything out for you people?

Split Pea Soup
Now, you could make this without the bacon. The bacon does make it really really good though.

6 slices of bacon cut into small pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
4 (10.5 oz) cans broth
1 1/2 cups split peas
(I find that this leaves a stupid little bit of split peas left in the bag, so I just use them all)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Cook bacon over medium heat until it gets to be the way you like it (we like it still soft). Stir in onion, leek, carrot, and garlic, and saute until the veggies are soft. Add broth. Mix in split peas, bay leaves, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer about 1 hour. Stir when you remember about it.

Serve with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt in the center of the bowl.

 Sesame Noodles
 So gooooood you'll never get takeout again probably still get takeout a lot because you're lazy and they make it for you there. Also I think this is vegan? Is peanut butter vegan?

16 oz Chinese noodles 
(ramen works (yesIknowthatsnotChinese), or try a fun variety from the Asian grocery store or international aisle)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsps grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 green onion
Matchstick strips of crunchy veggies of your choice - cucumber, radishes, carrots

Cook noodles as package directs, drain, and rinse with cold water. Meanwhile, with wire whisk or fork, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, and 1/2 cup water until blended. Taste it and tweak to your liking - if you like ginger, add more. If you like heat, add siracha or chili oil. Etc. There are no rules when it comes to tasty sesame sauce! Toss noodles with sauce and add veggies.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana
Pasta sauce with bacon that isn't cream based. That's all you need to know. (And according to my recipe it was named for the town of Amatrice an hour east of Rome.) (Leland always makes this one, it's a bit more advanced)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz thinly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or good bacon, cut into smallish pieces
1 red onion, cut lengthwise in half and then into 1/4 inch thick half moons
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsps hot red pepper flakes
2 cups basic tomato sauce
1 lb bucatini or long pasta of your choice
Freshly grated pecorino romano
(Do not put that green shaker Parmesan on this or one million Italian grandmothers will haunt you)

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add 2 tbsp salt. Meanwhile, in a 10-12 inch saute pan, cook meat med-low until most of the fat has been rendered. Remove bacon and fat - save enough fat for saute. In the same pan that is now greased with lovely bacon fat, combine the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes; set over low heat and cook until the onion is softened. Add meat, toss together, cook for a minute or so.

Add tomato sauce, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and allow to bubble for 6-7 minutes. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling water for about a minute LESS than the package directions (should still be very firm); drain. Add the pasta to the simmering sauce and toss for about 1 minute to coat. Top with grated cheese and serve hot.

Chicken (or whatever) Masala
Just about any meat can be substituted for the chicken - tofu, potatoes and sweet potatoes are good in this too. I also have a naan recipe if anyone wants it!

2 lbs chicken (or equivalent amount of substitute), roughly cut
1 medium large onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp garam masala
(This is a mixture of Indian spices. You can buy it at an Indian grocery or make your own mixture from recipes like this.)
1 tsp chili powder
1 pinch salt
Olive oil

Saute chopped onion in olive oil and salt. Once soft, add tomatoes and chili powder (adjust amount for desired spiciness). Stir thoroughly, cooking about 3 more minutes. Add chicken and garam masala and brown chicken for about 10 minutes. (Obviously if you are using lamb or tofu or potatoes, adjust directions accordingly - add potatoes later and cook them in the curry, add tofu near the end, etc.) 

Add yogurt and water, adjusting to achieve desired consistency. Stir thoroughly. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Serve with rice and naan.

Mom's Banana Bread
This recipe uses 6 bananas - more than I've ever seen in another recipe. It is also ridiculously bad for you - there are many ways you could make this recipe healthier, but I've never tried any of them. And it happens to be the world's greatest banana bread. I'll take any challenge on that.

2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup canola oil
6 medium bananas, smashed
3 tsps baking soda dissolved in 3 tbsps hot water
Generous slosh of vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional) or nuts I guess if you hate good tasting things.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and chocolate chips and mix again. Don't go crazy on the mixing, it should be just combined. Pour into 2 9x5 greased loaf pans. Bake for 45-60 minutes (20 mins for muffins, 15 for mini-muffins). Test center with wooden skewer or knife to see if it is done. Don't be afraid to leave this sucker in the oven for a long time - a dark sugary crust will develop on the top.

Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Pie
This is the recipe from the back of this key lime juice, which is what I recommend. It is the best. The pie is very rich - even Leland can't eat more than one piece and I'm pretty sure this is his favorite dessert.

1 cup crushed graham crackers
5 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp sugar
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks (whites not used)
1/2 cup key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together graham crackers, butter, and sugar to make pie crust, and press into the bottom of a 9" pie plate. Combine milk, egg yolks, and key lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then refrigerate.

Mom's Hot Fudge
This is THE best hot fudge recipe. Those who have tasted it know its power. Amazing over ice cream and with fresh fruit, or eaten with a spoon at two in the morning.

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1 can evaporated milk
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Melt chocolate chips and butter over medium heat. Add evaporated milk and sugar. Raise heat and boil for 9 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

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