Monthly Archives: March 2011

Whiskey Sour/Vodka Sour

There’s a lot to be said for the Friday night cocktail party.  Dinner parties are fun too, of course, but in a more measured fashion, with everyone arriving more or less at once, and courses following one another in an orderly sequence.

When it’s just cocktails, the evening has a different energy.  People stay on their feet.  They drift toward the appetizers and away again, tiny plate in one hand and drink in the other.  Melodious ripples of laughter are punctuated by the samba rhythm of the cocktail shaker and the high notes of clinking glasses.  A stream of new arrivals liven things up throughout the evening, and conversational groups shift and reform in constant swirls and eddies.  The stresses of the work week are cast off, and the weekend officially arrives.

We have friends who host a monthly cocktail party, featuring a different cocktail each time.  Not only do they print a menu with the recipe, they will also serve up little bits of trivia about that night’s drink as they shake and pour.  It’s all very educational, I assure you.

Last Friday it was Whiskey Sours and Vodka Sours.  I can say with assurance that they are both good.  The whiskey version has that smoky bourbon bite, and the vodka version is pure and crisp.  Either one is a perfect way to slide into the weekend.

Whiskey Sour/Vodka Sour

  • 1 ½ oz bourbon or vodka
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ¾ oz simple syrup

Shake over ice and garnish with a  maraschino cherry

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Give Me an Hour

I had wrapped up all of my work and the mild air outside was calling me, so I left the office an hour early today.  I’ve noticed how easily I can waste an hour–online or watching TV, especially, without even realizing that the time has flown away–poof, gone, and never to return.

But give me a free hour, one that I hadn’t been expecting, and that one hour is suddenly a gift–rich with possibilities, like a micro-vacation.  An hour is enough time for a pedicure, or lunch at an outdoor café, or a bubble bath.

Today’s hour was spent simply, but was no less pleasurable for all that.  What did I do?

  • Browse the bookstore on the way home
  • Order takeout Singapore Noodles
  • Divide Singapore Noodles into half for today and half for tomorrow (also includes putting all of the meat into today’s portion due to tomorrow being a Friday in Lent)
  • Devour Singapore Noodles
  • Feed the cat a treat and remind him of how great he is
  • Make Potato Bread

You don’t need an entire hour, of course, to start potato bread in the bread machine.  If you already have mashed potatoes on hand, it is the work of a couple of minutes to load the ingredients, close the lid, and push start.  Even starting with a raw potato, it only takes ten or fifteen minutes to peel, boil, and mash.  And most of that is boiling time, which can be profitably used to obsessively remove pork from noodles and/or praise your pets (see above).

So tell me: if you were given the gift of one extra hour, how would you spend it?

This recipe is adapted from The All-New Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook, by Tom Lacalamita.  The recipes are intended to work with any bread machine.  The advantage to making bread in the bread machine is that one can walk away.  I use my bread machine constantly, and I have found through experience that it works best to peek in after a couple of minutes to see whether adjustments are needed.  I usually find that I need to add a teaspoon or so of water to bring the dough to the proper consistency.  Then I do walk away for a few hours, and return when the golden, fragrant loaf is ready to slide out onto the cooling rack.

This is a light, chewy, classic white bread that is a pleasure to eat.  The addition of a little multigrain flour gives this potato bread more flavor, without sacrificing the airy texture of a traditional white bread.  Slather with preserves or salty butter and enjoy.

Potato Bread

(adapted from The All-New Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook)

  • ½ cup potato water (reserved from boiling potato, or use plain water)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • ½ cup multigrain flour mix
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

To prepare mashed potato: peel and cut a medium russet potato into chunks.  Place in a small saucepan and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook until soft.  Drain, reserving liquid.  Mash the potato until smooth.

All ingredients should be room temperature, with liquids at approximately 80 degrees F. Add ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine owner’s manual and use a basic white bread setting.

After removing the bread from the pan, rub a small amount of cold butter over the top and sides of the hot loaf as it cools on a wire rack.

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Sometimes I wonder

Sometimes I wonder about myself.

I can, without even trying, remember volumes of minutia learned before 1989, including but not limited to: insane amounts of Beatles trivia, large swaths of Shakespeare, the Pythagorean Theorem, how to conjugate a French or Spanish verb, and every single word to every song on Guns n Roses: Appetite for Destruction.

However.  There are many very relevant and much more recent items that I apparently cannot retain.  Here’s what happened last week:

Thursday night after work, I was cooking dinner.  Boiling water for pasta, caramelizing onions, roasting cauliflower in the oven.  I pulled the baking sheet of cauliflower out of the oven, turned each golden slice, sprinkled on a bit of sea salt, and returned it to the oven.  It was almost done.  Meanwhile I was talking on the phone.  “I am roasting the most perfect cauliflower,” I said.  “It smells wonderful.”

I assembled my pasta, sat down at the dining room table with a book, and started eating.

About twenty minutes later, I heard that little click the oven makes as the heat cycles.  “Whoops, forgot to turn off the oven,” I thought, got up, turned it off, and finished my dinner.

On Friday afternoon I opened the back door, and smelled something faint, but lingering.  “Why does it smell like cauliflower in here?  It couldn’t be those onions from last night, could it?”  And tra-la-la, I got ready and headed out to meet a friend for drinks.

Saturday morning at about 4:00 am, I woke up with a start and my brain informed me, a couple of days after the information would have been really useful:  “The cauliflower!  It’s still in the oven!

And it was.

I’d like to think I’m not alone here, in this vague, misty place I spend my days, multitasking my brain cells into mush.  So tell me: what is your worst kitchen oversight?

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish or no, it’s a festive day.  The green clothes, the shepherd’s pie, the beer, the pinching—St. Patrick’s Day is a bright spot of bacchanalia amidst the austerities of lent.

My book club celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a day early, but in fine style.  We didn’t sing Irish drinking songs while dancing on tables.  It pains me to admit this, but I may be getting too old to dance on tables anyway.  Instead, there was plenty of laughter, a hearty meal of corned beef and cabbage, and some lovely Irish Coffee.

I’d like to share an Irish Coffee with all of you—a drink so warming that you’ll feel it all the way to your toes.

And if, after a few of these, you begin speaking with an Irish brogue, or even start dancing on tables and belting out The Drunken Sailor or When Irish Eyes are Smiling, your secret is safe with me—I promise!

Sláinte!

Classic Irish Coffee

  • six oz. hot, fresh brewed coffee (decaf if you have to work in the morning!)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. Irish whiskey (Jameson’s is classic)
  • heavy cream

Whip cream, adding sugar if desired, then chill. Brew coffee.   Combine coffee with  whiskey and sugar and mix well.  Top with generous dollop of whipped cream.

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How to Make Homemade Kimchi

We were sitting in a café chatting over coffee, when we started hatching our plans for the kimchi project.  I had seen a recipe that looked manageable, and that was all the inspiration we needed.  From there it turned into a flurry of emails and comparing schedules and watching an online tutorial and shopping, to culminate last Saturday morning in Operation Kimchi.

So Victoria, a friend and fellow food blogger, arrived at my house on a typically soggy Seattle morning, with all of the baggage that a good visiting cook requires.  In addition to a variety of kimchi related groceries, she also had a food processor and her own knife and cutting board.

I am here to tell you that Kimchi is not particularly difficult to make, especially with two cooks working in tandem.

We cut up the cabbage, salted it, and weighed it down before leaving it to sit for three hours.  Then we moved on to make the kimchi paste, and the kitchen filled with the scent of garlic and the sharp tang of red pepper.  After nibbling on a bit of the red pepper flakes, we agreed that they had a peppery burn, but were not especially fiery.  The paste was a deep red, a vermillion so intense that it seemed to glow with its own light.

While the cabbage and kimchi paste rested in their respective bowls, we had plenty of time for a coffee break, and to chop the rest of the vegetables, and we had some lunch.   Then it was time to massage the daikon radish slices with a mixture of salt and sugar, as the clock continued to tick down the three hours that the cabbage needed to sit.

One of the real pleasures of this kimchi project was the hands-on nature of the project.  Slicing, tossing, massaging, it was the sort of cooking that gets your hands dirty, in the best possible way.  All five senses were stimulated by the colors, scents, taste, feel, the rapid shooshing sound of knives on cutting boards.

When the daikon was sufficiently softened, the cabbage was rinsed and drained.  Everything was combined in a big bowl, and with four hands in the bowl, it was all coated with the kimchi paste.

And that was it, really.  We had made a double batch, so we each finished up with a gallon Ziploc full of fresh kimchi.  After that it was just a matter of letting it ferment.

There may be better ways to spend three hours on a rainy Saturday, but right now I can’t think of many.

The finished kimchi was soft and crunchy at the same time; tangy and peppery, but not overwhelmingly spicy.  Just right to serve with a meal of stir-fried vegetables and rice.

Not everyone likes kimchi–I get that.  But if you are a kimchi fan, this recipe is for you.

Kimchi

(adapted from Fine Cooking)

For the kimchi paste

  • 1 cup gochu garu (coarse Korean red pepper flakes)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp  salt
  • 1 medium apple, unpeeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled
  • 6 to 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 oz. (about 1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

For the kimchi

  • 1 (2-lb.) napa cabbage, trimmed, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (about 15 cups)
  • handful of salt
  • 3/4 lb. daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 10-15 scallions, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 oz (about 2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Preparing the Kimchi Paste:

In a medium bowl, combine the gochu garu with 1/2 cup water. Add the sugar and salt and mix well. Set aside.

In a food processor, purée the apple, onion, anchovies, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the purée to the red pepper paste and mix thoroughly. Let the paste sit for a few hours before using. It will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Preparing the kimchi:

Put a third of the cabbage in an extra-large bowl. Sprinkle with a few teaspoons of salt. Top with another third of the cabbage and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and salt. Put a piece of waxed paper directly on the cabbage and then weigh down with a plate topped with something heavy.   Let the cabbage rest at room temperature for 3 hours.

Remove the weight, transfer the cabbage to a colander, rinse, and let drain. Clean the bowl. Take handfuls of the cabbage, squeeze out any excess liquid, and put the squeezed cabbage in the bowl; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the daikon, the remaining 2 tsp. salt, and the sugar. Let rest for 15 minutes.

With your hands, rub the daikon strips until they’re soft and pliable. Drain the daikon in a colander. Wipe out the bowl. Gather the daikon into a ball and squeeze out any liquid; return to the bowl.

Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger to the daikon and toss to distribute. Add the daikon mixture to the cabbage and toss again.

Open a gallon-size-zip-top bag; set aside. Wearing disposable plastic gloves, use your hands to mix 1 cup of the kimchi paste with the cabbage mixture. Be sure the cabbage mixture is thoroughly coated with the kimchi paste; season to taste with salt (about ½ tsp should be enough).

Put the cabbage in the plastic bag. Remove and discard the gloves. Seal the bag three-quarters of the way.

Press as much air out of the bag as possible, then seal the bag completely. Let the kimchi ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.

Transfer the kimchi and its liquid to a sterile wide-mouth 1.5-liter (or half-gallon) glass jar and refrigerate. (The kimchi should be stored in one jar, not divided into multiple jars.) It will be ready after 24 hours, though some may prefer the more fermented taste the kimchi acquires after 2 to 3 days. Kimchi will last in the refrigerator for at least 4 weeks.

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