Sunday, September 27, 2015

The plum cake to rule them all

Ladies and gentlemen, I have returned! I know you've all been waiting desperately. The time without my presence must have been excruciating. Do you weep at my return?

I have perfected the arts of hyperbole and sarcasm... mostly for the purpose of my own entertainment. I have also made a plum cake. 

A couple of weeks months ago, before my computer decided to poop out on me, I picked too many plums. My roommate had emailed me because the community plum tree was overloading, and I jumped at the opportunity to appear helpful while acquiring free food. Since individual plums don't really fit into my everything-in-tupperware lifestyle, I decided to make dessert. I'm not much of a baker, but since every other food blogger on the internet is, I was sure that if I googled "plum cake", I would find directions to something edible.

Turns out there exists a the plum cake... a seminal plum cake. A plum cake whose recipe has been printed at least a hundred times. The one plum cake. What is happening with these people?




As it turns out, the hype was well deserved. I've since made it six or seven times- most recently for my community potluck two weeks ago. I actually ended up missing the potluck, because a visiting friend and I went hiking and got stuck behind a moose. Hey there Sunray! Sometimes Utah is exactly what you expect it to be.

I've been struggling to write about why the cake's so good, mostly because half the internet and a lot of professional food writers have said it better. What I will add is that using slightly sour plums to start with makes a difference- the plums in the above photo baked down into pockets of sweetsour perfection. When I made it two weeks ago we used sweeter plums and the results were slightly sub-par. Not that it mattered- between the two of us it was gone in less than three days. Lessons learned: use sour plums, and share with friends.



The one true plum cake 
stolen quite directly from the New York Times, where they call it as 'Marian Burros' plum torte'

1 cup granulated  sugar (you can use less if you'd like- 3/4 cup works fine)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
~12 plums, pitted and cut in half
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. With an electric mixer- or a whisk if you're me- cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the flour mixture, whisking as you go.

If you have a 9-inch springform pan, use it! Otherwise butter whatever dish you're going to be playing with, then pour in the batter. It will be quite thick- I always need to use a rubber spatula to even out the surface. Arrange the plums, skin side up. Use as many as will possibly fit! You don't want to see batter when you look down at the surface. Sprinkle to top with lemon juice and cinnamon.

Bake until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean, somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Let cool, then devour.






Thursday, July 9, 2015

Asparagus pickles

Last Friday, I had an unexpected day off, and I celebrated by making asparagus pickles and freezer-berry pie. Also some strawberry rhubarb syrup, preserved lemons, and something with eggplant and roasted red peppers that wasn't nearly as good as I'd expected it would be. All in all, I may have gone a bit overboard... but Sunday was my birthday, and I ate cold pie, homemade soda and a full jar of asparagus for lunch.

Hello, 25.


I made my first jar of asparagus pickles in college, courtesy of my good friend Dan. I may have been raised ten minutes from Berkeley (and currently live in a hippie commune) but I'm just an imposter. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I'm a hippie-flavored WASP. Dan, on the other hand... Dan's the genuine article. When we lived together, he would come down to breakfast in the most wonderfully absurd striped pajamas, and all of his mugs were the heavy, clay variety. He also made granola, and yogurt, and our junior year he took me to a fermentation workshop put on by people who actually grew things in the ground.

That's where I met the pickles.

To be honest, I only agreed to go because someone promised I'd get to make ginger beer (which turned out terribly). I was confused by the idea of pickling a non-cucumber, and even more confused by how fast I ate them once I opened the jar. I've since learned to make better ginger beer, but I'd never attempted the pickles.

More's the pity, because I've now made them twice in the last month. If you'll excuse me... I'm going to go eat another jar.

Asparagus Pickles
note: the quantities below are kind of relative

3 12oz mason jars
2lbs asparagus (about 2 bundles)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
~1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp kosher salt

Trim the ends off the asparagus, then cut the remaining stalk in half. Measure against your jars- you want the asparagus pieces to fit into the jar with a little headspace, and you want the jars tightly packed.

At this point, you should have a good idea how many jars you're going to need. Put 1/8-1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and a clove of garlic in each jar, and set aside.

In a sauce pot, bring the vinegar, water  and salt to a boil. Make sure the salt is dissolved, then keep hot while you cook the asparagus.

Boil more water! Working in batches if necessarily, blanch the asparagus pieces for three minutes, then drain and stuff into jars. Fill the jars with vinegar/water mix, cap and refrigerate.

Pickles are phenomenal after a week... but if you're impatient, they're edible in a couple days.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Overnight Oats (and my commenting request is still at large)

I was up at six this morning. No, it's not because I've suddenly become a morning person (note to universe: please make me a morning person). I'm just so out of whack that I slept most of Sunday and not at all last night. Six am was when I declared defeat. I know other people have control over their sleep cycles, but most of the time mine is a puppet master.

Also, it was too hot- inside and out- at 6am. Utah!

On the bright side, I already had breakfast made. These last two weeks, what with having to be far away from home at 8am (with my brain functioning, no less), oatmeal in mason jars has been my salvation. It's official... I have a mason jar problem. I can't help it- I can fill them with liquid, put them in my purse and not have them leak! Why haven't regular travel cups/tupperware figured this out yet?



[Answer: because regular travel cups are designed for easy access drinking, which eliminates the whole 'seal cap and then screw down' thing that makes mason jars work. I hate it when I'm smart enough to answer my own questions.]

Also I'm guessing that for most people, carrying several meals and coffee in a purse is not a high priority. Maybe I should get a lunchbox.

Back to the point- did you know you could make oatmeal overnight? Fancy oatmeal, the kind that usually takes ~40 minutes to cook?The last two Saturday nights, I've put a whole bunch of steel cut oats in a pot with water, left it overnight, and the next morning I had fully cooked oatmeal, just ready to be jarred up and topped. This is exactly my kind of food- planning+laziness = delicious. Even nutritious! It allows me to do the work when I'm feeling most productive (not morning) and reap the rewards when I'm running late and hungry (every morning). WIN. So good that last night, even though I don't have to be in class at 8am, I soaked some oats. This morning? I even ate them from a bowl.

And yes. I did put cocoa powder in my oatmeal. You're welcome.

Overnight oats
I'm pretty sure this was just common knowledge

Note: the ratios below are a good guideline, but I generally make bigger batches because I can eat almost two cups of oatmeal in one go.

For the oatmeal:
1Tbsp butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
pinch salt

This morning's toppings/mix-ins:
1 tsp cocoa powder
1.5 tsp maple syrup
couple spoonfuls of yogurt
toasted coconut
walnuts

In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, until the whole mess starts to smell toasty. Add the water and a good pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil. When you've hit boiling, take the pot off the heat and leave covered overnight.

The next morning, divide oats up among tupperware/mason jars/bowls and add deliciousness! I suggest nuts, fruit if you're fancy enough to have it, and yogurt. I know the last thing sounds weird, but I love how the sour tastes against the whole mess. Since it can't be heated, it's often a last minute addition.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New commenting setup (and a favor?)

Well good morning! I'm house-sitting for a friend, so I was woken up around six am by two hungry greyhounds. Two! Also there's currently a cat digging in my purse. On the bright side, I'll definitely be on time for class.

On a less adorable note, I'm trying to figure out a workable commenting system for this blog. As most of you know, I am absolutely horrendous with technology, so coding my own was clearly not an option. I added some weird, third-party commenting system the internet recommended and (here comes the favor!) I could use some help testing it. So! If you've got a minute, I'd love it if you tried to post something- what I'd like is for you to a) be able to comment b) without having to create a separate login but c) be required to input some sort of name/identifier so everyone doesn't just show up as 'anonymous'. Also, I may have accidentally erased all previous comments. I'm working on that one.

Feedback both requested and greatly appreciated :D

Love and radishes,
Becca


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Udon Pantry Soup

Since I still haven't finished my undergraduate degree, I'm currently taking a two-week intensive stable isotope course. (25 and still working on a bachelor's anyone? Just me? Ok then!). Starting Monday I've been in class at least 8 hours a day, and since campus isn't all that close to home, I've been leaving in the morning carrying two meals in my purse, and returning 13 hours later with my brain completely fried. Last night, in a stress-induced fit of bad decision making, I bought three packs of sour punch straws at a gas station on my way home and ate all of them while avoiding my dishes. This morning my teeth hurt, which is perhaps unsurprising. I hate getting older. Am I going to have to actually start flossing now? Adulthood sucks.

On Thursday, I took advantage of an unexpected afternoon break to go home and catch up on several hours of sign language homework and eating something that hadn't come out of my freezer stash. Unfortunately I haven't gone to the grocery store in a while, so my refrigerator contents consisted of a couple green onions, some seriously wilted beet greens and a carton of eggs. Enter: udon noodles.


Did you know you could buy udon noodles fresh? I found them individually wrapped in 6oz packages at the asian grocery near my old apartment. In Utah!! Take that, culturally diverse cities all my friends live in!

So yes, here is my recipe for white-girl pantry udon noodle soup. This came together in 20 minutes while I was doing some laundry, and it's still good a couple days later. I even used the turnip greens! And a good day to you.

Udon noodle soup with greens and eggs
adapted from thekitchn

12oz udon noodles
6 cups vegetable broth (I use better than bouillon veggie base!)
2 star anise
~1 inch of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed
a big handful of greens, roughly chopped (I used beet greens, but I'm sure kale, spinach or what have you would also work well)
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 eggs

Hard boil eggs however you choose- I bring a pot of water to a boil, add the eggs then turn off the heat, cover, and wait 12 minutes. Starting with cold broth, bring broth, anise, ginger and garlic to a simmer over low heat. When it's simmering, add the noodles and greens and cook for about five minutes, until noodles are warm all the way through and greens are wilted. Remove from heat and fish out garlic, ginger and anise. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar and green onions, and eat with hard boiled eggs.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tacos

I am in love with the colors of these tacos. I love them so much that I bought a red cabbage the other day expressly for this purpose... and I had a whole green one at home in the fridge. What am I going to do with a whole green cabbage? I didn't even know I liked cabbage until this recipe.



I'm also not normally that into sweet potatoes. They're too sweet. I'm a big fan of putting salt in my deserts, but I prefer not to put sweet things into my vegetables. I'm clearly a very interesting person.

Becca- why is all of this food in tupperware? My whole LIFE is tupperware. You think I have time for plates? 


Even beautiful all mixed together, hanging out on the sidewalk where I was eating dinner. Canvassing is terrible, but good food makes it better. Good food makes most things better.

The tacos are awesome. I've fed them to serious meat eaters with rave reviews. There's no cheese and I don't mind. I think they might even be healthy! They're good even if you run out of tortillas and end up dumping all the filling into a bowl. They're so good, in fact, that I've started making double batches... and it's just me eating tacos. Last time I did this, I consumed four pounds of sweet potatoes in a matter of days. That may not have been a responsible decision, but I don't care. Tacos!



This recipe is courtesy of joythebaker, who takes beautiful photos and knows what to do with bourbon. I've only done a little bit of editing... like only putting spicy things in one of the components. If I try and chili all of the parts, I get distracted and end up making fire tacos. She also uses real limes, because she's classy. I use bottled lime juice, because it's cheaper and won't go bad in my fridge. I think she'd probably forgive me.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Lime Cabbage Slaw
Adapted slightly from joythebaker

Corn tortillas
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs) peeled and cut into small pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red cabbage, shredded 
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeds removed, diced very finely
1/2 a large onion, diced and divided
~2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes if using. Spread on a sheet pan and bake until soft, about 40 minutes. A couple times during the baking process, take the pan out of the oven and toss the potatoes around so they cook evenly.

Meanwhile, toss the cabbage, serrano chile and lime juice together. Add ~1/3 of the onion. Since this onion is staying raw, I like to give it an extra dicing for good measure- I leave the other 2/3 in bigger pieces. Add salt to taste, and let it sit while the potatoes are cooking.

Heat some olive oil (1tsp-1Tbsp) in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, then stir in cumin and stir for juts about a minute. Add beans, turn heat down to low, and cook until heated through.

When all your components are ready, warm your tortillas in a pan over medium-low heat, or by tossing them in the oven for a couple minutes. Tortilla, potatoes, beans, cabbage. Enjoy and repeat!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In the summer of 2010, while doing some late-night organizing for a backpacking trip in Yosemite, my friend Kimi made a frittata. It was the first one I'd ever seen made. As I recall, it had artichoke hearts and spinach and corn, and since all of the pans in Kimi's house were cast iron, she let it cook slowly on the stove instead of putting it in the oven. The next day we ate it cold from a ziploc bag, sitting at the trailhead, and I remember all five of us being vaguely surprised at just how good it was. "I think it's the corn", Kimi said.

That spring I made my first fritatta in our recently remodeled dorm kitchen. It had zucchini, onions and corn, and my roommates and I ate it sitting on the floor of our common room. It's possible, even probable, that we were dignified enough to have plates, but I prefer to remember that we ate it straight from the pan. "I love that it doesn't have cheese", Nicole said, and Kirsten looked up. "This would be phenomenal with cheese." I smiled. "I think it's the corn."

These days I make a lot of frittatas, in an 8-inch cast iron skillet that I purchased expressly for this purpose. I like a high ratio of vegetables to eggs, and I find that at this size, one frittata will make me two good meals. Mostly I improvise, using whatever vegetables are hanging around my fridge, but I come back to this combination with some regularity, because it's delicious but also because it's comfortable. Sometimes I even add cheese.



Fritatta with zucchini, corn and goat cheese
Note: This is portioned for my one-person household. It could easily be doubled and done in a larger pan

1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 package frozen corn
3 eggs
2 oz goat cheese
olive oil
salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Heat some olive oil in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add zucchini and continue sauteing. When both the zucchini and onion are soft, turn up the heat to medium high for a couple minutes to give them some color. Transfer zucchini and onions to a bowl and return the pan to the stove.

Heat some more olive oil, then add corn. If you're like me and WAY too lazy to actually defrost the corn before using, it will take a little extra time for the corn to cook, and there will be some moisture from the defrosting. That's ok! Cook corn until thawed and a little browned.

Meanwhile, crack 3 eggs into a large bowl and whisk with a pinch of salt. When the corn is browned, dump all the vegetables into the eggs and stir to combine. Add the mixture back to the pan. Cook over low heat for a couple minutes, then blob the goat cheese on top. Put the whole pan in the oven, and bake until set.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beans and Greens (part 2!)

I've been eating out of tupperware a lot these days. Somehow, despite being currently a little under scheduled (I've gotten far too much sleep this week), I'm always busy during mealtimes. I eat in class, I eat in the hallway outside my lab, I eat standing on the sidewalk between houses while out canvassing. There are no fewer than four forks in my purse. Most of the time, planning and cooking decent meals a couple days in advance makes me feel like a successful adult. Yesterday, having carefully made and packed my lunch the prior evening, I pulled the tupperware out of the refrigerator and promptly abandoned it on the countertop.



I feel a little sacrilegious saying this, but you should ignore that other beans and greens thing I posted a couple weeks back. I was clearly drunk (I wasn't drunk). I'm so sorry Orangette lady... you are still my favorite, I promise! It's just that I've been eating these beans and greens nonstop for a couple weeks now, and it seemed unfair not to write about them. Also, my sister asked for the recipe.

(totally imaginary) friendship with the Orangette lady: canceled.

In my second sacreligious move today, this recipe started with me soaking (gasp!) and cooking giant white beans from scratch. And no, I'm not changing the title of my blog... it's just that I couldn't find canned giant white beans anywhere, and I really love them. They're so giant! I also like that they're technically limas, because as a child my mother refused to allow anything bearing that name into her kitchen. You're never to old for a little bean-based teenage rebellion.

So yes, I soaked my beans. Luckily, a week later I ended up finding canned- hiding in a corner behind a bunch of chickpeas. I am happy to report that the recipe works just fine with canned, although with a gun to my head I might admit that I prefer the home-soaked version. Please don't tell anyone.

One last note- I am not normally a mis-en-place kind of a girl. In this case, however, having all the ingredients set out and measured ahead of time is kind of necessary.


Pan-fried giant white beans with kale
Adapted (very slightly) from 101 Cookbooks by way of Food52

1 bunch kale (dinosaur is easiest, but I've used curly!)
~2 cups cooked large white beans
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1.5 Tbs lemon juice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
~2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon (highly optional)


1. Remove stems from the kale, then chop it finely (I like mine pretty much shredded). Wash, then leave to dry in a colander while you assemble other ingredients

2. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet. Add the beans, in a single layer, then leave them alone- you want them to brown, or at least get golden and a little crispy. When one side has cooked (somewhere around 5 minutes, in my experience), use the fattest spatula you have to flip them over and crips the other side. At this point, add additional olive oil if necessary.

3. When both sides of the beans are cooked, add the kale and salt to the pan and toss gently. The original recipe suggests cooking the kale less than a minute, but I've found I like mine a little softer, so I turn the heat down and let the kale cook a while, until it starts visibly slumping.

4. When the kale is cooked as you like it, toss in the walnuts and garlic, wait 10 seconds, then stir in the nutmeg. Wait another 10 seconds then stir in lemon juice (and zest, if you've got it!). Take the pan off the heat and serve, with parmesan on top.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Warm Green Beans and Potatoes with Sliced Eggs and Grilled Onions

I still haven't eaten those sardines... they're sitting on my shelf, judging me. I keep buying Triscuits and eating all of them before I remember that I was supposed to eat them with sardines. I'd like to pretend that it's just coincidence, but the truth is I haven't eaten a sardine since my first foray into blogging, and I'm afraid I won't be able to do it. Triscuits on the couch are much less complicated. Triscuits are never a challenge.

Speaking of challenges, I've been struggling to write here recently, and I'm not sure why. Maybe moving took it out of me. Maybe it's because I've (finally) started telling people about this blog, and I'm all sorts of nervous. Maybe it's because I'm taking my food pictures with an iphone, and in this age of instagramed everything I'm a little embarrassed about the quality of my photography.

On the other hand, it makes me irrationally happy that blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize instagram as a word... although it might just be snarky competition on behalf of the corporate folks. I wonder if it recognizes WordPress? What about Tumblr? Hmm. Yes on both counts.


Anyways, I like this photo. It was definitely still taken with my iphone (hey there, grainy quality!), but I managed to take the thing before my kitchen got dark. More importantly, the eggs are beautiful. One of the best things about my new hippie-commune home- one of the best things so far about living in Utah, honestly- is that the girls next door raise chickens, and sell the eggs to the community. I am now living in perfect, fresh egg heaven. The orange color of those yolks is everything.

The salad above was made for a community potluck (sensing a theme?) but it's a recipe I've had forever. It actually came from the same book as that cucumber soup I wrote about so long ago- the first cookbook I ever owned. I've since discovered via google that it was called "Fresh Food Fast", a stupid title if I ever heard one, but in this case it's accurate. I call it dinner in a bowl, and the hippies ate all of it. 

Warm Green Beans and Potatoes with Sliced Eggs and Grilled Onions
Adapted slightly from Fresh Food Fast

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges 
2 lbs small new potatoes (or other yellow potatoes) cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb green beans, trimmed
4 large eggs
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a large heavy skillet (cast iron works great) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until deeply browned all over, stirring occasionally. It's ok if they get a little charred.

In whatever bowl you intend to use for serving, whisk together the vinegar mustard thyme and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cooked onions and toss to coat.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes eggs and green beans. If you have a steamer insert, steam the potatoes- I don't, so I covered the potatoes with about an inch of water, brought the whole thing to a boil, then let it simmer for ~20 minutes. Yours might take more or less time, depending on how you cut your potatoes. Green beans get blanched- boil a big pot of water, then toss the green beans in for about three minutes. Hard boil eggs however you'd like- I prefer to bring a pot of water to a boil, add the eggs, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 12 minutes. 

The above reminds me of a math problem, actually- how do you cook all those things while minimizing pots of water? Any clever people in the audience want to solve it for me?

Slice the hard boiled eggs- I do mine just in half- then toss the whole salad together. Voila!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

One-trick pony

The summer after my freshman year in college I mailed a birthday cake... for real! California to Connecticut. The trick, I learned, was to bake it directly into glass tupperware and then ship the whole thing. Flat-rate boxes are key. I'm still a little proud of it.

I'm also still making that cake. Turns out if you go to college claiming you can cook, you get asked to make a lot of birthday cakes. I'm not much for baking on my best days, but even still... I hate cake. It's boring and full of sugar. Why doesn't anyone ever want a birthday salad? If birthday salads were a thing, I can confidently say I would have 20% more friends.

Where was I? Oh right. Making cake for the friends I actually have.


This week I decided to make a pacman cake, ostensibly for my friend's birthday but really because it was on my life list. I'd envisioned something like this, or this, and had ruined a whole batch of batter before I realized that I am not actually a wizard. Why would I insist on making pacman multi-layered? Why is one of my mixers broken? Why don't I have smaller cake pans?

This recipe deserves better. It may be the only cake I know, but it's absolutely earned its keep. I've made it for birthdays, going away parties, the first rehearsal of the semester... it's moist, rich and absolutely perfect. It will impress college freshman and chorus directors alike. It makes unbelievably good cupcakes. And sometimes, if you're patient, it will even become pacman.



Happy Sunday,
Becca

Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk and Coffee
Slightly adapted from a recipe by Janet Dalton

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use hershey's dark)
1 T baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup coffee
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Combine eggs and sugar, either with an electric mixer or by hand, until light colored. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and all liquids in a second. Incorporate the coffee mixture and dry ingredients into the egg mixture, alternating but starting and ending with dry. Pour into prepared pans* and bake until a pick comes out clean- about 20 minutes for cupcakes, longer for cakes.

*I find this recipe makes around 24 cupcakes, and that I consistently overfill the muffin cups. THIS BATTER WILL RISE A LOT


Monday, April 27, 2015


This is what Santa Barbara looked like when I arrived Saturday afternoon. The wind was blowing hard enough that I had to store my clothes under a rock, and if you got below the level of the beach you could see a thin layer of soft sand blowing across the top like a dust storm. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but the colder weather and the wind tinted the water nearly Northwestern. Despite the wind and the chill (and the strange looks I was catching from fully clothed strangers) I walked straight into the waves and dove in. Glorious. How can I live in Utah? Honestly, what am I doing here?


It continues to amaze me how tenuous my sense of stability is. Most days I'm fine- I waitress, I take classes, I see my Utah friends, who though few in number have become comfortable. I know I'm moving forward. I know I'm in the right place. 

That knowledge is, for me, more peace than I have ever had, but it's far from stable. A weekend away and I'm whirling again, scrambling to catch ahold of the pieces of my life and cram them back into a linear plan, one that leads somewhere I understand. I want to know, now, how I will look back on this period of my life. I want to know that I will be looking from a better place, from somewhere I feel fulfilled and happy and less lonely, and maybe  even  have enough money to spend a weekend at the beach just for me.

What surprised me more than anything was how much I enjoyed the hour or so we spent in Venice Beach en route. Somehow, without trying, I found myself drinking a green juice at a food truck with my glamorous younger sister and feeling happy about the whole thing. What happened to my inbred nor-cal prejudice? Am I opening my mind, or  just being worn down by Utah?

Because change can't come quickly enough, next week I'm moving into a hippie commune with a fellow whose given name is Lovejoy. When I got home from meeting my new roommate- who is at least 70 years old and has a meditation room- I decided to make myself some juice. Suddenly the ground is back, as is my somewhat stable life. Does anyone know what I'm doing here?



Green Juice of Confusion
Recipe inspired by LA's Juicebox food truck

Note: I am not yet enough of a hipster to own a juicer (although I'm very, VERY afraid that I will end up that way), and as you know I recently broke my blender. If you've got one... use it.


2 cucumbers (not the shrink wrapped kind- the tough skinned cheaper kind)
2 apples*
6 leaves basil + extra for garnish
3 Tablespoons lime juice
cheesecloth

*I don't think the variety matters much (mine were reddish and unknown), although green would be on theme.

Put everything into a food processor or blender. BLEND! I basically let my cuisinart run while I did some dishes, until there was a wet green slurry. Place a strainer above a bowl, and line the strainer with cheesecloth. Pour in the green mixture, then wait about a half hour. If you're impatient like me, you could put another bowl on top and then weight it down. If you're really like me, you could start squeezing aggressively at the cheesecloth and spurt cucumber everywhere. Fill a cup with ice, then juice, then garnish with basil. Drink with your sister in Los Angeles, or sitting on the front steps of a place you're just starting to call home.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Spiced Potato Wedges with Mayonnaise

Well, it's become beans, greens and procrastination Monday around here. The beans and greens turned out pretty well, but I feel I've really outdone myself on the procrastination. It's 6:55pm and my gross daily output is two pots of beans, one completely useless phone call with a school administrator, and a new record for refusing to put on my pants. I've also eaten at least half a batch of mayonnaise.

M*A*S*H should not be on Netflix.


Approximately two years and a couple false starts ago, this mayonnaise and potato situation was on the shortlist for my newly minted blog. The mayonnaise was the first thing which I ever loved my immersion blender for, and having tasted it I immediately started brainstorming ways to eat more. Ms. Wednesday, from whom I took my inspiration, suggested roast chicken, but the vegetarian in me settled with spicy potatoes.

That paragraph makes it sound like I ate my immersion blender. Grammar makes things much more interesting, don't you think?

These days, I make the potatoes as an excuse to eat garlic-and-anchovy spiked mayonnaise. I think the general idea came from Cesar's, a tapas restaurant my family used to eat at in Oakland: they made a saucy, spicy potato-wedge and aioli situation that we always ordered. Someday I'll get my hands on their cookbook (or, ahem, just borrow it from my mother) and find the real recipe, but for now the jenkety version works just fine.

Actually, until I decided to write about it, there wasn't a recipe- my process consisted of chopping some potatoes, dumping half the contents of my spice drawer over the top, and tossing the whole mess into a very hot oven before eating an unreasonable amount of mayonnaise. Just for you, oh nonexistant reader, I took measurements. If I were you, I would be impressed by my devotion... or my commitment to not writing my microbial ecology paper.

Spicy Potato Wedges and Mayonnaise
Mayo adapted from Andrea Reusing by way of the Wednesday Chef

Note: Despite my initial elation, I generally make the mayonnaise the low-tech way, with a whisk (probably because I've eaten my immersion blender). I therefore make my mayonnaise sitting- I hold the bowl between my legs, pour oil with my left hand and whisk with my right. If you have an immersion blender, feel free to use it- I've given instructions for both.

For the Mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 anchovy filet, chopped finely
salt
1/2 -1tsp lemon juice
1/3-1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs olive oil

For the Potatoes
4 very large russet potatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp chili powder, or more to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the potatoes into thin wedges; I usually accomplish this by first cutting them in half lengthwise, then cutting each half into five or six long wedges. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes first with the olive oil, then with the spices, thoroughly coating potatoes. Dump the potatoes onto a baking tray, then put in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are browned crisp at the edges. At least once during that time you should open the oven and toss the potatoes around, to ensure even browning.

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise!

If working by hand, put the egg yolk in a bowl and whisk for about a minute. Add the anchovy, garlic, salt and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Whisking continuously, drizzle or drip oil slowly (I recommend a glass measuring cup with a lip) until all the oil is mixed in or the mixture is emulsified to your liking.

If using an immersion blender: put the egg yolk in a wide-mouthed jar and blend for 30 seconds. Add garlic, anchovy, lemon and salt, then blend again. With the blender on, drizzle the oil in slowly until all the oil is mixed in or the mixture is emulsified to your liking.

To finish, dip potatoes in mayonnaise. Apologize to your arteries.









Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Greens, beans and irrational weather

Yesterday morning I left my house in flip flops and returned wishing I'd worn rain boots and a winter coat. Today there's almost a foot of new snow. In the transitional period, it went from 72 to 34 degrees in less than two hours... guys, Utah might be trolling me.

I have not been cooking much lately. First my dad came to visit and left me a bunch of fancy cheese, and then I caught a stomach bug and spent four days living on gatorade and saltines.  Now, however, it's lasted several weeks. I ate all the cheese, and I no longer have the flu... guess I'll have to find something else to blame. It's finals. My back hurts. I'm lazy? It's April.

Monday, I spent the morning navigating the awkward space between "I need caffeine to wake up" and "it's past the hour where I can have coffee without sleep consequences", and the afternoon trying to will myself to move the six feet from my couch to my desk. Sometimes Monday at noon is really Sunday morning... real life.

Monday evening I broke my blender while doing the dishes, which sent me scurrying back to my couch discouraged and wondering what I could do with seven frozen bananas. Maybe an olive sandwich will fix my problems? How difficult would it be to smuggle bubbly water from work if I made this syrup? Why does my back hurt? Why did I buy collard greens?

I bought the collard greens in last week's attempt to motivate myself, which involved purchasing a bunch of random vegetables in an attempt to force culinary activity. I'm not sure I've ever eaten a collard green before, and I've certainly never cooked them, so I don't know quite why I decided to bring them home. Maybe I subconsciously realized they were sturdy, and therefore unlikely to go the way of the green onions wilting in the back corners of my fridge. Maybe I was delirious with flu.

Either way, I had them and I cooked them, with instructions from the lovely lady over at Orangette. I honestly wasn't that excited reading the recipe- unknown greens and chickpeas? No weird exciting flavors? - but I had all the requisite ingredients, and I trust that Orangette lady reflexively.

I made some cornbread too. It was mostly butter, and kind of disappointing.



Perhaps unsurprisingly, I wasn't that excited eating the recipe either- at least not Monday night. My stomach was too full of crackers and coffee and english muffins to appreciate green things and beans, and eating from my dutch oven on a warm summer night felt all wrong and confusing... like wearing a Christmas sweater in June. Sometimes April is a summer night.

I should have known better though- when I came home the next day covered in sleet, the leftovers were perfect. Chewy, bitter, sour and beans. Maybe that's not everyone's cup of tea, but I couldn't have been happier. I ate my collard greens cold from the tupperware, sitting on my couch and listening to the rain. Today, looking out the snow, I wish I had more. Sometimes April is a winter morning. Sometimes you just need a reason to get moving.


Collard Greens with Chickpeas and Onions
Adapted slightly from Orangette

1 bunch collard greens
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion (or one small), diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt
2 tsp lemon juice

Remove the central ribs from the collard greens and toss them. With kale, I do this by folding the leaves in half lengthwise and then cutting the rib out in one move, but my collard green leaves were big enough that I had to cut them out the normal way. Rinse the greens well, drain, then cut into 1/4 inch ribbons. I do this by rolling them up and then chopping somewhat haphazardly, but stacking the leaves and then slicing would probably work better.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a dutch over or skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add chickpeas and collards, salt well, and fold everything together. I used a dutch oven so everything fit, but if you're using a frying pan you might need to add the collards in batches. Cook until everything starts to wilt down, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook gently, covered, until the greens are tender, occasionally stirring. This should take 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and taste for seasoning... I founded I wanted more lemon than recommended.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roasted curried cauliflower with farro and white beans

Some things about which I have lately been wondering:
         - why didn't I listen to my father and learn to drive a stick shift car when I was a teenager?
         - how did this wax get in my hair?
         - where is my other fuzzy slipper bootie?
         - how good is this cauliflower thing, really?


I didn't have a car out here this winter, so until recently if I wanted to go up to the mountains I had to find a ride. I have been lucky enough to find a ski buddy who not only drives but is just a bit better than I am- overall, it's worked out pretty well. By April we've got a system down: ski hard in the morning, cruise in the afternoon. He drives. I bring lunch.

Between the two of us, we have a stupid number of dietary restrictions- he's allergic to nuts and dairy, and I don't eat meat- so I've had to get a little creative. I had purchased the cauliflower to make this, which I first ate with a friend on a muggy summer night in Cambridge that has pleasantly stuck in my memory. For skier's lunch, I turned it into a grain salad (pantry to the rescue!) and it was so phenomenally good that I've made it almost every week since.

Or it's not, and I just have no creativity left. Could somebody make this and tell me if I'm nuts?

A couple notes: I had exactly one cup of farro left in my house when I tried this first, so there's one cup of farro in the recipe. I love the high cauliflower/grain ratio, but if you'd like you could use more farro. Additionally, you'll see I did something a little tricky with the vinegar- I love being able to taste it in the salad, but roasting a cauliflower with a half cup of liquid results in soggy cauliflower.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Farro and White Beans
adapted wildly from Epicurious

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 onion
1 can cannellini or other white beans
1 cup farro (dry)
4 green onions, white and green parts chopped finely

1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp corriander
1 Tbs curry powder
1 Tbs paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, divided

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the onion in half, then lengthwise into wedges. Pull apart the onion wedges, then put them and the cauliflower in a large roasting pan. It has to be something with sides- a glass baking dish works well here. 

Combine all spices in a small bowl; whisk in two tablespoons (half) the red wine vinegar and all the olive oil. What you end up with is more of slurry than a dressing, but that's ok. Add it to the pan with the cauliflower and onion and toss well. Roast for an hour*, tossing every 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the farro. Bring farro and water to a boil (1 cup farro to 2.5 cups water), then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Farro should be cooked through but still chewy, and you may have some water left over- that's fine, just drain it out. Toss farro with white beans, scallions and remaining two tablespoons of red wine vinegar (I like to use the vinegar to rinse out the spice bowl personally). Once the cauliflower is done, toss everything together.

A note on baking time- I'm aware this is significantly longer than cauliflower usually takes, but I think it's worth it. The extra time allows the onions get all caramelized, and also solves the aforementioned sogginess problem. If your oven is hotter than mine, take care not to burn anything.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bribe cookies (Martha Stewart's Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies)

When I first moved to Utah, I made these cookies to bribe an acquaintance to keep teaching me guitar... except I ate all of them first, and then he started dating someone and decided he didn't want to hang out with me any more. True story.

When I first started my avalanche studies class, I made these cookies to bribe a classmate into driving me up to the mountains for class Fridays... except I dropped the container I was carrying them in, shattering glass and cookie crumbs all over the floor of the geology building. Glass cookies = bad bribe.

The lesson here is pretty clear: do not make cookies in an attempt to coerce people into being your friends. Make cookies for people who already like you, and who will still like you if you accidentally-on-purpose eat all of their cookies.


These cookies are from the Martha Stewart Cookie Book, which my mother bought me when I went to college. The page with the recipe has clearly been abused over the years- it's got coffee rings, tears and spills and it's definitely no longer attached to the binding. It's convenient actually, because I can just tuck the recipe inside the front cover. No more index searching when I want weird and wonderful cookies! First-world problem solved.

So the cookies. First you cream butter and ginger, then you mix in brown sugar and molasses. At this point, you will be convinced that nothing so liquid will ever be cookie dough. Then you mix in the flour and spices, at which point you will be convinced that there's no way all of it will possibly mix in without your arm falling off.

At some point in the process, it will occur to you that your cookie dough kind of looks like poop... you're gonna want to move past that one. Keep stirring instead.


In the instructions, Ms. Stewart (you think I'm going to call her Martha? She'd slap me!) has you form cookie-dough balls, then put the tray back into the refrigerator for 20 minutes before baking. Because I am the kind of person who shouldn't be allowed to bake, I skipped this step a bunch of times when making these cookies in college. Bad idea. They came out all crinkly and incorrect, instead of perfect. Idiot that I am, it took me a couple years to figure out my mistake... I just thought the cookies were rebelling. Don't be me. Learn faster. Follow the instructions.

That, by the way, is why I usually hate baking: too many instructions.

I, meanwhile, will continue to learn glacially, irregularly. These cookies were 100% baked as a bribe. Wish me luck- I'll need it.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I grated mine fresh, but I don't think it's necessary)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp hot water 
7 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips*

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and fresh ginger until lightened- about four minutes with an electric mixer, or forever and a half by hand. Mix in brown sugar, then molasses. At this point, the "dough" should be well combined and pretty wet.

In a ramekin or small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in boiling water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet half at a time: the order goes half of the flour, mixture, then the baking soda mixture, then other half of the flour. Mix in the chocolate chips (at this point I switched to a spatula) then turn the dough onto plastic wrap. Pat into ~1 inch thickness and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls in your palms, then roll each ball in granulated sugar. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through. 








Friday, February 20, 2015

The anti-cheeseburger

24 is unusual. Two of my best friends just got engaged, and I'm not at all panicked- just really happy, and excited for them. This may seem like a no-brainer, but marriage scares the crap out of me, and viscerally realizing that it's perfect for my friends is kind of a new thing. What can I say? I've got issues. Yesterday, while signing my life away to rent cross country skis, I found myself staring at my age the way I stare at the date for the first couple months of each new year- feeling a little out of sorts, and half convinced that it couldn't be truly real. My age is sneaking up on me... like bluegrass, and drinking green smoothies.

I know. I'm that girl.

Does it help to know that I started drinking these because I'd eaten a whole dominos pizza over the course of three hours while sitting on my couch? Does it help to know that I'm making these in my incredibly crappy, bought-at-the-mormon-second hand-shop blender, instead of something fancy? Does it help to know that they're devastatingly delicious?


Seriously, I'm willing to segment a grapefruit for that jar of green crap... that's love. Picture made possible by the photogenicness (photogenicity? photobeautificationality? awesomeness?) of Kurt Vonnegut.

In truth, it's everything I ever wanted green juices and smoothies to be... and everything they ever failed at while tasting like kale, being full of sugar, or making me feel like I should be doing zumba in a color coordinated spandex outfit. So when a friend texted me suggesting I solve all of my problems with cheeseburgers (good advice), I texted the above photo back. Time to own my age.


Ginger Grapefruit Green Smoothie
Adapted slightly from The Minimalist Baker

1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented*
1 banana, sliced and frozen**
1 apple, peeled and cored
1/2 cup almond milk (although I assume regular milk would work too)
~2 cups spinach
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Instructions: put things in blender, blend. 

*Do not attempt this with your Utah-cracked winter fingers. It will hurt.
**Frozen bananas are magic... they whip up, weird chemistry happens, and they thicken things like whoa. Unfrozen bananas would probably work, but would be less exciting, and require me to remember I had bananas before they went bad


Monday, January 26, 2015

Cheesy Pasta!

Some days you get canceled on by a friend who was supposed to take you skiing. Some days you get canceled on by two friends who were supposed to take you skiing... on those days it is understandable if you wait four hours to take off your ski pants. Couches and disappointment go well with ski pants. Some days living in Utah is the best, and some days it's the worst. On all the days, it's a good idea to make cheesy pasta.

Cheesy pasta is always the best.


It starts, coincidentally, with the pasta sauce I made the other day. While the sauce is cooking, you chop some basil and mozzarella, cook some penne, and listen to Tracy Chapman. Wine drinking is optional, but highly recommended.

After that, it's layer time! Pasta, sauce, cheese, basil. Pasta, sauce, cheese, basil. Pasta, sauce, cheese, basil... you get the point. Also, I never really get more than three or four layers. It's not precision work. Just put it all in a baking dish, then bake it, then eat it. JUST EAT IT I SAY!

Cheesy pasta inspires passion.

I started making this one in college, the summer after my junior year, and haven't stopped since. It was probably the thing I made most that year, when my six housemates were sharing responsibility for cooking on $200.00 a week. There were never any leftovers. There still aren't.


Cheesy Pasta
Adapted slightly from Orangette

1 batch pasta sauce
8 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed very tinily
2 oz basil, chopped
1.5 lbs penne pasta
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Cook penne according to package instructions. In the meantime, prepare a large baking dish (or several small freezable metal trays, if you're me and you live alone). When the pasta is drained, scoop approximately a quarter of it into the baking dish, then do the same with sauce and both cheeses and basil, scattering the mozzarella cubes and basil evenly around the pan. Repeat until you're out of ingredients :D

Note: I actually prefer to only put basil in the bottom couple layers (half in each of the first two layers) because it dries out if it's on top. That being said, I don't think it makes much of a difference.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

I started classes this week

So I'm going to talk about clothes. Which fashion mistake would you prefer to make?


sitting in an incredibly shiny business department building drinking coffee out of a mason jar

OR

showing up to a class about avalanches (populated almost entirely by white boys wearing plaid) in a pencil skirt and polka dots?


Because this week I made both. To the new semester!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Perfect Pasta Sauce

Yesterday I unstrung the lights from my Christmas tree. When I came home from work 10 hours later, I discovered I had several pine needles underneath my bra. I am not joking.

Today, in an attempt to restore some class to my life, I'm making pasta sauce. Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce, to be specific. This sauce is a phenomenal ego boost. It feels like something that came out of an Italian grandmother's kitchen, not off my crappy electric stove, and yet it's one of the easiest recipes I know. I don't even have words for how incredible it makes my apartment smell. 


 In addition to being aromatic and classy, it totally fits the bill for my life right now; it's cheap and delicious,  and I can make it while sitting on my couch writing this post... or more accurately, watching Parks and Recreation. Done and done.

Perfect Pasta Sauce
adapted (slightly) from Marcella Hazan

2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 stick (8Tbs) butter
2-3 large garlic cloves, garlic
1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes*
salt to taste

Dump the tomatoes into a large pot, then break apart using your hands. The picture above is my pot of tomatoes about halfway through that process If you're less childish/more hygienic than I, you can use some sort of utensil. Add the onion, butter, garlic, red pepper and a couple pinches of salt. Turn heat to medium, then bring to a simmer. Adjusting the heat to keep it simmering, cook for ~45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion halves** and eat.

*today, I may have used the pepper flake packets  that come when you order Dominos. Don't judge me.
** these taste COMPLETELY like tomatoes. It's accidental molecular gastronomy!

Resolution: failed

Do I win? Do I win the award for fastest resolution failing?

I made some mayonnaise, and some potato wedges to dip the mayonnaise in. I made some rice and beans and kale with anchovy dressing, which was weird but delicious, and took it skiing. I also got dropped from my choir for not being good enough, and worked an unexpected 12 hour shift. It's been an interesting week.

I'm also working on making my apartment look like I actually live here, starting with photos of my friends. I'm broke, so I'm doing this the jenkety way.

Step 1: buy a bunch of gold and black frames from the Mormon consignment shop
Step 2: hang them, decide that the gold ones look terrible
Step 3: spray paint everything black



I got before photos from one batch of frames, and after photos from the second. Additionally, I wish I'd thought of the spray painting thing before I bought all the frames, because I would have bought only wooden frames. It's tough to get metal to hold spray paint.

Step 4 is to hang everything back up. Wish me luck!





Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions

Happy New Year!


Today I purchased ski poles and a truly irresponsible amount of pasta. I'm currently making more soup. Last night I went swing dancing with a friend who has even more social anxiety than I do, and it was a pretty great way to start the new year. Now I'm sitting on my couch, absentmindedly watching Parks and Recreation for the 85th time while avoiding both my dishes AND my laundry.

My new years resolution, which I'm typing here to hold myself accountable, is to post every day on this now twice abandoned blog. Here I go, 2015!

Much love,
Becca