Friday, October 28, 2011

Soup's not dinner, Jerry. ~Kenny Bania

My husband and son would agree.  Not huge soup fans, particularly of the thinner ones.  And my husband really only enjoys them when the weather is cold.  Well, there are times when I could just LIVE on homemade soup and bread!  I didn't make bread tonight, but I did make a simple soup.

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Vichyssoise, and the cookbook.

Looks like I didn't catch a picture of the completed soup by itself, so we start from the ingredients.

I made this once before and my seven-year-old niece tried it.  She's so cute...I guess the word "vichyssoise" is a lot for a kid to wrap her head around, so she called it "Sweet Potato Squishy-Squash".  I will never, ever forget that!  

This is a pretty easy soup.  It called for leek but I didn't have one so I subbed an onion.

Things get cooked.

Things get blended.

Pretty yummy way to get your beta-carotene.  Also, this cookbook is nicely set up with two sets of quantities for the ingredients - for two servings or four usually.  This is nice for smaller households.  My sweet potato weighed in at 1 lb, enough for the four-serving portion.  But I only defrosted 2C of chicken stock, the two-serving amount.  I figured I could just add water if I needed to, but it turned out pretty nice the way I did it.  It was thicker, so hubby liked it.  I did use butter and chicken stock, but I think this could be made very nicely as a vegan/vegetarian soup with just a couple simple modifications.

Now, that really isn't quite enough for dinner, unless your appetite is off for some reason.  However, I didn't have any meat defrosted, so I had to resort to an old fall-back.

Pierogies and sauteed onions.
Ok, that may not look like much but we hardly said a word during dinner....just a lot of quiet happy-noises.

The pierogis are simple at store, boil a few minutes, drain, saute in a little butter - and you don't even have to saute them if you don't want to.  You know what they are, right?  They're like fat little raviolis but stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese.  How can you go wrong with that?  But I like a LOT of sauteed onions to go with them.

I love this cookbook - Marian Morash is so good about explaining all kinds of things about each major group of veggies.  She gives you gardening advice if you are so inclined to that.  She gives you a bunch of basic information about the item, basic ways to cook it, and some more complex recipes, too. I turn to this book for new ideas, and also for reassurance sometimes.  I think it's out of print (I heard they were going to reprint it at some point...not sure if it happened?)  Anyway, I've only seen it in a used bookstore once, whereupon I snatched it right up.  (I LOVE used bookstores for cookbooks!)

There go six medium onions...and I wish I had done more!

Here the onions are about done and the soup is waiting in the wings...ain't it purdy?

And there's the little dumpling darlings getting browned up a bit.

This recipe is vegetarian in the looser sense of the word, but it isn't vegan, since the pierogis had cheese in them.

This is a pretty easy put-it-together-quick sort of thing.  The pierogis could also be used as a side dish, but I never have.


Whatever dressing one gives to mushrooms, to whatever sauces our Apiciuses put them, they are not really good but to be sent back to the dungheap where they are born. ~Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

Boy, people sure are divided on the mushroom issue!  I don't know anyone who is neutral on them.  Same for cilantro and coconut.  Well, I love all of these things!

I just wanted to share a video link to a clip from this wonderful lady named Clara Cannucciari.  I believe she is 95 as of this writing and has written a book on Depression Era Cooking and done several very charming video segments to go with it.  I think maybe her grandson has helped her out with these projects.  I'm only going to link her Fried Mushroom video here - if you like her, you can certainly find many more of her videos on youtube.

Her book:  Clara's Kitchen

Her video:  Fried Mushrooms with Clara

I love this dear lady and I don't even know her.  Notice how she 'air cuts' - she doesn't use a cutting board, but rather cuts her veggies, etc. in the air.  In one of her videos she talked about how they couldn't afford a cutting board back then, so this is how she learned to do things.  Scary to me!

I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude. ~Julia Child

Well, I didn't intend to use two quotes from Julia back to back, but that's how it worked out today.

Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams.
Jacques Pepin - Jacques Pepin's Table

This was dinner tonight.  I pretty much followed the recipe, except that I didn't have the mushrooms that it calls for so I just skipped them.  I've made this dish a few times before and the mushrooms really are lovely in this.  However, I have usually made this with chicken breasts, as my husband really does not care for dark meat.  Today was my first time with legs - well, I actually used just thighs.  I ran into a little snag with them.  I'm used to sauteing chicken breasts, so I'm familiar with how hot to have the pan and how long to have them on each side.  This recipe called for browning the legs first, so I proceeded as usual.  He said to have them in the pan about 10 minutes, so 5 minutes per side, right?  But they didn't want to release from the pan  :-(  so I left them alone for a bit longer, but it didn't seem to be helping so I ended up kinda pulling them off.  Thoughts?

The ingredients and today's cookbook.

Here's the beginning.  (TIP: notice how I keep my parsley in a tall 4 C plastic cup with a bit of water?  I put this in the fridge with a loose plastic bag on top.  Cilantro gets the same treatment.  It stays nicer longer like this vs. just in a bag in the veggie drawer.)

Sorry this one's a bit blurry...I was holding the
camera way above my head to get this shot.
I was working with a Costco pack, so I had a little more chicken than the recipe called for.  I browned it up in two pans so it wouldn't be crowded.   

Here's the veggies waiting for their turn.  I could've used a bit more garlic and shallots.

Here's everything in the pan, ready for lidding up and braising.

Then I deglazed the stainless pan with just a little water and scraped up the bits.  I put all of that into the braising pan and viola! the stainless pan is most of the way cleaned.

Oh, almost forgot...if there's no one around to keep me company in the kitchen, I like to cook with music.  This was today's choice.  Seemed fitting for Jacques!

Isn't this little pyramid pot-holder thingy neat?  It's neoprene and small so it doesn't have anything to drag into the fire.  (I still remember once when I was little and my Mom used a dish towel to remove something from the oven and it caught fire.  All was ok - she put it into the sink and ran water over it, but that memory stays with me...)  I got a set of two at a Le Creuset store, but I don't think it's their product.

TIP: Bar Keeper's Friend is AWESOME stuff!  If you have that last little bit that won't come off, put on a little of this powder and a bit of water - scrubs up nice and clean!  They make it in liquid form, too, but I like the powder.  Some grocery stores have it...I've also seen it in Target.

For some reason, my sweet potatoes didn't get fully cooked in the braising pan in the time allotted.  So I plucked them out and put them in a covered microwavable dish and zapped 'em for just a couple of minutes with a little of the braising liquid.

So.  There it is.

This is a really nice dish.  I loved the legs, although my husband will be happier if I return to breast meat next time.  ;-)


As a girl I had zero interest in the stove. ~Julia Child - My Life in France

Just some of my cookbooks...Julia, Jacques, Alton, a few vegetarian ,
and several on the theme of  'cooking for one or two'.

Wow.  I went looking for a poignant quote with which to start off this blog and found it on the first page of the Introduction of My Life in France.  This was my situation exactly.  As a girl I really, really didn't care about the kitchen.  Well, I did learn how to make chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the bag and cakes from box mixes, but that was about it.  My teens, same thing.  Even my twenties and my first marriage and the birth of my son didn't really spark it much.  I managed to feed us, I guess.  But it certainly wasn't memorable or anything I really enjoyed.  I know I used a lot of processed foods back then....boxed macaroni and cheese, pizza rolls, TV dinners, grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell's tomato soup...that kind of thing.  Makes me cringe now thinking about it.

So on into my thirties....I married my second husband, who has some unique health issues which involve certain food intolerances.  Foods that would be quite healthy for most of us are things that he cannot handle.  I needed to invest some time in learning how to cook in such a way that he could eat as well as possible.  But a funny thing happened...the more I read, the more interested I got.  I started collecting cookbooks.  Somewhere in here we got cable and I started watching Food Network and I fell in love with the likes of  Alton Brown, from whom I learned quite a bit.  But then I went back to college for several semesters to complete a second concentration in my major and cooking was kinda back-burnered - so to speak.  When I finally completed my courses in late 2008 (YAY!), I bought myself a starter set of All Clad cookware as a graduation present.  And I started spending more time in the kitchen...and collecting and reading cookbooks, related books like on health and wellness, and so on.

I've learned a lot in the last few years, but I look forward to learning a lot more.  I've found that I enjoy my cooking more than most restaurant food.  I also ENJOY the planning, the grocery shopping, the cooking itself and even the cleaning (but sometimes circumstances get in the way of some of that).  I don't do new things every time I cook - sometimes I just need to do something with which I'm already familiar.  Since I dawdled away so much time in my youth (what a waste!), I don't have a broad experience base so I don't 'shoot from the hip' very least, not yet.  I'm hoping that comes with practice.  For now, I still need recipes, and I generally follow them as written or as suggested as an alternative.

I have collected a pretty comfortable batterie de cuisine...many choices have been guided by America's Test Kitchen research.  Though I do have certain gaps....madeleine and tart pans come to mind.  I have an odd fascination with kitchen pictures:  food, equipment, cookware, etc.  Somehow they just intrigue I'll likely post a variety of pictures of my kitchen from different views here.

So, like my famous friend who I like to call "Auntie Julia", my interest in food and cooking was stirred up in my thirties.  However, unlike Mrs. Child, I have no aspirations to write a cookbook.  I just want to be a good home cook.  Hopefully this blog will help me with that.  I will not be 'cooking through' any cookbook.  That would never work for us with the peculiarities in food intolerances, etc.  Besides, I have SO many cookbooks, I could not ignore the majority in order to focus on one for an extended period of time.  I love them all!  (What you see above in only one of several bookshelves of cookbooks in my house.)  I will try to work from all of them, as the mood strikes.  I like to challenge myself on days when I have more time (like Saturdays), but on weeknights, I do need to be quick and efficient about just getting decent food on the table.  I strive for healthy cooking, but I have never followed any 'diet' in my life.  I did Weight Watchers for a couple of months, but I was eating what I would call normal food.  I have never omitted or reduced carbs, or proteins, or eaten certain foods in certain combinations.  I try to get a good balance, but there's always room for improvement.  I will also be posting on how to do some really basic things...things that are so basic that some cookbooks don't even really address them since they think you already know them.  I also want to give The Daring Kitchen a try in the near future.  And I DO like occasional sweets - cookies and cakes - yummmm....

The world of blogging is still pretty new to me.  I've only been reading certain blogs for several months now.  Some of the people who blog have been pretty inspirational to me.  I follow several listed in my profile page, but a couple of the stand-out ones for me are 'The Gourmet Project' by Teena Gerhardt Hedden and '17 and Baking' by Elissa Bernstein.