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Since we didn’t really start at the beginning of October, these weeks don’t correspond to the actual weeks of the month.  Our second recipe was for Pumpkin Bread Pudding.

1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl.

Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.   

I used one Grand Central baguette – this made a bit over 5 cups.  Most of the cubes had crust on them, which made the pudding pleasantly chewy.  If you want a softer pudding, I say go for a softer loaf or one with more of those soft middle pieces.

Definitely serve it warm – I took the unbaked pudding over to my parents’ house and stuck it in the oven while we ate dinner.  It was delicious by itself, but you could make it even more decadent with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  I also thought some toasted pecans or raw sugar on top might be a nice touch.  Delicious, but definitely heavy.

Butternut squash risotto is tasty.  I strongly recommend it.  It requires attention, but it’s not tricky.

2 TB and a little more butter
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash cut into 1/2inch chunks
coarse salt and pepper
1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 quart chicken broth (heat in a saucepan on the back burner)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
1 TB chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish

1) In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt 1 TB butter over medium
heat. Add olive oil and shallot. Cook until shallot is soft and
translucent. Add squash;
season with salt and paper. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften.

2) Add rice, stir to coat. Add wine; cook until almost all liquid has
evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

3) Reduce heat to medium-low; add 1/2 cup hot broth to the mixture. Cook,
stirring until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add the remaining broth mixture,
1/2 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding more, 35 to
40 minutes total. You don’t have to stir constantly, but check to make
sure it isn’t getting sticky.
A frying pan with a nice thick bottom helps a lot with this.

4) When the rice is almost cooked, melt a little extra butter and cook
your chopped sage in it to release the flavor.

5) Stir in Parmesan, sage,remaining 1 TB butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt. Serve immediately.

Don’t forget to include some product placement.  Served with  chicken cooked with the rest of the white wine and some herbs.

Extra tasty when enjoyed with others and conveniently cooked on a night off work.  What really put this recipe over the edge flavor-wise was using homemade chicken broth – I had about 2 cups from a whole chicken I cooked in the crockpot, with none of the fat skimmed off.  I diluted it with a vegetable bouillon cube and water, but the chicken broth/fat really added a lot of flavor.

Bronwen’s version here.

I’m not sure what number this week would be, and the fish was actually purchased, cooked and consumed in October, so it’s all pretty much a lie at this point.  Bronwen and I made this together while I was visiting.

Masgouf Fish, recipe from Theresa:

  • 1 (3-4 pound) rockfish – whitefish of any kind – good made with snapper or sole (we used red snapper)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • parsley sprigs
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • ½ to 1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 to ¼ t. pepper
  • 2 T. lemon juice

Rub outside of fish with vegetable oil. Place in a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. Combine tomato, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, curry powder, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Spoon over fish. Bake in a moderate oven (350) for 30 to 40 minutes or until fish is browned and flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle lemon juice over fish just before serving. Garnish with additional parsley.
This is the recipe in the book. I prefer to sauté the onion till it’s a bit soft, then add the other stuff to it and sauté just a little before pouring over the fish. That was you can be assured of not have any crunchy onions.

So, following the age-old established order of things, I did the dishes while B put things together.

The fish was rinsed.

Curry powder was used.

The topping was cooked up.

It was spread over the fish.

It was baked, and eaten with rice and naan.  Tasty and pretty simple.  What, you say?  But I didn’t do any cooking?  Fine, it looked simple.

This week’s recipe was borrowed from nerd’s eye viewmango tilapia from one of her Fish Wednesdays.

The first step was a reconnaissance mission to the store.  Instead of usual walk to the store, I decided to drive to TJ’s – I was out of honey and I could make a detour to the people who have a cabinet of honey outside their garage.  Put the money through the slot, take a jar.  Then, of course, TJ’s didn’t have rice noodles or ginger or an acceptable piece of tilapia.  They had exceedingly cheap, frozen tilapia from China.  In my head I heard a little voice, much like I expect Pam’s to sound, telling me, “tilapia is a fine fish to eat – if it’s US farmed. (US and Canada farmed fishes are often okay, it’s the SE Asia farming that’s not so great.)”  Oh, right, she did say that.  I just have no idea what her voice sounds like.  So I set down the $4/lb fish, make a quick detour next door for ginger, came home to unpack my loot, and headed to New Seasons.  As usual.

There I found a “good” farmed fillet from Ecuador and the all-important rice noodles.  I sautee my red onion, grated in some ginger, tossed in cubed mango, and sprinkled some chili oil.

Once this had cooked down a bit, I threw in the tilapia and sort of buried it under the mango and onion.  Once it started the flake, I tossed the lot over some rice noodles.

Despite the warning on the bottle, the chili oil wasn’t all that hot (and I’m a girl who buys mild salsa).  I started out cautiously, adding more and more until finally I had my plate in front of me and began dousing the finished product.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t add much ginger, but I couldn’t taste much beyond the mango.  Still, it was tasty and unlike any other fish dish I’ve made.

And, since today is all about the overhead shots (apparently), here’s a gratuitous picture of my latest round of garden tomatoes.

Oh, and I really recommend that you finish off the meal with a chocolate covered coconut fruit bar, to complete the tropical theme.

Once again I’m a day late and a dollar short – although not so short on dollars that I couldn’t buy my fish and my bacon.

This week’s recipe was for Panfried Fish Sandwiches with Bacon Mayonnaise.  Just say that to yourself a few times, reverently.

Bronwen chose the recipe from The Improvisational Cook – which looks like something I ought to get my hands on.  Because lately I’m all about tweaking recipes.  This week I didn’t change much, though, and it was a thing of beauty as is.

First you cook your bacon, and perhaps nibble on it or save it for a BLT later.  Then you mix your warm bacon fat with some mayonnaise.  Which is a beautiful thing.  In the meantime, you can salt and pepper your fish and dredge it in flour.  The recipe recommended a meaty white fish such as striped or black bass, red snapper, or grouper, none of which were at the fish counter at NS.  So I went with a ling cod that was rated yellow on their scale, ie ‘good alternatives.’  I have no idea about ling vs other cods, but I figured since it was smothering it in fats and frying it, I didn’t need to worry about getting a fancy fish.

I put a few slices of leftover crusty potato bread under the broiler (on low) and then cooked the fish – in olive oil AND butter as recommended, plus I used the bacon pan so there was a bit of bacon fat left in there for good measure.  Medium high, a minute and a half per side and it looked perfectly done.  I forgot to pat it dry, so the bread got a trifle soggy, but that might have happened anyway.  When it was toasted, I sprinkled a little olive oil on the bread and rubbed it with a cut-open clove of garlic.  Do not skip this step, especially if you like garlic.  Not only does it smell heavenly when you’re rubbing the warm bread, but it really adds a lot of taste.  Then spread the bread with your bacon mayo (I used TJ’s mayo, but I bet homemade would be even more fabulous).  Top with the fish, plenty of lettuce, and a garden tomato is nice, too, if you have one.

I’m looking forward to a repeat for tomorrow’s lunch.  I bought 1/2 lb of fish and sliced it in half horizontally, perfect for two sandwiches.  I had this one for lunch while reading the New Yorker’s food issue.

This month is fish!  All the time!  Every Monday!  Or Tuesday, as the case may be, as we enter our third month of Food Mondays.

Frankly, I’m too lazy to type the recipe out.  I got it from a library cookbook called Pure Flavor.  Basically, you melt some butter.  Mash in some capers, lemon zest, herbs, salt and pepper, and garlic powder.  Brush this on one side of a piece of salmon (or, you know, multiple pieces for multiple people).  Set it in the fridge for about 5 minutes.

Cook in a skillet on medium high, about 3 minutes, butter-side down.  Brush more of the rub on the top side, then flip and cook another minute.  Enjoy.

I was a little worried because the first side got a little blackened, but the inside was perfectly cooked and the outside nicely crisp.  I threw some green beans in the pan after the salmon came out and the leftover rub flavored them nicely.  Ate with pasta tossed with parsley and butter.

This week’s recipe was for onigiri, Japanese rice balls. I’d never attempted anything like this before, and I couldn’t really manage to take pictures during the process (except the part where the rice was cooking, but that’s just boring). However, follow that little link and there are step by step photos and instructions. They were really fairly simple – the only time consuming part was all that rice washing and then waiting for the rice to cook. I used the rice instructions found here, following the directions for sushi rice except for the special broth part – I just used water. But I did go all out and actually bought the proper kind of rice, and rinsed like I was supposed to, and bought nori and a rice vinegar that was already sushi flavored. Or whatever.

The rice instructions involve a lot of one minute at this temp, 4 minutes at that temp, cool with a cloth over the pot kind of things, and mine ended up sticking to the bottom a tiny bit, and there were little chunks that were perhaps overcooked. The hazards of an electric stove. I even used the suggestion about drying with a hair dryer to make the rice glossy, or somesuch. At any rate, just a bit of drying and fluffing and tossing with the vinegar and it was plenty cool to handle.

I used my smallest rounded teacup, which holds about 1 cup, so I think my rice balls were a bit larger than suggested. I had cut the rice recipe in half, thinking that it would make mondo quantities of rice, as always seems to happen, but when your final product is 90% rice, the full batch of rice wouldn’t make all that much. I mixed half a can of albacore tuna with some soy sauce marinade to flavor it, and used that to stuff into the middles. I bought a package of little ‘spicy nori strips’ that came in a package reminiscent of fruit leather. Perfect size to, um, stick onto the side of a rice ball.

I ended up with 3 generous sized onigiri. I liked the ‘leave them wrapped in plastic if you’re going on a picnic’ suggestion so much that I’m taking 2 to the lake tomorrow. The other I devoured for lunch with the flavored tuna that wouldn’t fit in. It fell apart a bit halfway through so I bandaged it with a second strip of nori. It would be fun to try more fillings, but only if you were making a ton, because you’d only use up a speck of each type of filling.

Last week, when I chose Chicken Soup with Rice as the next Monday recipe, I was a little trepidatious that it would turn out to be a blazing hot day on which I would loathe keeping the stove on for hours while the soup simmered.  Never fear!  I live in Oregon.  It poured all day.   Poured while I had to go buy a new tire.  Poured while I picked up rice and chicken and celery and carrots (and more figs).  Poured while I set my broth a simmering.

I loosely followed this recipe – the main alteration was cooking up a pound of chicken thighs instead of using a rotisserie chicken.   The broth simmered – mostly organic chicken broth plus a veggie bullion cube – the Rapunzel brand has a very nice herb/sea salt thing going on.  A handful of chopped parsely.  A rib of celery.  Part of a giant Walla Walla onion.

That simmered for about an hour, and in the meantime I chopped up another celery rib and 3 carrots and pulled apart the chicken.  I left all the fat on, because shouldn’t chicken soup have a nice portion of chicken fat?  Hence the thighs instead of breasts, also because they were cheaper.

Then it poured while I took a break and went to donate blood.  It was at the hospital, and let me tell you, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a hospital.  And never, if I remember correctly, as the patient.  Anyway, so I gave blood and ate my juice and cookies and drove home.  In the rain – did I mention it was still pouring?

Then into the pot went the chicken, veggies, and half a cup of rice.  Since I was starting from cold again, it took 45 minutes for the rice to cook through.

Then I enjoyed.

Delicious.  Last time I made chicken soup, I used my mom’s homemade broth, which was to die for.  Next time, I’m stealing her broth again.  Still, this was tasty and reasonably hearty with the big chunks of chicken.  Today I’ll have to go get a good loaf of bread to eat with the leftovers.

This week’s recipe was red beans and rice, as laid out by Bronwen:

FOR RICE
medium grain inexpensive rice
saffron (not too expensive at trader joe’s)
chicken bullion cube
olive oil
1 onion
corn (either frozen or cut off the cob if you can get it)

AS TOPPINGS
canned black beans (preferably goya or another cheap brand that has plenty of salt)
medium/hot salsa
avocado
sour cream
cheddar or monterey jack cheese

DIRECTIONS

Begin by sauteeing the sliced/chopped onion in the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Precise proportions aren’t important. When the onion is tender and translucent, add the rice, saffron, and bullion cube and stir it around a bit, breaking up the bullion cube until the rice starts to crackle a bit. Add the water and cook as directed on rice package. Stir occasionally to be sure that the bullion and saffron flavor is evenly distributed. When the rice is almost done cooking, stir in the corn and steam briefly.

Meanwhile, heat up the beans. You can drain them if you wish, but it’s good if you leave them a bit juicy/soupy. Also, grate cheese, and slice avocado.

Scoop some rice into a bowl. Put beans on top on one side, avocados, salsa, sour cream on the other. Sprinkle grated cheese all over.  Eat, crafting your bites as you go.

I had a cob leftover from last week’s farmer’s market visit, so I set that to boil while I began the rice.

I used some remarkably pungent tiny red onions – I think a few tears dropped in as I sauteed them.  Just a little extra salt.

Once tender, I added about 3/4 cup of Bob’s short grain white rice (sorry, recipe, the options at my house or short or long.  We do not know this medium of which you speak.  At any rate, the rice was well suited to the recipe.)

It pretty much sizzled right from the beginning, so I just gave it a couple minutes before I added chicken broth.  Bronwen recommended the bouillon for saltiness, but using the broth I didn’t find it lacking in saltiness.  I also didn’t buy any saffron, not wanting to drive to Trader Joe’s just to pick it up.  And the saffron at New Season’s cost $854/ounce.  I’m not making that up.  It came in an $8 container.  I didn’t actually see any saffron in the container; perhaps it was just filled with saffron dust?  At any rate, my splurge on figs was making me feel cheap.

Meanwhile, the rice is simmering with 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and a good dash of cajun seasoning.

Let’s take a look at our bean options.

Don’t let the brand names mislead you, the only difference between these beans is the size of the can.  Both companies are divisions of The Hain Celestial Group.  Huh?  I went with the smaller can, heating them in a pan with a dash of salt (I felt like I’d ignored all of the salt directives in the recipe, so I threw in some sea salt to make it up.)

I sliced avocado, cut a tiny garden tomato into chunks, and grated some Tillamook cheddar.  As the rice was almost done, I sliced the corn off the cob and threw it in.  Then I used way too many dishes making it look pretty.

Then I made it messy and, as Bronwen said, crafted my bites as I went.  Hearty, tasty, filling.  Should make good leftovers, which is one of my main food criteria these days.

August has been decreed Rice Month.  While the thought of rice doesn’t cause me to swoon in quite the way of pastry, I’m still a fan.  Plus, hey, it’s cheap.  This week’s recipe, Lentil and Rice Salad, cost me a total expenditure (as I had most items in my pantry, we’re not counting previous costs) of $1.29 for a bunch of parsley, of which I used a small fraction.  Let’s not talk about the cost of making pesto, shall we?

Yesterday was a bit of a food extravaganza, in more ways than just cooking and eating.  Let’s start with the cooking and eating part.

I have to confess that I’ve become an inveterate alterer of recipes.  I used to make fun of those commenters on recipes, and while I haven’t gone so far as to actually comment with my alterations, this blog is coming dangerously close.

As the recipe didn’t mention a particular kind of lentils, I decided this would be a good opportunity to try those cute red lentils I bought long ago and never used.  So, while the rice cooked, the lentils simmered until soft.  They got a bit mushy, those little red guys, and turned exactly the color of my wall.  But once drained, cooled, and tossed with the rice, the mushiness wasn’t a problem.

I couldn’t find scallions at the store, but I knew I had a leftover red onion that was languishing, so I chopped that up finely and used it instead.  I accidentally bought Italian rather than flat-leaf parsley, as I didn’t notice until I got home that the recipe specified.

I also seem to have mislaid the dill I thought I had, either that or it got lost in the wilted vegetables in the crisper.  Hey, that’s what the compost bin is for.  So I added a bit of dried (my dill has long since gone to flower, or seed, or whatever it is dill does).

While the rice and lentils were doing their cooking and cooling things, I made pesto.  This multitasking made the whole process feel much more complicated than it really was.  The recipe is fairly simple and adaptable and really only takes as long as it takes rice to cook and cool.  But my counters were covered in pots and heaps of things to take to the compost and piles of basil leaves and shreds of parmesan and the cutting board was festooned with parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon pips.

I took Di’s advice (it was her pesto recipe, after all) and am trying freezing the pesto in an ice cube tray.  I should take those out today and throw them in a freezer bag.  Perfect for individual thawing.

Then I threw the salad together and took the pie crust out of the fridge to soften a bit.  (Oh, did I mention I made pie, too?  I made the crust on Sunday, to save time Monday, and so it was quite refrigerated by the time I was ready.)  The final change I made with the salad was to leave out the cherry tomatoes.  Several reasons: 1) I completely forgot – I was going to grab a couple from the garden.  2) I didn’t really feel like eating cherry tomatoes – I’m not the hugest fan.  Which you wouldn’t know based on the number of cherry tomatoes plants in the garden.  3) There weren’t really enough ripe for a whole salad, and it feels unethical to buy tomatoes when I have SO MANY plants.

Speaking of, did I ever show you my first tomato?

I literally gasped with delight the day I found him.  He deigned to be eaten over the course of several delicious grilled cheese and fresh tomato sandwiches.

Now, finally, here’s the salad.

Then, it was on to the pie.  A comedy of errors in which I remembered why pie crusts strike fear into my heart.  None of the July Pastries that we did were two-crusters, so I thought I’d conquered pies.  First, the pie crust always seems to be a hair too small, no matter how much elbow grease I put into rolling (I must admit, I love the rolling part).  Then, I made the mistake of pre-baking the bottom crust so it would crisp up a bit and not sog under all the blueberries.  This was good in that it worked (no sog) but bad in that it made it difficult to do the whole tuck and pinch routine with the top crust.  So I just shoved the edges down as best as I could without burning my fingers.

Then, of course, it was nearly impossible to get foil to stay around the edges.  There were several tense minutes there.  But the end result was mighty tasty, so I suppose it was all worth it.  I used the Betty Crocker recipe, with butter in the crust instead of shortening, and with nutmeg added to the filling.  It’s calling my name.  Pie for breakfast sounds very Farmer Boy, doesn’t it?

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