I’ve been working on a couple of posts, but with all that has been going on in the U.S., it doesn’t feel right for me to post. I’m thinking about other things at the moment. I hope those of you in the U.S. have a restful, safe, and joyous holiday weekend. I’ll be back early next week.
Archives for November 2014
Consider this a public service announcement. You need this sauce in your life right now, and you need to have it on hand for next summer too. I made it last night as a dip/sauce to spruce up some pan-fried tofu but it would be perfect for grilled lamb or chicken, or even shrimp. It would also be great with chips. As a child my favorite thing was dipping plain chips into plain yogurt. What can I say, I have Azeri-Turkish-Persian roots…I like my yogurt.
I want this sauce on everything. And it is the easiest thing in the world. Trust me on this. Depending on where you live, the hardest thing about this recipe might be finding labneh, which is a strained, thick and rich, Middle Eastern yogurt. I used this brand because it’s what I can get at the nearest shop, Bill’s Imported Foods in Minneapolis. However, if you have a favorite brand of labneh that you like (please tell me about it), or if you make your own, then go ahead and use that. These proportions are to my taste, you could easily alter this recipe to your liking, though I do think parsley is the best herb to use here.
PARSLEY LABNEH SAUCE
1 1/2 cups labneh
1 small bunch of flat parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
olive oil for finishing (optional)
Put first 5 ingredients and half the nigella seeds into a food processor and pulse a few times to get a smooth consistency. Add the olive oil while you are pulsing the sauce. Check for seasoning, add more salt and/or lemon juice if necessary. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and top with remaining nigella seeds and some more olive oil, if desired. Keeps in the fridge for a few days.
Here is a Roger update: we decided to start him on crate training. So far, so good, but we are increasing the time very incrementally. I can’t wait for the day when we can leave him alone for a few hours without worrying. Fingers crossed!
The story of this quince jam begins with my frustration about not being able to find it in Minneapolis grocery stores. I called a local co-op and they told me they had it but it was from Mexico and $2.99 per pound. Another place (a fancier but conventional grocery store) said they were $2.99 each. A different co-op said they had a source and I could special order, but that they weren’t keeping quince in stock because they couldn’t sell them. Whole Foods didn’t have it (and if they had, it probably would have been imported too, or at least not locally grown). You know what irked me the most? The one with the quince imported from Mexico. That’s where I ended up getting them, but why on earth would an allegedly locally-focused co-op import quince when there are quince trees all over the Midwest? It makes no sense. I wanted to go and find a quince tree that I could pick but I’m a busy lady, so I bought the imported fruit.
The story actually begins much earlier, with my alleged dislike of quince jam that seems to have lasted for a great deal of my life. I would watch my family spoon it onto warm pieces of barbari bread smeared with butter. And I would declare that I didn’t like it. Part of this has to do with my preference for savory breakfasts, but it also had to do with the presence of Persian sour cherry jam (morabaye albaloo) at the table. When that’s around, don’t even think about trying to get me interested in quince. I can’t tell you how deeply I regret not eating my paternal grandmother’s homemade, rosy quince jam when I was in Iran in 2011. I made up for it on my most recent visit, though. Here is she is back in 2011, at the age of 92, putting out a plate of cooked rice for the sparrows that visit her yard every day.
Quince are widely loved in Iran, and throughout the Middle East and Asia, but they live a life of relative obscurity in North America. When I was growing up in the suburbs of Toronto in the 90s, we had a neighbor with a quince tree that was always heavy with unpicked fruit. I died of embarrassment when my parents first helped themselves to some quince and then later, wanting more, knocked on the door and asked about them. It turns out the owners of the tree had no idea the fruit was edible. They were shocked someone wanted it. I have since heard that many people have had either side of this experience. It’s a shame too because, as I said above, quince trees really do grow all over this continent, not just in the Midwest.
I finally got around to making this jam on the weekend, when Matt’s mom was here visiting us. It was the first of several weekend cooking projects, which I will share here over the next few posts. Since I’m fairly new to canning, I underestimated how many half-pint jars I would need to sterilize and ended up with some extra jam that needed to be used up. I decided to make simple butter cookies with a drop of jam. This means you get two recipes on this post today. Have you ever had quince jam? If not, I really recommend that you try it. The fruit turns the loveliest shade of pink when it is cooked. I love eating it on toasted bread with butter, or with Bulgarian feta and walnuts.
Makes roughly 7 to 9 half-pint (8 oz.) jars of jam
3 pounds quince, cored and diced (but not peeled)
4 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
4 cloves cardamom
If you have never canned before, check out these instructions. First, sterilize your jars, lids, and bands. I do this by washing them in hot, soapy water. Once you are done the preparation of the jam and are going to simmer it, do the next step: place the jars in a large canning pot, fill with water, and bring to just under a boil. Once they reach this stage, reduce the heat to keep them at just under a boil. This is so the jars stay hot when they are filled with hot jam. The lids and bands can be placed in a small saucepan and covered with water. Bring these to just under a boil and turn them off (do the lids and bands later when you are almost ready to start filling the jars).
Put the water in a large, heavy wide-bottomed pot, such as enameled cast iron, or if you have it, a copper jam pot! Bring the water to a boil, then add the quince and lemon juice. Reduce the heat and simmer until the quince is soft, at least 10 minutes but possibly up to 25 or 30. You need to decide what texture you like. I wanted a fairly chunky jam, so I used a potato masher to squash the fruit a bit at the end of this stage. Add the sugar and bring everything to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, lower the heat to medium. Cook uncovered until the jam turns a nice shade of pink, about 50 to 75 minutes. Make sure you are frequently stirring so that you don’t burn the jam. In the last few minutes of cooking, add the cardamom cloves and stir to mix them into the jam. Once the jam is ready, use a funnel to ladle the jam into your hot, sterilized jars that you have just removed from the canning pot. Leave about 1/4 inch room at the top of the jar. Use a clean cloth or paper towel dipped into hot water to wipe the rims of the jars. Seal with the hot lids and bands, place the jars carefully back into the canning pot. Bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, set a time for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the jars in the water for another 5 minutes. Then remove the jars carefully and leave them on a clean dish towel overnight. In the morning, check to see if the lids sealed by pressed down on the lid. If you hear a pop or feel any movement, they haven’t sealed properly. Put them in the fridge right away and eat within a couple of weeks. If there is no movement and the lid is totally flat and can’t be pressed down, your jam has sealed and can be stored or given away for gifts.
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup or more quince jam
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), cream together the butter, white sugar and egg yolks. Mix in the flour a little at a time until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Use your thumb to make a well in the center of each cookie. Fill the well with 1/2 teaspoon of the jam. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.
Do you want to know a very stressful way to spend a late Sunday afternoon? Obsessing over the archives of a favorite blog while listening, on headphones, to a three hour recording of your dog barking, crying, and whining. Roger, our cocker spaniel, has been having separation anxiety since we moved into this apartment (just over one year ago). Although it has improved here and there, we are still struggling with a training routine that will stick. Today we decided to throw caution to the wind and go out and see a movie, and dramatically increase Roger’s alone time (usually we leave him at “doggie” daycare). What can I say, he’s been living a pampered life and we have been suffering like fools. He made it about 14 minutes into the recording before he got cranky. And he managed to stay cranky and anxious for about 2 more hours, winding down only in the last 15 minutes before we got home. Stressful times. But he makes up for his anxious ways by being the best.
I’ve got training on the mind, not just because of Roger’s needs, but also because I have noticed I’m always trying to become some better version of myself, and always judging myself for it. Sundays seem especially ripe for this type of thinking. The first thing I do when I’m in this mind frame is make a list. Except lately, I’ve been neglecting my lists. Here are a number of lists/journals I’ve tried to keep and have not done:
-I keep a film journal, but I haven’t updated it since July! I don’t even remember everything I’ve seen during that time but I tried to fill in what I could remember today.
-I have been telling myself that I need to keep a cooking journal, both to record recipes I’ve created and my thoughts on other people’s recipes that I have tried. It would also be a good place to put down ideas, or techniques. Why haven’t I done this?
-I tried using the app Evernote on my phone to make lists for dissertation/teaching tasks, but I don’t like how it sends email notifications. I just want a push reminder from the app. Am I missing something? (Probably…)
-Every Sunday I make a list of the exercise I am going to do that week, hoping I will find time. But lately it seems that almost every weekday, I look at remaining work that needs to be done and I make the decision to not go and work out. However, I did go for a run on Friday and today. I really want to stick to my routine. I lost about 13 pounds earlier this year and although I am not quite yet at my goal, I’ve gotten a bit lazy. I haven’t gained anything back, but I’ve been stuck at the same place.
I’ll stop there because I think I’m starting to sound annoying. Tonight I made a list of our dinners for the upcoming week (I do manage to make this list every weekend), and a list of recipes I want to try from recent cookbook acquisitions. I made my work list for tomorrow, as well as a chore list for the week (Matt’s mom is visiting next weekend so it is deep cleaning time). Let’s see how I do this week…
What you see above are horrible photos of a pretty good dinner, courtesy of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. The two dishes are Chinese broccoli in ginger sauce and Shanghai noodles with dried shrimp and spring onion oil. I highly recommend the noodle dish and I have pasted the recipe below. Dunlop describes it as the Chinese equivalent of the Italian spaghetti all’aglio, olio e peperoncino and I think she’s right. It probably cost under $2 each for this meal and it was so satisfying. Also, although the dish calls for “Shanghai noodles,” she says you can use any noodle. I used some plain Japanese-style noodles I had. I will definitely be making this dish over and over again. The broccoli dish was perfectly fine, but perhaps a bit under seasoned. Next time I’d add salt, which is curiously absent from Dunlop’s recipe. One thing I love about this book is that a lot of the recipes serve 2 people. Have a great start to your week.
SHANGHAI NOODLES WITH DRIED SHRIMP AND SPRING ONION OIL
From Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice
2 tablespoons dried shrimp (available in Asian grocery stores)
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
7 oz (200g) dried noodles of your choice
4 spring onions
5 tsp light or tamari soy sauce
6 tbsp cooking oil (I used peanut)
You start by soaking the shrimp in a small bowl with the Shaoxing wine and enough hot water to just cover the shrimp. These need to soak for 30 minutes. During this time, you can prepare the other ingredients. First, “smack” the spring onions lightly with the side of a chef’s knife or cleaver to open up the white parts, and then cut the entire onion into 2 1/2 inch sections. Pour the soy sauce or tamari into your serving bowl. Add a little salt. Bring a pot of water to boil. Heat the oil in a wok (I used a regular skillet). Add the spring onions and stir fry until they turn a little golden, about 4 minutes. Here you need to start moving fast. Drain the shrimp and add them to the pan. Keep stir frying until the spring onions are a deeper gold but be careful not to burn them. This will take another 2 minutes, maximum. Then set this pan aside, off the heat. Boil the noodles, drain them well, and place them in the serving bowl. Mix with the existing soy sauce, then add the spring onions, shrimp, and oil. Mix very well and serve right away.
I can’t stop thinking about this interview with Ellen Burstyn. I tend to listen to podcasts when walking Roger and recently have also started to listen to them while cooking. But I’m glad I saved this particular one for two morning walks. She’s 81 years old and has so much self insight. I kept thinking, I have roughly 50 more years, if I am lucky, to learn how to be this graceful. Definitely listen to it.
In anticipation of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune cookbook, I recently started reading her memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter. I forgot I had it because it had fallen behind a stack of general-use cookbooks that I … generally don’t use. But I’m gripped by it. In fact, I even suggested to Matt that he watch a movie after dinner by himself, so that I could read my book. I haven’t had that feeling in quite some time. The new cookbook has been a bit controversial, but I am fairly certain I’ll like it. Here’s a recent interview with Hamilton.
I can’t stop cooking from Every Grain of Rice. The most recent recipe was the Gong Bao chicken with peanuts. Delicious. Ever since my interview with Jennifer Reese, I have been rewarding spells of productivity with forays into the Tipsy Baker archives. Doing that has had me thinking that I need to find a better way to work through some of my cookbooks. I have acquired 20+ cookbooks in the last couple of months because of especially good library benefit sales (everything priced at $2 or less) and fortuitous thrift store days. But I want to do justice to most of them – some are just for reading. So I think I will try to just stick with one cookbook for a few weeks, or perhaps even a month. Once I make a few more things from Every Grain of Rice, I think I will turn to Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. It can’t hurt to have some healthy meals before Matt and I head out to California for Thanksgiving.
I am going to see either Whiplash or Birdman tomorrow. I really need a good movie after a week of American Horror Story, which I’ve decided, after S02E01, is not for me. I need to make a side dish for arroz con pollo that is not black beans. Do you have any suggestions?