Tag Archives: Recipes

Wintry onion soup

For those chilly nights

For those chilly nights

Yesterday, snow arrived before dawn and traced the barren trees with wintry light, taunting us until we put on our running clothes, trekked out into the frigid air, and left only our footsteps behind.  We arrived home pink-cheeked and slightly hoarse from the chilly wind, giddy from snowball fights and snowmen and the feeling that everything had been scrubbed clean and restored to its proper order.

Dont make me cry

Don't make me cry

The first snowfall is always the best.  The trees have been barren just long enough to make fall seem distant, and the cold hasn’t had a chance to settle into one’s bones just yet. It’s the perfect excuse to do all those cliched things one does at the start of winter: drink hot chocolate with marshmallows, go sledding with all the neighborhood kids, and make hearty winter fare.

Stock brewing

Stock brewing

There’s something so soothing and cheerful about a warm, wintry soup, and the one I want to share with you today is a perfect dinner or post-run snack for warding off winter’s chill. And topped with golden melted muenster and slices of toasted sourdough bread, it feels almost luxurious.

Wintry onion soup

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Filed under cheese, comfort, onions, soup, vegetarian-friendly

Pie-eating hypocrite

The infamous breakfast slice

The infamous breakfast slice

I promised vegetables, healthy dishes, and quick meals, and have totally failed you. But my intentions were good, and yes, I will get there. We’ve been doing well on reducing the amount of meat we eat, despite long hours and not much time to cook.  And I have the makings of a gorgeous onion soup in the works, if the smell of the stock I’m cooking in the next room tells me anything.  For now, though, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m horrible at making pie crusts.

Pie in the making

Pie in the making

It is the one thing that I don’t usually think twice about buying, even if it does cost about 5 times as much as it would for me to make at home.  But as a wannabe food person, I still felt this lingering guilt. I mean, it should be easy as … pie. Right. Whoever came up with that phrase obviously didn’t have to actually make the stuff.

Good thing James seems to have the touch. He’s patient, and meticulous, and apparently has cooler hands that I do, because he made this crust, and it was gorgeous.  Either that or it was the homemade butter (I swear — It was the store’s fault all along).  Anyway, I won’t give you the recipe for the crust, because it’s the same as all the other recipes, and why would I ever pretend to be an expert when I can send you here, here, and here?  I will tell you that we used 5/8ths homemade butter, 3/8ths shortening (it was on sale, what can I say), and the leftover buttermilk (not the same as the stuff in the store!) instead of water.  I will also tell you that she is sooo right about keeping the butter VISIBLE in your crust.

The filling recipe is posted here, however. It is beautiful, not too sweet, a little tart, and incredibly simple. And you don’t even need to blind bake your crust! It’s a double crust anyway, so that’s probably not exactly unexpected, but hey, celebrate the little things.  This recipe is adapted from The King Arthur Flower Baker’s Companion All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (phew, that’s a long title).  So, in that spirit, I’ll give you another one:

Sweet tart cherry pie (or why Mr. Washington shouldn’t have chopped down that cherry tree after all, even if that story was a myth)

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Filed under baking, cherries, dessert

Corona cookies

Corona cookies

Corona cookies

You came here expecting Thanksgiving recipes, didn’t you? Well … I don’t have any new ones. In fact, we’re not doing a traditional thanksgiving dinner at all, so I won’t have any to share this year. We’re cooking chicken, and yorkshire pudding, with potatoes and gravy and oh, maybe a cherry pie. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll just make a batch of these cookies.

Prep work

Prep work

See, Thanksgiving at our house is always an international affair. I’m usually the only one who actually grew up with the turkey and stuffing and the occasional helping of that spectacular tin can-shaped cranberry (only at Grandma’s house, of course — my parents made the real stuff, which really isn’t that hard to do), so I figure sticking with the spirit of the holiday is the best way to go. To me, that means my guests should feel at home somehow. For a lot of people at my table (including James), a “proper” roast (like the menu above) is the best way to ensure that. Hence the chooks.

But I’m here to talk about cookies.  For those of you who are already thinking about holiday cookies, try these, but replace the orange with lime zest, skip the cinnamon, replace the liquor with lime juice, and throw in 1 t. of vanilla. Sprinkle pretty sea salt (Hawaiian red, in this case, from TJ’s) over the top. And there you have it — cookies faintly reminiscent of a day at the beach, beer in hand, which I could seriously go for after weeks and weeks of bone-chilling weather.

(Alternatively, you can use lemon or orange zest and play with spice combos, like the original recipe states. I prefer the juice to the liquor — the cookies turn out a bit better texture-wise, in my opinion).

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Filed under baking, dessert, limes, olive oil

Fast food

Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Tomato Omelette

Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Tomato Omelet

Sometimes, life gets a little absurd. Recently, I’ve been letting my dissertation take over every waking hour, because, well, someday, I want to get out of here, move on, and do something (anything) with my life that people might actually be interested in. I mean more than the 30 or so people in my field, who are working on similarly esoteric stuff.  That’s grad school for you, I suppose. But I digress … I’m really here to tell you that there ARE ways to make home-cooked meals, even when life gets crazy. If you have five minutes, and don’t mind leaving the dishes in the sink, you can eat amazingly well even in the midst of work-related chaos.  I think I’ll make these meals a monthly feature here on threeForks.

This first one is actually one of my favorite quick meals, especially because you can double the recipe and provide yourself with lunch or dinner the next day, as well.  It’s incredibly versatile — you can throw in anything (including leftover pasta!) you need to use up and end up with a gorgeous, filling meal. And it takes a whole 5 minutes, depending on your fillings.  I’ll give you a specific variation below, but first, I have some business to attend to.

Baking Blondie tagged me, so I will in turn tag Rachael, Arielle, and Marty, just because. Here’s some insight about my food obsessions…

You can take five items and are allowed one sentence in which to justify your decision. Tag whoever you like and link back! You are on a desert island so assume a plentiful supply of exotic fish, coconuts and sea salt. Ignore any issues regarding storage. There happens to be a very large solar powered refrigerator washed up on the shore as well. Now, on to the list…

1. Olive oil. With all that fish and salt, I’m going to need some to get gorgeous, crackling fish skin.

2. Coffee, because I am an addict.

3. A cast iron pot, because you can cook anything in one of these.

4. Flour, so I can make some awesome sourdough pizza.

5. A tomato seed packet. Then I can grow something delicious.

Ok, now back to the regularly scheduled program…

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Filed under cheese, eggs, main, quick meals, spinach, tomatoes

Get your greens

Pumpkin saag paneer

Pumpkin saag paneer

I’m never a one-dish girl. Even at my favorite restaurants, I can’t pick up a menu and order something that I’ve had before. God forbid I miss their best dish, even if I know I had it two weeks ago, and there’s no way in hell I’ll ever come close with anything else.  Call it a handicap of mine.

With one exception, that is.  I cannot stop ordering saag paneer.

Spinach!

Spinach!

It’s as if I’m channeling some inner Popeye the second I step into an Indian restaurant. Seriously, it’s a problem, because frankly, I’m a little ashamed of myself.  Until now, that is.

Squash.

Squash.

I’ve tried to make saag paneer at home before, to no avail. The cream and ghee they use in copious quantities in restaurant cooking doesn’t really make it into most cookbooks, because seriously, do you really want to know what you’re eating?  It’s never tasted quite as good. But this recipe, which I adapted from Veganomicon, is genius.  That creamy consistency? They achieve it with squash.

Paneer

Paneer

Kind of surprising, right?  It makes total sense if you think about it, though.  There is a reason butternut squash soup is kind of creamy, even without any cream.  If you’re not easily convinced, you must go cook this now. Seriously — I really think you’ll thank me.  My version is not vegan, because James really wanted to make cheese, and I kind of like paneer, but I think it would have actually been better without it. (James, by the way, agrees. And he had seconds — for a dish with no meat! If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will).

This is a great start to the “eat less meat” challenge I unofficially took on a little while ago.  (It’s been going well — more on that later).

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Filed under cheese, main, spinach, squash, vegetarian

More reasons to start a garden

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Check out the gorgeous beans, tomatoes, and squash. Oh, the squash … We made some tonight, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Not grainy, like you get sometimes with acorn or kabocha squash that’s been sitting in your grocery store for something like an eternity, but smooth and supple, with a sweetness that makes dessert entirely unnecessary. Oh, and the flowering thai basil just makes me excited. But yah, that’s enough fawning over produce for one night.  I’ve got places to be. Tomorrow morning, in fact. I’m off to California, to visit a friend, say hello to some family, and go to a conference. And I have serious food plans. A tasting menu at Melisse in LA, lunch at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, and more excursions to the Cheese Board in Berkeley, because why wouldn’t I go if the conference is in Oakland? I want more bread …. Oh, and sourdough is calling my name.

squash warts

squash warts

But that’s tomorrow. For now, I want to leave you with one bizarre and sort of cool observation: those funny bumps you see sometimes on squash? That’s where it rests on the ground. It makes its own pillow!  And two, you can make an awesome meal from a random assortment of veggies, a few spices, tortillas, and cheese.  If the veggies are good, you really don’t even need the cheese.

Funky delicious potato

Funky delicious potato

So, I want to give you some ideas for an easy vegetarian meal. This isn’t really a recipe — just the best easy meal you could have on a Friday night.  You can use any veggies that take your fancy, as long as they’ll roast well.

My meal

My meal

We started with the garden produce we had on hand — a squash, bush beans, and a few peppers. We added in one very funky looking (but delicious) farmer’s market potato, and some cauliflower, button mushrooms, a bit of garlic (unpeeled), and rainbow carrots from the store.  We cut the squash into quarters, after scooping out the seeds, cut all the remaining veggies into similarly sized chunks, and pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees F.  After tossing everything except the potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, a tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seed, and a smaller portion of ground cumin (maybe < 1 t.), we placed everything in baking tins and threw it in the oven. For the potatoes, we tossed them in salt, pepper, olive oil, and spanish paprika. When everything was fork tender (maybe 1 hour later — this is a 1 dish go-about-your-business sort of dinner), we heated up a bit of cheddar cheese on some store-bought tortillas (habanero lime, from Trader Joe’s), and made our own fajitas.

The boys dinner

The boy's dinner

We both had the squash on the side, because it was easier. I didn’t feel like peeling it. But you could cut it up and roast it, too, or fork bits of it into your tortilla. You could use butternut squash, or acorn squash as a substitute, and it’d work perfectly.

This was a great first vegetarian night. We both got exactly what we wanted in a meal, no meat required. Really, even the cheese wasn’t that necessary — the veggies were tasty enough.  And I am definitely going to be excited about setting up a garden again next spring. Bring on the seed catalogs!

I’m not done yet …

James suggested I tell you what we grew this year, so here’s a list, with a few comments:

  • Pink brandywines – awesome heirloom tomatoes, and much cheaper to grow than to buy. They’re a bit finicky if you live in a rainy environment, but how indulgent is brandywine tomato sauce? You will be making a lot of it from the tomatoes bugs started tasting first.
  • Sungold tomatoes – these are orange cherry tomatoes. They’re a hybrid, a heavy producer, and are DELICIOUS.  Slow roast them and savor them in everything.
  • Yellow pear tomatoes – these are cute but not as tasty as sungolds, and definitely not as disease resistant. We won’t be growing these again next year.
  • Yellow and purple bush beans, haricots verts. The yellow and purple bush beans are my favorite. They seem to achieve a nicer texture when cooked, and have a nice flavor. The haricots verts really didn’t produce much at all.
  • Swiss chard – Awesome. They’re gorgeous, and they keep throwing up stalks when you cut some off for dinner. They weren’t terribly prolific in our garden, but we had enough to feed us with greens all summer.
  • Sweet nantes carrots – Also awesome. These are small, and really need to be grown in potting soil, because CT has rocks everywhere. They’re sweet and flavorful, and have a cute wrinkly witch finger look about them.
  • Arugula – Yum, but eat it before it gets warm and starts flowering. It gets bitter once it gets leggy.
  • Thai and genovese basil. Both varieties did really well as companion plants for the tomatoes, and gave us some tasty meals. The thai basil is gorgeous — it has lovely purple flowers, and a slightly exotic taste (gee, you think?). It’s also hardier than the typical genovese, but is a bit too strong for pesto.
  • A fingerling potato from the Union Square market – Complete failure. It seemed like it was going to work, but it died off, and then there was nothing left in the soil!
  • Sage, marjoram, oregano, cilantro, rosemary. All good herbs to have. We kept these in pots, since they can be brought inside when it starts to get cold.
  • Pea shoots. You can eat these, and they’re easy. They also like cold weather. They’re so cute — they have curly tendrils!
  • Onions, shallots. These hated our rocky soil. I did get the onions to grow a bit, and pickled them when they were still pretty small. Yum.
  • Kale – these are just tiny shoots right now, because we just planted them. They look happy, and are a cold weather crop, so I can’t wait to see how they do.
  • Peppers — I bought a 5 variety mix, and I think we had three different types pop up. I have no idea what kind — some kind of bell pepper, some longer, low-heat pepper, and I think some jalapeños. Yum.

Ok, that’s all I can remember so far. My flight leaves early, so I’m off to sleep. I’ll be back before Halloween, with an awesome lime cookie recipe, and some reports on Zuni Cafe and Melisse. See you then!

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Filed under carrots, cheese, gardening, garlic, local, main, potatoes, roasted vegetables, San Francisco, squash, stories, travel, vegetarian

Chocolate and physics

Mexican drinking chocolate in Poland

Mexican drinking chocolate in Poland

Poland began with a bumpy, five-hour bus ride that felt like it was designed to weaken our resistance at the start of what would prove to be a very long week. Not a bad week — just a long one. I was there for a conference, so the bus was full of physicists from all over the world, and once the castle filled, conversations on cocktail napkins and in dungeon “night clubs” were impossible to avoid.  Ryn, where the conference was held, was literally a few corner markets and bars at the edge of one of the Mazurian Lakes. The castle — built by Teutonic knights — was first mentioned in 1377, though the renovations for the hotel had just been completed in 2006.  What, you may ask, did Ryn have to offer? Well, not much … We ate a buffet in the hotel every day, three times a day, and walked out to the undeveloped shore on our breaks. Occasionally, we’d get a local bar to stay open late, and order piwa (beer) after piwa until we got chased out into the night. Physicists are serious drinkers, for the most part.  But what else do you do when the most exciting thing you see all week is a goat?
The famous goat

The famous goat

Yah. Well, the people I met on this trip happened to be great. My roommate was awesome, which I was pretty happy about, and the people I ended up hanging out with were a lot of fun.  So yes — a week in Ryn wasn’t so bad after all. But you’re probably wondering at this point why I’m going on and on about Ryn and this conference when I’ve placed a picture of a lovely looking hot chocolate up at the top. Well, I had an evening in Warsaw, after yet another bus ride. I’m getting to the chocolate in a bit.
Old Town Warsaw

Old Town Warsaw

Warsaw itself wasn’t the greatest thing I had ever seen. I can’t say I’d seek it out as a prime tourist spot. It feels like a Soviet construction, which it is.  It is Soviet style block architecture crumbling with age, mixed in with its grand Palace of Culture and a million fast food-filled underground passages, and the meticulously rebuilt Old Town section, which was beautiful but sterile, somehow. I sort of like the appearance of age on buildings — the way the dust and grime of hundreds of years settle into the cracks just so, and manage somehow to be charming despite its dirty origins. There was none of that here, as Warsaw was leveled in the war.  I’ve been told Krakow and Gdansk are better destinations. But Warsaw had one thing going for it: excellent drinking chocolate.
E. Wedel Chocolate Shop

E. Wedel Chocolate Shop

We visited the E. Wedel chocolate shop and cafe in Old Town, which reminded me of the coffee shops in Vienna with its luxurious decorations old-fashioned feel. Their specialty was a traditional drinking chocolate, which we (my roommate from the conference, one of her colleagues, and me) sampled. They were delicious — rich and thick and proper dessert, if you know what I mean.  It was a proper end to a long trip, I think, and when I got on the plane the next day, I was quite happy to be heading back home.
Chocolate shavings

Key ingredient.

I did bring a little something back for all of you, of course. Here’s my Mexican drinking chocolate recipe. It’s simple, actually, and really, really tasty. But of course, the better your chocolate, the better this tastes.
Mexican Drinking Chocolate

Mexican Drinking Chocolate

Mexican Drinking Chocolate

  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1.5 oz. chocolate, chopped into slivers.
  • Chipotle or chili powder, to taste (start with a small amount and work up!)

Heat the milk slowly in a heavy saucepan over low heat until a decent amount of steam rises from the surface. Place the chocolate shavings in a bowl. Pour the hot milk over it, stirring the chocolate/milk mix, and continue stirring until all the milk has been added and the chocolate has melted. Add in the appropriate amount of chili. Drink immediately.

You can experiment with other spices and flavors. For mint drinking chocolate, steep a decent peppermint tea bag in the hot milk for a minute or two until mixing with the chocolate. Try a bit of cinnamon. Or try something a little more adult — ammaretto, schnaps, etc. Just make sure to add any alcohol or flavor syrups to the milk first.

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