Category Archives: ginger

Pumpkin cake

I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin cake? In spring? Yes, it’s a somewhat odd choice, especially given the 30 degree (Celsius) weather we had this weekend.  For some reason, I woke up Saturday, inhaled the slightly humid New Haven air, and thought squash in dessert form would be a good idea.

Please, someone, I need an intervention.

Ok, so there’s a back story to this. I love pumpkin. We have a party planned for October. And this? it’s the start of our attempt to sort of feel out the menu.  And for your purposes, this is actually quite adaptable.  Swap pumpkin for grated carrot or zucchini, and I think you’ll end up with a semi-healthy and delicious dessert.  Turn it into cupcakes, each with a frosty peak.

Or just do what I really wanted to do and forget healthy: just make the cream cheese frosting.

You will notice we didn’t frost the outside of the cake. We couldn’t have — there wasn’t enough of it left.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under baking, dessert, eggs, frosting, ginger, pumpkin, squash, vegetarian

Holiday cookies

Mexican chocolate cookies

Mexican chocolate cookies

I’m taking a snow day today.  No one will miss me — in fact, with the storm warning, I think everyone else is doing the same thing.  Which is great, because I can look forward to curling up on the couch with Nuclear Structure from a Simple Perspective and getting my theory chapter FINISHED.  Well, mostly, anyway.

(What, you came here for the food? Nuclear structure is much more interesting. No — seriously. Stop laughing. I mean it.)

Lemony gingersnaps

Lemony gingersnaps (at night)

The thesis is looming. It’s due in two months — a little sooner than I expected, because it’s hard to get five professors in the same place at once. A few of them seem to be allergic to this town, but hey, I’m not complaining. I have a DATE. A scarily soon date, upon which the equivalent of a book is due.  So posts will be slim in the coming months, but I’ll come back after that with ideas and pictures and maybe even a blog makeover, or a move to a server of my own.  For now, I’m just glad the cookies I made for the holidays turned out, so I can leave you with a little something to celebrate with.

Gingersnap dough is kind of ugly (but addictive all the same).

Gingersnap dough is kind of ugly (but addictive all the same).

Both of these cookies are variations on recipes from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking.  My brother gave us a copy for Christmas last year, and I’ve had good luck with the cookie recipes thus far.  These are no exception. The gingersnaps are soft, fragrant, and chewy, and are the best molasses-based cookie I have found so far. The Mexican chocolate cookies are cute and seductive, all in one go.  They have a rich chocolatey flavor with subtle hints of cinnamon and chile, and even the uncooked dough is addictive.  So what are you waiting for — a snow day?  Go make cookies, because frankly, it doesn’t feel like a holiday until you’re covered with powdered sugar and coming down from a serious sugar high.

I’m trying out a new recipe format. If you hate it, tell me!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies and Lemony Gingersnaps

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Filed under baking, chili, chocolate, cinnamon, cookies, ginger, holiday, lemon

Such sweet things

Our first strawberry

Our garden’s reveling in the summer sun, throwing up signs of contentment in little shoots and buds. Sprouts of questionable heritage yielded spindly little seedlings, which eventually transformed into our little patch of controlled chaos in the backyard. Along with it, creatures emerged — little slugs and aphids, butterflies and ladybugs. Signs that soon (well, now, actually), we’d be competing for the very produce we made possible.

Tomatoes!

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, which makes the transition to the “wilderness” of the national parks we just visited back to civilization an interesting one. It’s a comfortable book, meandering through the seasons — and his garden, in each — with a thoughtful ease. And while it’s preachy at times, I think his point about America’s view of nature is dead on. Yes, we invented the concept of national preservation areas, where wilderness could be preserved for all to see. And yes, as the ranger in Prairie Creek State Park pointed out, we have cleared virtually every single old growth forest outside of those preservation areas since we decided to settle here. Pollan’s explanation of this is that we have an “all or nothing” view of nature, and how we manage it;

Once a landscape is no longer ‘virgin’ it is typically written off as fallen, lost to nature, irredeemable. We hand it over to the jurisdiction of that other sacrosanct American ethic: laissez-faire economics.

Yes — big developers. Because who wouldn’t want more condos? It’s already ruined, right? This is despite the fact that, as Pollan points out, man has had a profound effect on nature as we see it. We’re part of it, and we influence it, in our introduction of foreign species, our management policies, and our understanding of our role in its history. Most of the time, we’ve had a more profound effect than we know. His point? We have, in essence, become “gardeners” of our landscape, responsible for its care and general health.

We’ve done a good job, in some cases (the State and National Park systems, an example of which is shown above, are a case in point). But in a lot of instances, I think this all-or-nothing concept (which seems to pervade our thinking, really — politically, environmentally, economically, and socially) is dangerous. It gives us license to write off our responsibility, to ignore our role in the planet’s future. Yes, it’s easier to manage; the lines are black and white, easily placed into the law books for all to see. But just as industrial ag is easier on a large scale, it’s not necessarily better.

I guess that’s why we started this garden. And why I’ll keep it up. I didn’t think I’d like it… I thought it’d be just another chore. I mean, this is me — I barely water the house plants; I used to kill them before James came along and started watching over them all. But I find myself going out to visit it every morning, to keep tabs on the soil condition, the new buds, and the creatures I find myself learning more about, in order to defend our plants’ tender leaves. It’s all the more interesting when you can’t just spray a few chemicals about to take care of whatever your problems are. So far, everything is doing pretty well. We’ve had to share our strawberries with the birds, and had some hungry leaf miners eat through the first leaves of chard. Other than that? We have strong, healthy tomato plants, and some amazing squash and cucumber coming along. Our carrots seem happy, and the potato we planted from the Union Square greenmarket is finally pushing a few buds up out of the soil. And we have more lettuce than we can eat — a few plants are going to seed, and I’m just going to let them, just to see what happens. Oh — and I can’t wait for the tomatoes.

So, with that, I’ll leave you with a recipe. Well — this isn’t really a recipe. I just threw a few veggies, some pasta, and a sauce together and called it lunch. But it’s really tasty (with sort of a satay flavor), and makes use of the garlic scapes that seem to be the only new and interesting thing at the Wooster Square farmer’s market at the moment. It’ll be perfect with our yellow pears, carrots, and spring onions later in the season. I only hope I’m still in New Haven when things start to get really exciting.

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Filed under books, carrots, environment, gardening, garlic scapes, ginger, main, pasta, side, vegan, vegetarian

Sticky sweet

Sometimes it’s best to let the picture speak for itself. Especially when it’s too hot to type, and you still have a page of your thesis to write before bedtime. At least the sticky New Haven heat is giving me incentive to finish this damn degree already, and escape somewhere else — anywhere, really. (Aha — now you know why I’ve been sticking to food lately. Aside from my vacation, there really hasn’t been much to report. That and I don’t have time to read a newspaper. But I digress. Did I mention we stood 100 feet from a mountain lion and survived? 😛 I don’t think we looked as good as these ribs…)

Palm sugar, crushed

Anyway, we made these char siu-style ribs on Sunday night, after the skies opened up and emptied their contents in a matter of minutes (or so it seemed).  They were AMAZING — worth every second in the oven.  I kind of missed them tonight, when we decided on a simple salad (with fresh lettuce! from our garden! complete with mini slug-like things for extra protein… kidding) because it was just too hot to cook. Not that I have anything against salads, of course.

My recipe is based on this recipe from the Cook and the Chef. I substituted a few things here and there to accommodate my pantry (like the palm sugar, above, in place of yellow rock sugar), and skipped the pork neck in favor of spare ribs, just because we had them. Choose a fatty cut of pork, whatever you do — you need the fat to keep the meat tender as they cook. I’m not sure if this is incredibly authentic, but I did my best with what I had.  They turned out beautifully — tender and delicious, with the perfect sweet / salty balance.

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Filed under barbecue, ginger, main, pork

beijing, part 2

Mushrooms - Final

I promised you a couple of crowd pleasers, and this dish is definitely one of them. Provided, of course, that you like mushrooms. The recipe I want to share with you today features no less than four different types, though really, I urge you to experiment with them all. Mushrooms are fascinating, occasionally exotic, and just a bit dangerous if you dare to pick them yourself (please don’t, unless you know what you’re doing). And their best feature — at least for this dish? They absorb all sorts of crazy things, if you give them a chance. Like bacon fat. Beautiful, smoky, gorgeous (antibiotic free, humanely produced) bacon fat.

Mushrooms

Back in high school, I spent a summer working at the UCSB Medicinal Plant Garden, digging holes and learning about the unbelievably complex makeup of each species we helped raise. Fungi were one of the more memorable parts of the curriculum. They really are quite fascinating creatures — scavengers of the plant world, beneficial or devastating depending on their individual evolutionary path. The edible ones tend to be full of vitamins and protein, depending on the variety, and are savory and complex — the very essence of umami. They’re made up of all sorts of good amino acids, including glutamic acid, which (as Harold McGee points out) makes them nature’s own MSG.

Rehydrating

But I’m getting sidetracked. My point? Umami is an important — no, essential — aspect of Chinese cuisine. Mushrooms — shitake, oyster, and various other varieties — are often used to contribute a rich, meaty flavor to a given dish. This recipe — featuring nature’s perfect umami creation and smoky, golden bacon — simply takes advantage of the best properties of both ingredients. And it gives you the opportunity to experiment a little, too.

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Filed under bacon, China, ginger, main, quick meals

Comfort soup

Lentil soup with cabbage

Inspiration comes from the oddest places sometimes. A flicker of memory, a random happenstance, or the simple fact that you have something that needs to be used up in the fridge. This soup is a confluence of all three events, spaced over a few procrastinatory days. A half head of cabbage, begging to be finished, beautiful pictures of red lentils spotted in various corners of the web, and a random “One year ago” reminder from Smitten Kitchen all came together to bring me dinner.

Mise

This recipe tastes like a somewhat more substantial version of my favorite Indian restaurant’s lentil soup. I call it Comfort Soup because its smooth, slightly spicy temperament perfectly accompanies a hot mug of tea, a warm blanket, and some good company—all of which were part of my grand plan tonight.

Cabbage

This soup is simple enough for a weeknight dinner, even if it does take a little time to stew. You’re well rewarded in the end with the consistency of a pureed soup without all the fuss involved in rummaging through the cupboards for the blender.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

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Filed under cabbage, comfort, ginger, main, red lentils, soup, sun-dried tomatoes

Truffles everywhere

Truffles

This picture does not do them justice. They are melt-in-your-mouth, silky chocolate goodness in a tiny little package. I used the recipe I gave you earlier, with cream instead of coconut milk, Ghirardelli bittersweet cooking chocolate, and Gold & Black’s organic cocoa powder. I skipped the mint, too, in favor of rolling the ganache around squares of exorbitantly-priced but oh-so-worth-it Australian non-sulfured ginger. Oh, and via a rather stupid mistake (in which I absentmindedly poured the cream into the chopped chocolate instead of the saucepan), I realized you can mix the cream and chocolate as is, put the bowl over a pot of boiling water, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. It is so easy, even a space cadet like me can do it.

I think it’s time for dessert …

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Filed under chocolate, dessert, ginger