Week Three: A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night.   In the city that never sleeps, a lone detective slowly climbed  the stairs to the fourth floor and nudged open the office door.   After quickly scanning the room, he took off his fedora and knelt beside the lifeless man.    Everything in the room was in order and there was no sign of a struggle.   Just like the others.   The only clue was a tiny slip of paper, clutched in the dead man’s hand.   The detective slowly pulled out the slip of paper and read the lone word . . . BUCKWHEAT.

What could this mean?   A grain?  A breakfast cereal? That little boy with the big hair from The Little Rascals?

Lest you wonder whether I’m writing for the wrong blog, rest assured.   My point is that buckwheat is a mysterious food and there are lots of questions about it.   Is it a grain or is it a seed?    Is it an ingredient or a dish?   Is it kasha or not?  And what is that kasha doing on the ceiling?  Those are a few of the questions.

While buckwheat looks like a grain and is often used like a grain, it is technically classified as a seed.   If you want to know the difference, see the following website:

http://www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-seeds-and-grains

So technically buckwheat is a seed that is used for food.   It comes from a plant that is similar to rhubarb.   In the United States, buckwheat is often grown as a cover crop.   According to Cornell University, “it is a scavenger of phosphorus and calcium and mineralizes rock phosphate, making these nutrients available for later crops. Residue from the succulent buckwheat plants decomposes quickly.    Buckwheat uses the shortest window of opportunity of any cover crop”.

The seeds of the buckwheat can be soaked or cooked in liquids (such as water or milk) to form a soft food that is somewhat like cooked oatmeal in consistency (sometimes called “groats”).   It can also be ground into a flour which is the basis for buckwheat pancakes and Japanese soba noodles.   More typically, however, the seeds are roasted with dry heat and perhaps butter or another oil to form a firm, nutty ingredient.

To make things even more confusing, the roasted version of buckwheat is sometimes called kasha.   However, the term “kasha” is sometimes used generically for other dishes made with dry roasted seeds and grains.    So when you find a recipe for “kasha” it might be an ingredient or a dish.

Kasha is quite popular in Russia and eastern European countries.  The plant grows in regions that are too cold for true wheat and other grains.    A Russian saying is “you’ll never spoil kasha with a lot of butter”.    In Ashkenazi-Jewish culture, kasha is often served with onions and brown gravy on top of bow tie pasta, known as kasha varnishkes.   Kasha is also a popular filling for knishes and is sometimes included in matzah-ball soup.

Now, about that kasha on the ceiling, there is a tradition in some eastern European countries in which a porridge is made with Kasha.   On Christmas Eve a family member, usually the oldest male, takes a spoonful and flicks it on the ceiling.   If it sticks, it mean everyone is going to have a good year ahead.

Recipe One

Vegetarian Buckwheat Salad with Pesto

     This was the first dish I tried.   The buckwheat I had was already roasted.   (As a caution, one cup of buckwheat groats really does make at least four cups of cooked groats).   I only used one of the four cups for this dish and decreased the other ingredients proportionately.

  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt  ( I used regular salt)
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened.
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts   (I used unsalted cashews) (Pine nuts would be an alternative too)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley   (I used cilantro)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • ½ cup soy bacon bits, optional   (I left this out)
  1. In a large saucepan, bring water to boil and add salt. Add buckwheat and cover pot.   Let simmer for 20 minutes.   Remove pot from heat and leave pan covered for 5 minutes.   Fluff with a fork.   Add butter if desired.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chopped nuts, garlic and olive oil.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine parsley, Parmesan, black olives and basil.
  4. Add the nut mixture to the cooked buckwheat and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the cheese and herb mixture and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with soy bacon, if desired.

I tasted this immediately and found it to be disappointing.    Buckwheat has a taste that is often described as “earthy”.    When you first put it in your mouth the predominant sensation is “tasteless and mushy” but when you open your mouth there is a very distinct and unique “after taste”.

It also looked very unappealing.    Time to get creative here!   I added one-fourth cup each of finely diced red pepper and orange pepper.   That helped with the appearance but didn’t do much for the taste.   So I looked at some other recipes and added two teaspoons of rice wine vinegar.   That was better!   Then I went to bed.

The next morning I tasted it and it was a bit better.   It definitely needed a “rest” too.

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Recipe Two

Stir-Fried Buckwheat

     The second recipe was for stir-fried buckwheat.     Since I already had cooked buckwheat (lots and lots of buckwheat!), I skipped the first step.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (regular or reduced-sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian chile paste or sambal (I did not have this)(maybe some red pepper flakes?)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ pound green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces   (I didn’t have these, but might have substituted Pea pods if I had them)

 

Step one:   Cooking the groats.

Pour the groats into a large bowl and mix in the egg until well-coated, all the grains separated from one another.   Heat a large, dry saucepan over medium heat.   Pour in the coated groats and stir over the heat for two minutes to set the egg.   The groats should still be separate from each other.   Pour in the broth and increase the heat to high.   Bring to a boil.   Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the groats are tender, about 15 minutes.  Spread the buckwheat on a large rimmed baking sheet and cool for 10 minutes to make sure the grains stay separate rather than clumping together.

Step two:   Finishing the dish

Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, chile paste and sugar in a small bowl.   Heat a large wok over medium-high heat.   Swirl in the oil, then add the scallions, garlic and ginger.   Stir fry for 30 seconds.   Add the carrots, bell pepper and green beans.   Stir-fry until crisp-tender, about two minutes.   Add the buckwheat.    Continue stir-frying for one minute.   Pour in the soy sauce mixture and bring to a simmer, tossing and stirring for one more minute.

This tasted fine but was better in the morning.   I think I am detecting a pattern here.

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Recipe Three

Spring Soba Noodle Salad with Fava Beans

     This recipe was originally for buckwheat Soba noodles, but I had been unable to find the noodles at my grocery store and I still had lots and lots of cooked buckwheat.   Time to get creative again!  I didn’t have any fava beans or asparagus so I substituted frozen pea and frozen corn for a bit more color.

  • 1 cup fresh fava beans, shelled, blanched in boiling water, and waxy coating removed
  • 11/2 cups asparagus, chopped into 11/2 inch pieces
  • 11/2 cups chopped broccoli florets.
  • 10 ounces buckwheat soba noodles (or one cup cooked buckwheat groats)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot (I julienned them instead)
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar (left out)  (I used a pinch of sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or walnut oil or olive oil
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/1/2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • Juice of one small lime.

[Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.   Cook soba noodles according to package instructions.   When the noodles are ready, drain them and transfer them to a large bowl.]

Fit a pot of boiling water with a vegetable steamer.   Steam vegetable until slightly tender and bright green (about two minutes).   Quickly rinse under cool water to preserve color and crunch, and set aside.

Whisk the vinegar, sweetener, oil, garlic, ginger, tamari or soy sauce, and lime juice together to make the dressing.   Set aside.

Mix the steamed vegetable and raw carrots and scallion into the buckwheat.   Add the dressing.   Combine all ingredients and allow them to sit for an hours or two before serving.

I’m all about the color, so garnished with some fresh corn kernels, diced orange peppers and a little bit of fresh dill from my daughter’s garden.

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Observations

I choose to work with buckwheat because I didn’t know anything about it.   I can’t say that this was a decision I would make again.   When I first tasted the cooked buckwheat I thought, “If this were a house, its address would be on the corner of “Blah” and “Yuck”.      Later I discovered that the secret for working with buckwheat is twofold.

  • First, combine it with lots and lots of other ingredients that you really like and then add a strongly flavored sauce or dressing.
  • Secondly, let the dish sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before eating to allow the flavors to blend.   These are definitely “make ahead” dishes.

Let’s just say that buckwheat is an “acquired” taste.   Oh, and by the way, as Garrison Keillor would say about powder milk biscuits,   “Heavens, they’re expeditious.”

 

Homework Two: Not so pretty, but pretty nice

My great-grandfather came to the USA from Sweden to work building the Ford plant in Flint, Michigan.  After about two years he sent for his wife and five children to come here to live.   My great-grandmother left Sweden with the children and “a cheese ball as big as your head”.   By the time they got to Ellis Island the cheese ball was gone.   They traveled to Flint and shortly after setting up the household, my great-grandmother died, leaving my Great-grandfather with all those children.

After a series of “housekeepers” who were tormented by the children, my great-grandfather wrote to his brother in Sweden and asked him to send him a wife.   His brother told him he had found one, but she was “not so pretty, but pretty nice”.   She must have been pretty enough, because they went on to have four more children.

I thought of this story in relation to an article that I read in Cooking Light about wasting less produce.   Tip number five was “Give ugly produce some love”

Buy misshapen “ugly” fruits and vegetables whenever you can.   While not exactly ready for their close-up, they’re just as tasty as their comelier counterpoints.   Think big picture.   The more they sell, the less they’ll be wasted nationwide.  That’s no small potatoes.  (Tim Cebula, Cooking Light, May 2017, pg 141)

This got me to thinking about ugly produce and I wondered if there truly were ugly fruits and vegetables.   I was not thinking about “good looking” produce that had gone bad, but produce that had been ugly from birth.   I decided to go to the supermarket and look for “less comely” vegetables or fruits.

 

Ugli Fruit

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The first time I noticed an ugli fruit in the grocery store, I thought someone had mistakenly put a vegetable in the fruit section.   It was a bit bigger than a grapefruit, mottled yellow and looked like it had the “warts” that are found on some squash.   In this picture it is next to a lime.

According to Wikipedia, an Ugli is a Jamaican form of tangelo, a citrus fruit created by hybridizing a grapefruit, an orange and a tangerine.   It is described as being characterized by thick skin and a flavor that is more sour than an orange and less bitter than a grapefruit.   It can be eaten like a grapefruit, squeezed for juice for hot or cold drinks and the segments can be added to salads or deserts.   Possibilities are only limited by the imagination.

For my three variations on ungli fruit, I chose to adapt recipes for lemons, anticipating that it would be quite tart.   To my surprise, when I cut my ugli fruit open, the flavor was mildly sweet, less acidic than an orange and definitely less bitter than a grapefruit.   The segments were huge and had heavy membranes and lots of pith.  There was also a large hole in the middle.

Cut horizontally, it looked like a really big grapefruit.

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Cut vertically it was slightly tear-drop shaped and the segments looked like big ears.

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I made three dishes with my ugli fruit.   For my first recipe, I re-visited the beet salad that didn’t go so well last week   I put ugli segments into a salad of beets to replace the lemons in the original recipe.

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Recipe One: Beet and Ugli Salad

  1. One quarter of an ugli fruit
  2. Four large beets, roasted and peeled (about five ounces each) (Two yellow and two red)
  3. One fourth cup loosely packed beet leaves (thoroughly washed and chopped)
  4. Two tablespoons olive oil
  5. Salt to taste
  6. One fourth teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. Optional, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil.   Roast for about 50-60 minutes.   They are ready when a knife slips easily into the flesh.   Re-wrap each beet and cool until they can be handled comfortably.
  • Cut the ugli fruit in half horizontally. Then cut one half vertically.   Fold back the skin so that the segments fan out.   Remove the segments and remove the membranes and pith from each segment.
  • Thinly slice roasted beets crosswise into one-eighth-inch-thick rounds.
  • Arrange beet slices, ugli segments, and beet greens on a large platter.   Drizzle with oil.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired.

 

This was good but I almost wished that it had been a bit more tart.   This would be a fun dish for a Gopher football party because there was nice contrast between the maroon beets and gold beets.

 

 

I also made “ugli marmalade” which is a condiment for meat and poultry.   The lemon version of the recipe was designed for use on “more gamy meats”.   While not particularly attractive it did have good flavor once I added some ginger.   I think if I make it again I will use white or yellow unions instead of the red onions.

Recipe Two: UGLI & Onion Marmalade

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 UGLI
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2.5 oz white sugar
Fresh black pepper

 

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil gently in a large pan, add the onions, cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for ten minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, use a potato peeler to peel the rind of 1 UGLI®.
  3. Slice the rind thinly and add to the onions once they have cooked for ten minutes.
  4. Cook for a further ten minutes.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut off all the pith from the UGLI® and segment the flesh into a bowl.
  6. Add this to the onion along with the vinegar, sugar and black pepper.
  7. Boil on a high heat for about 15 minutes.

 

The marmalade can be made a couple days in advance. It can be served cold or reheated just before serving (simply put a little water in a pan with the marmalade to stop it from drying out in the pan). It is delicious served with roast pork, duck, venison or any gamey meats

Recipe Three: Ugli Sorbet

My final dish was “Ugli sorbet”.   By now I had figured out that I didn’t need the “heavy syrup” that was called for in the recipe.   The juice of the fruit was more than adequate.    I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I used the second technique (see Recipe Note below).   The result was more like shaved ice, but was very refreshing and definitely worth trying again

Makes 1 pint, or about 1.25 cups

1 cups water
1 cups sugar (or less)
1 cups freshly squeezed Ugli juice
½ tablespoons freshly grated ugli zest

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the ugli juice and zest, then pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer instructions. When the sorbet has frozen into ice crystals (it will still seem quite soft), transfer to a storage container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. The sorbet will solidify in the freezer.

Recipe Note

  • Sorbet Without an Ice Cream Maker: If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can transfer mixture to a 9×13 metal baking pan. Freeze until firm (about 2 to 3 hours), stirring with a fork every half hour.

 

I think ugli is a fruit that more people should try.   The membranes are quite thick but they are fairly easy to remove so making segments for a salad was easy.    The flavor is sweetly mild and would be good for people who are bothered by the acidity of orange or grapefruit juice.   The segments are quite large so would be easy for a person with vision issues.   They are very easy to peel and would be good for someone with arthritic hands.

 

Celeriac Root

When I was looking for ugly produce I came across the Celeriac Root.   My first thought was that it looked like a little hairy shrunken head.   It was not a bit “comely”.

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Celeriac is not really the root of the celery plant, but looks like one.   The plant is evidently more floppy and the stalks are closed rather than semi-circular.   Here is a cross-section of the stalk of my celeriac root.   This is shown next to a cherry tomato so that you can get a sense of size.

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I have also included a picture of a cross section of the root.   Note the interesting marbling affect within the root

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Celeriac is known to have a subtle flavor and a slightly crunchy texture.  It is quite popular in French cooking.    I had imagined something like a jicama, which I like very much.   I found the celeriac root to be very fibrous, so it is possible that it was because it was out of season.

 

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Recipe 4: Celeriac Apple Slaw

The first recipe that I tried was for Celeriac/Apple slaw.   This consisted of julienned pieces of Granny Smith apple and celeriac root in a mayonnaise dressing.    The original recipe did not include the pepper flakes, but the dish looked a little boring without a little more color.   Also it add a spark of flavor to an otherwise neutral  dish.

On the day that I made it, the celeriac was very “woody” and I almost threw it out.   I did wait until the next day and it was somewhat more crunchy than “woody”, so the root must have absorbed some moisture from the mayonnaise.   The flavor wasn’t bad, but this definitely was a “prepare ahead” dish.   I think I might have enjoyed it more in a vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar

Recipe 5: Celeriac Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 lb. / 500g celeriac

Directions:
1. Slice off the knobby exterior of the celeriac – this may leave you with only ¾ of the original vegetable. Slice the root into half-inch (1.25cm) sections. Using a mandoline slicer, run the celeriac slices lengthwise to create ribbons. I recommend a 1mm thickness.
2. Place celeriac ribbons in a large bowl and toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside until ready to use.

Puttanesca Sauce
Ingredients:
¼ cup /60ml high-quality olive oil
2 small red onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. crushed chili flakes (more or less according to taste)
2 cans (14oz/400g) organic crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. capers, plus more for garnish
5 oz. /150g high-quality black olives / 1 cup (purchase them with pits. I like Kalamata olives best), plus more for garnish
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
a couple pinches of salt, to taste
caper berries for garnish (optional)
flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:
1.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on low heat. Add the crushed chili flakes and let steep as the oil warms up. When the oil is hot add the garlic and let fry gently for 1-2 minutes, then add the onion and cook until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Watch that the oil doesn’t get too hot – use a thermometer if needed and remove it from the burner if necessary (olive burns around 320°F / 160°C).
2. While the onions are cooking, pit the olives by lining several up on a cutting board and smashing them with the flat side of a knife blade. The pits are now easily removed. Roughly chop once or twice.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the oil, stir well, and cover to simmer for as long as you have (minimum 10 minutes). If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency is reached.
4. Place desired servings of celeriac pasta in each bowl. Serve with the hot sauce on top, and garnish with a few extra olives, capers and caper berries. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped parsley. Enjoy.

 

Puttanesca means “Italian ladies of the night” and this dish was reportedly used to entice men to come to visit the ladies.   Despite its disreputable name, however, I must admit that it was a very tasty tomato sauce and I will make it again.

The Celeriac “pasta” , on the other hand, was not a success.   As I struggled to shave the root with the vegetable peeler I came perilously close to skinning the knuckles of my non-dominant hand.   The best I could do was “celeriac chips”   I quickly decided to switch to normal pasta.

Recipe 6: Smashed Celeriac Root

The third dish will be mashed celeriac with potatoes.   I haven’t made this dish yet but it appears to be prepared much the same way as regular mashed potatoes.   I think I will soak it over night before cooking, however, since moisture seems to temper its texture.

Homework One: Let the Adventures Begin

When I got this assignment, my heart sunk.   I thought, if “green and fuzzy” doesn’t become a new food group very quickly, I am in way over my head.   So I moped around for about twenty minutes.   Finally I decided to cut myself some slack.   After all, I am, as the French would say “a woman of a certain age” who works about 50 hours per week at a stressful job and doesn’t have a home computer.   My pantry has been pretty low on my priority list for many years now.   Retirement is looming (14 months, but who’s counting) and it’s time to have a life again.   Preferably a more healthy life is in my future

Finally I figured out that I should have a plan of attack.   So here was my Plan of attack as of Day One.

Step One – Clean out my refrigerator and discard anything that met one of the following criteria:

  1. Was past its expiration date – I’m lucky but I’m not that lucky. Why take a chance?
  2. I already had a whole bunch of them- I mean, really, how many packets of MacDonald’s ketchup does one cook need?
  3. The contents were unrecognizable – Lots of mysteries were found. A few were identified after meticulous detective work.
  4. It looked too good. You have to ask yourself, if those cheese slices in plastics wraps looked that good and you couldn’t even remember ever buying them, how healthy can they be?

Step Two – Figure out my Pantry rating scale.   This was going to take some thoughtful consideration.   I think I’ll take a nap.

DAY ONE

Neglect – Inspect -Reject

Cleaned out most of the refrigerator and freezer, except for the side door.   After that purge I found I had the following items

  1. Peapods, mini-peppers, cauliflower (both roasted and raw), two stocks of celery, a chunk of cucumber, a small bunch of green onions, one beet, and a bunch of cilantro.   They would go with the garlic and ginger and cherry tomatoes that were out on the counter.  Things were looking up.
  2. About two pounds of baby carrots. No kidding, I go through about a five pound bag in a week.
  3. A bottle of Kelvita (effervescent, fruit-flavored, probiotic beverage) (been there, done that)
  4. Five little cups of Activia  (like I said, been there)
  5. Two apples of an unknown age, but potentially usable
  6. One 32 oz. container of plain yogurt
  7. Half a jar of black olives
  8. A carton of chicken stock
  9. A bottle of apple juice (for my Sunday School kids, aged 3-6 years)
  10. One bottle of unopened Cherry Zero Coke
  11. A pint of overcooked farro. (So, you were supposed to drain it after 20 minutes?   Why do they make the print so small?)
  12. A pair of good earring.  (No, really.   Burglars never think to look in the crisper and the humidity is good for the stones.   I read that somewhere.   Of course now that you guys know, I will have to find a new hiding place, in case one of you has a second career as a cat burglar.)

Settled down with a bowl of mushy farro mixed with Activia.   The crushed cashews helped a lot.  The pantry rating scale would have to wait.  All-in-all it was a good night.

 

DAY TWO

Fallen Soldiers and Behomiths

     All day long I thought about what I would make for supper.  It was not looking promising!    I could only think of that cavernous refrigerator waiting for me.

Finally, l decided I needed to cheat.  Not a lot,  just a little.   I’m not proud of that, but I was pretty good at rationalizing it.   After all, I would have had more ingredients if I hadn’t gone all “Little Suzy Homemaker” on myself.   Besides, I always shop for produce a couple of times a week.   It’s fresher that way.   Also my grocery store is near my McDonald’s and there’s not that much else open at five or six am when my crazy body wakes me up.

I came home with the following item

  1. One lemon and two limes
  2. A box of cherry tomatoes (A girl can never have too many Cherry tomatoes)
  3. A can of chopped tomatoes
  4. A can of tomato sauce
  5. A three-pound jicama (no kidding, I weighed it). I didn’t know they grew that big!   I’d better find some new recipes.
  6. A bag of grated Parmesan cheese

By the time I got home I felt hungry, tired and a little guilty about cheating.  So I cooked some spaghetti noodles (whole wheat) and a sauce including onion, garlic, oil, and chunks of mini-peppers with a couple of black olive as a garnish.   I was excited to find some Italian Mrs. Dash in the cupboard.  Then, in an instant, “Mrs. Dash” became “Mrs. Crash”   On the way down she hit the salt shaker that was on a lower shelf.   As both bottles were falling, all I could think of was that I was about to experience retribution for my duplicitous behavior.

The cover of the salt shaker came off and there was salt everywhere, but fortunately it missed my dinner by about an inch and a half.   I told you I was lucky!  I guess that cabinet is next on the “hit list”.

For penance I cleaned out the shelves on the refrigerator door and the freezer.   After that purge I had found the following items:

  1. Another bottle of Kelvita (hope springs eternal!)
  2. Teriyaki Sauce
  3. Barbecue Sauce
  4. Rice Vinegar
  5. White Wine vinegar
  6. Balsamic vinegar
  7. Two bottles of Mirin (I can’t remember what that was for, but it must have been good.)
  8. A bottle of ketchup (it hadn’t expired, but looked like it wanted to)
  9. A bottle of Mustard (expired and unopened)
  10. A bottle of Ranch dressing
  11. A bottle of Olive oil
  12. A bottle of sesame oil
  13. Two cups of cooked squash
  14. About a cup of frozen blueberries
  15. One box of Lean Cuisine.   (It looked a little lonely there without its equally sodium-rich, previously eaten, friends).
  16. A bag of frozen peas (unopened, so that’s good)
  17. Half a box of frozen waffles (hey, they were whole wheat)
  18. Half a box of frozen English Muffins

The rating system would have to wait until another day

(Mentally insert a photo of empty bottles, as a memory for their valiant service)

Day Three

Adventures with Jicama (Part One)

     I started my day by looking for on-line recipes for jicama.   I found a lot of really good-sounding recipes.   (Maybe my three pound monster was not enough).   Better yet, several of them required lemon or lime juice.   Wasn’t it a good thing that I had picked up a lemon and two limes on day two?   And I still had cooked pasta from last night.   It looked like it was going to be the best Friday night in recent history.  Of course I still had two kitchen cabinets to go.   Plus, I still needed to figure out my rating system.   Oh yeah, and I was supposed to cook stuff!

I decided to try one of the Jicama recipes.   Here is the first recipe I found:

  1. One jicama, peeled and sliced into matchstick-like pieces (about two to three cups)
  2. One cucumber, sliced into chunks or thick matchstick-like pieces
  3. One Red bell pepper, sliced
  4. Two green onions, finely sliced
  5. One half cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  6. One-fourth cup peanuts, cashew or slivered almonds
  7. One fourth cup dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate
  8. One fourth cup chopped basil
  9. One fourth cup lime juice
  10. Two tablespoons fish sauce or (for Vegetarians 2 tablespoons Thai golden mountain sauce)
  11. One third teaspoon shrimp paste or (for Vegetarians add 1 extra tablespoon of soy sauce)
  12. Two cloves garlic, minced
  13. Two teaspoons sugar
  14. One fresh red chili (minced) or one-half teaspoon dried, crushed chili
  15. One tablespoon soy sauce

 

Directions

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients (9-15) in a cup, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, set aside.
  2. Place all salad ingredients (1-8) in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing over and toss well.
  3. Taste and adjust for flavor. If it is too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice.   If not spicy enough add more chili.
  4. Plate up salad, topping with a little more of 6, 7 and 8, if desired

How I did it

  1. I used unsalted slivered almonds.   It could have used just a bit of salt.
  2. I used golden raisins instead of the cranberries or pomegranates
  3. I substituted cilantro for the basil because I didn’t have any basil
  4. I left out the fish sauce (disappeared in the purge) and had no idea what that Thai golden mountain sauce was.
  5. Left out the shrimp paste and the soy sauce (also disappeared in the purge)
  6. Left out the fresh chili, but substituted red pepper flakes

Reactions

  1. Because of all of the adjustments, I thought it was too sweet for my taste.
  2. The vegetables did not take up as much of the dressing flavor as I expected, even though I let it sit overnight.

 

Day Four

The Main Events

                After a breakfast of jicama salad, I headed off to the grocery store for more fresh ingredients.    I really like beets so I decided to try two beet recipes that look really good.   See the May issue of Cooking Light to see how they are supposed to look.   I haven’t gotten the hang of posting photos yet.

The first one appealed to me because it contained both beet roots and beet leaves.   I was a bit apprehensive about the beet greens because I hated them when I was a child when they were cooked to within an inch of their lives, but I thought it was worth a try.   I also thought the technique of shaving the raw carrots and beets was interesting.

Round One

Spring in a Bowl (May Cooking Light, Page 12)

  1. One and one-half cups of uncooked farro
  2. Three cups water
  3. One and one fourth teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  4. Two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  5. One tablespoon of sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar (I used the white wine vinegar)
  6. One half cup roughly chopped beer greens or arugula
  7. One fourth cup blanched English peas (I used frozen peas instead)
  8. Two baby carrots, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  9. One green onion, thinly sliced
  10. One stalk celery, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  11. One small red beet, peeled and thinly sliced
  12. Two ounces crumbled goat cheese
  13. One fourth cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Combine farro, 3 cups water and ¾ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium-low, cook 25 minutes or until farro becomes tender. Place farro in a strainer, drain well.
  2. Place hot farro in a large bowl. Add vegetables and stir gently to combine.
  3. Top evenly with cheese and parsley.

 

How I did it

  1. I substituted cilantro for the parsley
  2. I substituted grated Parmesan for the goat cheese
  3. I substituted table salt for the Kosher salt.

Reactions

I thought this was a very tasty and colorful dish.   I couldn’t quite figure out if it was supposed to be a main dish or a salad, but it would work either way.  I am not that into cheese so I think I will leave that out next time and throw in some chopped nuts for the protein.   I was surprised to find that the beet greens were good as a salad ingredient.

The orange carrots and the red beets kind of “clashed” in color.   I might try yellow beets next time.    The white of the goat cheese looked pretty in the picture, but I think next time I will shave some cauliflower stalk, instead, for that dash of white color.

The only problem I had with this recipe was that it was tricky to shave the baby carrots.   I think next time I will take a full carrot so I keep my fingers away from the peeler.

 

Round Two

Beet, Lemon and Walnut Salad

(AKA a recipe for disaster)

                Building on my previous success with beets, I decided to make a second beet salad.   This one looked easy and said that would only take ten minutes to prepare and was very pretty.   The other one made a lot, so I decided to cut back on the recipe.   I started with one beet and quartered the rest of the ingredients   So here is the recipe the way it is supposed to be:

  1. One tablespoon sugar
  2. Two large lemons, peeled and sectioned (about three-fourths cups)
  3. Four large beets, roasted and peeled (about five ounces each) (Two yellow and two red)
  4. One half cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  5. One fourth cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  6. One third cup goat cheese, crumbled
  7. Two tablespoons walnut or olive oil
  8. Three eighths teaspoon of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  9. One fourth teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Combine sugar and lemon segments in a small bowl, let stand at and room temperature for one hour. Remove lemon segments from bowl with a slotted spoon (reserve lemon juice mixture for another use).
  • Thinly slice beets crosswise into one-eighth-inch-thick rounds. Arrange beet slices, lemon segments, and parsley on a large platter.   Sprinkle with walnuts and goat cheese.   Drizzle with oil.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

How I did it

Wait a minute!   This was only supposed to take ten minutes!   What’s all this about letting the lemons and sugar sit for an hour?   And where do roasted beets grow, on trees?  They have got to be kidding!   I could see was going to be grossly more than ten minutes.  

Oh, I should have read the recipe more closely – Active time: ten minutes, total time: one hours and ten minutes.  Did I mention that the print was pretty small?   This was not looking good, as I was tired from making the first dish and then my Cauliflower Curry for lunch and baking some jicama to make jicama fries.

To make a long story short, it took me 45 minutes to find a recipe for roasting the beets.   I had made them before but couldn’t exactly remember how to do it so found a recipe in one of my Indian cookbooks.   Note to self, Indian beets must be a lot smaller than American beets.     After I roasted them and cooled them, I found that they were still as hard as a rock.

If I had had my wits about me, I would have just shaved them like I did in the previous recipe, but no, I had to follow the recipe.   So I decided to do the only logical thing, and took a nap.

When I got up, I cut the beets in half and threw them back in the oven for another hour.   Well, they were softer and a lot smaller, but had skins like leather.   Peeling them was out of the question!   The lovely dinner plate of my dreams was beginning to look like a very small appetizer plate.   I decided to eat it any way.   Let’s just say that it was very chewy!  

 

Reactions

I will try this one again, but I may need a while to grieve before then.   So I looked on-line when I got to work on Monday and figured out how to roast beets (pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, wrap individually in foil, and bake fifty or sixty minutes or until tender, rest for 10 minutes to release the skins, peel when they are cool).   I also didn’t think that the lemon segments added that much to the appearance or texture.   I think next time I will just use them to make a citrus vinaigrette.

 

Last minute Thoughts

      Well I enjoyed the cooking adventures (and misadventures) of this first week.   Some day I will tell you of the misadventure of the Jicama fries.    I look forward to learning some new recipes and techniques and how to load pictures from my phone to the blog.

Oh, and for my rating scale, I thought I would go for a diamond analogy (cut, color, clarity and carats).   But my four will be cut, color, clarity and carrots (lots and lots of baby carrots).     I would say that I went from a score of one on day one to about a three on this highly scientific scale.