Taking stock and making stock (or, the longest post ever).

July 28, 2009

I’ve been MIA. Last week was unusually busy, which meant that I didn’t really make any interesting food. By the time Friday rolled around, I panicked about all of the vegetables we had lying around that weren’t going to make it much longer, especially since we were going out of town for the weekend. I panicked so much, in fact, that I broke my own rules about cold soup (namely, that I don’t eat it) and made gazpacho. And I actually liked it. It was like a vegetable smoothie in a bowl. With bread!

gazpacho + croutons

gazpacho + croutons

This set in motion a whole “use it or lose it” theme for the upcoming weeks. We have so much food in the cupboards, the freezer, the eight giant mouse-proof storage boxes, the refrigerator, etc. So, when we got back to town Sunday night, I made a list of everything we had, and there was so much stuff that I decided we could only buy groceries in the following categories until all that stuff gets gone: lunch supplies, produce, and spices. So far, I’ve stuck to it, but it’s only been two days, so we’ll see.

I knew I was going to make risotto tonight, so I decided this would be a good week to experiment with making my own stock. I used my friend Dayna’s method (found here), and it turned out pretty awesome. A little on the carroty side, but next time I’ll know to balance things out a bit more. Although there’s nothing wrong with carroty.

The best part was that it was basically free. I only used stuff I would usually throw away, plus some spices that amount to maybe three cents, and it made about 5 cups of broth that tastes strikingly similar to the kind I buy (USED TO BUY) for $3.99 for a 32 ounce container.

stock success

stock success

In keeping with the liquids theme, I used up some giant local zucchini to make curried zucchini soup, based on this recipe. The verdict?

delicious!

delicious.

More bread, because we’re trying to use that up, too.

There’s nothing I like quite as much as crossing something off a list, so I can’t wait.


It’s summertime, and the risotto’s easy.

July 18, 2009

I’ve been back from the land of plenty for a few days now, but it’s been kind of a hard week for me, pain-wise, so we’ve been sticking with old standards. Like pasta with white beans and vegetables, chickpea dal with some awesome fresh tomatoes, pizza, and burritos.

Tonight, I powered through and cooked something that actually took effort: risotto. I usually use barley for risotto, but when I was visiting my family, I couldn’t find barley that wasn’t the quick cooking kind at Trader Joe’s, so I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and actually make real risotto, with arborio rice. And, despite many less than stellar experiences with rice-based risotto in the past, I thought it was awesome. I recreated the recipe I made for my parents tonight, with a few modifications.

The inspiration for this came from a recipe that Dayna sent me a few weeks/months back, a corn and tomato risotto that uses milk and water instead of broth. I still haven’t tried that method, and I meant to tonight, but I made dinner immediately after waking up from a four hour nap, so it slipped my mind. It’s on my list, though.

A Midsummer Night's Risotto

A Midsummer Night's Risotto

summer risotto

you need:

  • olive oil, probably 1-2T
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/3C dry white wine
  • a little over 1C arborio rice
  • 4C vegetable broth
  • kernels from 2 ears of corn (this corn was local and awesome)
  • chopped tomatoes (I used about 1C cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, halved)
  • small yellow squash, grated or diced very small (extra points for me since this was also local)
  • ~1/2C shredded Parmesan cheese

to do:

  1. Put broth in a saucepan, heat over medium.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add garlic. Stir and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add rice to large pot. Stir occasionally, for about 2 minutes, until rice is well coated, adding oil if needed.
  4. Add white wine. Stir occasionally until absorbed.
  5. Add 1/2C broth, stirring until absorbed. Repeat until all broth is gone. It’s very soothing.
  6. When liquid is nearly absorbed, add cheese. Stir until melted. Add vegetables and cook, stirring often, until heated through.
  7. Eat it. Love it.

Parting words of wisdom.

July 6, 2009

If anyone ever asked me about my cooking process (which no one ever has, so consider this a bonus), I think I’d explain it like this:

  1. Start cooking a grain.
  2. Stand in front of the refrigerator.
  3. Find quick-cooking proteins that are or used to be beans.
  4. Look for vegetables justthisclose to going bad.
  5. Heat some oil in a skillet.
  6. Add garlic to it. No matter what.
  7. Chop vegetables. Put them in the skillet.
  8. Add enough ground cumin that everything gets a little bit brown and there’s cumin crust in the pan.
  9. Add the protein(s).
  10. Stir. Add more cumin. Let it cook until it looks kind of gross.
  11. Put the cooked grains in a bowl. Scoop some of the vegetable mixture on top.
  12. Add cheese.
  13. And maybe salsa.
  14. Eat dessert.
  15. Play Boggle.
  16. Go on vacation.
rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

Don’t miss me too much.


At least I’m on vacation

July 3, 2009

I think “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” is the best word to describe the way I’m feeling right now. The week before vacation always leaves me a little frazzled, probably something about the way I leave myself 261 “loose ends” that I could have tied up, I don’t know, ANY OTHER TIME. This is all exacerbated by the fact that my body has pretty much decided to shut down its sleeping function, leaving me with a combined total of about six and a half hours over the past two nights. But hey, who needs to sleep when you can use the time you’re not sleeping to tie up loose ends??

I don’t know if it’s related to any of that, but I’ve only been interested in side dishes lately, save for the monster-sized order of vegetarian fajitas I got at La Fiesta the other night, the remains of which landed on the floor tonight while I was cooking dinner and completely interrupted my culinary flow. Landlords, take heed: fajitas are reason # 17894 that “oatmeal” kitchen carpeting is not a good idea. If for no other reason than that Martha Stewart does not have a section devoted to fajita stain removal on her website.

Dinner was okay anyway, just a repeat of potato/chickpea salad with some different kind of potatoes from the farmer’s market this time. Plus, cheesy polenta (bring some water to a boil [4x the amount of polenta you want to use], stir in polenta, stir stir stir, add cheese, salt, pepper, oregano [or whatever], stir stir stir; serve).

a bowl full o' starch

a bowl full o' starch

Those carbs really comforted me in my time of kitchen carpet stress.

I also tried my hand at braising a few days back, after a stellar experience with braised spinach during my birthday dinner last weekend.

brown rice, braised green beans and summer vegetables, tomato/avocado salad

braised green beans with summer vegetables (and some other stuff)

When the braised vegetables (delicious) were done, I realized I hadn’t made any plans for what else we would eat, as I was heavily involved in making a fruit salad for a barbecue. So I grabbed the rice from the refrigerator and chopped up some tomato and avocado for a “salad.” I’m lucky I hadn’t already made my simple syrup for the fruit salad dressing, because I might have panicked and added that in there, too.

Also, we survived our frugal June and now it’s July and I fully intend to splurge on stuff like peaches from now on. I have some math that’s strategically designed to show how awesome we are, but I’ve been up since 3:30am and people have been setting off fireworks outside for the last 5 hours and I just don’t have it in me. But rest assured, I’ve sent off for my very own bindle. I earned it.

Maybe dreaming of it will lull me to sleep. Tomorrow we might attempt to tackle the interstate again to go celebrate Matt’s birthday, and I’m going to need all the energy I can rustle up just to yell over the roar of the car.