Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Hunt Breakfast Revelation

What to do on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Why, eat more, of course. Let me introduce you to a marvelous Virginia tradition, the Hunt Breakfast. Mine was dished up by a friend of the family, a classy Virginia lady (who, incidentally, appears as the hand model in the whipped cream picture below) who shall henceforth be referred to as The Hostess. The whole meal was fantastic--the photogenic ham, the creamed chipped beef, the hash browns, the bacon, the mimosas, the bloody marys--but the biscuits took the cake. (Hey, I'm not above mixing a metaphor or two when it serves my purposes.) I begged for the recipe that produced these salty, cheesy, garlicky biscuits, and The Hostess gracefully responded: "Oh, I'll tell you my secret family recipe if you really insist." I insisted. "Bisquick," she replied, and then lit a cigarette and breezed off to make sure everyone's glasses were full.

Secret Family Recipe Garlic Cheese Biscuits

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix, until soft dough forms:
2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (2 ounces)

Drop 9 spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir together:
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Brush over warm biscuits. Eat immediately. Burn your mouth severely. Fail to care because biscuits are so delicious.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Best Use of Thanksgiving Leftovers

You can keep your turkey tetrazini, your turkey sandwiches, and your turkey soup. This is the best use of Thanksgiving leftovers--period. A small piece of pumpkin pie crust with a dollop of whipped cream (squirted from a can, of course) balanced on it, eaten out of hand. Repeat as desired. Lovely leftovers, indeed.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Best Cranberry Man EVER

Meet the Cranberry Man.

When my sister and I were small, the cranberry man was a diversionary tactic. As my mom thickened gravy and steamed green beans, my dad distracted the kids by creating a sculpture of the jellied cranberry sauce. This year, my sister and I were the artistes. The key was the fresh sage leftover from the dressing (see above) which formed the cranberry man's hair. The cranberry man has become an major tradition of its own, and now--rather than keeping the kids out from under mom's feet--we take over the kitchen at the crucial moment when mom just wants to be thickening of the gravy and the steaming of the green beans in peace.

Turkey Day pictoral

I have no particular insights on the Thanksgiving Day classics, so I offer this pictorial for your voyeristic pleasure:

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Purse Tabasco and Other Delights: BBM#3

Have you ever been at a restaurant and thought: "My food is insufficiently spicy, but I don't want to be a jackass and send it back? If only I had a tiny purse-size Tabasco to liven things up." Well, now I do! I received 6 tiny Tabascos and so much more in my Blogging by Mail box from Janis at Yarn!.

A close second favorite in Janis's box was the jar of homemade garlicky cranberry chutney which came in very handy Friday around lunchtime. Also included: Lemon stuffed olives for martinis (I always drink my martinis dirty with extra olives, so these will be a brilliant "twist" on the usual.) Since Janis hails from the San Fran area, I was the happy recipients of some Ghiradelli chocolate. A few very squashed fortune cookies (Note: Cookies didn't make it. Good thought though.) and some of those little green plastic things they put on sushi trays were also included. And--presumably to use when I serve my martinis--the coolest cocktail napkins ever (see pic at right). The lady pictured on the napkins looks eerily like my profile image, so I can tell Janis did her homework.

Thanks again, Janis. (And thanks to Cathy for hosting this BBM.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Virtuous Chorizo and Chickpea Soup

There's something about cooking with ham hock that makes me feel virtuous. It seems resourceful, as if I am using all the parts of the animal that I killed--like the Indians. I buy them in packs of three and freeze two. When it finally got cold, it seemed appropriate to make some soup, and what better way to make a savory, delicious soup than with a ham hock?

I wanted something spicy, but I have an aversion to tomato-based soups. Perhaps because I always use canned tomatoes, they all come out tasting like Campbell's minestrone no matter what I do. Eventually, I was inspired by Nigella's cannellini bean and chorizo casserole. Here's my soupier take on it:

Chorizo and Chickpea Soup

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat:
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Add, and saute until soft over medium heat:
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed with the side of a large knife

Turn the heat up to high and fry until they give off oil:
1 ham hock
12 ounces chorizo sausage (semi-dry is best), sliced and quartered

Then add:
4 cups chicken stock plus water to desired volume
2 cans chickpeas, you can use large or small cans, depending on the desired ratio of chickpeas to chorizo
Sweet paprika, salt, and pepper, to taste

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least half an hour. The longer it simmers, the more tender and flavorful the chickpeas become. When you are ready to serve, fish out the ham hock and the bay leaves and toss them. I'm sure Squanto would cut the meat off the ham hock and put it back in, but all that gristle and leathery pig skin grosses me out, so I just chuck it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Consuming Onions with Relish

...as relish, actually.

Let's suppose that, hypothetically, I was trying to make a classic family seasonal/holiday-type recipe that could be sent somewhere in the mail. After consultation with my mom, I decided to brew up a batch of onion relish. It's vaguely credited to the Romania-on-the-Ohio culinary tradition present in many of my mom's inherited recipes. More important than its provenance, though, is that it is easy and low impact. The result of a few hours of inattentive simmering is warming and festively red. It's also versatile. Pour it over chicken breasts for a quick dinner, or eat it right out of the fridge on pita bread for a dinner's-not-ready- because-you-were-cooking-for-someone-you've-never-met?! snack.

Onion Relish

(Before we begin, I should note that the quantities below are mere suggestions. There's not much science going on here.)

Roughly chop:
5 large onions (I used sweet, but any kind will do)

Saute them until soft-ish in a heavy-bottomed pan with:
1 Tablespoon oil

1 small can of diced tomatoes
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt (less if you are wary of sodium)
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 Tablespoons rice (not optional)
Water to cover

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for three hours, stirring occasionally. Keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of months, easy.

In case you're wondering why I consider this a "holiday food": Onion relish is part of my mom's repertoire for when people are traveling to our house for festive occasions. Arrival times are often...flexible. And, similar to a big pot-o-chili or spaghetti sauce, you can put this on the stove and it will patiently wait for as long as missed flights, traffic, or snow delays require.

Sweet Corn Puddin'

The Washington Post's Wednesday food section was devoted to (duh) Thanksgiving. While I don't give a rat's ass about the proper way to brine a turkey, nor do I buy the notion that "Ginger Makes Pumpkin Pie Trendy," the recipe for corn pudding did hold a certain appeal.

For the cheese, I used a mix of half applewood smoked gouda, half robusto. I have no idea what "robusto" is, and I'm pretty sure the pilgrims didn't have fancy Whole Foods cheese at the first Thanksgiving. Still, the puddin' was good and seemed authentic-ish.

The Human Vacuum, thinking himself a comedian, asked if I was planning to eat the leftovers for breakfast with maple syrup. While some might argue that my maple syrup usage is excessive, and his question was posed purely in the spirit of mockery, I think it'll probably be good. A sort of creamier corn fritter. I'll let you know how the combo works.

(BREAKFAST UPDATE: Really very nice with the maple syrup. Though I think it would have been a little more like a "hearty pioneer breakfast" if I'd used molasses or corn syrup instead.)

WaPo Corn Pudding

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a baking dish. Don't make the mistake I did and use a deep casserole. Instead, go for something with a wide mouth, to maximize the crispy top--It's clearly the best part.

In a skillet, melt:
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

1 yellow onion, finely diced
Cook until soft and lightly colored, about 10 minutes

Thaw in hot water for 5 minutes:
1 package frozen sweet corn (16 ounces or 3 cups)
The WaPo says to boil the corn, but I didn't feel like involving an additional pan. Either way should work. Drain and reserve.

Combine in a seperate bowl:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cream or milk
1 cup grated cheese (see above)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano (WaPo says marjoram)
Ground pepper to taste

Actually, to save having to wash another bowl, I dumped the onions and the corn in the baking dish, added the cheese and the herbs, and then poured the egg/milk mixture over the top.

Sprinkle with:
Sweet paprika

Bake until "puffed and golden." Mine didn't really puff, but it did brown nicely after about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Adapted from the Washington Post, which it turn ripped off "Local Flavors," by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, 2002). The WaPo provides nutritional information. It's somewhat horrifying, so I'll spare you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mango salsa, chocolate donut beer, and more: November Food Club

In celebration of a seasonally-odd warmth in the DC-area, November's food club started out quite summery. Our stated goal was to learn to make mango salsa. Everyone diced furiously for 15 minutes, after which we felt ourselves much more enlightened chefs. While we waited for the salsa's flavors to develop, we fried up some sirloin tips for fajitas. The meat was marinated in a fantastic and strangely autumnal syrup by our host, Ethan. My mom made zippy Mexican rice, which went right into the fajitas. As a bonus, she had secretly stashed Costco guacamole in her purse, which she produced at a strategic moment--and there was much rejoicing.

For dessert, I contributed a Mexican twist on C&Z's Chocolate Chile Bites, and Ethan furnished some small batch beer, which bizzarely (and intentionally) tasted precisely of Krispy Kreme chocolate-covered donuts. Just when you thought the trendiness of dessert wine was waning, get ready for...dessert beer. While I was unable to extract the recipe, those who would like to give the beer a try should email me, and I'll see if I can coerce Ethan to send you some samples.

Mango Salsa

1 cup plum tomato, diced
1 cup mango, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, minced
2-3 Tablespoons pepperoncini, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons lime juice

Let the mixture rest for 20-40 minutes.

Ethan's Fajita Steak Marinade

After pulling out a bewildering array of jars, bottles, and cans, Ethan conceded that the marinade was "flexible." Here is a sample of the ingredients:

apple butter
pearl cocktail onions
cranberry sauce with port
cocoa powder
raspberry vinegar
jamaican jerk sauce
papaya marinade
sweet potato rose marinade
(for many of the pre-mixed marinades, he likes The Chile Man)
Charlie Beigg's Apple BBQ sauce

Throw in a tablespoon or two of whichever of these you have on hand. Ethan was heavy-handed with the apple BBQ. Marinate sirloin tips in a Tupperware or large freezer bag overnight. Then grill or toss into a hot skillet and cook until meat is tender and sauce is reduced (approx. 10 minutes).

Eat heaped on tortillas with rice, guac, and mango salsa. Enjoy a tasty learning experience.

To read more about the food club, click here.

Stay tuned for my version of Chocolate Chile Bites... (UPDATE: It's here)

ToastPoint's C&Z's Chocolate Chile Cakes

For November's Mexican-themed food club meeting, I volunteered to bring dessert. My reasons were threefold: 1) I dying to try Chocolate & Zucchini's Chocolate Chile Bites, 2) I wanted to make a batch as a birthday gift for the week before, which permitted a test run, and 3) Since they had chile powder in them, they seemed appropriate.

I made the first batch in muffin tins, and followed the recipe exactly. I only filled the tins about a quarter of the way (in keeping with the "bites" concept), so they really were like mini-cakes. I'm glad I read the comments on the C&Z post, because they warned me that these little guys have a tendency to stick to the pan. I buttered my muffin molds and had no problem. I wrapped 'em up (after the Human Vacuum hoovered up four(!) when I turned my back while they were cooling) and presented them after dinner at Raku. (Note to self: Review Raku's trademark blend of tasty food and utterly nonsensical service) They were, if I may toot my own horn, a hit.

For the second batch, I got cocky and decided to tinker. I'd come across these stand-alone mini cupkcake wrappers and thought they'd be a nice presentation. And since I wanted to be more explicitly Mexican for food club, I decided to add cinnamon to the mix, in addition to the chile pepper.

I was inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, which has a distinctive creamy milky chocolate texture and warm, wonderful cinnamon flavor. When I mom and I went to Cancun a while ago for a mother-daughter "Girls Gone Wild" spring break trip, I had the real thing and the flavor lingered in my mind. The cinnamon was a good--it was unobtrustive and, if anything, diminished the chile heat. But the cupcake wrappers sucked. The chocolate stuck to the paper, and a too-large fraction of each tiny cupcake had to be discarded. Tragic. Though still very tasty.

ToastPoint's C&Z's Chocolate Chile Bites

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt, in a small saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave (20 seconds at a time, with stirring in between):
2 sticks of butter
7 ounces of dark chocolate (I used half ScharffenBerger baking, and hald Lindt 70 percent bar) .

Stir in:
1 1/2 cups sugar
Then let it cool a bit.

Add, one at a time, mixing well between:
5 eggs

1 rounded tablespoon of flour
2 teaspoons of chile powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour into greased muffin tins or petit four molds (but not cupcake wrappers!). Bake for ten to twelve minutes. They should be done on top, still wobbly inside. Cool, and store in Tupperware.

Friday, November 11, 2005

'Ho Pasta

The joy of this pasta is two-fold: (1) You can make it when you think there is nothing to eat in your house and (2) The whole thing is done in the time it takes to boil spaghetti. It's my take on pasta puttanesca. For those who, like me, missed the obvious cognates, "pasta puttanesca" loosely translates as "whore's pasta"or, as I like to affectionally refer to it "'Ho Pasta"--indicating that it is so easy and quick to make that even the laziest slattern could whip up a batch between tricks. Ahem, so as I was saying, I make this all the time.

'Ho Pasta or (for those with more delicate sensibilities) Nothing in the House Pasta

Boil in a large pot:
1 lb spaghetti (or whatever pasta's around)

While the pasta is cooking, put a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pulped (I do this with a very find handheld grater, but if you don't have one better to just smoosh the peeled garlic clove with the side of a heavy knife. Don't mince it up, you wind up with lots of little acrid blackened bits of garlic that way.)

Fry the garlic until it smells good, then turn the heat up to high and add:
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
I always have tomato paste around. Probably because I buy it in giant Costco-sized amounts. You could use real tomatoes, but I have never, ever had tomatoes around with no other fresh food or meat available.

Fry the tomato paste until it caramelizes, maybe 4 minutes. It should darken in color and stick to the pan.

Sprinkle in:
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Lower the heat slightly and toss in one of the following, and fry until you the spaghetti gets done:
1/2 cup of hard salami, diced
2 strips of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/3 cup pancetta, diced
2-3 anchovies, drained, minced, and rinsed, or anchovy paste
a handful of black olives, pitted and diced
Whatever salty and/or nitrite-laden meat/fish/olive product you have on hand, basically.

When the pasta is done, save a cup of the cooking water and then drain. Dump the noodles into the pan holding the "sauce." Toss to coat, and add the cooking water a bit at a time until the pasta is moist enough for your taste.

At this point, grind black pepper over it and eat. Or, you can go for the frou-frou variation (Courtesan Pasta? Geisha Pasta?). At the last possible minute, take the pan off the heat and crack in an egg. Turn the pasta so that the egg coats the strands. Try to avoid the scrambled egg effect by turning quickly, or letting the pasta cool ever-so-slightly before adding the egg. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and eat. (OK, maybe "frou-frou" is not quite right. After all, a 'ho's a 'ho, right? How about "tarted up"?)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paper Chef #12: I Have a Dream...

Reader, I dreamed this dish. I'm serious. I went to bed last night, sad that Paper Chef had passed me by so quickly. And this morning, when I woke up, this recipe was fully formed in my head. (Note to Belly-Timber: I'm not sure if "I hadn't dreamed the recipe yet" is even up to the "dog ate my homework" standard. You be the judge.)

My subconscious, which is apparently aware of the contents of my freezer in better detail than my conscious mind, dreamed of the tiny lamb sausage links I'd been saving for a special breakfast. Since breakfast is the best meal of the day for combining extremes of sweet and savory, my Paper Chef entry was breakfast-oriented. Here's what I dreamed up:

Chilled Caramelized Oranges with Yogurt and Tangy, Spicy Lamb Sausages

I ripped off Nigella's recipe for an abbreviated arance alla principessa, but where she recommends cardamom, I substituted basil.

For the oranges:
Peel, de-pith, and de-seed six oranges. The easiest way to do this is to cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of thin-skinned oranges, then slice off the skin vertically. Cut the oranges into 1/4 inch rounds. Put the orange rounds and juices in a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, make a crunchy caramel sauce by combining:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Swirl, but don't stir to start dissolving the sugar. Bring to a boil slowly, and swirl occasionally until the mixtures gets viscous and turns amber-colored.

Here's where you have to be nimble. Take the caramel off the burner, flip the oranges and juices quickly into the pan, stir very briskly and then turn the whole mess out onto a plate. If you don't do this very rapidly, the caramel will cool and you'll have a huge block of orange and caramel stuck to itself and your pan. Quickly sprinkly with chopped fresh basil, stir once more if you can (I couldn't) and pop the plate into the fridge. Magnify the photo at left by clicking on it to get a more detailed view of the caramel. And then get on with the sausages.

For the sausages:
In a cast iron skillet, combine over medium-high heat:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons fish sauce

When hot, add the lamb sausage links (as many as you want). Cook until everything is burned and black on the outside and the whole house reeks of lamb fat and fish sauce.

Toss it all on a plate with a dollop of yogurt, so that it looks like this:

I love to toot my own horn, but you have to believe me when I tell you that this was genius. The aromatic basil complimented the super-sweet oranges, the tang of the fish sauce made the sausages sing. And I think I deserve extra points for using the whole of the rather scattershot list of ingredients, and nothing else besides garlic, yogurt, and sugar. In retrospect, I think it would be fair to say that this was less a dream, and more of a revelation.

Tagged with:

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sushi with My Sister

For my birthday, my excellent sister got me a sushi-making kit. Serendipitously, she then arrived in town for a weekend visit. We hemmed and hawed for a while, trying to figure out where to have dinner. And then it dawned on us. We could make sushi. On our own! In Mom's kitchen! After an odyessy to find tuna and salmon that was safe for raw consumption (we eventually found some at a nearby Korean-run grocery frequented by a largely Hispanic clientele), we were ready to get started. Since we were (and are) pathetic amateurs, I won't bore you with the details. Instead, I offer you these pictures of our adventures:

Please note that in the nigiri picture, the one in the middle is actually a wind-up toy. It's plastic sushi that whizzes around in circles when you put it in gear. It was was part of set that was a gift to the Human Vacuum, but I brought them along for inspiration/to serve as our mascots. Mom, who is not a big fan of raw fish products, had noodles and chicken teriaki and kibitzed with us. The Sister bravely attempted an inside-out. (She also deserves photo credits for this entry, particularly the arty shot at top.) Our maki and nigiri weren't as pretty as they might have been, but we nonetheless happily ate them until we feared that the rice exanding in our stomachs would make us explode like seagulls.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Not Martha Stewart's Lamb Tagine with Prunes

On my day of hooky, I also decided that something needed to be done with the lamb loin chops that had been sitting in our freezer for a little too long. I followed the model of our pre-refrigeration forebearers and covered up sub-par meat with lots of spices and slow cooking. I started with this recipe for Lamb Tagine with Prunes. The recipe claims to be from a person named Mary Kay Radnich. It is, however, astonishingly similar to Martha Stewart's recipe as blogged by Oswego Tea. As usual, I deviated wildly from the recipe and skipped steps like "refrigerate overnight and then skim off the fat."

One of my deviations was to add way too much cayenne pepper to my homemade ras el hanout. Not one to give up hope, I searched the available literature and, after many dead ends, I discovered that when a dish is too spicy three things can help (a) longer cooking time, (b) overnight refrigeration, and (c) a tablespoon of sugar mixed with lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar and stirred into the mix. Since I was planning to slow cook and store for lunches anyway, I did all three. And it worked! The main reason I am posting this entry is to make these solutions for too much spiciness more easily google-able. The stew was kicky, but quite edible.

Not Martha Stewart's Lamb Tagine with Prunes

1 medium onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons ras el hanout
***OR make your own by combining:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, and then learned that you're not supposed to, so get the dried ground stuff)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (be careful, here's where I was too heavy-handed)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon rosewater (optional)

In a large Tupperware or freezer bag, combine:
1 1/2-3 pounds of lamb with bones (I used lamb loin chops, but something fattier and cheaper is more traditional) with the spice mixture. Marinate for one hour on the counter, or several hours in the fridge.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Dump in the lamb and the marinade and brown the lamb on all sides. Then add:
A large pinch saffron
1 cinnamon stick
Water to cover

Simmer the lamb covered for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. The "covered" part is very important, because we are trying to imitate the cooking process that would take place inside the traditional Moroccan tagine dish, which is funnel-shaped to encourage condensation and keep the sauce very liquid.

In another pan, heat:
1 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced
2 teaspoons sugar

Saute the onions until they are very soft and slightly browned. Add and cook for 15 minutes on high heat:
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 large can of chickpeas

Bring the lamb pot to a boil, and add the onion/tomato mixture. Simmer covered for 15 more minutes, then remove the lid, and stir in:
1 1/2 cups of pitted prunes (or dried plums, as they are called these days, since prunes aren't very sexy)

Simmer rapidly for another 20 minutes, or until thickened.

Serve over rice, or with lavash or pita bread. Or refrigerate overnight and have for lunch the next day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Radioactive Curried Pumpkin Tomato Soup

...or What to Do with Leftover Canned Food Dregs

After making roasted banana pumpkin bread and Moroccan lamb tagine (stay tuned--UPDATE: It's here), I had part of a can of pumpkin, most of a can of tomato, and half a can of coconut milk staring accusingly at me from the kitchen counter. To appease them, I did a quick google which revealed that, lo and behold, I had the makings of a decent soup. The final product was radioactive orange (see above), and quite delicious.

Radioactive Curried Pumpkin Tomato Soup

In a large saucepan, melt:
1 Tablespoon butter

Saute until very soft, and fragrant:
1 small onion (I used half of a sweet onion)
1 scant Tablespoon curry powder (I love Penzey's Maharajah curry. Though I use this curry pretty often, I'd never noticed that it contains actual saffron threads, which appeared in the finished soup and made it feel very classy and expensive.)

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or whatever's left in the can)

Simmer for 10 minutes, then pour into a blender or food processor. Whiz a few times, until smoothish. Add:
1 can of tomato, any type, and juices (or what's left of one can after making another recipe)
1 can coldpack pumpkin (or... etc.)

Whirl this around until everything seems fairly uniform and liquified. Then dump it back into the saucepan and simmer for approx. 20 more minutes.

All of the online recipes I found said to strain the soup, but that seemed like a lot of work for very little bonus, so I didn't. If the soup seems too thick, thin it with some chicken broth or water. Or, if you are a glutton for punishment, strain it and then email me and tell me if it was worth it.

I found that the soup benefited tremendously from:
Lots of salt and pepper

The seasonings offset the sweetness of the pumpkin and tomato. When I make this again, I'll go heavier on the pumpkin and lighter on the tomato. This version was more like richer, subtler tomato soup than pumpkin soup per se.

Note: Serve the soup very hot, and ideally in warmed, deep bowls to prevent rapid cooling. My bowl of soup was fabulous for the first dozen slurps, but only OK when it cooled to lukewarm.


Enjoy my new profile photo! The image is courtesy of (by which I mean shamelessly stolen from) James Lilek's brilliant Institute of Official Cheer website. I especially recommend The Gallery of Regrettable Food page. Or buy the book, because if enough people do, there will be a sequel.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Roasted Banana Pumpkin Hooky Bread

Today was a gorgeous day. So gorgeous, in fact, that this morning I received this email from my boss:

Re: Carpe diem
I'm not going to go in to the office today, and if you'd rather stay home, feel free. When the temperature hits the 70s on a Tuesday in November, I think it may be a sign to relax.

Huzzah!, said I. An officially sanctioned day of hooky, three overripe bananas, and an impulse-buy can of coldpack pumpkin in the pantry. It was obviously a baking day.

I started with this recipe for Roast Banana-Pumpkin Bread from 101 Cookbooks. By which I mean, I stole the idea of roasting the bananas in the oven. Almost nothing else is the same.

A Variation on the Roast Banana-Pumpkin Bread Theme

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place on a cookie sheet:
3 ripe bananas
(By ripe, I mean banana-bread ripe. Black. Squishy. Gross. That kind of ripe.)
The original recipe says to bake the bananas with the skins on. I read that part of the recipe after I'd already removed the skins, so I roasted 'em naked. Do whichever seems easier. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they brown a little and ooze mysterious banana juices.

Meanwhile, mix together and set aside:
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In another bowl, cream:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between eggs.

By now, your bananas should be out of the oven, and cooling. Mash them with:
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coldpack canned pumpkin

Add half of the banana pumpkin goo and blend thoroughly on low speed. Then add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Continue until all the ingredients wind up in one bowl.

Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean.

Consume at 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, while sitting in the sun.

UPDATE: This bread was insanely good a couple days later, toasted, and smeared with lox cream cheese.

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day 12

On the twelfth day of Halloween, my true love gave to me:
Twelve Trick-or-Treaters,
Eleven caramels crunching,
Ten nuts a-roasting,
Nine apples bobbing,
Eight misshapen Milk Duds,
Seven s'mores a-melting,
Six Resse's pieces,
Four gummi worms,
3 Musketeers,
Two deviled eggs,
And a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Coffee


Happy Halloween, y'all. There are lots of 3 Musketeers at my house. Of course, I live in four story walkup, so you really have to want it.

(Disclaimer: I will not be consuming any actual Trick-or-Treaters. But they are the consumate symbol of the holiday, and thus deserving of the Number 12 spot.)