Tag Archives: cooking

Orange is all around us


Carrots salad with cilantro

I’m sitting here on a rainy November night, in an orange sweater, thinking about carrots and admiring all the orange food we’ve blogged about recently. Fall is here, and I’m trying to focus on the positives. Like, my orange sweater may be a slightly nauseating shade. But it’s cashmere. See – you win some, you lose some.

Now on to the food. One of the reasons I struggle with cooking vegetables is I don’t do sides. I’m a major advocate of one dish meals, and my one dish meals don’t often feature veggies in a major way. But I recently found a carrot salad recipe that’s easy and great. What more do you want from me?

Tunisian carrots (adapted from Epicurious)
Supposedly serves 4, but that hasn’t been my experience.

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the carrots in a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 6-7 minutes. You want the carrots on the way to tender, but with plenty of bite left – especially if you’re like me and think cooked carrots are a bit sad. Drain.

In a skillet, or at least wide-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, cumin and cayenne. After about a minute, add the carrots, vinegar and water. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. The carrots could be chilled completely if you don’t want to eat them right away, but at least give them 10-15 minutes to be not hot. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. (The point is not to let the hot carrots cook the cilantro.)

I can’t tell you how it holds up as leftovers, because we’ve never had any.


A tasty disaster

If I were a more committed food blogger, this post would go something like this:

‘Last week I made a cake which went hilariously wrong, but still managed to taste great so I tweaked the recipe and now it’s perfect. Here it is.’

But alas, I’m not, so it’s not going to. Instead I’m going to link to a recipe, tell you how I tweaked it, how it went hilariously wrong, and how I suspect it could be perfected by you at home. Or by me at some point in the future.

I wanted to bring this sour cream and lemon pound cake to a 4th of July bbq. Stef had already lent me her tube pan (they’re hard to find in this country) and I woke up early to shop for all the ingredients. But there was no cake flour. Now, I’m a fairly inept baker and I didn’t really know what cake flour was, so I figured I was just having some American/British confusion and bought the bag that said PERFECT FOR CAKES on it. Seemed reasonable enough.

Based on the reviews and my own ineptitude, here’s what I wound up using:

  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar (I’d reduce this by at least half a cup next time around)
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (though I would up this to at least 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup sour cream

    Grease and flour a large tube pan and preheat the oven to 350.

    The assembly procedure is quite simple, and I followed the directions to the letter (adjusting for altered quantities). It all went wrong in the pouring stage. The tube pan I had was smaller than the one called for, so I filled it up to about an inch from the top, leaving about a cup left over. But because the PERFECT FOR CAKES flour I’d bought was self rising, this wasn’t nearly enough room. Five minutes after I put it in the oven, the cake was already breaching the top of the pan. 20 minutes it and it was shedding cake all over the oven. I had to take it out a few times during the baking process to scrape burning bits of cake from the oven floor.

    Also, because it had risen so high the top of the cake got too close to the heat source and started to burn, so I had to lower the rack right down to the bottom of the oven.

    I thought the cake was a sure failure, and texted Anna to say the bbq would be down a dessert. But my cake and I persevered, and after 70 minutes, when a knife inserted came out clean, I took it out of the oven for good, turned it out onto a rack after cutting through where the cake had baked over the edge of the tin, and it started to look a lot more promising. It also collapsed a bit, which was encouraging.

    And it was great! As indicated above, though, I would definitely cut the sugar and up the lemon to suit my tastes. I would also stick with the self rising flour next time. The big lesson is pour a lot less of it in the pan, or use a (much) bigger pan. And start it out on a low rack just to be safe.


    Things this blog has reminded me

    Anna is a genius.

    Worcestershire sauce on grilled cheese is really, really tasty. I used to spread a little pesto on the bread before grilling, but this is way better.


    Shh! Don’t tell Jesse

    Living with a perpetually hungry man has been my biggest motivation to cook more. When I lived alone, there were a lot of tuna melts, boring pastas and the occasional soup I could eat for a week straight. Not very inspiring.

    Then I married someone who is not only always hungry, but likes (or claims to) everything I cook no matter how bland, ill-conceived or poorly executed. What more encouragement could I ask for?

    I’m slightly concerned Food, Inc is about to ruin this for me. He’s already turned away from some meat, but we pretty much live on (organic farmers’ market) chicken. And if produce is now going to inspire fear, my days of cooking for two may be numbered.

    So please, don’t tell Jesse. Keep the man away from the movie!


    Pasta with tuna and lemon


    The meal at its most attractive

    The meal at its most attractive

    Work has been a bit hectic lately, precluding much cooking, let alone cooking, photographing and blogging. I usually save this very easy pasta dish for when (fishphobe) Jesse is away, but it’s also good for nights like tonight when cooking for two is just too much pressure. (Yes, I have a very low pressure tolerance sometimes.)

    Like virtually everything I make, this isn’t a particularly photogenic meal, hence the picture above. The dish itself, however, is much tastier than vibrantly painted cardboard, I promise.

    Adapted from Pasta with tuna, lemon and capers*

    Cook two servings (8oz) of pasta, al dente. The sauce works best with a meatier pasta, and maybe something with a bit of texture to grab the tuna bits. I just used cavatappi , a sort of spiral macaroni, and that worked great.

    While that’s cooking, mix one 6oz can of good canned tuna, drained, with a bit less than 1/4 cup of fruity olive oil. Mix them up well, and be sure to break up any clumps of tuna. Add 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, a few good grinds of black pepper and a spoonful of capers to the bowl. If you’re feeling a bit crazy, add a bit of caper juice as well.

    If you have a heat-proof bowl, you can rest it over the boiling pasta water to heat the sauce up.

    When the pasta is done, drain and toss in the sauce. Taste, and add more olive oil and lemon juice if desired. Serve with fresh grated parmesan and maybe a bit more black pepper.

    *You’ll notice the original recipe calls for a few more ingredients. I tend to just go with what I have on hand, and this is all I had on hand this evening. I had meant to add the garlic, but just forgot about it and  think I prefer it without. Making this perhaps the first dish I’ve ever preferred without garlic. 


    Home cooking

    A story in the LA Times today (with the truly terrible headline ‘Joy of Cooking’ or ‘Joy of Obesity’?) points to a new study finding that the calorie count of 14 selected recipes from Joy of Cooking increased an average 44% between the 1936 and 1996 editions.

    Joy of Cooking

    Joy of Cooking

    Researchers looked at recipes including beef stroganoff, waffles, mac and cheese and goulash in each of the seven editions to chart how American home cooking has evolved. Similar trends were found in other classic cookbooks.  An odd little study, but it’s interesting to see cultural shifts reflected this way. For instance:

    The study found that some of the added calories in the dishes came from a substitution of ingredients — extra meat instead of vegetables, for example. Back in the day, meat was expensive, so less of it was used, he said.

    Cultural shifts may have also had an effect on recipe ingredients and portion sizes, Wansink added. Families have gotten smaller, so a dish that once was consumed by eight people is now consumed by four.

    And because sizes of dinner plates have grown over the years, a standard 2-ounce portion of pasta can now look diminutive.

    The past decade has seen a huge shift in awareness about nutrition. Recent versions have featured more fresh ingredients, and the 2006 edition has a chapter on nutrition. Yet far and away the biggest increase in average calorie content came between the 1997 and 2006 editions. We Americans are a confusing bunch.

    I’d love to do a little more reading on this – any cheeseclothers have a copy around to compare with my 1963 edition?