Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to the Grind and I Bought a Bike

Update on life:
A poem

I went back to work.
I moved back to my house.
The oven doesn't work.
There are mice in the kitchen.
I bought a bike.
It is a touring bike.
I am in love with it.
Roommates taught me how to shift gears.
I am planning on biking across the US.

The end.

PS More to come soon. I cannot bake or cook for a couple of days. Big paper due.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Arepas or Venzuelan Corn Cakes

Wnari taught me to make these. They are a recipe from her Venezuelan aunt. Two secrets exist to these little corn cakes. 1) it is what you put in them that makes them amazing. 2) The flour is special and hard to find. If you live in PDX, you can find it at 31st and Glisan on the east side at an international market. It is the only place Wnari has ever seen it in the US. It is P.A.N. Pre-cooked white corn meal. It is made in Venzuela. I bet you could find it online or if you asked around in a international or latino market.


Pre-cooked white corn meal

Preheat 375 degrees F

The ratio of water to corn meal is about one to one with slightly more water.
The salt is to taste. For two cups of corn meal, I used more than a tablespoon. You should be able to taste the salt in the dough. My recommendation is taste the corn meal before there is salt and then afterwards so that you know what it taste like with salt. The salt is REALLY important, because there will be dough in the middle of the Arepa, and if it isn't salted, it is bland.

When mixing the dough, it should be the consistency of play dough. After the dough has been thoroughly mixed by hand, you a piece of dough that can fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. It should definitely be smaller than a tennis ball. You pat it between your hands to get all of the cracks out. In the end, you should have a nice round ball with no cracks. Then start to rotate it between your palms while your palms are cupped. It should look kind of like a toy top. The flatten it out and it should be about 3/4 inch thick in the middle and a little less at the corners. The edges shouldn't be cracked. If they are, the dough isn't wet enough. the dough will dry out as the cornmeal absorbs the water so just add a little water if you need to while forming them into discs.

Heat a non-stick skillet or a well-seasoned caste iron skillet (i.e. HR and MA style) over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, put the arepas on and brown the outsides a bit. They should be a light brown with a few patches slightly darker. This is the give the outer part a nice crunch.

Then put them in the over 20 minutes before you are ready to eat. I didn't get the exact time they should be in the oven. So I would check them at 15 minutes. They should sound hallow when you thump them. I didn't believe it would work, but it did. Also, they should be cracked around the edges.

NOTE: These are best served straight out of the oven. If you have left overs that have already been baked, forget it. But if you have ones that have only been browned, you can cook them the next day. They should be served on the table in a large bowl with a hand towel lining the inside and covering the top to keep them hot.

Eating them: When you get them out of the oven and are ready to eat, Slice the edge of one and through the entire inside while leaving most of the sides intact. It should look like a whole pita. Then fill it any combination of:
Homemade black beans (recipe to follow)
Tillamook cheddar cheese
Nancy's sour cream
Homemade salsa
Homemade peach salsa with cucumbers
Plantains fried in butter
Or anything you can think of

The other combination that is really good is butter and jam. Usually that is my last arepa.

If you want to know more about them:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Oh, how you make my life complete, Advanced Capitalism.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Ironic" Cake #2: Yellow Cake

For cake #1, see joseph's blog around April.
It was L's birthday, and since I haven't figured out how to silk screen yet, the cake had to do. After the interpretive dance I did to the song, the matching birthday cake was brought out...much laughter ensued before and after.

Here is the recipe:

Rich Yellow Cake

Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Every Day. page 528

4 cups sifted flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter (room temp.)
1 3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yokes, well beaten, (room temp.)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk (room temp)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter, flour 2 8-inch cake pans. (I didn't do this. I had to use pie pans, but I did butter and flour them) Line with parchment paper. (I didn't do this either, because last time I used parchment paper it started burning in the over. My mom came over and said next time I should do it and that it works really well.)
Sift flour and baking powder. (I never do this. I have never owned a sifter.)
Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yokes and add vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Stir the batter until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 45 minutes. (The cake rises a lot so don't fill all the way to the top.) Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes and then cool on the counter.

Thoughts and feelings: Really dense and a little flavorless. Next time maybe cream the butter more??? Also the recipe called for 2 tsp vanilla and I used about 3 tsp vanilla. If I make it again, I will use 4 tsp vanilla. I am not really sure how to fix this recipe...maybe a kitchen aide or electric mixer??? We didn't have ice cream. That might have helped, but a good cake should stand on its own. Especially this one.


Dark Chocolate Ganache

Recipe: America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. A friend is letting me borrow this. I love the show but haven't ever used a recipe.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used about 7 or 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon cognac (I used rum)

Bring cream and butter to simmer in saucepan over medium-high heat. Place chocolate in blender. Add hot cream and rum. Blend for about three minutes or until it is smooth. Transfer to bowl. Let sit at room temp for an hour.

Thoughts and feelings: we used semisweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli. They recommended Hershey's Special Dark. The icing was thin but good. I think we should have just eaten it and skipped the cake. A good variation might be to add a teaspoon or so of finely ground coffee beans depending on what kind of cake you have.

Other things I learned: I need a piece of paper so I can keep track of how many cups I have added. Someone once told you are either a good cook or a good baker. I wanted to prove them wrong. To be a good baker, you have to be very exact and precise. I think I am going to have to work on that...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pasta or dinner for a woman named after a river in India (Wnari)

Wnari has been needling me to cook for her for awhile. And since I can never say no...

What I made:

Fresh Pasta

Recipe from: The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Every Day. Say what you will about her but I love this cookbook. It has little instructional and is basic. A good alternative to the Joy of Cooking, etc. etc.

3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
(Plus a teaspoon of water if you lose some egg white. Will explain.)

Ms. Stewart wants you to make a mound of flour on the counter and dig out a hole in the middle. In this hole, you put all of the wet ingredients. Then you slowly stir it with your finger or a fork (I tried both in desperation neither really worked). Needless to say, I got a little bit of egg white on the kitchen floor. Next time I am just using a bowl. Novel, I know.

When it is all mixed in, kneed it for about 10 minutes or until it is elastic. It should be very stiff. If you lose any egg or liquid, the dough won't come together. Add a teaspoon or less at a time.

Roll out the dough. A mason jar is not a good implement to roll out dough with. So if you don't want to invest in a pasta machine, get a rolling pin. Luckily my dad called during this whole process and I finagled the nine month loan of the pasta machine we used to make pasta together when I was three years old.

Roll it really thin. It plumps in the water a lot. Use a pizza cutter to slice the dough. Hang it to dry.

When cooking, boil water. Add salt to the water. It should be enough to make the water taste like salt. Add pasta. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute after water returns to boil.

Pesto or something like it

This recipe is all me. Never made it before. Of course, it turned out looking like poop. I am not exaggerating.

Olive Oil (1/3 cup)
Pasta water (1/2 cup) I was told that this is the secret to all good pasta sauces from two reliable sources.
Three red peppers, roasted
1/2 head of garlic, roasted
Four cloves garlic, raw
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts
2 bunches of basil (about three cups packed, I think)

Blend it all together. Toss on hot pasta.

The two people that saw this pesto in the daylight commented on its diarrhea like appearance, but it tasted really good. Solution: Serve pasta by candlelight and no one can tell what it looks like. Maybe that is why restaurants are always dimly lit...Next time, I just have to remember that red and green makes the color brown and this is not always a good thing when you are cooking.

What I did really like about this recipe is that the roasted garlic gave it a nice rich flavor and the raw garlic added a light spiciness. Thanks, M.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Road Bike

I want to buy a road bike. Light. Not fixed gear. Fast. $800 or less.
Any suggestions? Any must haves?
Purpose bike to work. Any suggests on how to carry my stuff to work? I usually have some books, some work out clothes, a pair of shoes, and food. It rains and snows where I leave. Sometimes, there are even hurricanes although I probably won't go to work on those days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chili: The first try

Minus the time for soaking beans, this recipe takes about four hours total. But it is great if you have other things to do around the house or are near a lake where you can swim during the simmering time...


1. Package raw black beans
Soak beans for four hours. Cook for two to three hours simmering. Add enough water so that the beans never burn. (One time I burnt pinto beans and the smell stayed in the house for days. Bad times.) Maybe three or four inches of water over the beans. Add more as needed.

2. Two to two and a half hours into it or about a half an hour before you think the beans are going to be done...
Three pounds chicken, 1-inch cubes
One to two tablespoons butter

Brown chicken. Saute chicken until meat is cooked. Pour off some of excess fat, juices, butter. Brown the meat. Stirring as needed so that meat doesn't burn.
When meat is browned add a little bit of water to get the browned goodness off the bottom of the saute pan. Then add...
One red onion, chopped
One yellow onion, chopped
One head garlic, pealed and diced
1/4 cup olive oil

Salt, to taste
(I added celery and garlic salt too so if you don't like it salty, be sure to use the salt here sparingly.)
Simply organic vegetarian chili flavor or something similar

After onions are translucent, add..
Three large carrots, sliced
One green pepper, diced

Cook five minutes, covered if needed.

3. When starting to cook meat, I added straight chili powder, about a tablespoon or so, to the black beans to give them a little flavor.

4. When beans are cooked, add:
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Stir fry

Four to six ounces of tomato paste

(Not too much. You want it to be thick. The black beans will start to break down to add thickness as well.)
Chili powder, to taste, roughly one to two tablespoons or more

Cayenne, to taste
(I was once told this was the secret to what makes chili taste like chili.)
Celery salt, to taste

Garlic salt, to taste.

The cayenne and spices will even out a bit as it simmers.
Two 16-ounce cans kidney beans
, you can make these fresh two if you want. If not, just rinse them.
Simmer one hour.

Good accompanyment: Cornbread
Topping: Chives and cheddar cheese. Adds a little color.

Feeds: Three grown men, three 12- to 13-year-old boys, three grown women with enough for three servings of chili with fried eggs for breakfast or lunch the next day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Camping: The Basics

I tried to go camping. Rule number one: Just because your dad climbed mountains a couple of decades ago doesn't mean you shouldn't help with the preparation. Rule number two: don't let your brother pack for you. Rule number three: bring sleeping bag on every camping trip.

So we tried. We really did. The roads were against us. The weather was against us. We camped one night, my dad and I, in a very small tent. Good times. Then we got a 100 dollar hotel room with the soft beds and fake rustic wood frames. Then we drove to Idaho to spend time in a nice warm house on a lake with the rest of the family.

Things I got from the trip: nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia and lots of time with my dad. Things my dad got from the trip: some kind of viral rash all over his neck. Things we both got from the trip: we need a list for next year. And here it is...

1. Tent
2. Sleeping bags
3. Tarp
4. MSR Stove Kit with fuel
5. Towel
6. Metal silverware
7. Leatherman or cheap rip off
8. Soap (dish washing/armpit washing)
9. Apples for lunch
10. Waterproof matches
11. First Aid Kit
12. Target Fruit Chocolate Trail Mix
13. Camelbacks
14. Bug spray
15. Sunscreen
16. Lightweight hat
17. Wind Shirt
18. Three pairs socks
19. Plan meals
20. Sunglasses
21. Camera
22. Eggs
23. Dry Hummus
24. Tortillas
25. Oil
26. Cards/Backgammon
27. Scrubber for pots
28. Dish for person not using MSR
29. Coffee Mug
30. Powdered Gatoraide or Tang
31. Beano but probably better Gas X
32. Plastic Panchos
33. Tent cord for hanging food/tying down fly
34. Blister Kit
35. Ibuprofen
36. Toothpaste/toothbrush
37. Deodorant

The end.