Wednesday, December 26, 2007

winter break shenanigans

by Stephanie

Confession: I used to absolutely hate macaroni and cheese. It sounds terrible, I know. There are lots more worthy things in the world to hate, but until about 4 years ago, I absolutely hated the almost-universally loved childhood classic, mac 'n cheese. My theory is that my former distate for it either has to do with (a) my phobia of creamy white substances (more on this later) or (b) my weird need to be differentiated from my brother's food palette.

Did any of you experience a similar tension in your household? My brother and I had this intense desire to be stark opposites: he was a white sauce, mac 'n cheese kind of kid, and I was the red sauce, spaghetti side of the spectrum. I would not touch his stuff, and he absolutely refused to go near anything that was red (this also excluded chili and all other tomato products in addition to spaghetti sauce). I think we lived a ridiculous childhood, and I'm sure my mother put up with a lot.

I had to preface this post with that background because the other night my brother and I were wandering around the kitchen, wondering what to do with our hungry stomachs, and I suggested making the very food I detested all throughout my younger years. "Steph, don't you hate that stuff?" questioned my brother. "Then again, I'm not going to argue." We searched around the fridge for some cheese to use, and then he remembered. Mom had just bought a giant brick of Dubliner cheese the other day...perfect! He cooked up the pasta; I thickened some milk and butter with a little flour, then melted cheese into the mixture, tossed it with fusilli and called it a night.

steph's mac 'n cheese
8 oz. macaroni (or similar pasta)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
2 c milk
2 1/2-3 c shredded cheese (mix them if you've got multiple kinds!)

Cook pasta in well-salted boiling water. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, add milk and then flour, stir. Cook until slightly thickened and bubbly; add cheese and stir until melted. Add in cooked macaroni and toss to coat.

Other things I've been up to:

zebra cake!

Okay, this has nothing to do with food, but my family dog-sat for this adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel--his name is Basil.

How proud of me are you?! Two posts in a month?! Lisa's in Malaysia right now, but I'm sure there will be gads of fun photos and food tidbits to share when she returns.

Friday, December 14, 2007

frying everything

by Stephanie

Oh Lisa, your lovely writing always make me want to post. (And a sonnet?! Oh my gosh! Such untapped talent! Reader, you may be reading the work of a future Poet Laureate.) Yes, we will be joint posting soon. And yes, I also have food stories to tell (although admittedly less than Lisa because I don't have daily access to a kitchen this year).

Okay, so if you must know something about me, it's that I really like fried things. Can I emphasize this enough? Fried things are so good, so hot and crunchy and golden. I'm not sure where this affinity came from; I wouldn't say we ate a preponderance of fried things at home when I was little. That said, I've never been discouraged from eating lots of fried things (thanks for the everlasting search for the perfect fried chicken, Mom. I appreciate that a lot.) Sometimes it's hard being me in a health-crazed California. All the salad really gets to me sometimes.

Last night at my old apartment my friends Donna and Cindy decided to make samosas. They even made their own dough (courtesy of are awesome), and I was very proud. I didn't partake in the making of the little triangular pieces of goodness, but after dinner we were sitting around, eating cookies and I noticed that we had a lot of leftover oil from the samosas. What to do?

I decided in the spirit of my unabashed love for fried everything that we should fry the rest of the cookies. After I whipped up a quick batter, Donna also brought out all this candy she had been stashing, and so we fried that too. Basically, it was a mini-state fair in the Castle, and it was a very good night. Of particular note was the fried peanut butter cup...and the fried M&M's. Seriously!! Frying M&M's is such a joy. (A big plus is that some of the color starts to leak into the batter while coating them and then with the leftover batter you can make rainbow fritters/hush puppies! Am I obsessed?)

Fried things aren't particularly photogenic (probably the lack of color), but they are certainly tasty, especially with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. Moral of the story: don't be scared to fry things because otherwise you are just missing out on life. Moderation is key...every other day should do it. Kidding, maybe.

Fried dough batter*:
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
oil for frying

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Combine the milk mixture with the flour mixture and stir. Coat fryable items of your choosing (we used Sandies cookies, the shortbread with the chocolate in the middle and several kinds of chocolate candy. This gets as good as you want it to be.) Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat; you know it is ready for frying when little bubbles form around a wooden chopstick inserted in the middle of the pan (credit to Mom for that trick). Fry on one side until golden, then flip; drain on paper towels. Eat until your stomach threatens mutiny.

*funny thing about this recipe: I tried to research online for batter recipes, and Epicurious was giving me a lot of trouble (i.e. they do not approve of such things by the noticeable lack of recipes on this topic on their site.) So this is from Emeril...your television personality may be more than slightly annoying, but you are superior to Epicurious in my book right now!

**the photo is beyond craptastic, I know. I took it with my camera phone because I didn't have my digital camera on me, and I could not let this event of monumental historical significance pass undocumented. One day I will embrace the whole food photography movement but until then...go fry things!


by Lisa

So my last post was about waiting. Waiting for Thanksgiving. Waiting for Steph and I to write our joint post about our lovely dinner party. (Way overdue by now; we're sorry.) But mostly, waiting for school to be over.

Well, now it's finally here. I. Am. Officially. Done. With. School. Forever. Until grad school, of course. As for the other things we've waited for, certainly Thanksgiving has come and gone. And after this, I'm going to start our joint post. We need to make up for all we owe to you, wonderful friends and readers, for this hiatus in writing.

The last few weeks have been filled with frantic thesis writing, but I've still managed to have some cooking adventures. I just haven't had time to write about it. But now I'm finally free! I wouldn't have expected to feel so overwhelmed by having so much to say about food, but I really do. That is, I really do feel overwhelmed... and of course, I do also have so much to say about food.

Where do I begin?

I could talk about how I ate eight (yes, eight!) of Maria's glorious banana cream pies. Well, they were more like little muffins, not really pies. Whew. But still. Maybe we shouldn't start there. How about this? I got this lovely (lovely!) spice set from India from my wonderful friends Brad and Carla. You can ask my roommates: I did a little dance around the kitchen when I opened the metal container.

I have been working on Indian food since the summer so this was such a treat. Yesterday I made chana masala (garbanzo bean curry) and yes, it tastes so much better when you add in the spices one at a time in whatever proportions your heart desires. Plus it's more fun that way.

Besides Chinese, I'm most often cooking Indian or Mexican. In the kitchen you'll often find me chopping onions, mincing garlic, dicing tomatoes, washing cilantro, using lemons, limes, cumin and other spices. Did you notice what I did? There is quite an overlap in the list of common ingredients! I was surprised, too. Well, a friend asked for my pico de gallo recipe so I've decided to post it, but to be honest, there really isn't a recipe to it. I think you'll like it best if you trust your instincts. (Just don't ever ever ever make it while you're mincing garlic for collard greens and in trying to be efficient and end up mincing garlic for both your pico and your greens because you don't want to have to wash the knife and board twice and then while you're waiting for the burner you accidently drop all your tomatoes in the bowl with too much garlic and then end up bringing your way-too-garlicky salsa to your professor's house for a party. No good, I tell you.)

This is all for now. But there's definitely more to come! Until then, enjoy the recipes. The pico makes a surprisingly Christmasy addition to any party, what with all its red and green. And it's very quick and easy.

Oh, wait! One more thing before the recipes. I wrote a sonnet, for my roommates, about our fridge. Here it is. And then, the recipes.

College Fridge

Our fridge, we find, is never full for long.
We cannot seem to keep ourselves away.
Upon return from school we form a throng
about the cage and hunt for food and play
by thinking ‘bout the matches we can make.
“Do you want ice cream with your apple pie?”
“Or how about some fruit with chocolate cake?”
There always seems to be a large supply
and so we find our joy in making things
that put together what we have inside,
to find surprises in whate’er that brings.
It worked for us until today we cried,
“Oh no! We really cannot go on in this way!”
“We’ve more ideas than food—it’s not okay!”

Chana masala

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, diced
2-3 tablespoons curry powder or mixed Indian spices (cumin, coriander, clove, chili, fenugreek seeds, ginger, pepper, tumeric, etc.)
2-4 tablespoons of water
salt to taste
cilantro, lemons, tomatoes, onions for garnish

Heat oil on medium heat in skillet. Add onions and saute 5-8 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add garbanzo beans and saute until heated through. Add tomatoes and some water, cover skillet and lower heat. Allow mixture to cook for another 10-15 minutes, depending on how hungry you are. Garnish with chopped cilantro, slices of lemon, etc. and serve with hot naan or basmati rice. Serves 3 or 4.

Pico de gallo

3 medium-sized tomatoes, diced (I usually use Roma because they are firmer and easier to cut, but any will do)
1/2 white onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno pepper (sometimes I use serrano if I want it extra spicy)
1 handful of cilantro leaves
1 lime (I like to use Meyer lemons if we have them from our tree)
pinch of kosher sea salt

Basically, it all goes together in a bowl. A few tips: you can seed the jalenpeno if you like it less spicy. After cutting the lime in half, first score it by using a knife to cut an 'x' so that it squeezes more easily. Add salt to taste, but also note that it helps with cut the pungency of the onions and the acidity of the tomatoes. Adjust the proportions to your taste. And it definitely improves upon sitting in the fridge. But it usually doesn't last that long at our place! Serve with tortilla chips.