Friday, January 29, 2010

Celery Root Remoulade

Homemade mayonnaise, while it may seem like a ridiculous concept, is far better than its store-bought counterpart. When all is said and done, it really only adds an extra 10 minutes to prep time. Our version uses a cooked egg -- traditional recipes use raw -- so that it is safe for pregnant diners or anyone else concerned about the consumption of raw eggs. The addition of water keeps the white bright and lends an extra fluff to the final product. This mayo is unadorned, best used as a base for sauces and other dishes. If it seems like too much of a pain in the butt to you, feel free to substitute your favorite brand when making the remoulade below.

Laying in bed last week, I stumbled across Molly Wizenberg's piece on celery root in Bon Appetit magazine. Firmly attached to some craving center in my brain, I just had to have celery root remoulade. The dish is quite simple, with the only key being the draining of the celery root. If you don't squeeze hard enough, the end result will be loose and watery. Think of CRR as an elegant coleslaw, served in the winter months as a teaser for the barbecues to come later in the year. I enjoy it most with roast chicken and deeply caramelized potatoes. The next day, rub two slices of toast with garlic, chop a few anchovies, and layer the remoulade with leftover chicken. The sandwich might even be tastier than the previous night's dinner.


Makes approx. 1 quart

1 egg, poached
2 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch paprika
3 cups canola oil

1. In a food processor, combine egg, vinegar, water, salt, and paprika. Run the machine for two minutes.
2. With the machine still running, slowly drizzle in oil. Stop the machine. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and paprika if you like.
3. Store in the fridge, covered. It will last for at least a week.

Celery Root Remoulade

Makes approx. 1 quart

1 pound celery root, peeled and shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 large shallot, minced
6 tablespoons mayo (from above recipe)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard (we will be posting a recipe for this once we have perfected the proportions)
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large bowl, combine shredded celery root and salt. Let stand for 1 hour.
2. Transfer celery root to a colander placed in the sink. Rinse celery root. Using your hands, wring out excess liquid.
3. In a clean bowl, combine celery root, shallot, mayo, vinegar, mustard, and parsley. Stir well. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, if you like.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Should we have conceived of this endeavor earlier in 2009, we could have had the foresight to plan ahead and can tomatoes and other seasonal veggies. "Should." We didn't. Of course, like typical Americans, we want what we want, and we want it now. Unable to use canned tomatoes due to the restrictions of our "diet," we went in search of a way to make off season tomatoes slightly more tasty than a wet cardboard box. Almost every restaurant that I have worked at in the past made some form of dried tomatoes. The slow and extremely long cooking time dehydrates the fruits, extracting tasteless water and leaving behind only the most concentrated tomato essence.

This recipe can be accomplished in a gas oven or an electric oven -- sad to say, but we have an electric oven. It sucks for everyday use, but should "the big one" come, our building may not ignite. If you have a gas oven, feel free to leave the tomatoes in for the full 12 hours. Due to the heat from the pilot, they will be slightly more dried out than the electric version, but that's no problem at all. You may also pull them out a few hours earlier, if you like.

Once the tomatoes are finished, they can be used as the base for a sauce, stirred in with pasta, layered on your favorite sandwich, or as a replacement for canned tomatoes (ounce for ounce). With minimum active preparation time, these bad boys are well worth the effort.

10 plum tomatoes, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 sprigs thyme
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Set the oven to 200 degrees. Set a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the tomato halves on the cooling rack.
2. Place 1 or 2 slices of garlic on each tomato. Top the garlic with a few leaves of thyme. Lightly drizzle them with olive oil. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
3. "Dry" in the oven for 6 hours at 200 degrees. After 6 hours, turn off the oven but leave the tomatoes inside for 6 more hours.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shrimp Stew

Ben threw this dish together in less than 30 minutes while I tickled the keys of my computer, but in my defense, I did make the fish stock. Fish stock is a frugal way to use up otherwise discarded scraps like shrimp shells, fish heads, and lobster bodies. Each time we enjoy one of the above, we pack up the leftovers in plastic and toss them into the freezer. Once we have sufficient material, we combine the remnants with water, onion, celery, mushrooms, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stems, and a splash of white wine. The easiest way to make stock is in a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on low. Strain and set aside or freeze.

Clean Fish, based in San Francisco, but available in restaurants and some markets nation wide, are the famous, sustainable brokers who put themselves on the map with Loch Duart salmon. We love Clean Fish not only for their eco-friendly policies but their sweet, succulent Laughing Bird White Caribbean Shrimp.

Mount Eden, a Santa Cruz Mountain winery long supported by my father, makes elegant whites and reds. This evening, we cracked a 2006 estate-bottled chardonnay -- the perfect match for this stew and the Laughing Bird shrimp in particular.

Sit down at your table, pour the wine, ladle the soup, and imagine yourself seaside.

(The above photo was taken at Santiago de Chile's Mercado Central.)

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
2 red potatoes, roughly chopped
4 cups fish stock
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large flameproof casserole, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender.
2. Add tomatoes, potatoes, and fish stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
3. Add shrimp. Cook for 4 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with garlic rubbed toast, if you like.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saving money and calories

I am one of the most frugal people on the planet...not out of desire, but out of necessity. To this day, I remain debt free, and I plan to keep it that way - despite a menacingly low salary. There are two benefits to our year of unprocessed living that we were not thinking of when we conceived of the idea.

The first is calories saved due to taking the time to think about what you are eating. Do I need it? Can I eat it? Do I want to waste my processed meal on this? Just pausing to reflect on the make-up of a dish has already saved me countless calories. The second is saving money. Now, I am most certainly not a proponent of the Suze Orman clones out there shouting from their pulpits that we should all refrain from eating outside of the home. After all, I would be even more broke -- and consequently frugal -- if my husband and I were out of a job. Nonetheless, preparing meals in home does save money. (Do us a favor and only swap out a few of your favorite eat out nights, ok? Or, as the article below suggests, simply order a bit less when you do dine out.) Purchasing pre-made items like vinaigrettes, cookies, and other types of ready-to-eat food typically costs more than the raw (read: healthy) ingredients.

For more information on financial cutbacks, check out this article. I have included an excerpt:
More people are cooking at home, and they're doing it with fewer premade sauces, marinades, dressings, and other ingredients. "Moms are back to basic cooking," says Chance Parker, a market researcher at J.D. Power & Associates. "They want to use fresh herbs and spices. It saves money, and it's more healthy." Patricia Tremblay of Dayton, Ohio, has given up her microwave as she's cut back over the last two years. She now cooks instead of zapping a premade entrée. "I've traded convenience for choice and done well, with the added bonus of weight loss and a sense of accomplishment," she says. "It's a great beginning that seems likely to stick."

4 Grain Tortillas

On Thursday night, I had the great pleasure of spending the evening with Chef Becca. Becca is a personal chef here in San Francisco who teaches cooking classes at Glide Memorial Church. The fascinating thing about her classes is that the students are young kids from the impoverished SF neighborhood known as the Tenderloin. Becca teaches this magical bunch how to cook with the vegetables they have grown on the rooftop with the help of Maya Donelson. The program is primarily funded by donors. If you are interested in helping out, please visit the church's website. It's truly a worthy cause.

Upon my arrival at home, I opened the door to the sights and smells that most every wife out there would be envious of. In the kitchen stood my husband -- flank steak and onions in the skillet, avocado sliced alongside jalapenos, cilantro and onions, Tecate poured...and inside a small, rainbow-colored, Mexican basket there was a steaming pile of freshly cooked tortillas. Ay, Dios, que marido tengo yo!

It is not necessary to have a tortilla press. You may use a rolling pin, still keeping the dough pressed between wax paper to avoid sticking. Fashion your own press by using a flat baking sheet with a weight on top. Ben insists that if you are feeling abuela-like, you may also pat them out by hand -- although this technique does require a certain amount of practice.

Makes 10 small tortillas

3/4 cup Maseca
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup rye flour
salt, to taste
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. When the dough starts to form a ball, turn the dough out on the counter, and begin kneading with your hands. Knead for approximately 2 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
2. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat while you begin pressing tortillas.
3. Tear off two sheets of wax paper. Lay one sheet on the bottom of a tortilla press. Place a ball of dough the size of 2 teaspoons on the wax paper. Lay the second sheet over the top. Press down tightly with the press until the tortilla is as thin as you can make it, about 4-5 inches in diameter.
4. When the skillet is hot, lay the tortilla in the pan with your hand. To do so, place the tortilla on the palm of your hand. Using a quick flick of the wrist and an upward swooping motion, turn your palm downward, sending your pinky finger up in the air. (Just try it - you'll see what I mean.) Cook for approximately 1 minute or until the tortilla starts to brown in patches. Flip, using your fingers or a pair of tongs, and cook for 1 minute on the other side.
5. Transfer the tortillas to a towel lined basket, stacking them up as you go. Cover with the towel; the residual heat will steam the tortillas.
6. Enjoy!

The picture above is one of my favorite photos shot by Ben. We were learning to make tortillas at La Villa Bonita.

If only It Were Easy

Portion control has never been easy for me. In fact, I would venture to say that it's not easy for most people. If it were, we would all look like the French...thin and stunningly beautiful. Ok, maybe it's not that easy, but controlling portion sizes is key to maintaining a healthy weight. I can remember the first time that I became aware of the idea. I was maybe 13 years old. Obsessed with keeping my weight under control, I switched from the sinfully decadent Girl Scout Samoas to the communion wafer-like Snackwell's cookies. Pleased with my advanced knowledge of nutrition, I sat down in front of the t.v. to eat the entire box. Not so fast -- mom, always the voice of reason, called out, "Just because they're low fat doesn't mean you can eat the whole thing in one sitting." Puzzled, I stared at the nearly empty box, "Then, what on earth is the point?" I contend, today, that if I were a person of willpower -- which I am obviously not -- it would be better to eat only one Samoa...or maybe two. But like the people at Lay's potato chips promise, "You can't eat just one." That being said, I tend to avoid the whole kit n caboodle these days.

For some less anecdotal and more helpful hints, check out 10 Little Secrets of Portion Control in Cooking Light.