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So man became, by way of his passage through the cave, the dreaming animal.

Hans Blumenberg

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Monday, May 17th, 2004

🦋 Recipe blogging: refried beans

Refried beans are a favorite dish of mine and I like to cook them now and then. I made them yesterday for my birthday party barbecue, and they came out very well. Here's how you do it:

  • Soak about a pound of dry pinto beans overnight, in the refrigerator. I like to buy beans from places that sell them in bins; the bagged beans from Goya are not so good. I don't know if it's relative freshness or what. When you soak the beans, be sure to use enough water; I usually cover them to about 2-3 times the height of the dry beans.
  • About 2 hours before you want the beans to be ready, put them up to boil in a stock pot, partially covered. Good things to add to the water are several bay leaves, and a yellow onion cut in half (with the skin on).
  • While the beans are boiling, get the seasonings ready: roast and grind about 1/4 cup of cumin seeds and a Tbsp. of anise seeds; and reconstitute some dried chilis. You do this by pouring boiling water on them, waiting about 20 minutes, and then scraping the chili paste away from the skin with a spoon. Also you should be checking the beans occasionally to see that they are at a slow boil and are not too dry -- if they are, add water and return to a boil.
  • When the beans are soft, fish out the bay leaves and onion (you could probably mash the onion and return it to the pot, but I have never done this), and turn the heat up to high. The water will start boiling away -- keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot, and you will wind up with a sort of pasty consistency.
  • Empty the pot into a bowl; heat up about 3-4 Tbsp. oil (canola or lard) in the bottom of the pot and fry 5 or 6 chopped yellow onions and about half a head of garlic, with the cumin and anise and chili paste. After about 5 minutes add the beans back in and lower the heat down to a simmer.
  • You're basically good to go now -- my rule of thumb is that the longer this mixture simmers the better (within reason), but the downside is you need to pay some attention to it so it does not dry out or burn to the bottom of the pot. I usually end up simmering it for 15 minutes or so.

posted evening of May 17th, 2004: Respond
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Monday, January 15th, 2007

🦋 Fried Catfish Stew

Dinner tonight was popular with the family.

  • 4 medium-size yellow onions, chopped
  • A few carrots, chopped
  • 6 smallish red potatoes, diced
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • Canola oil
  • Cheap white wine
  • 3 filets of catfish
  • Flour, salt, pepper

The stew

Fry the salted onions in a tablespoon of oil, in a stew pot. Add the carrots and potatoes. When everything is sizzling and wet, pour in some wine, lower the heat and cover. Cook over low heat about 20 or 30 minutes, stirring occasionally; toward the end when the potatoes are starting to soften up, add the broccoli. (I added it too soon and it got a little overcooked.)

The fish

While the stew is simmering, heat some oil in a skillet and mix flour with salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge the filets (you may want to cut them in half for easier handling). When the oil is hot, start frying the fish -- you will need to do it in shifts. Drain the cooked filets on a paper towel.

When everything is ready, cut up or tear up the fried fish and toss it in with the vegetables, and serve.

posted evening of January 15th, 2007: Respond
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Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

🦋 Pasta and fish

Here is a really tasty dish that I cooked for dinner last night, that I don't really have a name for.

  • 3/4 lb. codfish, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Pasta -- I used farfalle but I think any noodle would do.
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into pieces
  • Butter and flour for roux

Steam the codfish. This takes very little time, like 2 or 3 minutes once the water is boiling. While you are doing that you can saute the bell peppers and start the pasta boiling. Take the peppers out of the pan and make a roux. (Remember to season the roux! I forgot, and salted everything after it was cooked, which was a mistake.) Thin the roux with white wine and/or the codfish-flavored water from the steamer. When the pasta is ready, add the fish and peppers to the sauce and toss it all together; then put that on the noodles and serve.

posted evening of January 23rd, 2007: Respond

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

🦋 Tasty sauce

Sylvia and I were shopping yesterday and we thought dinner tonight would be pork chops with sautéed onions and mushrooms. When we were going downstairs to start making dinner (Sylvia learned how to clean and cut mushrooms, which she did very well), Ellen mentioned there was some applesauce in the fridge that would be good with the chops -- and I had an idea. The end result, an easy sauce that is very tasty with pork chops:

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, in bite-size chunks (roughly cut in quarters)
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 2 tangerines

Cook the onions and garlic in about a Tbsp. oil over a low flame for about 20 min. Longer would probably work fine, too. Add the mushrooms and apple, stir, and squeeze in the tangerine juice. Stir, cover, and let steam for about 15 min., while the chops are cooking. Everything should be soft. Spoon over the chops with a little yogurt or sour cream.

posted evening of February 18th, 2007: Respond

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

🦋 Trout and cabbage

I wouldn't have thought of this combination off the top of my head or anything; but that's what was in the fridge. And it came out pretty tasty.

  • 1 yellow onion cut in thin slices
  • Several cloves of garlic chopped fine
  • About ¼ head red cabbage, chopped thin
  • 2 filets trout

Cook the onion and garlic with olive oil and salt in a skillet over medium-low heat, until the onion is golden. Add the cabbage and continue cooking about 5 or 10 more minutes, until the cabbage is soft and hot through. Remove to a bowl, put some more olive oil in the pan, and cook the trout. I served this with soup and some goat cheese. I think, though I did not do this, that you could make a pretty good sauce by deglazing the skillet with beer and cooking the beer for a minute or two.

posted evening of March 7th, 2007: Respond

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

🦋 Home fries

A recipe I've been playing around with for a couple of months in various combinations bore fruit last night, when Ed and Nina came over for dinner. I cooked something I'm calling "home fries" for want of a better word, even though it's not particularly descriptive, and it was one of the nicest potato dishes I have ever made.

  • 4 or 5 smallish yellow onions, chopped roughly
  • about 1 T. fennel seed
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • one pear or apple
  • 1 ½ lbs. red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes in moderate-size dice

In a skillet, heat a couple of T. olive oil and the fennel seed. Cook the onions and garlic with salt over low heat about half an hour, adding the fruit midway through. When onions are deep golden, add the potatoes and stir to mix. Cover the skillet and allow to steam for about half an hour, until potatoes are quite soft. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the skillet when you do. Serve with roast chicken.

posted evening of March 11th, 2007: Respond

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

🦋 Bacon Soup

This recipe is way better than I could expect it to be based on the amount of effort I put into making it. Specifically the ratio is Extremely good/Minimal effort.

Bacon and Parsnip Soup

  • 2 or 3 yellow onions.
  • Several strips of bacon
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • a head of flat leaf parsley chopped roughly
  • 1 head fennel
  • A half-pound or pound of parsnips
  • carrots

Sweat the lightly salted chopped vegetables in the bacon, over low heat, for about 45 minutes. You could also add a bit of spice at this stage -- I used about a teaspoon of fennel seed, allspice or coriander might be good too. Add enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer uncovered for an hour and a half or longer. You may need to add more stock (or water, or white wine) while the soup is cooking. If you want to make the effort, it would not hurt to skim off some of the foam that will develop at the top of the soup after it has cooked an hour or so -- I did not, just mixed it back in, and the result tasted great -- the soup has a strong enough, rich enough flavor that the bitterness of that foam does not impact the overall taste of it much.

Update: Leftovers are also very good, though not quite in the league of the first serving.

posted evening of October 27th, 2007: Respond

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

🦋 Equipment Maintenance

For a while my A string has been fraying and in need of replacement -- tonight I put a new string on. Well a couple of things about this: it took a frustratingly long time to get it on and wound properly, a job that should take less than a minute. So I'm frustrated about not being skillful at it. But more, I don't like how long it took me to get around to doing it -- I get intimidated by stuff like this in a really not useful way.

Both of these things are also true of sharpening knives, and it drives me crazy that all the knives in my kitchen and most of the blades in my wood shop are not sharp the way they ought to be, and how intimidated I get at the thought of making them sharp. I'm not sure how to approach this.

posted evening of March 15th, 2008: Respond
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Friday, May second, 2008

🦋 Dinner

You want to know what is a really nice feeling? Thinking of a recipe while you're at work, for which you have a couple but not all of the ingredients; coming home, taking a walk to the (new! good!) market in town;* finding exactly the ingredients you were thinking about; bringing them home and making dinner and having it come out just like you had planned.

Shrimp and scallops, with saffron cous-cous

(to serve 2)
  • ½ lb. small shrimp
  • a few scallops
  • 1 head basil
  • about ½ lb. snow peas
  • 1 can baby corn

  • 1 cup dry cous-cous
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a pinch saffron
Prepare all ingredients beforehand as this is a quick dish to cook: wash the peas and basil, drain the corn, chop the garlic. Peel and vein the shrimp.

Heat 1 cup water in a small saucepan, with a bit of butter, about half the garlic, and ½ tsp. salt. Heat about a Tbsp. canola oil in a wok over high flame.

Stir-fry garlic, shrimp and scallops with a pinch of salt until shrimp turns pink, about 2-3 min. As water comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in cous-cous and saffron. (I was going to put a little nutmeg in, but I forgot.) Cover pan. Add snow peas, basil, and corn to wok and stir until everything is hot and wilted, a couple of minutes.

Toss cous-cous with a fork. Serve immediately. Boy, this is tasty.

For dessert we had fruit salad with chocolate and crème fraiche, which is not really worth writing out as a recipe because it's pretty intuitive. I recommend such a dessert highly.

* South Orange has a market! This is something new. It is Eden Gourmet. They have close to everything I want in a market. Prices are high but what can you do -- they are competitive with Whole Foods, the other grocery option around here; their produce looks to be better and cheaper than Whole Foods. Their grocery selection is absolutely better and wider than Whole Foods; on items that both carry I think the prices are roughly similar.

posted evening of May second, 2008: Respond

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

🦋 Dinner

Ellen came up with a very tasty recipe this evening:

One Pot Wonder: Baked Monkfish and Italian Sausage

adapted from Real Simple. Serves 3.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sausages, cut into small chunks
  • 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • ½ cup low-salt chicken broth
  • pinch of crumbled saffron threads
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • ¾ lb. monkfish fillet
  • chopped parsley for garnish
Heat oven to 400° F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on both sides. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the leeks, broth, saffron, pinch of salt, a couple of grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil.

Rinse the monkfish, pat dry, season with salt and pepper. Place on top of potatoes and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Transfer pan to oven and bake until the fish is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. If potatoes are not ready, take out fish and wrap in foil, until the rest is done. Serve with parsley on top.

The parsley (along with a little bit of oregano) was the first use our new herb garden has seen.

posted evening of May 8th, 2008: Respond

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