food


It’s official. I’m in love with chickpea flour. The stuff is awesome. Also called Besan, or Gram flour, I get mine from the wonderful nuts.com. (Haven’t heard of Nuts.com? GO THERE NOW. Seriously, if I got some kind of kickback for everyone I refereed there, and who subsequently got just as addicted to their site as I have, I’d be rocking right now. I don’t get anything. I just LOVE them. Try their spicy black bean sticks. Or one of their many trail mix blends. The dried strawberries! The unsulphered, less sugar pineapple! I could go on for ages….)

I originally bought my chickpea flour to make an Indian flatbread. I never got to it. Instead I made some chickpea cookies to use up the flour. They were… odd. An interesting texture, but hard to tell when they were done and a little bland. I wasn’t sold on the magic of chickpea flour yet. I still had flour left though, and came across a recipe for chickpea flour pancakes on Oh She Glows. It sounded amazing. But I couldn’t get it to work. No matter what, the pancakes I made ended up a combination of not fully cooked with crispy and stuck to the pan. I couldn’t get a single one to flip properly. The parts that I salvaged? They were great. I looked up other recipes, tried different pans… nothing worked. UNTIL NOW! I recently picked up the cook book Teff Love. I was looking for some info on the author and came across her website- and a whole section devoted to Pudla! (Plus a great tip I’d never tried to use an onion to help season a cast iron pan.) The Pudla was thicker than my previous attempts. I was patient and let it sit long enough to cook. It flipped beautifully. At last! Crisp crunchy outside, savory inside. Alas, I have no photos, I inhaled the thing super fast and didn’t even think to take one.

Butecha

Butecha from Teff Love

Chickpea flour doesn’t just make amazing savory breakfasts though. While at our favorite drinking spot getting to know the locals, Chris and I ended up chatting with Rob, a chef/owner of a few local restaurants. We talked about being vegetarian in a very meat-heavy neighborhood, and he asked if we’d ever tried Burmese Tofu. What now? THIS STUFF IS MADE FROM CHICKPEAS! Soy free ‘tofu’? Sign me up. With my huge bag of flour taunting me in the pantry, it was only a matter of time till I tried to make some myself. I had a few recipes bookmarked, but sort of forgot about it for a while. Then my Teff Love cookbook showed up in the mail… included inside, a recipe not only for a quick chickpea tofu, but also some suggestions of what to do with the stuff. I bookmarked the Butecha and grabbed my chickpea flour. Making the stuff was fascinating. Stirring over a low heat, the watery powdery mixture of chickpea flour, water and spices hits a point where it just solidifies, like a custard.  I may have overcooked mine before spreading it out in a pan to solidify, it wasn’t ‘light and pillowy’ like some of the recipes suggest, but it sure was interesting. Solid and bright yellow. I diced it up and stirred in a mixture of oil, onion, salt, garlic, jalapeno and lemon. I’M SOLD. Mashed up on some toast? Delicious. In a wrap with diced cucumber, tomato, pickle and sirracha? Yum. (Ok, the pickle may have been overkill, but whatever, it was delicious.)

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Romanesco. And yes, it really is that color.

I have discovered the most amazing vegetable. It is called Romanesco and it looks like it belongs in a sci-fi move. Seriously weird. What an example of fractals in nature! Its like you’re eating a science experiment. I asked the lady what it was, and she described it as a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. I just couldn’t resist. It was so bright and so magical looking. The only downside? Its quite pungent. The whole car smelled like something had gotten out of the bag and been left in the sun. We’re storing it in a tightly sealed ziplock to prevent it from fumigating the fridge. But the taste? YUM! It has the solid texture of cauliflower but the taste of broccoli. We made some beans, couscous, baked tofu and a veggie stir-fry… and so good. I’ll definitely pick up more of this amazing beautiful vegetable.

stir-fried and delicious

Mini birthday cake!

 

Mini-cake cooling

I’m not really a baker. I don’t follow recipes exactly when I cook, I just throw stuff together. But I know baking is a science, and you’re supposed to stick to the recipe to get the right amount of fluffiness, the right balance of flavors. Yeah… I still don’t really. My Dad’s birthday is coming up, and I got in my head that I wanted to make his favorite cake. All I remembered about it was it was a really dense chocolate, with an awesome coffee sauce and it was extremely complicated. But I had Friday off, and thought I could tackle it. But here’s the thing. He’s going through chemo, and his appetite is way down. Even if it wasn’t, the cake has flour in it, and Karen is gluten-free. So making a whole cake for just my Dad seemed kinda silly. The cake called for a spring-form pan, and when looking around online for a good one, I hit on my solution. A mini-cake!! I got a set of 4 small spring-form pans and set about to split the recipe. 3 eggs, huh? Guess I’m splitting it in a third! Now I’ve never actually made this particular cake, never made anything in a spring-form pan and never had to split a complicated cake mixture in a third. Lots of cups split into tablespoon/teaspoon measurements.

iced cake

Beating one egg is kind of funny. I felt like I was making a cake for a dollhouse. Carefully folding in the eggs, grabbing a pinch of this, a pinch of that. I wasn’t sure how high to fill the pan (just used up all the batter) how to adjust the temperature (reduced to 350 for the first 15 minutes, up to 400 for the last 10-15) or how long to cook it (ended up around the recommended 25, perhaps a little longer).  I just kept an eye on it and all seemed to go well. I don’t know if the top was supposed to be rounded, but oh well.  Released it from its spring form, and cut into three layers. Made the chocolate pudding, in a third again. Spread it over the layers. Let it cool. The whole thing fit under an upside down tupperware container. (Score! Perfect for cooling overnight!) Making the coffee sauce was my favorite part. I don’t know if it was the coffee liquor, the espresso powder or the vanilla bean but the whole thing made my house smell AMAZING.

blurry Dad blowing out the candles

And the whole thing? Huge (mini) success! The cake was awesome. The perfect size. Even Chris (who doesn’t really like cake) liked it. Probably because it is more fudge like than cake like. I got a gluten-free brownie for Karen at the farmer’s market so she could celebrate along with us (the coffee sauce helped make that tastier).

Now what else can I make with my awesome new mini-cake pans???

rainbows on the ground, anxious look on my face

We have a performance coming up. With fire fans. Which I’ve practiced with on fire a total of three times. Yeah, I’m more than a little anxious about this. The tough thing is that it is difficult to practice privately with them on fire. Despite my performance history and the fact that I’m in a dance troupe that, well, performs, I’m actually incredibly shy. And hate Hate HATE being watched while I do something I’m anxious about. Add to the fact that when I hold the fans my mind totally goes blank and all my dance auto-pilot moves seem to escape me… very tough to practice.

I was planning on heading to NJ last weekend to celebrate Tom’s birthday and see Jen & Andrew’s new place. The snow & ice put that plan on hold, but thankfully so. When I got the news early this week that we’d be performing, I knew I had to practice, on fire, in as much solitary as one can practice fire. What better place to wave fans of flame in the air than the sticks of Jersey? I got some fuel (lamp oil), and asked my Mom if she’d help. All we needed was some duvetyne and we’d be set. After some back-and-forthing of schedules, I finally managed to get some from Chip- awesome. He gave me some great pieces that are perfect. Too small to really use on set, just right for putting out flames. (Chip, once again, you’re my hero!) Meanwhile, Mom borrowed a bag of it from the prop-shop. I really consider myself lucky to have so many friends and family members who are resourceful!

fire fingers

Mom and I ventured outside, with a fair amount of trepidation. I think she was really worried that she’d have to put out big flames, and concerned about doing her job as safety well. After lighting up in the backyard, we both took a look at all the leaves by my feet and decided moving to the driveway would be a much smarter idea. So move we did, and I waved the fans around, not quite sure what to do, and still absolutely terrified of spinning them. A few burns later, once we were both much calmer, Mom started helping me with dance form, and soon I was spinning… not quite like a pro, but not nearly as scared as before. Arms out in dance posture, elbows bent. Shoulders back. Don’t lean forward into the flames, stand up straight. Don’t look at the fans. Shoulders back. Arms out.  I dropped them many times, but Mom never had to rush forward with her duvetyne. Tom got anxious about the trees, but the whole practice proceeded without incident. I even lit up the fire fingers… amazing how they are so tame in comparison! Smaller wicks, sure…. but the whole idea of not having to spin them and not worrying about dropping makes them easy-peasy next to the fans!

Oh, and the birthday dinner that was re-scheduled? Not too shabby! We went to Riley and Jake’s, a recently re-opened spot near their house. Much better than the decor would lead you to believe!

Mom's seared tuna salad

 

 

First go at pickling

Pickling supplies

We harvested a ton of peppers a week or so ago. It quickly became apparent that we could never use nor give away nearly enough. I didn’t mean to grow all hot peppers, I swear. I tried to plant two different varieties of sweet pepper that apparently were mislabeled at home depot. Instead of a sweet bell and a gypsy pepper I got a jalapeno and cherry red hot. That’s in addition to the jalapeno and cherry red hot I had already planted. Oh well…. canning time! I’ve never canned before, and of course I decide it will be a brilliant thing to do before heading out to a wedding. Right… but all the jars sealed, they look like pickled hot peppers are supposed to look, so seems all went according to plan. Still not sure, as we haven’t popped open a jar yet, but we’ll see.

Then, wedding! It was fun, I danced all night, and only took pictures of people waiting on the train platform to head back into the city for the ‘after party’. Where I realized I never grabbed my ID and couldn’t get into the bar. Ug. Cab ride home for idiot Nicole.

The NJ Hellrazors

Sunday was for relaxing, watching cheesy movies and finishing laundry. Then…. to derby! Jen O is on the NJ Hellrazors, and they had a home bout, at a roller rink that happens to be 30 seconds away from Chris’ parents house. We made dinner with his folks and headed over to the rink to watch Jen-O Go-Go zoom around the track. The Hellrazors slammed the other team, something like 175 to 69. It was awesome. Jen’s so fast! She skated as a jammer a whole bunch of times, and racked up a ton of points. Super rad. Now to get her wearing some stripey tights….

Here in Philly, Irene wasn’t really all that bad. Of course, the rivers are still rising, and the commute tomorrow may be a nightmare, but we kept our power, our basement stayed dry and the plants seem to have survived.

peppers from the garden

We picked all the ripe and ripe-ish peppers of the plants in the back, in case the winds blew them down. Not sure what we’re going to do with this many hot peppers… I tried to plant a bell pepper and a pablano plant, but they turned out to be a jalapeno and a cherry red hot, both plants I had already planted. Damn you, Home Depot, and your poor labeling. Oh well. The largest ones are cow horns. The first one we picked was frighteningly spicy. The rest of these aren’t nearly so bad. Not sure if its the season or the fact that the plant has more fruit on it now and needs to spread out the spice (does that even make sense) but I’m glad we’ll be able to cook with them without fear. We seem to have two kinds of jalapenos, the small red ones and the fatter green ones. I think they’ll be good in all sorts of things. Mmmm.

The rest of our hurricane preparedness was a little lackluster. I filled up our water bottles, filled the tub, bought a candle from my favorite bee guy at the farmer’s market. We stocked up on fruit and got some bread from the bakery guy at the market. (We were out of bread, it wasn’t a particular hurricane purchase.) As the rain started we headed out to Ippolitos to pick up some fish for dinner and grab lunch (they have The Best Fish Tacos Ever!). Of course, we got completely soaked. But being full-bellied-later was totally worth it.

oysters to bake

Chris’ old room mate is back in Philly, and bunkered down with us for the hurricane. We planned a feast. Four each of four different kinds of oysters, to bake with butter, garlic and cheese for an appetizer. We forgot to get french bread, so toasted up some naan to soak up the extra sauce. Next up- hurricane stew. We’re pretty backed up with our farm share usage, a soup/stew seemed like a pretty good way to use a lot of it up.

hurricane stew

The other benefit was that if the power went out, we could easily re-heat the soup with my camp stove. (Although, we have a gas stove, so Chris thought it would still work without power. I was skeptical, but turned out to be moot anyway.)

We paired the soup with swordfish loin steak sandwiches. So good. Food coma. Mmmm…… We have tons of soup left, which is going to be great for lunch this week.

We spent the rest of the night watching Doctor Who and trying to watch other cheesy tv, but being thwarted by the Irene news-takeover. Tornado warning. Lots of really dramatic maps. Nutter saying people could be without power for two weeks.

At the end of it all, we survived. I won’t be snarky about how freaked out everyone was, because some areas were really hard hit. But we emptied the tub and got on with our weekend. I made cookies. It was lovely.

oatmeal raisin cookies

grilled oysters and fish

grilled oysters and fish

We call it a fish fry, but I guess BBQ is really more accurate. We made so much food. And we still have a lot left. Way too many veggies, still some oysters, two bags of red fish. So seriously, who’s coming over? Some one has to help us eat all this food. We’re just lying around watching cheesy movies and relaxing. Its a pretty nice Sunday for a visit…

the best jambalaya ever

the best jambalaya ever

We made a double batch of jambalaya this time, and we still don’t have very much left. It is so good. We’ve got leftover veggies and potatoes too. I’m going to have the best lunches this week.

the shucking assembly line

I can’t believe how many oysters we got. (Have I mentioned how much I love Ippolitos?) The boys had a nice assembly line going, shucking away. I don’t think anyone got hurt, at least I hope not! We only have one real shucking knife, and one pair of gloves, but they seemed to do a good job even without being fully outfitted.

I already can’t wait for our pizza party. Hopefully some of the people who couldn’t make it out last night can come to that event. Mmmm… just posting this had made me hungry. We even bought turkey dogs and ground beef for the BBQ. Never even got into it. So much food….

Also, one of Chris’ friends is moving to the neighborhood, and she also wants to learn how to hoop. We talked about getting together and practicing… I’m excited to have a beginning hooper buddy. I’m pretty shy about doing it by myself, but all the other hoopers I know are super talented, so I feel all elbows. Can’t wait to meet up with her and hoop!

head-on LA shrimpers

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