Saturday, April 30, 2011

Good to the Grain

Baking...not my strongest kitchen skill. I've mastered certain cookies but only after a lifetime of baking them. Every so often I'll still end up with a dud batch, edible but remain just between me and my morning coffee. Baking is special occasion. Baking is sweet and decadent. With all of the cooking I've done in the last year, my baking repertoire is shockingly slim. Well, not so shocking really, because baking is a pain in the ass. Too scientific, no margin for error, too rigid... and baking with whole wheat flour? well that's been practically non-existent in the Little Kitchen. Why go to all that trouble for dry, leaden muffins that taste like cardboard. Too heavy. Too blech. Just never had much luck with it.
Yet I find myself in perplexed possession of Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce (via my margarita induced Amazon spree). Into the great unknown and way out of my comfort zone I toss it into the backpack, bungee on the market basket and pedal off to the natural foods co-op. I find myself buying the following: whole wheat flour, rye flour, oat flour, barley flakes and hulled millet. Last night I actually made flour with the barley and millet. I made my own flour! CA-razy no? The only reason I figured I could do this is because a while ago Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for something that called for oat flour and she suggested you could just throw some rolled oats into the food processor if pressed. So since Rainbow didn't have barley flour or millet flour...I got creative.
All five flours get mixed together to create a multigrain flour that gets used in several recipes. Last night I made Spice Muffins. They are unbelievably moist and perfectly sweet, though there's barely any sugar in them. Unsulphured molasses and applesauce?!? Brilliant!
Even more brilliant was the revelation that to achieve optimal muffin tops: fill the batter to the top of the cup and only use every other cup to allow the top to spill over. Just be sure to butter or spray the top of the pan.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


All in all a very productive week in the kitchen. I made these Little Quinoa Patties the other night. First time with quinoa and I'm hooked. Loving the flavor and texture and it's versatility. These will taste awesome with a dollop of tzatziki on top and a nice little salad. I'm thinking spinach with nuts and apples.

White Bean Spread...What can I say except note to self: white beans. crock pot. tonight.

Multigrain pancakes. It's really not that hard to throw this batter together and it doesn't suffer too much the next day or later that evening or the day after that even. Dang! I just remembered that I bought strawberries yesterday. Now I gotta have the last of this for dinner tonight.

These Little Quinoa Patties are another great "Next Day" quickie meal. These went really nicely with the pancakes, following them right into the hot pan.

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite came in todays mail and Good to the Grain came yesterday, this ones already got about 15 bookmarks. So far the ramifications of my drunk clicking hasn't led to any regrets.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Super Natural...Every. Day.

Cooking my way through Super Natural Everyday every day. Yesterday morning after noodling around on the netbook, I had about 30 minutes to get ready for work. Contemplating a quickie breakfast and amped up on coffee it only follows that one would decide to try a new recipe with only minutes to get out the door.
I'd earmarked this one for White Beans and Cabbage along with the White Bean Spread, originally planning it for dinner, but since I've been enjoying pancakes and oatmeal for dinner, why the hell not? Cooking cabbage for breakfast? Thinking outside the box? I throw that box on the floor and squash it like a bug!
I started heating up the olive oil at 9:00 and by 9:12, I had this on the plate. I brought the rest of it with me to work and finished it off. Easy. Start with two diced up potatoes and  some salt into a hot pan, brown 'em a little, toss in some diced shallots, cook a few minutes, add the white beans, brown those then add some finely shredded cabbage and toss around until starts to become slightly limp, like a minute. Done. On to a plate and top with parm and enjoy. Hmm....who'da thunk it?
Heidi's way with the camera is a talent I can only aspire to, at least for now equipped only with a cell phone and a Nikon Coolpix. Her photo for this dish actually adorns the cover of her book and it is truly inspiring because a short time ago, if any one had told me I'd even be thinking of cooking cabbage, let alone enjoying it for breakfast, I'da said you were nuts!
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Monday, April 25, 2011

New Favorite Bean Dip

A while back when I had Super Natural Cooking in my hot little hands (via SFPL) I bought white beans for the first time, to prepare what I think was a toasted white bean salad of some kind. It was good. Then the remaining beans got pushed to the back of the pantry. Heidi's photograph of this White Bean Spread is mouth watering, so when I saw it, I immediately remembered forgotten beans and foraged for the little jar. I have to say that I'm very pleased that the Little Kitchen pantry is becoming more and more well stocked as I had everything on hand to prepare this.
My go-to method of preparing any cooked bean requires just a little fore-thought and a slow cooker. Just before bedtime I rinse a cup of whatever bean, boil up some water in a kettle, dump 4 tablespoons of vegetarian chicken seasoning (purchased in bulk at Whole Foods or Rainbow) into my 4 cup pyrex, dissolve and dump everything into the slow cooker and I awake to cooking smells in my kitchen. Cooked beans go into the fridge until I get home.
This spread could not be easier and it tastes like heaven. Simply puree the beans with toasted almonds, rosemary & garlic infused olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and a little hot water. Transfer into a serving dish and top with reserved almonds, olive oil & lemon zest. Done!
Heidi suggests serving this with pita chips. Didn't have any, but did have some old won ton wrappers somewhere in the back of the fridge. Toasted them up and voila! This was my dinner last night.
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Super Natural & Super Simple

Open Faced Egg Sandwich, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.

So far the book seems to be living up to its title. This simple Open Faced Egg Sandwich is enhanced by rubbing a garlic clove on the warm, lightly buttered toast. The eggs are mixed with non-fat yogurt, fresh thyme, dill, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
So simple and so delicious!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pancakes and Promises...

New Message, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This post has been hovering about on draft mode for several days now. I've been back and forth to it, editing, deleting wondering "what's it all about?"
Pancakes. I made Heidi's Multigrain Pancakes because I've never really been a fan of the whole wheat variety of pancake. I ever only really want pancakes when I see an IHOP. I'd been mezmerized by all the different flours I see at Rainbow. So I made these and they were good. They don't look so good in the photo though 'cuz I made them for dinner and my little cell phone cam is not so happy in incandescent lighting.
This leads to a few promises beyond the obvious one to create better photos. I mentioned in a previous post that I'd broken the promise I made to myself not to buy any more cookbooks, but after the inspiration brought about by Super Natural Everyday and the 7 recipes I've produced, I can clearly say it was not a waste of money.
I promise NEVER (again) to peruse Amazon whilst drinking margaritas. I bought (I thought) two more cookbooks. When I checked my AOL mail (which I never use anymore) yesterday, I see all these confirmations from Amazon. Turns out I bought 4. regrets.
I promise to cook only from my new cookbooks for the next month. In addition to Melissa Clarks In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite and Dorie Greenspans Around My French Table, I also bought Super Natural Cooking and Good to the Grain.
I promise to go home right now and make these pancakes again and take a better picture.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back to Basics

Oatmeal, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Yesterday I fell off the wagon. It's been over two years since I've purchased a new cookbook. The library and the internet were perfectly suitable for providing me with my recipe fix. I vowed to chisel down my cookbook library and actually start cooking from them. I vowed to pick my library book of the month and cook at least six recipes from chosen book before returning it. I figured this was a reasonable task.
I wandered into Books, Inc. yesterday and it was like some crazy magnet pulling me toward the cookbook display and there was Heidi Swansons gorgeous new book Super Natural Everyday. Well once I opened it up I couldn't let it go.
Not only did I break my cookbook vow, this is the first time in probably 10 years that I've paid full retail.
Only Heidi has managed to make oatmeal alluring. I've had a jar of steel cut oats lurking about the back of the pantry for about six months.  I'm taking a little break from polenta. Hmmmn...I wonder if that's what's causing my current state of restlessness and general foul-moodie-ness. Polenta has been like crack to me.
Anyhoo I cooked up an absurd amount of steel cut oats. It took a lot longer than anticipated. It was on the stove for an hour, so I ended up reheating pizza for breakfast and what ended up being an awesome oatmeal for dinner...dressed up with greek yogurt, toasted almonds, dried fruit and agave nectar.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

La Mediterranee

La Mediterranee, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Every now and again there's the desire and necessity to explore beyond the little kitchen and seek inspiration in the three dimensional world. I eat out so rarely these days and when I do it's usually for convenience, a need for fuel during the a mad rush of a day.
A while back though, before life got crazy and after I made a dedicated decision to expand my somewhat limited palate, I found myself in this tiny gem on Fillmore St, La Meditteranee. I'd ventured in to their original location in the Castro many years ago with one of my old travelling pals in the attempt to re-capture a little bit of an ancient trip to the Greek Islands. 20 years ago though, my idea my idea of exotic culinary adventure seemed fulfilled by beers of the world, souvlaki and tzatziki dip with french fries.
La Meditterranee is more Middle Eastern than Greek, similar but different. Though more adventurous in my eating, I do need the comfort of familiarity and when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine nothing is more comforting than tzatziki, a yogurt and cucumber dip that I could just eat by the spoonful. Many, many spoonfuls. On this menu it's called Djajiki. I ordered it in combination with something new to me called Harisa, a dip consisting of tomatoes, roasted red peppers and walnuts. I was particularly amused by the artistry.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pizza Night...

New Message, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
...again. I'm in the midst of guerilla costuming and margarita mania and an opening weekend. Sunday  was a rare evening when I didn't have to be at a fitting or at a theater after my "day at the office". All I wanted to do was spend the evening in my kitchen and cook up some comfort to get me through the next few days of insanity. I've really had my fill of refried beans and tortillas.
First up was my tried and true Shaved Asparagus Pizza from Smitten Kitchen. I could do this one in my sleep. Pedaling by my local produce market I noted that the price of asparagus was quite within my comfort zone so I'd been thinking about this for a couple of days, just waiting for some kitchen time.
Wilst the dough was rising I began the preparations for Mushroom Risotto from my current library edition of Americas Test Kitchen Favorites which has been sitting on my kitchen table unopened for weeks amassing over-due fines in the process.
I made a hybrid of this mushroom risotto recently and though this particular recipe is labor intensive, the results were well worth it. There's actually something calming about the process of cooking risotto. Unlike rice or the pilafs I like to make where there's a lot of initial prep then it gets left alone until it's done, risotto needs a lot of love.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Ode to Polenta

Buttery Polenta with Parmesean and a Poached Egg, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Buttery Polenta <sigh> where have you been all my life?
The Little Kitchen has been sadly neglected and badly abused for the past several weeks as all of my creative and  physical energies have been needed elsewhere. Even though I've only been spending about 60 vertical minutes a day in my apartment, the kitchen looks like a whirling dervish of destruction has occurred in my absence or during the night. It's pretty sad if not downright scary.
So throughout all of the mayhem, one thing comes through. Buttery Polenta. Yum. Quick, easy versatile and in a very short period of time has become my favorite go-to comfort food. Up until six months ago I don't think I'd ever eaten polenta. All that changed when I got my hands on Melissa Clarks recent book. In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite was referenced in a couple of my favorite blogs and I immediately put in a library request and had it in my hot little hands a week later. I've raved about this book before but, here it is six months later and I'm still obsessed with it. Every day is a struggle not to go over to Amazon and click that button. For the time being I have sworn not to buy another cookbook. I'm now considering another dumpage to make room for Good Appetite and Dorie Greenspans Around My French Table...oh and Heidi Swansons two books Super Natual Cooking and Super Natural Every Day. There was a time when I figured that anything I'd want to make could be found on the internet and no need to clutter up the tiny shelf space. But these books all contain so much more than just recipes. The storytelling and photography make them more than just cookbooks. They are all inspiring.
Since I've fallen in love with polenta, I've made this dish, with a poached egg and parmesean more in the last  six months than all the other dishes I've made combined. I've also grilled the hardened polenta and topped it with sauteed mushrooms and parmesean.
So once I've gotten my time back, the kitchen will be back to exploring more ways to enhance my new favorite comfort food, though I'm pretty convinced I've already landed on perfection I will use my OCD for the greater good.