Monday, January 20, 2014

Vegetable Spring Rolls

Vegetable Spring Rolls, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
Kohlrabi showed up in the market a few weeks ago, about the same time as I was feeling the need to redirect my little kitchen exploits away from cookies and pizza, just for a little while-quite the challenge since Christmas gifted me with a glorious fire engine red Kitchen Aid stand mixer and these gorgeous cookery books, thanks to my super cool sister and my lovely nieces respectively.
This little blog here was born from a self imposed challenge to not only bring fruits and vegetables into the kitchen, but to transform my little kitchen from a space with a microwave, a collection of rarely used cookbooks and a showcase of kitchen collectables, into a highly functioning creative space with the end goal of saving money and eating better.
Fate and fortitude have led me to a place where my work day is spent surrounded by amazing food and passionate foodies. I look at produce all day that constantly changes and there is something new and often unusual to examine, taste and explore.
Making it's first appearance in the little kitchen is...
Kohlrabi...It's a relative of cabbage. Its name literally translates from German to cabbage turnip. The asteroid looking bulb, once peeled of its tough stringy exterior, can be thinly sliced and eaten in a salad or shredded into a slaw. It tastes like a cabbage heart or a broccoli stem but milder, sweeter and juicier. The greens can be used the same as kale or collards, sautéed or cooked into my favorite gratin.
Anyhoo, my Googling of things to do with kohlrabi landed me at this New York Times recipe for Vegetable Spring Rolls with Shredded Kohlrabi.
It intrigued me on a couple of levels...first, the recipe looked super healthy and the photo of the spring rolls was so beautiful. Second, was the challenge of making spring rolls. I've never done that and thirdly: tofu. I can't really explain why I feel compelled to make tofu my friend. I've never liked it...the texture turns me off and the flavor? totally flavorless. I have no desire to ever go vegetarian, so it's not like I need to like it. This was only the second time I've used tofu in a recipe and I hafta say I'm coming around. I got this brand at work. HodoSoy is a local company out of Oakland that makes a good, firm, organic tofu that makes the perfect sponge for this marinade. I'm not a big stickler on organic products, but it seems that next to corn, soy is a huge GMO crop.
Notes on navigating the Asian market: I've been shopping at New May Wah market for 10+ years I still get confused shopping for new ingredients.  I made a few mistakes. Rice sticks...these are noodles and come in a range of thickness's just like Italian pasta. Get the thinest size. I bought ones that were too fat-after soaking them in boiling water for 20 minutes they still weren't anywhere near cooked. I boiled them. They got rubbery when the spring rolls were refrigerated and eaten later. The thin ones apparently will just soften if you pour boiling water over them and let them sit for 20 minutes. I also bought the wrong wrappers the first time, buying the frozen wheat flour based kind. Those are for cooked spring rolls. The rice wrappers are in dry goods and look like sheets of rice paper. They soak in warm water and get all rubbery. They're hard to work with first time out because the sheet folds over on itself and sticks and just gets worse and worse and they'll rip if they soak too long. Don't fight it...toss it and start again. There are 25 sheets in a package so just give into the learning curve.
It's definitely worth the struggle in the end. The dipping sauce is just peanut butter stirred into the marinade. Brilliant!
These are the perfect vessel for transporting all manner of raw vegetables into your mouth.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Red & Gold Sunday

Red & Gold Sunday, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
This will be a very creative year as the little kitchen cooks up all manner of creative energy.
I had the very rare Sunday off this week. A year ago I would have been searching out the best bar to perch myself for watching the NFL Playoffs...even at 10am. 49er Faithful here.
Things are a little different this year. This gorgeous day started off with a leisurely morning at Simple Pleasures sippin' on my pint of java and doodling in my new sketchbook (I can't tell you how happy that makes me).
At 10 am I headed home, turned on the TV, eversograteful that the gods of the airwaves let me tune into channel 2 today. I then proceeded to make myself the BEST omelette using leftover hotdogs. Yes. I made hotdogs for dinner on Saturday night-one of my customers had purchased hotdog fixin's for his Friday night dinner and for about 24 hours I could not stop thinking about hotdogs. I had to give in, especially when I honed in on the Acme hotdog buns free for the taking in the break room.
Anyhoo, breakfast made, Niners on the screen, sewing machine set up, I started cutting up fabric pieces for aprons. It wasn't until the second half of the game and I had the two spools of thread sitting there next to each other that without any thought to it, I was deep into my Niners red & gold.
Sewing in the sun, watching my Niners moving into the Championships and then finishing the day with a new episode of Downton Abbey...well, it was a great day. Oh, and I made pizza for dinner.

The Hot Dog Omelette:
I made the whole deal in an 8-inch omelette pan using 4 regular sized hot dogs. The finished mix was good for two big omelettes.

caramelize 2 onions 
add 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
and one thinly sliced green pepper
red pepper flakes 
hotdogs sliced on the diagonal into about 1/4- 1/2 thick slices, working the slices to the bottom of the pan to brown
add 2 or 3 chopped tomatoes
Cover the pan and let the tomatoes release some water. Remove the lid and let some of the moisture cook off.
You can go two ways here. You can keep the mix wet and then spread it across your cooked eggs or you can cook off most of the moisture and then pour the egg mix over the filling. I did it the first way. If you go the second way,  remove all but 1 cup of the filling from the pan, spread it out and pour in your eggs. I'd say the ratio is one cup filling to 3 eggs.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Artwork in the little kitchen

This was one of the crafty gifts I made this Christmas. I got this bee in my bonnet last year when I stumbled upon a series of cute food illustrations on Pinterest, which ultimately led me to this website. It's a really fun and inspiring place full of illustrated recipes submitted by artists from all over the world. The recipe (and the photograph that inspired the artwork) for the chocolate cake came from Yvette van Boven's Home Made Winter. I love her books. She has  restaurants in Paris and Amsterdam and she's also an illustrator.
I made the microwave cake. It didn't puff up as much as the photograph but it was surprisingly tasty and the perfect answer to a sudden chocolate craving.
This is another recipe from Cook's Country.It's more work, but worth the effort.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The New Year begins...

...with pizza dough rising and cookie dough mixing. Whaaaat??? Just when I thought I was done with the cookies. I just couldn't help myself and in spite of falling victim to the virus that I've been managing to avoid since Thanksgiving, I met the New Year with fever and fervor.
I've been sadly negligent of my little blog here of late. That doesn't mean that the little kitchen hasn't been a hotbed of activity. There were boxes and boxes of Christmas cookies baked and many many aprons stitched and recipes illustrated. The little kitchen gets crafty this year and my one and only new years resolution is to post weekly and not worry about it not being some delectable foodie revelation. Sometimes it's just about pizza dough.
The year did not start with a bang.
Yesterday was a blaaahh, stay in my new Christmas jammies all day and watch back to back episodes of Burn Notice, eating only white rice with butter, salt and pepper.
Today I woke up and could actually breathe again. So I got to to work 'cuz hold onto your hats-
I finally got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer!
Yaaaay and mucho thanks to my fabu seester.
First up I made pizza dough following a recipe from the book that came with the mixer. It was good and the pizza was fine. Nothing spectacular. Next I tried making focaccia and the results were underwhelming. Not surprising since I used the same pizza dough recipe.
So I went a-googling and came up with this Bobby Flay recipe from the Food Network. It turned out pretty great. Nice and puffy and chewy and bready. I liked it. The best part was that I made it with some old bread flour that I had in my "pantry" other wise known as the big plastic storage box under my kitchen table.
Just keepin' it real. HaPpY nEw YeAr!!!!