Archive | October, 2013

True Gruel

30 Oct

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It was my lil’ blogmuffin’s birthday. And I decided that in its honor, it was about dang time I made gruel for Gruel.

I searched around for actual gruel recipes. Apparently there is a delicious rice porridge dish (Korean maybe?) called congee that is sometimes referred to as gruel. I also found a broth-y sort of recipe for gruel in one of my favorite cookbooks, “The Breakfast Book”, by Marion Cunningham.

I was told by a friend that the rice porridge dish was great. But I wanted something with the original name of “gruel”.

I also wanted an excuse to open a bottle of wine.

Not that I need an excuse, per se, but like a sweater carried around just-in-case, it’s nice to have one.

Sorry for that metaphor. It was stupid, but too true for me to leave out.

I originally wanted the term “gruel” for this blog because a lot of food that doesn’t look good (like gruel), still tastes amazing. That is the “scrumptious” part. I’ve gotten a bit better at making my food somewhat prettier, I guess. But I still like to think of this blog in “gruel” terms. It’s rough, and ready. It is strong. It is here to nourish you. And me. Duh. Blogs are the most narcissistic invention there is.

I love my blog.

I also enjoy the Oxford comma, incidentally.

Marion’s gruel recipe is not too specific. Most elements it tells to you can add if you like. When it comes to wine, butter, and sugar, I always like.

This was actually quite good. Comforting as Marion promised. I was surprised.

I’m giving you a recipe for what I made but feel free to adapt “as you like”. And you will.

Happy birthday gruel!

Gruel interpreted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
2 Tbsp. oatmeal
1 cup H2O
1/2 tsp. butter
Pinch if sugar
1 Tbsp. white wine (I used a dry Riesling)
Dash nutmeg
Soak oats in water for 20 minutes then strain the liquid into a small pan. Bring to a simmer and add everything else. Yay gruel! Pour a glass of wine and light a candle. Party time. Excellent.

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Birds! St. Louis! Go go go! And a Mess

24 Oct

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I wished for something red to make for you guys, as I am cheering on my Redbirds in the World Series. I wished for something to use up meringues from the column I was writing for Hello Giggles. I wanted something easily gobble-able whilst on my couch screaming for Beltran.

I am running between the aforementioned Giggles, auditions, my third short film to shoot this month, improv shows, improv practice, a new scene study class, and a new assignment from Blackboard Eats.

This is good. I have no brainpower left.

And I apologize or rattling off my to do lists here. I’ll get back to the food.

I made food representative of my mind-state which is A MESS!

Voila, mofos. The Eton Mess.

This meringue recipe was intended for shells to make pavlovas, but I imagine you could just dollop it out for cookies too.

ps yes, I used reddi-whip. I am pretty sure real whipped cream would make this superlative.

Messy Bird Food adapted from a pavlova recipe by America’s Test Kitchen’s Baking Illustrated
For meringues:
• two egg whites
• 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ tsp. almond extract
• ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
For the rest of dessert:
*whipped cream to your liking
*strawberries, also to your liking
*sugar, if you find it necessary but the meringues and whipped cream will probably do it.
Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a whisk attachment for your mixer, now’s the time to use it. If you are beating these egg whites by hand, I’m sorry. Your arm is going to be sore when you are done. Beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until thick and billow-y like newly lathered shaving cream. Slowly sprinkle in ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat just until incorporated. Turn off mixer. Use whisk to fold in the rest of the sugar. Scoop it out in ¼ cup amounts onto the parchment (you should get six) and use a big spoon to create hollows that you will be putting filling in. I had to do a bit of cheating, spooning extra around the edges to create a basin in the middle. Do what you gotta do. Bake about 1 ½ hours, or until dry and sturdy exteriors. Turn the oven off but leave the shells in for several hours to get dried. If you store these in an airtight container they will keep for about two weeks.
Mash about half the berries. If you think they need sweetening do it now. Some recipes I found for Eton Mess called for layering the elements, others called for folding them all together. I layered. Then I could fold together bite by fluffy bite.

Go Cardinals!

The Sexy Beast. And pretzels.

17 Oct

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It came in and conquered.
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Yes, I’ve referred to my red KitchenAid food processor as my lover, but this…this being entered like a storm. I had lusted after a red KA mixer for ages. And I got one for my birthday. I had been making due with a hand mixer that no longer would go to it’s highest speed and just stop when faced with a dough that was even remotely stiff.

Suddenly there is a world open to me that was not there before: perfectedly kneaded bread doughs, whipped egg whites, perhaps the ice cream maker attachment will come into my life at some point.

You will note that it is red. Largely because it is so goddamn sexy. It is unnerving just how bodacious a kitchen appliance can be.

It is fitting that I have a red mixer because I am a Cardinals fan. If you are born in St. Louis they inject a hefty dose of Cardinals Baseball into you at birth.

I finally went to a game here in LA:

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It is a bloody exciting time. The Cards versus the Dodgers. Whoever wins the series National League Championship Series goes to the World Series.

I hadn’t been to a game in ages and I loved it. Baseball is a meditation laced with moments where a maniac fan-monster takes over your body and you are screaming and hollering like an idiot. And then you settle in and watch some more. Love it.

I had been thinking about pretzels in honor of Octoberfest for a while. And thinking about baseball also had me thinking about pretzels. The big soft kind.

In my mind pretzels are not the sort of thing one can REALLY achieve at home. They are something you go somewhere to get. The only people who make them are the type of people who craft at home other foods you normally buy. Like Oreos.

Who friggin’ makes Oreos? Only overchieving vegans (Oreos are already vegan) and creepy bloggers who somehow think a gluten-free, date-infested, coconut cream-filled thing that looks sorta like an Oreo deserves to be called a “homemade Oreo”. I have news for them: it doesn’t matter what you name that monstrosity, or what it looks like, because it is not an Oreo. It is a travesty.

I thought I couldn’t achieve a pretzel. But I had the power of the Sexy Beast, and there seemed to be no better way to break it in.

I was nervous. I was suspicious. I did not do the best job shaping these. But as I removed them from the oven, I ripped into one. Let it cool for a moment then put it in my mouth.

My god. It was that pretzel taste. With the nice skin on it and everything. Holy moly I felt like a genius. Or a magician. Or Martha Stewart.

Or at least god.

big soft pretzels from America’s Test Kitchen’s Baking Illustrated
1 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
3 cups of bread flour plus more as needed
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
Oil for bowl
3 Tbsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt or otherwise large salt
Mix yeast, honey, salt, flour, and water in a stand mixer. Use a dough hook to knead until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, about five-seven minutes, adding a bit of extra flour af absolutely necessary.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours. Punch down. Allow to rise until doubled again-30-40 minutes.
Put I’ve rack in the middle and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pour 6 cups of water and baking soda into a 12-inch skillet and heat to a boil.
Meanwhile line a baking heet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll into ropes. I failed in getting them to the recommended 20 inches but you can try. Shape into pretzels. If you don’t know what a pretzel is shaped like…just google it. Put them on baking sheet. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to put them in boiling water, top-side down. After 30 seconds use tongs or something like that to flip and boil another 30 seconds. Make sure they are well drained before you put them back on prepared sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake between10 and 18 minutes-until nice and brown, turning the baking sheet after about 7 minutes. Remove to wire rack. Admire yourself.

Bulgur not vulgar

9 Oct

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I have been soooo bloody busy. This week involves two shoots in addition to everything else. So as much as I want to throw more cocktails and cakes your way I also think that you deserve a little health. Health comes in the “creamed” flavor, didja know that?

Of course my “cream” involves almond milk but let us ignore that.
The leftovers of this health can be packed and molded and y’all know I love shaped food:

For even more health there is my mush, and deep, deep, philosophical thoughts on Goodnight Moon over at Hello Giggles.

I should ply you with health while I can. I fear that there may be a lot more beverages for you here now that I’m cooking/writing for two. For three counting my lover.

Speaking of lovers (What a segue! It even made sense.), this bulgur comes from my second lover. Well, third lover, counting Trent Reznor.

Because you know Mark Bittman can get bulgur with me any day of the week.

Bulgur not vulgar!

Vulgar is reserved for Trent.

Let’s just get creamy and get it over with. I promise to be chaste next week.

One last thought-leftovers can be packed an molded into shaped food forms. I love food with structure:

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Creamed Bulgur with chard adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Olive oil spray
1/3 cup chopped onion
Several cups of cleaned chopped Swiss Chard
1/2 cup bulgur
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Nutmeg
Heat a pot over medium, spray with olive oil and sauté onion until soft. Add chard, stir, and cook until wilted. Add bulgur, milk and broth. Stir, cover and turn heat to low for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat off for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Deeeeelish.

Great expectations: martinify

3 Oct

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It’s all about what you expect. If you anticipate one thing, and you get something different, that new thing might transcend what was expected. Or, no matter how wonderful it is, it is rejected as not good. An unwelcome surprise.

Life can bring unexpected good. In the last week I nabbed a small part in a short film, got to do improv at Second City Hollywood, and got the job of writing a wee little column for the popular Hello Giggles. I’ll be yakking about books and food over there. These unexpected, un-planned for happenings are the type of thing that renew my faith in life. You never know what may come. Box of chocolates. Etc.

HOWEVER! How about a harrowing tale of roughing it in LA?

Sometimes a girl just wants a nice pink cosmo.
I was in that sort of mood and ordered one at the Standard. The bartender handed me a clear drink. He informed me, with a twinkle in his eye, that somehow managed to be both twinkly and condescending, that they make their cosmos with white cranberry juice.

I guess the twinkle was for their oh-so-clever twist and the condescension was for…the fact that I wanted a Cosmo.

Half the joy in a Cosmo is the color. I swear they taste different when they look different.

If I expected and wanted a clear drink maybe I’d have loved their cheeky originality.

But no. The horror. The horror!

If you have the guts to order an old chestnut like a Cosmo you should be rewarded with a proper Cosmo.

I was also once given a clear chocolate martini and felt terribly disappointed. HOWEVER! At home, I once decided to make clear chocolate martini. It was A Choice. My nerves were steeled for what would follow. I wasn’t sure. Would I love it, would I hate it?

Would it make my eyes twinkle?

Well, I was prepared for a clear drink, and I liked it. Not sure about the twinkle factor.

Clear Chocolate Martini (from The Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich)

1 1/2 oz. vanilla vodka
1/2 oz. clear creme de cacao
Shake with ice. Strain into glass. Contemplate the chocolate factor. Decide to eat some dark chocolate, just in case.