Saturday, April 26, 2008

Books to be read, and Matzoh Ball Soup

Stuff has been a little crazy lately. crazy like working 13 hour days, and getting up the next day to do it all over again with a smile on my face. what can i say? I'm a slave for free food.

not a lot of reading got done. but i made two batches of Maztah Ball Soup, and learned some stuff in the process - parsley = good, thinking your Maztah balls are done before their time = bad.

My Matzah Ball Soup (adapted from Mom's recipe)

make the soup:
olive oil or schmaltz (what's schmatlz?)
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
half an onion, diced
one clove of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
6-10 cups water
salt & pepper

saute the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in some olive oil/schmatlz in a large soup pot. mix in some salt & pepper. when the veggies have softed up a bit, pour in the broth & water, and slowly bring to a boil.

while soup is heating up, make the matzoh balls:
2 tbsp schmaltz or vegetable shortening
2 eggs
a heavy half cup matzoh meal
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp soup stock or a mixture of stock & seltzer to equal the same amount
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley

mix schmatlz/shortening together with eggs in a bowl. and matzah meal, soup stock/seltzer, salt & parsley, and blend well. you should have a mixture that holds together. if not, add more matzoh meal or liquid as needed.

have a small bowl of cool water handy, and wet your hands. roll the matzoh mixture by the tablespoon between your palms to make small balls, and drop into boiling soup. Partly cover and boil for a minimum of 20 minutes (i called them done after 15 once, it wasn't pretty. they were in fact, kind of nasty). matzah balls will roughly double in size while they are cooking, and much of your broth will be absorbed.

book news is a bit lame right now.

i'm desperately trying (again!) to get through Hal Duncan's (debut?) novel Vellum. It's relatively fun, in a Kevin Smith Dogma meets that Keanu Reeves Constantine movie. You know, angels versus demons, trying to recruit the angels and demons who thought the war was stupid and fled to earth in an attempt to hide from the powers on high. It's a good book. It takes a LOT of mental concentration to follow some of what's going on, and i'm ending up reading it in 5 minute increments, which is probably an insult to the book. I really want to enjoy this book, but i really, really should be reading it when i can actually give it the attention it deserves. Maybe in the fall or winter?

got an advanced reading copy of the new Steven Brust - Jhaegaala. I can't tell you how excited i am about this. Still trying to finalize a review of his The Book of Jhereg. You know those snarky noirish detective movies? Mix that with a really good detective caper, and take out all the cheesy garbage, and toss in some telepathy, some teleporting with nasty physical side effects. . . and you'd have something like The Book of Jhereg. except the book is way better than that. if you like fantasy of any shape or flavor, get yourself some Brust.

speaking of fantasy, i couldn't drive past the comic shop this afternoon without spending money i didn't have on Elric: the Making of a Sorcerer, the graphic novel by Michael Moorcock and Walter Simonson. What was even cooler was the guy who owns the comic shop told me to come back and tell him what i thought of it. more than that, i talked Fullmetal Alchemist with the other clerk. that place is so geek-cool!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

you know, I'm not as Passover Crazy as I could be.

You know those crazy Christmas ladies, who have a themed Christmas tree in every room of their house? And when they go on vacation, they go shopping for the sole purpose of buying a commemorative christmas ornament? I'm working on being that obsessed about Passover. I buy cookbooks if they have good passover friendly recipes, the more non traditional, the better. I start planning Seder and other Passover meals a month ahead of time. I'm always surprised how many Passover friendly (or one ingredient away from Passover friendly) recipes I find in my favorite French Cookbooks, The Book of French Provincial Cooking, by Hilaire Walden. Best cookbook purchase ever.

Sure, I don't observe Passover as much as I could (non-Passover friendly food gets shoved to the back of the pantry or fridge, or tossed in the freezer), but i'm happily food obessed. We shared cooking responsibilities with another family this year. They hosted the Seder, we brought the side dishes and one of three desserts. I got to cook on a flat top range for the first time.

With recipes below, or links to the recipes:

Marinated Mushrooms (Adapted from The Book of French Provincial Cooking)
Zucchini Gratin (Same Source as above)
Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Garlic Roasted Potatoes

and Forgotten Cookies for Dessert.

Marinated Mushrooms

1 onion, sliced very thin
l clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coriander
1 cup red wine
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced if bigger than bite sized
2 large tomatoes, diced
salt & pepper
chopped parsley
bay leaf

Saute onion & garlic in oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, coriander, and tomatoes, salt and pepper and bay leaf. Pour wine over. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes. If you want the sauce thicker, removed mushrooms and onions with a slotted spoon, and simmer until it's at a thickness you want, then add mushrooms and onions back in. garnish with parsley. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

Zucchini Gratin

2 lbs zucchini, sliced
olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped basil or parsley
salt & pepper
½ cup matzah meal
¼ - ½ cup shredded greyere cheese
1 tbsp butter

put sliced zucchini in a colander with plenty of salt (it draws the moisture out). Leave for one hour, then rise zucchini well (rinse it again, there is a lot of salt there!) and dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat, and saute zuchini until they begin to brown. You want them browned, not mushy. Remove zucchini with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add tomatoes, garlic, basil or parsley, and salt & pepper to skillet. Bring to a boil, then simmer till it thickens a bit. Stir the zucchini back in, then pour it all into a baking dish. Mix the matzah meal and cheese in a bowl, and sprinkle that on top. Cut the butter up, and dot the top of the gratin with it. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Stay tuned for more Passover goodness, including Matzah ball soup (I made the best soup of my life the other night. I need to figure out what the heck I did!), Turkey and Leek Fritters, more Rattatoullie, Sweet potatoes with pears, and some other stuff. It's all good.

. . .sadly not much on the book front. I got Michael Moorcock's The Dreamcatchers Daughter from the library, and I've been staring at it for a week, unable to pick it up. If you've been following this blog, you know of my growing obsession with Michael Moorcock, so why can't I pick this thing up? The dust jacket summary mentions something about historical World War II characters (maybe one of them is an Eternal Hero?). . And you know what? I'm just not ready for my Elric fantasy world to be tainted by the contemporary. I want Elric to stay in the beautiful, surreal, idealistic fantasy world he belongs in. Sigh.

Hal Duncan's Vellum also made it into the library bag. I tried reading this book last summer, and I couldn't get into it. Too weird, even for me. So i'll give it another try. And i'm sure next year, i'll pick up The Dreamcatcher's Daughter, and just go nuts for it.

Finished Steven Brust's Book of Jhereg. Excellent book. Now I just need to find time to write a review.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Success with Meringue! Blog Announcement! Yay!

Big small-cookie news, small book news.

when i post more often, i've got less to say per post. go figure.

Last time I said I was going to try Mom's recipe for forgotten cookies, and God help me, I actually did it. These were always "Mom's Cookies", and my sister and I would beg Mom to make them. Easy cheap ingredients, so she usually obliged. I called her the other day, and asked "I'm making these cookies for the first time by myself, what did you leave out of your recipe?" She didn't leave out any instructions, but I got to hear the story of how she got the recipe. It's not a family recipe by any means, and don't tell my Mom, but it's an adaptation of a simple Meringue cookie recipe in The Joy of Cooking.

this is so easy, i don't even have to go get the cookbook to know it.

Forgotten Cookies

2 egg whites at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

turn oven to 350 when you start beating eggs. cover two cookie sheets with foil. if you're tempted to go heavy on the chocolate and nuts, don't. it'll just weigh down your meringue. the cookies will taste fine, but they won't look real pretty.

beat eggs until frothy with a hand mixer. keep going until you have soft peaks. takes 15-20 minutes, so use an electric hand mixer, or make sure your cordless one has a full charge before your start. very slowly add sugar, and continue mixing. add salt & vanilla, and you guessed, it keep mixing. when peaks are between soft and hard, gently (gently!) fold in chocolate chips and nuts with a plastic spatula or wooden spoon. drop by the heaping teaspoon onto foiled cookie sheets.

if you did it right, the cookies won't spread, and you'll get between 20 and 30 cookies. gently put the cookie sheets into the hot oven, close the door, and TURN THE OVEN OFF. leave cookies in the oven for 8-10 hours, then gently peel them off the foil. the perfect cookie is fragile on the outside, slightly chewy in the center, and has a shiny bottom.

my first time making these, i can't believe they came out as good as they did. Ok, husband helped with the mixing. . . because if you can believe it, i'd never used a hand mixer before either. Yes, i live under a rock.

fat free, cholesterol free, sinfully sweet, and good for Passover. and that word, Meringue, just feels so funny on my tongue. i like it.

To interrupt the news of "sorry, minimal new book news right now", i get to announce that Read.Eat.Rinse.Repeat is being mirrored on one of my favorite e-zine's, ARWZ. means I can torture even more people with my silliness!

onto the no new book news: About half way through Steven Brust's The Book of Jhereg. As it says on the cover, this is the first three adventures of Vlad Taltos, human living on the Draegeri continent. He needs to get a job, and fit it. First story had a slow start, and little to no worldbuilding of the Draegeri Empire, the 17 or so ruling families and the "cycle", Vlad's journey to him, um, current professions, but i stuck with it, because it's a great story. and i knew with 2 more stories in the book (each at over 100 pages, so more like novellas?) i'd get the background i wanted. Into the 2nd story, I'm getting it. Hopefully a more detailed review to come.

i gave up on Catch 22. It's going back to the library, unfinished. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, the plot focuses on Yossarian metaphorically beating his head against the wall. after my complaints of "but when does something start to happen?" my friend responded with "It doesn't. Yossarian has to change his paradigm. Maybe you're not in the literary mood for this right now". He was right. I'm not. sucks to be me. i'll pick it up at some later date, and be very happy with it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thrown together tuna salad

where is that line between "recipe", and "something you throw together"? making tuna salad isn't a "recipe", but it's quick, easy, and the husband can't figure out how i throw it together in less than 10 minutes.

2 cans tuna, drained
one celery stick, finely chopped
about 4 inches of cucumber, seeded and chopped
one green onion, chopped
about 2 tbsp capers
one heaping tbsp mayonaise
couple drops lemon juice
about a teaspoon white wine, if you happen to have any in the fridge
chopped hard boiled egg, if you remembered to make hard boiled eggs the night before, and managed not to eat them all. (this has happened to me. i'm an egg addict)

blend all ingredients. layer in a pita with lettuce / tomato / cucumber / whatever else you want. easy quick yummy dinner. no stove or oven required.

see? that's not really a recipe, it's just something that's been thrown together.

but netxt time i'll post a real recipe, i promise. this weekend i'm trying my Mom's famous "Forgotten Cookies". they are a merangue base, and i've never made them by myself before. this will be a practice desert for passover.

hmmm. . . books . . . can't say i've read anything monumental lately. Read Jumper, yeah, the one they made a movie of, with the kid from the new Star Wars. but it's not a new book, it was originally published in 1992. After I finished the book, i hit the IMDB page of the movie, to see how the movie differed from the book. let's just say they differ a LOT. book review will be published in a few weeks, and then i can talk about it in more detail.

i just started reading Steven Brust's The Book of Jhereg. i'm still getting my land legs when it comes to fantasy, and i don't have much experience reading stories where the main protaganist is a hired killer. maybe this qualifies as a "boy-book"? and is it "Brust", or "Broost"? anyway, i've heard good things, and at 90 pages in, i may not be crazy impressed, but i am happy. the fact that i'd rather be reading this book than watching tv says a lot. but i'm not foregoing sleep for it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

anti hero

i've been sick lately (hubby and i have been passing the same cold back and forth. ain't that nice of us?), so not much cooking has been happening. and thanks to cough syrup with side effects, not much reading has been going on either.

I did read the 2nd Elric book, my Michael Moorcock. enjoyed it muchly, but not as much as the first one. everything was new, and weird, and magical to me in the first book, so there weren't too many surprises here. that said, i can't tell you how much i appreciate a "hero" whose attitude is "i've got nothing better to do, and what's the worst that could happen, death?" sometimes a suicidal hero is better than a hero who is too dumb to be afraid. alright, i've read the Elric saga up to and including the short story "Stormbringer". what's next in that universe?

speaking of heroes who are too dumb to be afraid, i read Heinlien's Glory Road. very fun, very silly. the timing is right for this to be another authors reaction/satire of Tolkien's epic hero-ing and quest-ing around. Oscar, recently medically discharged from Vietnam, is trying to figure out what to do with his lifer - preferabbly something having to do with nude beaches. nearly forced to answer a newspaper ad looking for a "Hero", he meets Star, a beautiful, multi-universe traveller, who takes him on the quest of a lifetime, if they survive. adventure, injury, and bad guys follow, and in the end, Oscar gets the girl, and learns she's royalty, to boot. it is truly an adorable story. Mr. Heinlien is my favorite sexist (yet not. . .) man in the world.