Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pharaoh's Wheel

This is a wonderful dish - excellent for left-overs!

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 lb. ground meat (I used Morningstar Crumbles (vegetarian))
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp oil
3 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Cook the spaghetti and drain. Combine the meat and onion in a frying pan with the hot oil. Cook, stirring, until the meat no longer shows any pink (I'm assuming it doesn't take as long with the vegetarian crumbles).

Heat the spaghetti sauce and add the contents of the frying pan. Add the raisins and nuts. Pour over the spaghetti and toss.

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Potato Salad

Once I get the timing right on cooking potatoes, this will be a very good recipe. Sometimes I under cook them, and sometimes I over cook them.

4 large potatoes, cooked
1 small onion, chopped
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 c. pimento stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the potatoes into cubes. Add the onion, eggs, olives, and celery. Mix together the mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add to the vegetables and mix gently.

(I put my potato salad in the fridge to cool overnight before serving).

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Danish Macaroni Salad

This makes a lot, and it is a little on the dry side (VS the creamy type), but it is very good! It was successful at my last office pot-luck.

4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
3 hard cooked eggs
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cups mayonnaise
2/3 cups sour cream
2 tbsp. diced pimento
2 tbsp. finely chopped dill

Combine the mustard, salt, mayo and sour cream. Add to the macaroni and mix. Add the pimento and gently mix again.

Heap the salad on a platter and sprinkle with the dill. Garnish with the hard cooked eggs cut into wedges. (I don't put the salad on a platter, I just mix the dill and the eggs together with the salad in the bowl. I use a very big bowl.)

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Egg Salad

This cookbook has some good vegetarian dishes. It also has the history of each dish.

8 eggs, hard cooked
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely cut
salt, to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Chop the eggs and combine them with all the other ingredients. Stir.

(It doesn't say so, but I always let my egg salad sit in the fridge overnight before serving)

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

last nights dinner

Made a yummy creation last night, and here's to remembering what I did so I can repeat it!

One onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil
1/3 cup green lentils
2 cups chicken broth (1 can)
1 cup water (or more)
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup 1 cup medium salsa
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1 can kidney beans, drained
½ lb turkey sausage, sliced

chili powder
black pepper
pinch of thyme

saute onion in oil till soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils & chicken broth, bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add all other ingredients except spices, bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. If it gets too dry, add a little more water. If it's too wet, simmer uncovered the last 5 minutes. During the last 5 minutes spice to taste with salt & pepper (you probably won't need salt, the broth & sausage is usually pretty salty), chili powder, coriander, and a little bit of thyme.

If you don't have any salsa, use a can of diced tomatoes, and go heavier on the spices.

The Windup Girl winds down

I got about 100 pages into Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, put the book down.. . . and never picked it back up again. I can see why it was shortlisted for a Hugo – a future where corporations and genetically modified everything is ubiquitous, artificially created people (who are people, but aren't? Maybe it's a little like being a Cylon?), the massive populations of southeast Asia and how to feed, house, and employ them all, lots of big picture effects, and story that won't be fiction if we play our cards right (or wrong). It was very William Gibson, very Ian McDonald, large scale, multiple story lines with multiple groups of characters. Massive amounts of intellectual goodies to chew on. I got no complaints there.

Maybe one day I'll pick this book up again, maybe not, but for now it will forever be listed under the too much for me category. I felt like I was being blasted with too many factions, characters, and plot lines to keep track of. Maybe they would have eventually filtered into major and minor, but since I didn't know who I was supposed to care about, I ended up not caring about anyone.

But that Emiko, she sure got my attention. I felt like I was surfing the Lifetime channel's website, grabbing sentences from each of their movie descriptions. She was like every character for every tear-jerker Lifetime movie rolled into one person. And honestly? It came off as over the top, which I'm pretty sure wasn't Bacigalupi's intention. The book is ostensibly about the will to survive, and Emiko being the posterchild for “wanting to survive”, but the over the topness that Bacigalupi painted her with was making me ill.

But you know what? First time I read Perdido Street Station it didn't do anything for me either. And I'm now a Mieville fangirl.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

shoulda woulda coulda.

don't you hate it when the day after you make a delicious dish, you realize you could have had a crazy easy side dish that would have gone so perfectly. . . if only you'd thought to make it?

made some fantastically delicious Burgundy Chicken last night. Five minutes or so of prep time, brown chicken on the stove, saute shallots, simmer chicken and shallots in white wine for about an hour, then remove chicken and stir in heavy cream & grapes. thicken the sauce, serve over the chicken. one of the tastiest easiest recipes I know.

and it gave me hour to make a side dish. so what did I do? I threw some bland freezer burned frozen veggies into the microwave. sure, there was some vitamins in there someplace, but they were bland and uninspired.

Had me some delicious burgundy chicken leftovers for lunch at work today, and it hit me. Why did I not make mashed potatoes to go with this? the pan sauce would have been sublimely perfect with mashed potatoes!!!

there's some more burgundy chicken in the fridge.  and i have two big white potatoes that need to be eaten.

Winding up with Paolo Bacigalupi

In an attempt to read not one, but two whole Hugo nominees, I got Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl from the library.  Everyone online seems to going crazy for this novel, especially now that it's got an Hugo nom. Bacigalupi's first novel length work, I've been told it builds on his short stories that take place in a future of genetically engineered everything, seed plagues, starvation, and globalization. Bacigalupi has published a handful of articles in Environmental magazines, sounds like my kind of guy!  Did I mention I haven't read any of his earlier fiction before cracking open The Windup Girl?  Maybe that's why I'm feeling a little lost.  I don't know what or who Calorie Men are, I don't who or what Yellow Card people are, I don't know jack. my own damn fault, I suppose.

70 some pages into Wind Up Girl and I'm having a tough time getting into it. this poor novel is suffering from put-down-ability for me.  between Bacigalupi's I just want to make totally f'ing sure you know you're not in Kansas anymore shock value style prose and the fact that I don't know who any of these people are, or why they care about what they are doing. .. the book is not grabbing me.
You can read Bacigalupi's short story The Fluted Girl on his website, and that was a great short story - excellent at grabbing your attention and not letting go, if a little on the shock value side for me.  So go read it, or the rest of this blog entry won't make any sense.

Suddenly I'm asking myself all sorts of philosophical questions about shock value. I've ooohed and aahhed over plenty of novels that are chock full of sex and violence, so  what makes something shock value?  Near the end of Bacigalupi's The Fluted Girl, the sisters perform a highly erotic dance for their patron and her party guests.  It is their job to dance, and the sisters aren't freaked out about it, it's just something they do.  Written well, but it felt like shock value to me.  Perhaps I missed the foreplay, so as to not be so surprised?  On the other hand, George R R Martin peppered A Game of Thrones with incest. Yucky to be sure, but it didn't read like shock value, just something these two characters do. So what's the difference between Martin's incestous characters and Bacigalupi's two sisters doing some really hot dancing and touching?

Maybe this is it.  Martin's brother/sister pair are petrified of anyone seeing them touching or kissing each other. it is their secret, and if you catch them in the act, the brother will probably try to kill you. And they truly do love each other (or at least she loves him). Bacigalupi's girls are straight up objectified.  Their patron pretty much whores them out. and that's what made me feel so weird about the whole thing.  Some authors make "courtesan-ing" sound romantic. Can you say Baz Lurhmann?  And on the other end of the spectrum some authors are saying "are you crazy? how could you possibly think that kind of life could be fun or romantic?"

So Bacigalupi and his minions are either thinking "holy crap is this woman a prude", or "sweet, she got the point", or both.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

China Mieville's The City and The City

2010 Hugo Nom The City & The City, by China Mieville

The City and The City in three days. A good thing in many ways – after day one I couldn’t put the book down, but every time I dozed on the sofa I would wake up Beszel, which started to freak me out.

How to describe Mieville’s fictitious Beszel? As far east in Europe as you can get, perhaps Azerbaijan or Georgia. Old churches mixed with cold war architecture, mohawked punks listening to pirated western music sitting next to babushka’d grannies on the bus. And then there is the other city, Ul Qoma. The Ul Qomans might not have as good a relationship with America as Beszel, but Ul Qoma has nicer cars, a modern subway system, urban renewal, better restaurants, brighter colors, and is generally more contemporary. Two sister cities with formal borders and mulititudes of paperwork for people who wish to travel to the other city. This wouldn’t be so odd, except the two cities are crosshatched – a unique invention of Mieville. Your house might be in Beszel, but your front sidewalk is in Ul Qoma, along with the northern half of your child’s elementary school. And those three blocks of Ul Qoma down the road? That one building on the corner has a Beszel mailing address. Residents learn from childhood to “unsee” and “unhear” things happening in the other city, even if it’s happening right in front of their eyes. Tourists and visiting students sit through weeks of orientation to learn how to unsee and unhear.

Read the rest Here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So Lukyanenko, Mieville and Watts walk into a bar. . . .

Finished Lukyanenko's Daywatch. . . working on a more formal review, but here's the quickie – weakish beginning, odd middle, and then  the end comes around to totally knock your head off with its awesomeness. As mentioned in a previous post, Daywatch is kind of “from the Dark Ones point of view”. That's great and all, but of the three Dark Ones we meet, Alisa, Vitaly and Edgar, only Edgar is at all interesting. Once the Nightwatch and Anton start making appearances, the book got really interesting for me. Stay tuned for full review!

Also read China Mieville's new one, The City and The City, I think it's up for a Hugo! Similar to other Mievilles, it's not the easiest book to get into. Put me in the mindset a little of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, as in relatively normal for that author. The City and The City is a murder mystery with a twist – two sister cities, and you must have have a passport, visa, and paperwork to travel between the two. But the two cities occupy the same space. Makes life difficult for the police inspector who gets in deeper than he wants. Again, stay tuned for full review!

In solidarity with Peter Watts, I got Blindsight and Starfish out of the library. I remember Starfish not really doing much for me, but Blindsight being one of those books that blew my mind. So naturally, I picked up Blindsight first. And you know what? It's still freaking awesome! Peter Watts you rock my world!

So that said, stay tuned for some book reviews and other cool stuff.

Spinach-Cheese Lasagne

My husband made this one. This is amazing! I'm tempted to make this any time of year! But definitely will make this for another Passover.

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 lb ricotta or cottage cheese (we used a combination of both)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 7-ounce bags shredded mozzarella
1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce
9 sheets of matzah
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine spinach, cheese, egg, oregano, pepper, and half of the mozzarella.
Grease 9 X 13-inch pan.

Ladle a thin layer of sauce into bottom of pan. Layer 3 matzo boards (breaking to fit), 1/2 the cheese mixture and a layer of sauce. Top with 3 more matzos, the remaining cheese mixture and layer of sauce. Add 3 more matzos and layer of sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella. Pour water around sides.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
Uncover and bake 30-40 minutes longer. Cheese will be melted and bubbly.

Passover by Design, Susie Fishbein, 2008

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zucchini Casserole (for Passover)

I made this casserole for Passover this year, but it's so tasty that I might not wait until next year to make it again!

It takes likes latkas and zucchini!

butter (I used cooking spray instead)
3 cups thinly sliced, unpeeled zucchini
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup dry Passover pancake mix
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup veggie oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 13 X 19-inch baking pan with butter. Combine everything else in large bowl. Bake for 40 minutes of until brown.

Passover by Design, Susie Fishbein, 2008

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

Serves 4.

2 pounds Yukon gold new potatoes
3 Tbsp butter and 5 Tbsp olive oil
salt (I didn't use the salt)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut across each potato at about 1/4-inch intervals, being careful not to cut all the way through. When you've cut them all, place them in a shallow baking plan on the stove with the butter and oil and heat up till sizzling. Turn the potatoes well, putting them in upside down first, then right side up, and spoon the fat over them. Sprinkle each potato well with salt and thyme and put in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or until tender, rotating them in the pans, to insure even browning.

Congregation Beth El Women's Seder, 2004

Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Gratin

We cut this recipe in half, since it was just for the 2 of us, and it made plenty. Below is the full recipe, which is supposed to serve 8. I also did not include the leeks.

4 10-ounce bags fresh spinach leaves
3 red bell peppers
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 large shallot
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream (we used low-fat cream)
4 large eggs
1-cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (we used shredded)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Heat large deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches (about 10 cups at a time), saute fresh spinach in dry skillet until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer spinach to strainer. Squeeze dry, toll in kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Char peppers directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in bowl and enclose with plastic wrap; let stand about 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and slice peppers into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Melt butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leaks, shallot, and garlic; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk cream and eggs in large bowl to blend. Whisk in all cheeses, salt and pepper. Stir in spinach, leek mixture, and 2/3 of roasted red peppers (reserve 1/3 of peppers for topping).

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter 13 X 9 X 2-inch baking dish. Transfer spinach mixture to prepared dish. Bake gratin until knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Arrange remaining red pepper strips decoratively atop grain and serve.

Congregation Beth El Women's Seder, 2004

Passover Sweet Apple Kugal

2 cups matzah farfel
water to cover farfel
2 eggs, beaten
6 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. shortening
2 cups grated apples
1/4 c. chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover farfel with water and drain. In a bowl, mix farfel, eggs, sugar, salt, shortening, apples and nuts. Bake in greased dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Two more Passover recipes

We again made these recipes, that I posted back in November. They are both from the Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook.

Matzah Cheese Kugal:
This recipe is from my in-laws, and now we also make it each year. It is very good for breakfast!

Yellow Squash Bake
This is very good, less dry then other recipes.

Passover Macaroni and Cheese

It's been fun making Passover dishes this year. They all came out tasty.

3 cups matzah farfel
1/2 lb (8 oz) cheddar cheese (cubed? shredded? I cubed a block of cheese)
6 Tbsp melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients together. Put in 2 quart casserole. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until brown.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Who doesn't love a big, baked Latke?

seriously, how can you not like this? potatoes, onion, oil, salt, matzah meal. . . baked in the oven until perfection with a crunchy outside occurs.  It was a big winner at the seder.

Latke Kugel
adapted from Faye Levy's 1,000 Jewish Recipes

2-3 lbs idaho potatoes
3 tbsp oil
2 large onions, diced
3 eggs
1/4 cup matzah meal
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, and heavily grease an 8x8 baking dish.  Saute onions in 1-2 tbsp oil until soft, about 10 minutes. While onions are cooking, peel and shred potatoes. Put potatoes into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Mix potatoes with onions, eggs, salt & pepper & matzah meal. Pour potato mixture into hot baking dish, and drizzle w/remaining oil. Bake for 1 hour at 350. Levy suggests putting the baking dish into the oven about 5 minutes before you are ready to bake, and then pouring the potato mixture into a super hot baking dish. She says this will help create a crunchy crust. I followed her suggestions to the letter, and it was truly awesome.

I can understand that no one wants to go on stage after a baked latke. It's like going on stage after Lady Gaga. So although this next dish was incredibly good, the poor thing had to go on the Seder table right next to the awe inspiring magnificent baked latke.

from the same cookbook as above,

Passover Spinach Stuffing
4 crumbled matzahs
1 cup chicken stock, warmed in the microwave
3 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 baking dish.  In a large bowl pour the hot stock over the matzah peices. let sit 10 minutes so the matzah can soften.   saute the onions in 2 tbsp oil until soft, about 10 minutes. add the garlic, salt & pepper, and saute another minute. add onions & spinach to matzah and mix well. season with salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste. Stir in eggs, then pour into baking dish.  bake at 350 for 45 minutes.