Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back in the kitchen

OK, I never really left the kitchen. I just left my enthusiasm for writing about being in the kitchen somewhere, and recently found it. I'll try not to lose it again.

Cooking this weekend was marked by the need to accommodate my husband, who broke his wrist and therefore is unable to cut his meat. Tonight he grilled some steaks (which can be done one-handed) while I caramelized a bunch of onions. Once they were nice and brown, I added some slivered garlic, some small florettes of broccoli, and one chopped red bell pepper to the pan, and sauteed them until they were crisp-tender, then put them into a large bowl. Meanwhile, I simmered some egg noodles until they were al dente, drained them, and added them to the veggies. Then I cut the porterhouse into chunks and tossed those into the bowl, sprinkled some sea salt and ground pepper over, and tossed. I served the medly in pasta bowls with a glass of  Spanish white wine (Pazo Senorans Albarino 2008, which kicks ass). It was an easy summertime meal for a lovely Indian summer day. Dessert was Sharlyn melon.

On Saturday, I made some paneer, because in the coming week I plan to make saag paneer again. Homemade saag paneer beats restaurant saag paneer until it cries for its mommy. Making saag paneer is easy. Let Aarti show you how.

Another cooking adventure for the weekend: I made a sourdough starter. I got the recipe from Sunset Favorite Recipes II, which was my mother's cookbook. Heat 1 cup of lowfat milk to somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees fahrenheit. Add to that 3 tablespoons of plain, full-fat yogurt (make sure it has live cultures). Pour this into a sterilized jar, cover tightly, and let it set in a warm place for 8-24 hours, until it's cultured (thickened up). If clear liquid precipitates out, stir it back in (if the liquid is pink, your fledgling starter has gone to the dark side. Throw it out and start again). Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, a little at a time, stirring between added spoonfuls until the batter is smooth. Cover it again and let it sit in a warm place for 2-5 days, until it's bubbly and sour-smelling. Again, if your starter turns pink, it's become evil and shouldn't be used. Try again, grasshopper. Once your starter has succeeded, you can store it, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. For the first 6 months, your starter is only strong enough to be used in pancakes and waffles. After 6 months, you can start using it for bread. Let the starter come to room temperature before you use it (take it out of the fridge the night before you make pancakes, for example). And every time you use it, you need to replenish it with 1/2 cup of warm milk (90-100 degrees) and 1/2 cup of flour. Stir them in, let the starter sit in a warm place for 1-2 days, and then stick it in the fridge again.

The problem with having a sourdough starter is that you need to use your sourdough starter. If you don't use and replenish it, the sourdough beasties die off and your starter will be kaput. I'm not sure what to do if I have to go traveling and am not able to use and replenish my starter. Maybe I'll need to find a starter sitter. But I'm getting ahead of myself. In 2-5 days, I'll check my starter to see if it's a going concern, and I will report back.

In other news: Today I visited TJ Maxx and got some Dansko clogs for $49, which is half the price Dansko clogs normally sell for. Who cares if they are a scary snake print? Chocolate making time is just a month away, and now I have a pair of shoes that will ensure I won't be an achy mess at the end of each long chocolatiering day. Yahoo!

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