Category Archives: Inspired by a Blog

crusty whole wheat bread

My quest to find the best bread recipe is slowly progressing. I made a couple of loaves this past semester at Haverford, one of which approached perfection. Last night, I decided to venture into the land of baking bread in a pot, and I  mixed dough that would be baked 18 hours later in a soup pot in my oven.

Crusy Whole Wheat Bread (Adapted from the Mark Bittman via Serene Journey)
Yields 1 loaf

3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups water

Combine whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Stir in as much of the water as you need to make a sticky dough.

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 to 18 hours. After that time, pour the dough out onto a floured surface and fold it twice onto itself. Let rest for 15 minutes under plastic wrap.

Heavily flour a cotton towel, but not terry cloth. Place the dough on the towel, and drape with another. Let rise for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before the rise time is complete, preheat the oven to 450° F. Place your heaviest pot in the oven, ideally cast iron or enamel.

When the dough has fully risen, it will have doubled in size and not spring back to the touch. At this point, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough over into it. Shake it around a bit to even it out. Place the pot back in the oven, making sure the lid is on. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on and 15-30 minutes with the lid off, to ensure a crispy, browned crust.

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lemon lavender cookies

My first act as a college graduate was to sleep until 3:45 pm. My second was to get a new iPhone. My third, to prepare a hot dog dinner with an absurd amount of condiments for my family. And finally, I made some cookies.

Despite my efforts to use up everything in my kitchen before graduating, the contents of my college kitchen nearly doubled the mass of stuff in my home kitchen. My mother and I have spent the past hour or so consolidating our flour, crushed red pepper flakes, and other normal ingredients, and moving all of my “weird” ingredients (i.e., rosewater, turmeric, chow chow, Indian pickle) to the basement fridge.

Lemon Lavender Cookies (Adapted from a Feed the Editor recipe)
Yields 2 dozen 3-inch cookies or 3 dozen 2-inch cookies

These lemon lavender cookies drew equally from my ingredients and my mom’s, and what a wonderful marriage they are.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Juice of a small lemon
Zest of a small lemon

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Combine flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, lavender buds, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Microwave butter in a dish for 15 seconds, until slightly softened. Whisk together with 3/4 cups of the granulated white sugar in a large bowl for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla extra, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing between additions.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough into a small bowl that has the last 1/4 of the granulated white sugar. Toss the dough ball around into the sugar to coat. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. (Oh, the joy of being at home and having access to my mother’s Silpat!)

Bake for 8-9 minutes. They are done when they are golden brown around the edges.

instead of packing

Look at that face!

Tonight is one of four nights between my San Diego stay and my Haverford departure, so spending time with my brother was also a priority. Solution? Make goat cheese with Johnny. kiss my spatula has an absolutely gorgeous blog post about making homemade goat cheese that inspired me to make some myself. I made some in the past with condensed goat’s milk – mistake. This one came out so much better.

As we looked at the recipe on, we found out that the blogger pairs her recipes with songs. The goat cheese pairing was a Yann Teirsen song from the Amelie soundtrack, one that my brother is learning how to play on the piano. How perfect!

Goat Cheese with Lemon, Herbs, and Pine Nuts

1 qt. goat’s milk (we got ours at Trader Joe’s)
1/4 c. lemon juice, or the juice of three medium-large lemons
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. pine nuts, finely chopped
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Place several layers of cheese cloth in a medium-sized mesh strainer resting in a bowl.

Heat the goat’s milk to 180° (measured with a candy thermometer) in a saucepan over low heat. While it is heating, zest the lemon, and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup until you have over one-quarter cup. Be careful to attend to the milk, though, because you don’t want it to surpass that temperature because it may start to boil or even caramelize. Once the appropriate temperature has been reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Let it sit for 15-20 seconds. This time allows it to curdle. You can let it sit for more time; in fact, I chopped the pine nuts together with the lemon zest, herbs, and salt for about a minute while letting the lemon juice and the warm milk mix n’ mingle.

Pour the liquid conglomerate into the cheese cloth-lined strainer. As it strains, a very watery, clear liquid should strain, leaving the curdled cheese behind. If it strains through very fast and cloudy, you can return the mixture to the saucepan and repeat the process, adding more lemon juice once the temperature has reached 180°.

Let it sit for 1-2 hours, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Gather the cheese cloth ends in a bundle, and squeeze the remaining water out. Then, transfer goat cheese off the cheese cloth into a bowl.

Mix in the flavorings, and eat.

24/3/365 (aka, unhelpful)

Last night, I went to see Antibalas/The Sway Machinery at the Cashbah in Little Italy. I’d seen Antibalas once before at the Roots Picnic ’09 in Philly, but the Sway Machinery was a new one. The lead singer is in Balkan Beat Box and the drummer was in NaNuchKa at some point. Go Eastern Bloc!

I had a Stone IPA that left this funny little pattern in its lacing. Heart it laces.

I also had a Stella Artois because I heard good things about it in the past but clearly those things came out of mouths that had not been around the beer block. It was watery and flavorless. For some reason, I like Sapporo much better so I got one of those to replace my judgment error.

So Antibalas announced the start of their last song at around 11:45 and as 12:00 approached, they showed no signs of stopping. Finally, at 12:15, they left stage, only to come out for a 45 minute encore. No complaints at all from me! But it was starting to get to that hour where my stomach acid takes on the role of fidgety-child-in-backseat-on-road-trip-who-won’t-quit-until-fed. I gallantly ordered my (Ford) Mustang, “To Keith’s 24 Hour Family Restaurant! Ándale!”

I pulled into the sketchy, eerily empty parking lot of Keith’s 24-hour, and I was met with something like this:

Angry, confused, disappointed and hungry as ever, I went home to a pantry and refrigerator full of ingredients. Not prepped food, but ingredients. What a night not to have leftovers! I figured out my cravings pretty quick, and whipped up an open face breakfast sandwich worth writing home about.

I toasted a piece of bread while slicing a perfectly ripe California avocado and frying an egg. As soon as the bread was done toasting, I rubbed it down with some garlic, layered on the avocado, balanced the egg atop all them monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, if you will), and spread some spicy salsa on top. I served it (to myself) with some pickled jalapenos on the side, which have become one of my favorite ingredients/condiments since living in San Diego. I bought a jar for $1.29 at Vons because I figured if they were horrible, I could afford losing $1.29; then they turned out being amazing and probably the best $1.29 I ever spent on jarred food. I’ve also been wanting to pair them with my eggs ever since seeing this blog post from the Amateur Gourmet.

Also, don’t eat MorningStar’s Veggie Sausage Links. I usually dig meat emulators, but at this time of night, the combination of sausage flavor with mealy sand texture in a non-meat-based casing was horrible. I mean, I guess you can eat them. Maybe they’d be good on a nice roll or some baguette bread (ciabatta?) to disguise the texture, and doused in spicy mustard because spicy mustard is delicious. I feel like I should force myself to like them because each one only has 40 calories but I’d rather eat carrot sticks. Same shape, better everything.

I also looked up what the deal was with Keith’s, and they’re only open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Thanks, Keith’s, for including “Open 24 Hours” on your neon sign. I really appreciate it and I’m sure all the hungry late nighters of San Diego do too. Their website says they’re open 24 hours on Wednesdays. What LIES!!

one tart dinner

Back in February, I came across this recipe for Red Quinoa, Kale, Blood Orange and Pomegranate Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. This sounded mighty mighty tasty to me today for some reason, but the only ingredient I had was the red quinoa. I’d boiled some off in juiced-up water (water with cranberry juice and mango nectar) to give it a bit of sweetness/tartness, and I’ve been eating it in my Greek yogurt instead of granola. Quite a match! I also had some regular lemons because biddy was not going on a hunt for Meyer lemons at dinner time. My hunger got the better of me.

After a quick Trader Joe’s trip, I came back with spinach instead of kale and Valencia oranges instead of blood oranges. I was fine with the replacement, but the entire time I was making this dish I was very doubtful about how the final product was going to be. Like I almost abandoned the process – that’s how doubtful I was. I am ever-so-glad that I didn’t though because this was one of the most refreshing, filling meals I have had in my life. My host mom Penny took a picture of me eating it. I was caught off-guard, distracted by the many manifestations of acid I was processing, but trust me, I’m happy.

So, I ate spinach sauteed with caramelized onions, (I’ve decided that I am always going to have caramelized onions in my refrigerator; they are excellent atop bread, in sandwiches, sauteed with an array of greens, and probably great pureed into a dip or spread), a scoop of that juiced-up red quinoa, a half-handful of garbanzo beans, a chopped Valencia orange, a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and microgreens, all topped with a lemon-apple cider vinegar vinaigrette. Washed it all down with some of Trader Joe’s “Very Green” drink that looks horrible but tastes like pineapple!

A+. Will ride again.

so,

I’m sitting on my bed in San Diego, nursing a sneezy cold and an ice cold Saporro (22-oz. can? Geez, Japan). Life could be worse. I just returned from babysitting my boss’s two lovely children, where I had my first SD take-out pizza. It was white pizza with caramelized onions, and it was surprisingly excellent. My pizza snobbery, borne out of my upbringing in the New York metropolitan area, is something I am trying to shake, but it is too difficult and too hopeless a task.

My friend Kristina sent me a link to a blog entry on pizza cognition theory. The theory asserts that the first foodstuff a child eats that is labeled “pizza” becomes the point of comparison for all other things claiming the same label, and that the initial exposure tends to shape the preference. Indeed, tastes can change over the life course, like when someone realizes the Domino’s pizza of their youth is in no way the best. But there does seem to be a bit of loyalty or at least acknowledgment of prior loyalty to foods loved early in life.

Tonight, I’ve also had a couple pieces of dark chocolate with sea salt for good measure/antioxidants. I bought it at my first time in a Cost Plus World Market, and it has proven to be a not-bad specimen of salted, 64% cacao. The presence of antioxidants in dark chocolate is something I oft remind myself as a way o validating the amount I eat. I’m sort of beyond the point of needing validation. The other day, I bought this “ChocoPod” at Perk, the UCSD coffee shop. (I also bought an iced coffee that I spilled half of before I left the counter, but let’s not get into it.) The pod was made by Chuao Chocolatier, a San Diego based chocolate company and was full of popping candy, chipotles, and salt. A little much for me but holy moly was it a roller coaster of flavors and sensations. The pods are also the perfect size, allowing about four to five small bites of melt-in-your-mouth pleasure that allow for an afternoon chocolate fix with just enough indulgence.

Back to the booze. This Sapporo is kind of creamy. I feel like I’ve rarely heard beer described as creamy by people who know anything about the stuff, but the adjective often comes to mind when sucking back the suds. Who knows. Actually, I just G-chatted my friend Connor about whether he has ever described beer as creamy himself or heard it described elsewhere as such, and he has. So much for originality. Also, I just noticed that this Imported Premium can of Sapporo is certainly imported. From Ontario, Canada. So much for authenticity.

Anyway, this blog is an outlet for my food musings. I have wanted such an outlet for a long while, and I have finally encouraged myself to carve one out on the Internet. Those who have encountered me know that food is one of my four or five default conversation topics, with the others being my family, my Italian heritage, the latest artist I’m listening to on repeat (most likely someone from Iceland or Oakland), and Chevy El Caminos.