Friday, March 27, 2009

Greenling cabbage casserole

Greenling Market Box gave me a huge cabbage. I've been chiffonading the greens we've been getting and sauteing with lentils and onions (yummy!) but the cabbage was a little much for that. So I whipped up a cabbage casserole since I really didn't feel like making cabbage rolls. We've been nibbling on the leftovers for a few days now and it's still that good. Not all of the ingredients are from the box, but it's not quite tomato season yet. I bet lentils instead of meat would work as well, and whatever fresh herbs you feel like adding that complement the dish. I was going for simple, since I knew there would be leftovers. This is a modification of a recipe that called for milk and eggs, but I can't follow recipes and there's no telling that I got all of it down since it was being created on the stove. I'm guessing the quality of the ingredients made this so delicious.


1 med head of cabbage, shredded (i have a mandolin). Set aside. You can saute in oil or butter if it tastes nasty, but the cabbage we had was deliciously fresh and not at all stale tasting, so I wanted to preserve the crispness of it and cook it in the casserole without that extra step.

Rice Layer:
1 bag of however much mushrooms came in the Greenling box - 10 ounces? Torn into pieces.
1 whatever was left of the yellow onion (about half, more if you like onions)
a bunch of those green onions from last week's Greenling box
a couple of globs of olive oil (or butter, but I'm dairy-free right now)
about a cup of brown organic rice, uncooked, rinsed. You could also used cooked.

Saute the onions and mushrooms in the oil, season, add the rice and soak up the oil (and flavor) until coated. Add a little water (or broth) and cover, cook until the liquid is soaked in, add more liquid and continue until the rice is mostly cooked. I only cooked mine 20 minutes because I wanted the extra crunch of the rice to stand out in the dish. Put in another dish and set aside. If using cooked rice, just add to the sauted onions and stuff and cook until warmed through and coated with that yummy deliciousness of onions and mushrooms. I know people who can't cook worth a darn but start every meal preparation by sauteing garlic, onions and mushrooms and it doesn't matter how bad the final product is, the kitchen smells so wonderful, everyone eats.

Meat layer
about 1 pound of the best ground meat you want. We used grass-fed, hormone-free lean (90/10) angus since AC was craving meat.
1 can of stewed tomatoes (28 ounce)
For seasoning, I added coarse hawaiian sea salt, garlic powder, nutmeg and cayenne. You can add whatever. If you've got icky old cabbage you might want to add a little apple cider vinegar or brown sugar to give it a little bit of sweet. I didn't. The cabbage was sweet enough.

Start the meat in the skillet. Add the spices. Cook until brown. Add tomatoes (squish with your hands if you're working with the whole tomatoes like I was. If you have cherry tomatoes, I bet they would be delicious as well). Cook until tomatoes are soft. Pull off heat and set aside.

1/3 onion stuff, 1/2 cabbage, all meat, 1/3 onion stuff, rest of cabbage, rest of onion stuff in a 9x13 casserole dish (or whatever you have), oiled or sprayed or whatever.

350 for about 30 minutes (I left mine uncovered, and I wish I had covered it to keep the top layer from drying out since I didn't have a very saucy-sauce on top, nor did I saute the cabbage first. Let sit for a bit to cool down (not much). Delicious reheated! Probably freezes well, too.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm officially a Daring Baker!

and my first challenge (for July): Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream From Great Cakes by Carol Walter.

Now I know why it's called a Daring Baker Challenge (this is my first one). I'm happy with the end product, but not proud. The gateau was too flat (and too great of crumb), the ganache was delicious but too rich, and the buttercream: Ew, and hard to work with, thanks to the hazelnut chunks clogging my tip.

First challenge: how do I remove the skin from the hazelnuts? Do I boil them a la Rose Levy Beranbaum and rub off the skins, or do I go the Baker's Illustrated route and toast them, then rub off the skins?

I tried both with the hazelnuts and they both had their own challenges, but I decided the messes created and time spent were about the same. The main difference I found was the boiling method left a more delicate flavor than the toast and peel method.

The boiling method (involving a dash of baking soda) left a lovely mess on my range, plus I wasted a bunch of water removing the skins. I still had to toast them, but there were no skin pieces left after I was done and despite the huge amount of water I wasted, I probably could have used less and the skins were quick to fall off.

The toasting method took a long time, created hazelnut dust in my kitchen, and I didn't get all the skin off, but didn't weird me out with pink boiling water.

My other challenges: I want a new mixer bowl and I need a new food processor. I overbeat my whites so my 10" genoise was too flat for 3 layers (only 1 1/2" tall - but I cut it into three layers anyway. Daring!); my food processor decided to fall apart on me so my praline paste was a little chunky for my 112 tip (a little smaller than the 114 leaf called for in the recipe) and I spent the decorating time with a knife wedged up the tip trying to dislodge the chunks; and finally, when I "thunked" the ganache (a bittersweet/semisweet concoction), the whole cake slid along the whipped topping layer to create a lovely little ledge tiltitude.

Despite all this, my near and dear declared the project Delicious! and I was immediately able to foist the rest of the cake off on some unsuspecting neighbors.

If I were to recreate this, I would use a 9" round (and not overbeat the whites), use a frangelica/lemon liquor combo instead of rum/orange liquor, and grind those hazelnuts to a fine paste first. I don't think this could be made vegan, although GF is possible. This is a once-a-year kind of creation.

Oh, and I would probably not sample the liquor three or four times before pouring the ganache glaze. But maybe I would. It was pretty good stuff.

Hazelnuts don't seem to be an exploited crop, although I couldn't find much on them. Flour is usually an issue, but King Arthur flour is worker-owned. The butter is organic, and the eggs local but I used cane sugar -- a HUGE environmental yuckola. Can't wait for the next challenge ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wheatsville, again

It's been about three years since I upgraded from an orange card to a green card, and about three years since I stopped going to Wheatsville for whatever reason. Sunday, while running errands, i upgraded to a gold card. Yay!

Bought dog treats because I could. Yay bark 4 peace!

And if I can convince the Near & Dear to try new places (he knows what he likes) I've got some restaurants to try (if they're still around. It's amazing how quickly some things come and go. I managed to get N&D to the Frisco, and now it's gone. Just gone).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Adventures in GF

O, Thomas. We will miss you.
I've been working at a Gluten Free bakery (there are only a few items with gluten and the rest is mostly rice-flour based) and am learning the hazards and issues of wheat-free baking. There are a lot. Add to that the bonus of vegan cooking and suddenly baking a cake turns into a huge soddin' mess. It's like the last nine months of my life in culinary school went for naught. And I don't even know if that's proper english. All I know is suddenly I went from being able to bake awesome cakes to making slabs of crumbling iffiness and I'm sad.

The cake I baked last night was a pound cake with soy chai icing. It's super, super sweet and I don't think it's that tasty, but I tried to make it look cute for our barista, who is moving far, far away and we will miss him terribly.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Done with classes, searching for an externship

Rambly post with a little bit of whining thrown in warning. Dutifully warned.

I finished classes, and my final chef instructor was amazing. She was one of the NYC "slow food" chefs, and I totally adore her tattoos. She's got the british sailor bluebird of happiness duo and some amazing other ones. And we started our classes with a pregnant chef, and ended our classes with a pregnant chef. I'm not sure if that means anything, but it's at least vaguely interesting.

So the dilemma I'm having now revolves around ethics in the kitchen. I found what I thought was an ideal externship. Fancy restaurant, simple bread (only one type, modification of the traditional parkerhouse roll, easy enough, just involved boiling 50 pounds of potatoes every day and carting huge heavy doughballs up and down stairs - can we say buns of titanium?), three simple desserts (literally from the back of the package - how hard is that?) and the potential for some cool chef specials.

Except the sous chef was a jerk who told me to my face that he could do the executive chef's job much better, that the point of the restaurant was as a place to be seen (implying in my mind that the food was second to the hipster bar scene, and since they got their food from one of the mediocre food suppliers that hires criminals because they can pay them less, I could tell they were more on the cost-efficiency 'I shop at Walmart' side of the fence (I don't, btw, shop at walmart.)), and finally, as they've been in business "almost a year", they didn't need any suggestions for improving their flow.

I'm a consultant. It's how I made my money for a while. I'm really good at looking at big-picture and saying "this isn't so efficient - this can be improved". It's what consultants, for the most part, do. And he blew me off. Whatever. But he did it in a mean, nasty way.

And then told me that, despite the fact I was told my schedule was my own to set, it wasn't true. And apparently I agreed to only get paid for the hours I was posted to work, not the hours I put in, according to the notice on the schedule shown to me a week after I had been working there. And it looked like they wanted me to work Saturdays for the rest of my stay. I already have a Saturday gig. I love Lisa and Bark for Peace and if I can keep baking for her and her fabulous wonderfulness, I am going to keep baking for her. (I tried to make a chewy little drop yesterday as a test run for a good treat for training (basic profiterole recipe with rice flour and banana instead of wheat flour and egg) and it was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I've ever made - although the dogs LOVED it. But they love cat poop, so who am I to judge? But I'll keep trying. I think rice flour is going to be the answer, just maybe in combination with potato starch instead of just rice flour. Too gooey.

So in the ridiculousness that is my day to day existence, I don't have an externship lined up, and I've got about a week to find one. It's only a twelve-week gig, but experience has shown me that I can't work at a place without respect - apparently even for a week. I sent my resignation in using the only contact methods I had and they didn't seem to go through, so I got a call from the executive chef yelling - yes, yelling - at me at how I was unprofessional for not wanting to work in a kitchen with people I didn't respect and then accusing me that if I was so desperate (I admit I did use that word during the interview), why did I quit? In my defense, I didn't say I was a crack whore, just that I needed an externship and I was worried about getting one. And the whole "if you're going to break up with me, I'm going to break up with you first!" mentality thing seriously reaffirmed my feeling that fancy hipster-scene restaurant was not a good place for me to be.

So yes, I took the lame way out and walked away from the situation rather than sticking around and asserting my rights. Maybe it wasn't right of me to not care enough to make it my battle, but there was just so much to overcome and I'm still too fragile from all the wounds of last year (I still dream about Taki and Tsuki, although never Nuncle, which makes me cry thinking about it). So now I'm just now trying to figure out if all restaurants are filled with chip-on-their shoulder confrontations or if there is a commercial kitchen or bakeshop with "ISA", and what I can do to get in it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bitter, Dark, Milk and White Dilemma

This last pastry block really kills.

No, seriously.

We were working with gelatin, which in itself is disgusting enough on multiple levels, but I finally got around to trying to find the parent company for Cacao Noel (not so easy - they're French).

Through the distributor site, I was able to at least determine the country of origin of the beans. Cacao Noel proudly states they have a factory in equatorial Cote d'Ivoire. A previous roommate did her peace-corp service there, and aside from the stories of men being turned into chickens, the idea that the boxes of chocolate that we're blasting through are all the result of a likely chance of child slave labor (a 10-year old sold for $30?) hurts my very soul:

Following international media reports in 2000 and 2001 of widespread child labor abuses in West African cocoa farms, which produce 70 percent of the world's cocoa, the international human rights community investigated the problem. A 2002 joint study published by the ILO and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture found that an estimated 284,000 children on cocoa farms in West Africa were "either involved in hazardous work, unprotected or unfree, or have been trafficked." Most of the children were on cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producer. The remaining children labored on farms in Ghana, the world's second-largest producer, and in Cameroon and Nigeria. (Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report 2007, US State Department,

The industry stepped up rather quickly and forged an allegiance stating they would make the farms slave-labor free by 2005 (Harkin-Engel Protocol). Right. I can't find any follow-up report on statistics (although the one linked above is from 2007) stating what the current child labor statistics are, there is still no ban on child-slave-labor produced chocolate to the US, and knowing industry, this product we use hasn't suffered any harm from the aforementioned slap-on-the-hand industry self-regulated policy, if in fact they were using slave labor, which is probably the case since I can't find anything that says they aren't.

So what do I do? (Other than crosspost, of course)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Lovely Vacation

The last few weeks have been spent stressing out about all the things that are going on this month. Ironically, two days after the N&D and I had the cops called on us for being on a public park during a public fireworks presentation (it was a construction zone, but there were no "no trespassing" or "no admittance" signs to be seen), I blathered on about how we really didn't want to have a huge police force in our neighborhood to a city representative. I hope it came across more as "if they'd just treat us like we're humans and we'll respect what they do" than "they do such a sucky job, keep them out." Granted, this was on top of the city's incredibly slow response to a beating that caused a man's death just a mile or so south of our neighborhood.


Anyway. Back to the routine of taking evening baking classes, trying to keep up with editing, researching my ARG (yay, ARG!), and stressing about not making enough money to keep the N&D from complaining about not having any money. Granted, every time I turn around he wants a drill press, a welding set, a new controller for the Ghia, a new multi-media computer, a trip to Maine, a blah blah blah (smile).

And if you're reading this, DON'T FEEL GUILTY! And don't start justifying all of your wants. I know, I know. You NEED them. You've got grandparents who are getting old and you promised. I'm complaining about the clunkiness of the current one. I know ... I know. I just find it funny that we're both feeling guilt about the same thing from different ends, okay?

But on a lighter note, I found the absolutely best carrot cake recipe I've made in a long, long time. And it was on the Wilton site. It's not as light as the carrot torte I tried first, but for a wedding cake, it's fabulous. And I'm having fun playing with different white chocolates. So far, Callebaut is still my favorite.