Monday, June 25, 2007

Today is a happy day because... I was reunited with the flatbread I love so much

Back in the day Shula taught me to make the most amazing flatbread – light and flaky, with herbs, spices and onions between the layers, and quick enough to whip up while you're preparing something else. I used to make them all the time, and then it just kind of slipped out of my mind. Until last night when I made a giant pot of chunky lentil soup, with tomatoes, coconut milk, zucchini, mushrooms, and Indian spices – the kind of soup that absolutely needed that flatbread. I searched through all of the places a random recipe could possibly be hiding in my kitchen, all the while with a nagging thought that this one was never written down. I didn't find it. So, it was simple enough that it had lived in my mind for years, and yet I couldn't reason my way through it now. Hmmpf.

But, I had a second chance – luckily, I made enough soup that we had leftovers to eat tonight, so when I got home from work, I called Shula right away for the recipe. Of course, she said "there isn't really a recipe for it..." So here then, are the few simple instructions which she kindly reminded me of:

1. In a bowl, mix 2 parts flour with one part water and a pinch of salt. Let sit for half an hour, or however long it takes you to prep the rest of your meal.
2. Meanwhile, melt a bit of butter in a pan. Saute some minced onion with cumin and salt to taste. Remove mixture from pan once onion is soft and translucent, then stir in some chopped fresh mint or cilantro.
3. Shape the flatbread like this:

4. Fry it in a skillet with a little butter, until browned and a bit puffy. Mmmm!
With the leftover lentils and rice, it was perfect:

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The weekend that summer teased us

A few Saturdays ago it was actually sunny and warm enough for us to feel the need to quickly pack up a bunch of stuff and run down to the beach to lounge around with slushy watermelon drinks, play scrabble and... barbeque!

So, pre-running down to find a nice grassy spot with a good view of the sunset we threw together some things to eat and drink. Here's what it takes:

1. Make Watermelon slushies – cut a fresh watermelon into chunks (1 mini watermelon or 1/4 large) and thow into the blender along with a handful or two of ice cubes, juice of 1 lime, and a few glugs of rum. Blend and then pour into a large bottle/jug with a lid and keep it in the freezer until you're ready to leave.

2. Make cucumber salad – a recipe my mom used to make, which has become my favourite refreshing side dish, usually to go along with spicy asian food of some kind, but always good for a barbeque too:

Thai Cucumber Salad
1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onions, very finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro and/or mint, minced
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, minced
1–2 thai red chilis, minced

Stir it all together and let marinate – it tastes best when it's sat for a while (and looks best sitting on the grass at sunset, obviously).
3. Assemble salmon packet – place fresh salmon fillet on a large piece of tinfoil, cover with lemon slices and chopped fresh herbs (we used basil and tarragon this time), and wrap it all up.

4. Assemble veggie packets – chop potatoes and tomatoes into chunks and place in tinfoil with lots of butter, whole garlic cloves, fresh herbs (we used thyme and marjoram), and salt and pepper, and wrap it all up.

That's it! Once at the beach, we got to just relax and let the bbq do all the work. Which gave us time to consume a bottle of prosecco and another of pinot blanc, and to learn that the capitol of Florida is Tallahassee. Mmmm, if we lived in Florida it would probably feel like summer now, and we could have more barbeques...

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Laura eats tofu ... and enjoys it!

The truth is, that although my mom was a vegetarian for 10 years, and though she made tofu during that time, the stuff never passed my lips. But now I am a grown-up, and I try foods I used to despise or ignore, and I even like some of them now, like celery! A few Wednesdays ago found me prepared to try tofu. But first, I needed a little preparation. Hence the Riesling!

Cleverly we all used differently-shaped glasses in order to be able to distinguish one from the other.

Meg squeezed the excess water out of the tofu by placing it between plates and balancing various bottles on top of the plates (precariously) to provide a weight. The result is shown below - and I got to cube it! Somehow it was quite enjoyable to drag a knife through it – it was very tactile and squishy. It was medium-firmness tofu. Here is what Wiki has to say on some of the varieties of tofu (I had to do some research, as I'm a tofu novice!):

"Depending on the amount of water that is extracted from the tofu curds, fresh tofu can be divided into three main varieties.

Soft/silken tofu(嫩豆腐 or 滑豆腐, nèn dòufǔ or huá dòufǔ, in Chinese, lit. "soft tofu" or "smooth tofu"; 絹漉し豆腐, kinugoshi tōfu in Japanese, lit. "silk-filtered tofu"; 순두부, sundubu in Korean, lit. "mild tofu"):

This undrained tofu contains the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus. Its texture can be described as similar to that of very fine custard. In Korea and Japan, traditional soft tofu is made with seawater. Douhua (豆花, dòu huā or 豆腐花, dòufǔ huā in Chinese), or tofu brain (豆腐腦 or 豆腐脑, dòufǔ naǒ in Chinese), often eaten as a dessert, but sometimes with salty pickles or hot sauce added instead, is another type of soft tofu with an even higher moisture content. Because it is nearly impossible to pick up this type of tofu with chopsticks, it is generally eaten with a spoon. Edamame tofu is a Japanese variety of kinugoshi tōfu made from edamame (fresh green soybeans); it is pale green in color and often studded with whole edamame.

Asian firm tofu (simply called 豆腐 dòufǔ in Chinese; 木綿豆腐, momendōfu in Japanese, lit. "cotton tofu"):

Although drained and pressed, this form of fresh tofu still contains a great amount of moisture. It has the firmness of raw meat but bounces back readily when pressed. The texture of the inside of the tofu is similar to that of a firm custard. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the muslin used to drain it and is slightly more resilient to damage than its inside. Can be picked up easily with chopsticks.

Western firm/dried tofu (豆乾, dòu gān in Chinese, lit. "dry tofu"):

An extra firm variety of tofu with the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofus. It has the firmness of fully cooked meat and a somewhat rubbery feel similar to paneer. When sliced thinly, this tofu can be crumbled easily. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the muslin used to drain and press it. Western firm tofu is milled and reformed after the pressing and sometimes lacks the skin with its cloth patterning. Fresh tofu is usually sold completely immersed in water to maintain its moisture content."

Sadly, I can't remember if our tofu came in water or not. I'll have to go and buy some and try cooking tofu all on my own. I never thought the day would come. But that's the persuasive power of the Rebar cookbook. Here's our tofu once cubed:

We seasoned the tofu, and then - ate some of it raw like a tofu tartare! (Clearly I haven't had much experience with tofu!) It wasn't bad raw, and I didn't mind its texture.

But it was better after cooking.

The tofu was cooked after Rebar's sesame tofu recipe - for recipe see Meg's previous entry on her search for noodle box substitutes.

We made a tamarind sauce for the stirfry which clearly involved some straining:

The stirfry also called for roma tomatoes, which we quartered,

and scallions (spring onions or scallions, everyone?)

and some chopped ginger made an appearance, as it often does at We Dine:

As did some cabbage whose name I've forgotten (but which will appear in the recipe that Meg will hopefully post so I'll be enlightened again - obviously I need to write these entries sooner so my memory doesn't suffer!)

Michelle arrived a little late from work and received her own glass of wine, and joined in the cooking,

and Alisha made a cucumber salad

And the finished stirfry was eaten with chopsticks and accompanied by the final episode of America's Next Top Model. What a lovely plate it was.

And it was followed by an equally-lovely plate of mango, strawberries and mint. And my astonishment that Natasha didn't win! Good thing I hadn't made any bets on it...

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