Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recipe: Spring Pea and Parmesan Soup

Nothing says springtime quite like the first fresh peas of the season picked from the vine, warmed by the sun. Sweet, tender and bursting with flavor, the peas themselves get plenty of love; however, the pea pods are often overlooked, destined to become compost. This recipe uses the pods to create a delicate but flavorful broth enhanced with the rich umami flavors of aged parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. of fresh peas in the pod
  • ½ cup finely chopped white or yellow onion plus ¼ cup of roughly chopped onion
  • ¼ cup of grated parmesan
  • 2 oz. of parmesan rind (about 3 inches of rind)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 3 ½ cups of water
  • 1 sprig of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Method

  1. Wash and shell peas. Reserve pea pods for use in broth.
  2. Add pea pods, parsley, roughly chopped onion, and vegetable broth to 3 ½ cups of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the parmesan rinds to the saucepan and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Strain and reserve broth.
  5. Melt butter in a clean medium sauce pan over medium low heat
  6. Add finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt and sweat onions with frequent stirring until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add broth to saucepan and bring to a low simmer.
  8. Add peas to saucepan and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until peas are softened.
  9. Puree soup in a blender until smooth, stir in parmesan cheese, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  10. Garnish with tender pea shoots and serve immediately with crusty buttered baguette.
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Two Years and a New Continent

Since our last post, Mindelei and I have moved yet again. We have left Wichita and have set up a new home in the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia.
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Here macadamia groves, sugar cane fields, and orchards of bananas, finger limes, mangoes, papaya and other luscious tropical fruit dot the landscape amid stands of sub-tropical rain-forest, and where the bounty of the land is sold in the dozens of farmers markets across the region. Where cows with gleaming coats grow fat (and tasty) from grazing on lush grasses and pasture herbs. It is a place where the people are passionate about sustainability and take our responsibility to care for the natural environment seriously; a place where Mindelei and I count ourselves lucky to call home.

Cheese and Bacon Rolls

In and around the Sydney area of New South Wales, Australia early morning is heralded by the smell of crusty bread wafting from bake shops that dot the landscape.  Bakeries like these are very few and far between in the US and none of them I have found sell what is the pinnacle of the baker’s art (well at least in my opinion) – the Cheese and Bacon Roll.   These little bits of heaven consist of french bread – crisp and crusty on the outside, soft and light in the center – topped with a combination of bacon and cheddar cheese and cooked until the cheese becomes brown, nutty and toasted.  Here is my version of this Aussie bake shop classic.

Ingredients

550g AP Flour
250mL of water
125mL of whole milk
7g of instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbls olive oil
1 cup of grated cheese
50g of finely chopped bacon or country ham.

Procedure

Note:  All weights and volumes have been expressed in metric for the simple fact that weighing in grams and measuring in mL is much more accurate than using imperial measurements.

  1. Weigh out flour and yeast then add liquid ingredients. Mix until dough just comes together, cover and allow to autolyse for 1 hr.  This step helps build gluten.
  2. Add salt to dough and mix using a dough hook on medium speed for 7-8 minutes or knead for 8-10 minutes.  Place dough in a large bowl that has been greased with olive oil, cover and place in a warm spot.
  3. Allow to rise until volume of dough has doubled.
  4. Gently deflate dough by folding the corners into the middle.
  5. Divide dough into 8 balls of equal size ~ 125g each, and place dough balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat silicone mat.
  6. Make a small indent in each dough ball and sprinkle bacon and cheese on dough.  Allow dough to rise until nearly doubled in size.
  7. Bake in a HOT 425 F oven until cheese is toasted and bread is golden brown.   To make a crispier crust, toss 6 or 7 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to create steam at the start of baking.

Best served warm.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 14 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 28 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 53mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 29th with 89 views. The most popular post that day was Escabeche: Pickled Jalapenos with vegetables..

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were plurk.com, facebook.com, compostermom.blogspot.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, and hitztvshows.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jalapenos en escabeche, pickled jalapenos escabeche recipe, jalapeno escabeche recipe, ginger beer bug, and pickled jalapenos.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Escabeche: Pickled Jalapenos with vegetables. June 2010
4 comments

2

Adventures in Ginger Beer: Getting the Bug. August 2010
2 comments

3

Top Cheap-o Ways to Eat Like a Foodie Without the Expense June 2010
6 comments

4

Nothing Says Love Like Comfort Food from Your Childhood May 2010
4 comments

5

Pierogies Gone Wild! May 2010
8 comments

Kitchen Arts and Letters: A Foodie’s Bookstore.

While surfing the web I discovered Kitchen Arts and Letters.  This bookstore seems like it could be a food lover’s idea of literary heaven.  If the website is to be believed there are over 13,000 titles in stock in every area of food writing; cookbooks, histories, cultural studies and more.  I have a feeling I could get lost for days in this place.

Either/or.

Few foods are as polarizing as Vegemite; you either love the stuff or detest it: there is no middle ground. For those in the “love it” camp, the glossy brown-black spread is ambrosia-in-a-bottle; a super-food handed down from Ninsaki herself that possesses the magical ability to transform a boring slice of white toast or cheese sandwich into an epicurean delight of the highest order.  For those that detest vegemite, it is a nose-turning, lip-burning, gag-inducing hyper-saline sludge arising from the darkest recesses of some demented evil-genius’s mind, designed as a cruel and unusual punishment to be inflicted upon innocent taste buds everywhere.  Me. . . well, I unapologetically fall into the “love it” camp, while those whom I have convinced to try it since I moved to the States 10 years ago almost universally do not; the one exception was Max, a shelter cat that Mindelei and I adopted in 2002, who lapped it up with zeal.

In America my friends and family are part of the vast majority. While almost everyone I have met has heard of the mythic black spread, most have no idea what it is.  All they know is that much like molten lava, the contents of a well-used litter box or lutefisk, it is not something that they want in their mouths.  Most, when they finally bow to pressure and cautiously agree to a little taste, invariably make the same contorted facial expressions normally associated with stubbing a toe or smashing a thumb with a hammer.   While I would love for at least one person to express pleasure or at least a “hmm… that was ok,” I must admit seeing people pull these faces always makes me chuckle silently.

To a vegemite lover such as myself this kind of aversion is mind-boggling.  Growing up there was hardly a day that I did not eat vegemite in or on something.  Vegemite, cheese and lettuce sandwiches, vegemite and butter on crackers, vegemite on toast, and crunchy celery sticks schmeared thinly with the salty spread were staples of my childhood.  Later as I started cooking for myself, all of my soups, stews and gravies incorporated a touch of vegemite to provide color and seasoning.  Vegetarian friends of mine would use vegemite to make a faux beef broth to use in various recipes, and I learnt from a friend of mine that worked at a bakery that vegemite was an irreplaceable ingredient in that other iconic Aussie food: the meat pie.  

For me, like most Australians, vegemite was, and is, everywhere.  The savory black goo is not just a foodstuff but a cultural icon. The yellow and red label is as instantly recognizable in Australia as Ronald McDonald is in the US, while its jingle, dating back to 1954, could probably replace the current national anthem with nary a word of protest.  It is so loved that there is currently an exhibition celebrating vegemite at the National Museum of Australia.  Given its place in Australian culture it is hard to understand why vegemite is so reviled in much of the rest of the world.

Having said that, if you grow up with something as ubiquitous and as ingrained into the national psyche as vegemite, you learn to repect the food; treat it right and it will do the same.  When it comes to vegemite, “less is more” is not just an empty platitude, but a philosophy to be taken to heart.  This is not the type of food that should be slathered on toast like grape jelly, although I have seen tourists do exactly that in diners and breakfast nooks in and around Sydney.  If this is one’s introduction to the spread then an adverse association with the stuff is (sort of) understandable. 

If you ever get the chance to sample some of the savory spread, keep an open mind, approach it with respect and you may just discover your inner Aussie; but remember you will either love it or hate it: neutrality is not an option.

It’s Just the Beginning

Each person’s experiences with food can vary widely.  Some see it as simply a way to gain energy for the body while others identify eating as being far more sensual in nature.  Food porn anyone?

Regardless of where you see yourself on this edible spectrum, you probably do find some enjoyment in what you eat.  Whether you find the process of refining a recipe an inspiration, you adore the perfect bite at your favorite neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, or you simply enjoy strolling down the isles of your local farmer’s market checking out the latest in mother nature’s produce, we have at least one thing in common: we find joy in the food experience.  What else do we have in common?  I would guess that we also enjoy sharing that experience with others.

Over the years, my husband and I have cherished many moments discussing ingredients, planning travel books that would focus on a foodie’s tour of a particular town or region, or even recreating foods (some successful, some not) off menus that we’ve enjoyed at restaurants in whichever town it was that we were living at the time.  We’ve probably spent more money eating out than we would even care to admit to ourselves.

As luck would have it, we’re at a point in our lives where we barely have two pennies to rub together (boy all that dough we spent on dining out sure looks good now), so we’re working on creative ways to have more interesting experiences with a variety of foods at home.  Our plan is to enjoy ourselves and share our ideas with others as we go along.  We may even share some older food adventures that we’ve had in the kitchen (you just never know).  We might even spend some time reminiscing about some of our old neighborhood haunts.

Regardless, you might get a new recipe to try, a tip to save some cash and feed your family, or even a laugh or two at whatever the latest disaster is that we’ve been through in the kitchen.  There might even be pictures, just you wait…