Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Crap I Like to Eat"

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a quick meal idea: smashed peas on toast. I thought: I'll have to try that, and I went home and did, though with a fried egg instead of poached. While I was eating it, Lance wandered over and took a bite. Then another bite. To save the rest of my meal, I had to make him his own, and our current favorite dish was born.

Molly of Orangette writes about making a list called CRAP I LIKE TO EAT (CILTE). Whenever you're tired and can't think of something to make, you refer to the list to grab an idea that will be immediately appealing and get you excited about cooking. Smashed peas on toast with a fried egg has gone on my CILTE list.

Last night, I needed a light bite to eat for dinner, so I immediately thought of smashed peas on toast. It may not sound that appealing, but believe me--it's delicious, especially if you leave the yolk a little runny. Quality ingredients are best for such a simple dish, since all of the flavors come through: I used homemade whole wheat bread and fresh free-range eggs purchased at our farmers' market.

It hit the spot perfectly so that I could muster up my energy to help complete a painting project, and it will continue to be a favorite quick, simple dish that Lance and I will go to when we're feeling uninspired by the prospect of dinner.

Smashed Peas on Toast with a Fried Egg
(Note: All measurements are approximate because I just throw this together, which is part of why it's a perfect dish.)
  • frozen peas (~1/2 cup or more)
  • 1 slice good quality bread
  • 1 egg
  • seasonings ( such as garlic powder, salt and pepper, cayenne, onion powder, nutritional yeast, or anything else you think might taste good. I like my peas really garlicky.)
In the microwave (or on the stove top), heat the frozen peas until hot. Smash with a fork and add seasonings to taste*. It shouldn't be a paste, just smash them up for a minute or so and until the spices are incorporated.

Meanwhile, toast the piece of bread and cook the fried egg. I salt and pepper my egg at this point.

To assemble: place the toast on a plate. Put peas on top of toast. Place fried egg on top of peas and eat with a fork because the peas and egg yolk are likely to get a little messy.

*Lance likes to add a touch of half-and-half or cream to make the peas a little creamier.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pie War

I'm trying to start a pie crust war with Lance. I have doubts that it will actually work--those who have met him know that he's generally unflappable--but it's still fun to try.

You see, Lance is a improvational, free-style cook except for two recipes: cornbread and pie crust. He uses the same recipes (or ratios, really, since he has been known to substitute different types of flour in the pie crust) that his grandmother taught his mother, who in turn taught him. Anyway, these two recipes border on the sacred for Lance, and I agreed to follow them as well. I've made other cornbread recipes, but he always complains about them.

Pie crust, however, is fairly standard: butter, flour, salt, and ice water. Technique is actually the most difficult part of pie crusts. We have been experimenting with our mixing and rolling techniques with great success.

Yesterday, I decided to bake a pie for his grandmother. I was reading Molly Wizenberg's (of Orangette, a fantastic cooking blog) book A Homemade Life*, and I told Lance's grandma about Molly's Hoosier pie, which contains chocolate, bourbon, and pecans. Lance's grandmother proceeded to hint about it throughout the evening, so I showed up with one yesterday, and we had it for dinner. It was delicious.

What got me going about the pie crusts, however, was Molly's pie crust recipe for the Hoosier pie was significantly different from our standard crust. It had apple cider vinegar in it! Also sugar! I was intrigued, to say the least. So I diverted from our recipe--and I really liked the results. The crust was tender and flaky, with a nice crispness. I think Molly is onto something with the vinegar. Lance's grandma also declared it delicious, and she really knows her pies**.

Both crusts are good--dont' get me wrong--but I think I'm now interested in experimenting with crust recipes. I think I'll leave the cornbread alone. It really is an excellent recipe, which I will share with you when next we make it. For now, here are the warring pie crusts:

Lance's Grandmother's Pie Crust
  • 1 cup flour (I like a mix of 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry and 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose)
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water
Blend flour and salt in a bowl. Add butter and mash up with a fork or a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of peas. (Alternately, use your food processor--but the hand method does work a bit better. But everyone can be a little lazy sometimes.)

Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and stir. Add a bit more if your dough is dry--it should hold together but not be sticky. I usually use all 4 tablespoons and maybe a bit more if I'm using whole wheat pastry, since it can take a bit more moisture.

Roll out or wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator until ready for use--you can make pie crust a little ahead of time since it does well when chilled (it is important not too handle it too much or the butter will begin to melt).

Molly Wizenburg's Pie Crust
From A Homemade Life's Hooiser Pie recipe

  • 4 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry and 1 cup all-purpose with great results)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut up
Mix together ice water and apple cider vinegar and set aside.

Mix together flour(s), sugar, and salt. Add in butter and cut into flour (using fork, pastry cutter, or food processor) until the butter is the size of peas. Mix in water, adding more if needed--you are looking for the pie crust to hold together, but not be too damp. Shape into disc, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator until ready for use.

*Much more about this book later. I'm really, really enjoying it.
**When I make a pie, and it meets with his grandparents' approval, I know that I've succeeded. They have eaten/made a lot of pie in their lifetime, and they know good pie when they taste it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Photo Ops

Often, I'm convinced that I'm not photogenic. I'll look at a picture of myself, and all I see is that I'm not wearing make-up (makes my eyes look tired), or my head is at a funny angle, making me look like I have an extra chin.

My graduation pictures were both terrible. Well, one was pretty terrible and the other was okay. I ordered the okay one because I wanted an "official" picture to give to family. The graduation action-shot--photo taken as I'm being handed my diploma-cover--was the worst of the two. I was confused as I was walking across the stage, and I looked at the camera instead of the person handing me the diploma. I look like a deer caught in headlights. The second photo is okay, except that my bangs covered one eye and my mortarboard slid back on my head. It was definitely the winner.

People tell me that I'm crazy for thinking I'm not photogenic, but I've seen lots of bad pictures of myself. Then one like this pops up:

And I'm convinced that I'm capable of having good pictures of myself. Thanks to the ever-lovely J. for making a decent photograph of graduation exist.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Kindle Lesson #1

My Twitter followers will know that I recently purchased a Kindle 2--it has been mine-oh-mine for about two weeks now, and I use it everyday. I love it.

Today, I contacted customer service because I was having some issues with finding my New Yorker subscription (the new one wasn't showing up on my device!) and a PDF file I had converted and uploaded vanished without a trace, even after I'd read a bit of it and examined how well the conversion worked. I discovered that the PDF file was still on the device when I attempted to re-add it, but somehow I couldn't find it when I searched my items.

Enamored as I was with my Kindle, I did not react with anger. Perhaps something was merely awry, I thought. Maybe the device wasn't accessing the information, or maybe I uploaded it wrong. I e-mailed Amazon; they promptly replied that I should call their customer service number. I did; after about a minute I was greeted by a helpful gentleman who attempted to re-send my New Yorker issue to the Kindle. He then had me restart the device and transferred me to tech support for assistance with my PDF file.

By the time the Kindle restarted, I was chatting with a friendly woman. I described my problem--I can't find my converted PDF document! Oh, and I still can't find my New Yorker current issue!--and she quickly directed me to the top of the screen. If I press the navigation key to the left, I suddenly see that I can display "all items". Somehow, somewhat inexplicably, I had changed my selection to display only books.

"I feel stupid," I told the tech support woman. She expressed satisfaction that she was able to so quickly solve my problem, and I hung up pleased that the Kindle was working perfectly (and armed with new knowledge about display settings).

I blame the folks who played with my Kindle the weekend before last (you know who you are*).

So, Lesson #1: be careful how many individuals fiddle with Kindle's settings unsupervised. Also, Kindle has many, many hidden menus that I'm still locating, despite the ease and intuition with which I have so far operated my beloved device. More Kindle gushing soon!

*Don't worry--I don't actually blame you. Either way, I now know a new, nifty feature!