19 February 2010

Why I Cook?

Why cook?
Michael Ruhlman had a post recently that reasoned through his thoughts on why he cooks? It's here.

So, why do I cook - my first thought is that I have no earthly idea, but that just a stall tactic.  I had experience with great menus and great food in my events career, so I have exposure to how things can be and what things go together - all new and different to me. I had to learn - it was part of the job. Now that explains how I could be god-forbid, a foodie, but not really why I cook.
It's simple - I am curious. What will work? What won't?

Under lying all this is the strong desire to make MotH happy and occasionally please the Boy enough that I'll make something that doesn't need ketchup added. And part of is to be different - to do something most people, honestly, don't do (or at least some people don't do). Does that mean I make homemade mayo every week -- no. But I will make it to go in my chicken salad. Sure call me a food snob - go ahead - it ain't the first time. 

Cooking is, contrary to what MotH thinks, relaxing - even if I'm tired of standing at the end of the weekend.  Even picking the weekly menu is a kick (though sometimes that's more difficulty that others). I like looking at cookbooks - hoping to discover the next great thing or trying something I've never done before. Or magazines, but increasingly more often now - blogs.
It's artistic - at least creative, and that's pretty nifty. 

Cooking has lots of perks. You know, largely, what's in your dinner. You get leftovers (lunch!). As previously mentioned (see sentence above), it's relaxing and simply fun.

Hell, cooking means I order seeds for hot peppers, cukes, and a few some a lot of flowers (you need pollinators damn it). 

Why not cook?

I'm tired - really tired.
It's something I just don't want to take on that night (pad thai, gyros, dolmas)
I'm out of time... for at least what I want to eat that night.
Ingredients are too costly - I'm notorious for being cheap -  there are something I can't rationalize.

And it's the weekend... so it's time to start ... cooking!

18 February 2010

Pickled Rosemary Carrots

Hot Damn  - it's the can jam... carrots edition

Pickled Rosemary Carrots
3 c (720ml) H20
3 c (720ml) vinegar
1/4 c (60ml) sugar
1/4 c (60ml) pickling salt
2 T (30ml) mixed peppercorn
6 hot chili peppers (red)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 lbs (1.8 kg) carrots, peeled, cut into sticks, 4" long x 1/2" wide (10c x 1.2c)

six 3" sprigs fresh rosemary

Yield: 6 pints

Prepare preserving jars (Note: wash, wash, wash w/soap, dry, process 15 minutes in hot water and keep warm until ready to use). Combine H20, vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Working 1 jar at a time, place 1 clove garlic, 1 chili pepper in each hot, sterilized jar. Pack carrot sticks tightly in jar standing upright. Slide sprig of rosemary into jar. Pour boiling solution into jars leaving 1/4" head space. Release air bubbles. Seal, repeat with the rest of the jars. Process 15 minutes.

Well Preserved
Mary Anne Dragan
p. 129

From the kitchen counter:
I made only half a recipe. That seemed like plenty since although I like the pickling liquid, I'm not sure how well I'll like it with carrots - I'm kinda on and off with carrots. Also, peeling and slicing 4 pounds of carrots - a bit o' overkill for me. 

Had to go outside with a flashlight (TY MotH) to cut the rosemary, but it's still in great shape - some little bit of damage from the 13 days of freezing, but just a few brown tips (cut off). No comments about 13 days of freezing - it's the gulf frigging coast - we shouldn't have 13 days of freezing even in January. Bugger.
Cans with pink lids - really too summer-y, but I'll rationalize it by the card-company created "holiday."
It's easier to put the rosemary in with the carrots and pepper - they are all vertical in my book so... 
Used two cloves of garlic for each jar - me likey garlic. 
How frigging long does it take to boil water - honestly - I should have timed it for my own morbid curiosity. 
I do like my new H2O canner - ordered online - saved $ --nice.
An idea just crossed my mind, by the time we finish the can jam, my pantry will be well stocked. Nifty.
Processing 15 minutes to sterilize = lots of standing around and waiting. 
Then more waiting - jeez.

Need mixed peppercorns. Time to spend some $.

No notes for how long to wait to try these, so I'm giving it a week to see what's up. Will report back. 

So what will next month bring.... we'll see. 

16 February 2010

Excerpt from Recipe Journal: Potato Salad

It's the wrong time of year, but I don't care - I think I'll eat this year round. The thing about potato salad is that I don't like it, except that I love the potato salad from Steven's Market Deli. I ordered it by accident - I thought it was German potato salad (which I do, indeed love, but Steven's doesn't carry it anymore), but went ahead and tried it and was amazing. So my thought is... can I make a better potato salad?
We watched Cook's Country and they made ranch potato salad which sound good but not like Steven's  - however Steven's potatoes, though cooked perfectly, don't in themselves taste like anything - so I'll try the method of adding vinegar and dijon mustard to the hot potatoes, a la the Cook's Country recipe... and then what?
Celery cut the right size is key and I'm expecting everyone has their idea of what the correct size is. Steven's adds carrots, but they are the little pre-cut ones - kinds of grated pieces - so they are dried out, which is good in a way. There is boiled egg which I like in small quantities. What I can't really tell is what they use as a binding agent. I want to figure it out and not ask Steven. It's creamy but doesn't seem like mayo, but it's not sour cream. So what the heck is it?
One of the things I love about Steven's is the fresh dill - yum - just enough to be perfect... but how much is that? Experimentation is in order - @ least when I stop buying from Steven's (never).

14 February 2010

Pickled Ginger & the Weather - what the ...??

What's up with the prevalence of pickled ginger lately?

How does this happen? Two weeks ago, I had a bunch of ginger - okay, I bought it because I thought about pickling it since there isn't much going on in the pickle department this time of year. But instead, I ended up preserving it per Kitchen Quick Tips from Cook's Illustrated - one of my nifty Christmas presents from MotH. I've preserved it in sherry (p. 254-5). I tried the sherry before doing so ... the ginger is only going to make the sherry better. Not my thing and I wonder how all those little old ladies drink it -- maybe it's better cold... but - blech. I have recently found a couple of recipes using sherry and ginger so that should prove beneficial.
So yesterday -- I'm reading Fine Cooking (Feb/Mar 2010) and there is a great little article (page 18)  on pickled ginger....

and then today -- there's this...

So I guess I'll be buying some more ginger to try pickling. I do make sushi at home, so it won't just be for show, but how strange is this... anyway. Back to the store for more ginger. I wonder if I can grow some here that's edible. I'll have to find out...

So Friday, it snowed (if 5 flakes count - and I think they do) and was miserable and gray and in return we were rewarded with a BEAUTIFUL Saturday and Sunday. Sunday was windows open, short sleeved shirt, blue sky kind of perfect. Winter in North Gulf Coast Florida - that's how it should be.