Feb 25, 2010

poufs in the library

i have been working on my library, trying to get it to look presentable. it is the first room see when you come to our house so i want to make a good impression. we never had a library before we moved into this house, so i had to start from just about nothing, nothing but books, lots of books, too many books.

with this project. i finally found an excuse to indulge my love of john derian's shop and his colorful moroccan poufs. lots of people sell similar poufs, but none i've seen have the color range he has. so many colors of blue poufs. love them. all. and love any excuse to head into manhattan to his shop downtown. although my kids find it very creepy, like you are at your crazy aunt's house, the one who owns all the creepy antiques that maybe also look like ancient scientific torture devices. well, i've also been buying and making pillows in this room in shades of blue. and i must say there is something so satisfying about sewing a couple of rectangles into a pillow. i am the first to admit i cannot sew, i think that's why it seems like magic to me. poof. not too stressful, and no swearing, whatsoever, when i am making a rectangle, this is due largely to not having to undo any seams.

clearly i am also not one of those people who can make a bookshelf look fabulous by somehow magically arranging it just so, i do not have this talent. a lived-in look or maybe a dusty curiosities shop is the best i can hope for. we all have to pick our spots. but i can order a pouf like nobody's business. loving those poufs and am also in love with the phrenology porcelain bust i picked up recently for not much at all. it is the little things. now a cup of tea and a good book and a few quiet hours are what i chiefly need. especially now as a giant swirling hurricane snowstorm bears down on us east coasters, really, that is what they are calling it. each storm has brought new superlatives this winter. sno mg, snomageddon, snopocalypse. snow hurricane. sigh. the snow isn't so bad, but the hyperbolic superlatives, well they are a little hard to bear.

Feb 23, 2010

chicken biryani

i am happy to report that chicken biryani at home is not very hard. my husband is absolutely crazy for biryani, so that i was able to make a decent version at home the first time is like well, magic. abracadabra.

usually the recipes i post on cup and table are tried and true and i have been making them for years, years. but this, this i've only made once, so it is a recipe under development. most likely it will change over time, as things tend to do around here. one great thing about biryani is that it has few ingredients. namely rice, chicken, yogurt, onions, cilantro and spices. it is not really that spicy in that it is mostly rice. and you can control it to make it as crazy spicy or super mild as you like at your place. we like it moderately spicy here. who knew this could be conjured up with so little skill? not me. a great secret. adding beneficial spices like turmeric, garlic, ginger, cayenne, couldn't be much easier.

chicken biryani

phase 1: marinate
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into medium size chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons garlic smashed (in a mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon smashed fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

cut chicken and place in a bowl to marinate. smash garlic and fresh ginger with 1 teaspoon sea salt in a mortar if you've got one, if not finely mince and mix together with the salt. add in the coriander cayenne turmeric cumin pepper and paprika. sprinkle the spice mixture onto the chicken. mix in the yogurt and stir to combine the spices, yogurt and meat pieces thoroughly. marinate for several hours, at least 2, as many as 6 hours.

next make the rice. you don't want to cook the rice all the way. just get it started. basmati is the best rice for this dish, traditionally. it cooks fast.

phase 2: prepare for the oven
now is a good time preaheat your oven to 375 degrees farneheit

2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt

3 large onions
1 /2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1 cup coriander leaves, freshly washed, separated from the stems
1/4 cup water

to make the rice, first rinse and then soak it for half an hour or so. drain. boil a medium pot of water. (about 8 cups or so). add in a teaspoon of salt. when the water begins to boil add in the rice. cook vigorously for 5 minutes, until the rice is tender but still quite firm, not done yet but a good way there. drain and reserve.

now the onions. slice up the onions and cook them in the pot you plan to bake the biryani in. you will need a dutch oven type pan with a good lid on it. i am lucky enough to have a cast iron pan that worked beautifully. any sort of dutch oven type pot with lid would work great. otherwise you will need to fashion a tight fitting foil lid underneath the lid of your regular pot.

and for the onions, saute them on medium high heat in the butter/olive oil mixture for 10 minutes until they are soft, translucent and have some lightly browned edges. remove them from the pan and reserve 2 TBSP of the oil you used for cooking and leave the rest in the pan.

now begin your layering. place in half the chicken, spacing it over the bottom of your pot, add half the rice over top, next layer half the onions, then half the coriander leaves, then repeat: chicken; rice; onions; coriander. now pour 1/4 cup water over the whole mixture. and the 2 TBSP reserved butter/oil from cooking the onions.

phase 3: bake for one hour
seal the top nice and tight, if you don't have a dutch oven you'll want to use foil to real seal the pan underneath the lid. cover it up and place it in your preheated oven for one hour.

phase 4: enjoy
when the hour is up remove the pot, remember both the lids and handles will be searing hot, use mitts. serve immediately with some plain yogurt, maybe a nice salad and or maybe some toasted naan. the crispy browned bits along the bottom and sides of the pan are delicious and highly sought after in my house, make sure to dig these magical crusty yummy bits out of the pan when serving. biryani at home, a new favorite.

note: for this recipe, i adapted one from naomi duguid and jeffrey alford's book mangoes & curry leaves, i changed several of the details and ingredients to fit my families' tastes, and to more closely mimic the texture of biryani's we've enjoyed in the past, but the process is nearly the same. their book is wonderful and the pictures alone are worth the price, but the recipes....superlative. very inspiring those two. and they really walk you through the recipes, which i both need and love when tackling a new cuisine.

Feb 19, 2010

i love my dough whisks

i love my dough whisks. i do.

someone, george bernard shaw i think it was, said something like: there is no love more sincere than the love of food, and that is probably not only vastly true, but largely what this blog is about. but i do love my dough whisks, most sincerely.

every time i make portuguese sweetbread or apricot oat bars or choux paste or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, they make short work of tough dough handling.

i also love my new ceramic knife. i have had a ceramic vegetable peeler for years, (since we lived in japan in the mid 90s, and i always loved it). but this new ceramic knife by kyocera is a dream for slicing scallions, parsley, carrots, celery. never mangles the scallions, or herbs, nothing but clean cuts. i love my steel knives too. but this is a treat to use, so lightweight, so delicate, handles so cleverly.

i also love my hardworking wooden spoons. i would be empty-handed without them. they stir every dish i make. i clearly need some spoon oil, like stephanie on her fabulous blog 3191 miles apart, to care for them properly. i have ordered some beeswax to make this happen.

some of these tools have been with me for more than 15 years. none of them were expensive. they have carried me a long way. true love. hope you had a super valentine's week. we've nearly conquered february and we're well on our way toward spring (yipee). happy weekend all, xo, g.

p.s. in case you are in need of any of these items: i bought my dough whisks for almost nothing at an online outfit called breadtopia, marvelous shop. the wooden spoons i bought mostly at sur la table in san francisco and the kyocera i picked up at whole foods.

Feb 16, 2010

pancake tuesday

never one to miss a food holiday, whether or not i fit the religious/geographic profile of the traditional celebrants, i felt compelled to start the day off with pancakes today. these pancakes are rich, luxurious, complex, and flavorful and yet the recipe is so ascetic and healthful, it seems impossible. and yet, here they are:

sour cream oat pancakes with apples and cider
3 cups organic apple cider
4 large or 6 small apples, peeled and sliced
1 TBSP unsalted butter
3/4 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 TBSP olive oil
add in
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
more milk to thin them if necessary.

okay. first set the cider in a saucepan. let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes until it is reduced by half. swirl in a pat of butter if you are feelling so luxurious. while that is boiling, peel and slice the apples. set a copper or other skillet on high heat. add a bit of butter and saute until the apples brown on the edges just a bit and soften slightly 5 minutes or so. add the reduced cider to the apples, let them sizzle together for a minute or two. then turn off heat.

to mix up your batter sift the dry ingredients. mix up the eggs and liquid in a bowl. add in the dry ingredients. mix up well. batter should not be too thick and gloppy, thin it with extra milk if necessary, it usually is. add in the oats and give a stir.

heat your griddle pan to medium. pour pancake batter into pleasing shapes. flip when the bubbles have bubbled sufficiently.

serve immediately. generously butter your pancakes if you are so inclined, and spoon the apple and cider mixture over all. mmmmm. tender, tart, sweet, buttery deliciousness. not too sweet.

Feb 15, 2010

banana bread chronicles

terribly excited to have cup and table's apricot banana oat bread recipe featured on ruth reichl's website today in the excellent company of some really great cooks, foodies and food bloggers. you can check out ruth's post banana bread chronicles here. february is a great time to make banana bread, you can warm the whole kitchen with the oven's heat and warm the whole household with the bread's wonerful aroma. i just may have to try a new banana bread recipe this week. even more snow is headed this way. it is always nice to have a good excuse to stay in and bake.

Feb 10, 2010


snow day. snow person. shoveling. apricot oat bars. hot cocoa. roaring fires. love a good blizzard.

Feb 9, 2010

shrimp and okra gumbo

my eleven year old calls this "game-changing gumbo." as the legend goes, on sunday night, i served this after the first quarter of the american football superbowl. at the time we gathered for supper, his team was down 10-3. (incidentally my kids loved this gumbo even though they both profess to hate shrimp, and one even hates okra. this was the first miracle of the night). well everything changed after this gumbo. what do you know, drew brees and the saints soon pulled ahead and won it 31-17, their first-ever victory or even participation in this championship. the second miracle of the night.

so maybe this gumbo will change the outcome of something in your life in some positive way. and my son sure is happy. he recommended i post this recipe and make special note of it's game-changing ability. so here you are:

shrimp and okra game changing gumbo
as the saying goes, first you make a roux.
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup mixture of butter and olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb okra, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1 lb fresh shrimp
i used the wonderful sweet, fresh maine shrimp that are in season right this very minute, but other types will do well

generously salt and pepper to taste. start a teaspoon at a time if you aren't sure what you want.
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce, more or less, to taste.

chopped scallions
chopped parsley
tabasco or hot sauce at the table for anyone who likes more heat.

for your roux, stir constantly over medium heat for 14-20 minutes or so to form this delicious base of most cajun stews. thickens and flavors it wonderfully. i burned the first batch. i took my eyes off it for only 2 seconds i swear. but no matter. easy enough to wipe clean and start again in a giant skillet. 1/4 cup flour to 1/4 butter (or oil or lard, if you prefer). stir it constantly until it turns some nice color of brown, some say chocolate, some say pecan, i like it a bit lighter more in the pecan range than chocolate or walnut. if it starts to smoke and or black specks appear, it is burned and you need to start over. also start the steamed long grain rice now, for it comes together pretty quick.

when your roux is a nice shade of brownishness, add in the chopped onion, celery and garlic. stir around for and cook for 5 minutes or so on medium, if it seems way to dry, you can add in a little olive oil or butter or stock to help it along.

after 5 minutes. add in the stock. fish stock if you've got it. i didn't, so used chicken stock. add in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. add in the okra and peppers now. chop your scallions and peel your shrimp, if need be.

when the okra is finally tender (5-15 minutes, depending on how small and fresh your okra is) add in your shrimp, tabasco and scallions. simmer for about 3 minutes. taste to correct seasonings. serve over a generous helping of steamed long grain rice. onward to victory.

traditionally gumbo contains chicken and andouille sausage as well. i was not interested in that this time. you can find shrimp and okra gumbo once in a while down south, so it is not an entirely new idea. (are there any new ideas in cooking?)

Feb 5, 2010

what should we be eating?

i have been doing some thinking lately, always dangerous. and while i try to avoid politics like the plague, as i once lived in washington d.c. for 4 years as a younger adult type person which truly cured me of ever wanting to know anything about the internal or external machinations of the political conundrum that is america today. but this personal weakness aside, one bit of politics that is unavoidable to me is the politics of food.

everyday we choose what to eat. and what should we be eating? according to food journalist/philosopher micheal pollan, "not too much, mostly plants." and "if it is a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't." what if there was a diet that would promote longevity, protect from cancer and heart disease, all the while going a long way to save the planet from pollution and global warming and acidic oceans at the same time, would you follow it? apparently such a regimen exists.

recently in the UK some vegetarian celebrities have begun promoting a concept called meat-free mondays, promoting vegetarianism for one day a week to everyone, and highlighting the true cost of a meat-heavy diet in really quite shocking terms.

i do think we need to change our habits. i do think the manufacture of food packaged goods and the resulting international marketing mayhem encouraging us all to eat more and more food-like substances without regard to our health and welfare is worth railing against. we should thoughtfully take control of our instincts toward a more wholesome diet. we must sacrifice some convenience now for some convenience later (as we and our planet age). as responsible humans, we should endeavor to improve ourselves and our planet by more thoughtful choices, shouldn't we? i do not think we should enjoy our food any less, in fact, i propose we enjoy it more.

what can i do, what can you do, what can anyone do? well. for starters, lets think about what that would entail.

my local hospital recently sent me a list of foods i should be eating:
kiwi fruit
collard greens
sweet potatoes

prevention magazine has another list:
greek yogurt
fat free milk
lean beef
edamame and tofu
olive oil
sweet potatoes
red peppers
asian pears
dark chocolate

and then the new york times has another list:
swiss chard
pomegranate juice
dried plums
pumpkin seeds
frozen blueberries
canned pumpkin

well there you go. a list of foods we should probably all add into our daily rotation. now i firmly believe that nutrition science and preventative medicine really can't tell us what each of need to eat more and less of based on our genetics, environment, and individual personal health history, but i imagine one day they will.

in the meantime, i am going to go out of my way and try to incorporate each of these foods into a few new recipes for our healthful enjoyment. i will not sacrifice the delicious enjoyment part. because i love food. food is wonderful. food is an art form. and most of all, food can be enjoyed as a delightful repast each day, ideally shared with family and friends. and so this will be where i attempt to figure out how to really find the intersection of taste, benefit, and even greater enjoyment of our daily food, in a new section of cup and table. stay tuned for the unveiling.

happy weekend to you. big snow predicted here, but we have lots of nice weekend plans, so i hope not too much snow. xo, g

Feb 3, 2010

woke up to this

made hot chocolate with steamed milk and a mix of green and black's hot chocolate (pulverized bittersweet chocolate) and some guittard cocoa rouge. not too sweet. not too hot. not too cold. just right. a good start. happy wednesday. xo, g