Food Friday: Belly Water

Earlier this summer, Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen posted a link to Belly Water, apparently originally from the Steve Harvey show. I thought the idea of steeping water in lemon, cucumber, ginger and mint sounded pretty nice for summer and I’ve been drinking variations on this for the last few weeks. I’ve got a pitcher that belongs to an iced tea maker that I chuck a sliced lemon, cucumber, some ginger, and fresh mint into and leave in the fridge. You can refill the water and reuse the stuff inside 3-4 times until you need to pitch it and start over.

(Does this even count as a recipe?)

Food Friday: Rhubarb Ginger Syrup

Sorry for the blog silence; moving and settling in to the new place has turned out to be an even more time-consuming process than I expected. The great part is that I’ve got my sewing room 75% functional and am slowly unpacking all the bits and bobs. Maybe I’ll actually sew something (other than mending) soon!

The kitchen is 90% there and I’ve begun cooking a lot more. I recently purchased a charming new cookbook called The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making, by Alana Chernila. Apparently Alana has a blog, called Eating From the Ground Up, and I suspect a lot of the recipes started there. The book is a bit of a rambler, not focused on any one type of food or cooking/preserving process. I’m not sure that I’ll actually use that many of the recipes as written; I might recommend it as a library book before you see if it’s worth the price for you. There’s a section on drinks, including making your own tea blends, homemade hot chocolate, and that sort of thing, which has the following rhubarb ginger syrup recipe, designed to be used as a concentrate with seltzer, etc.

I love rhubarb, but the spouse is not the biggest fan, so I only test his patience with a strawberry rhubarb pie once every month or so in summer. This is a nice alternative that encourages me to drink more from our Sodastream. It’s very good mixed half and half with plain Sodastream carbonated water and ice. I made it basically as written using mint; if I were to make it again I’d cut the water down so I’d end up with a more syrupy consistency for my purposes, and I’m not sure that the mint really did that much at all. If you don’t have any fresh herbs around, don’t stress.

Rhubarb Ginger Syrup
from The Homemade Pantry, by Alana Chernila

2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 cups water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste
a few sprigs of fresh thyme or a handful of lemon balm, mint, or a combination of the two

1. Combine the rhubarb and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is almost dissolving. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the rhubarb.
2. Add the lime juice to the rhubarb water, along with the ginger and sugar. Raise ht heat to medium-high and cook at a low boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is slightly reduced and thickened.
3. Remove it from the heat, add your herb of choice, and cover. Let steep for 5-10 minutes. Taste and add sugar if needed. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a jar or bottle and let cool.

Maybe a pie for the 4th?

Hi all. Blog silence is due to a move into a new house and its associated logistical shenanigans. It’s a bigger place, with room for a sewing room so that’s very exciting. Right now the sewing room is just a pile of boxes of fabrics and notions thrown about willy-nilly. More immediately necessary areas of the house, like our bedroom and the kitchen, have gotten higher priority unpacking service, but soon I’ll be able to tackle the more discretionary corners. Once I get everything reasonably into shape I will definitely post some pictures.

Since there hasn’t been much Food Friday action for a while, I will share this fabulous link, from An Oregon Cottage: The Ultimate Rhubarb Guide. All about planting, growing, cooking with, and preserving rhubarb. Rhubarb has always been one of my favorites, and I will definitely be planting shoots at the new place as soon as possible. To me, a strawberry rhubarb pie is the epitome of summer. Hope your summer is going well.

Food Friday: Cornbread with feta

I recently read Anya Von Bremzen’s memoir-slash-history-slash-cookbook, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, and I recommend it. The personal stories and the lens of food makes a complex and sobering subject like the history of twentieth century Russia a bit more approachable. In the book, Von Bremzen calls this Cornbread for Khrushchev, because of the leader’s obsession with corn and attempts to replace wheat with maize on Soviet farms, policies which were partially to blame for food shortages and famine in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Here’s the recipe, reproduced at Food & Wine: Cornbread for Khrushchev. The only changes I made were to substitute plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and only use 6 ounces of feta (what I had, but also, 3/4 pound of feta for one pan of cornbread seemed like a crazy huge amount). It makes a nicely moist result and the feta adds interest, although it’ll be a bit of an acquired taste if you’re used to sweet Southern (American) cornbreads. If I make it again, I might try adding chiles, or something else spicy, to balance out the richness of the bread and the pungency of the feta.

[Link to the book is an affiliate link.]

Food Friday: Carrot & Parsley Salad

There’s a local cafe that gives out a shredded carrot salad with all of their sandwiches. Theirs suffers a bit from sitting around all day, but it lead me to try to replicate/improve it at home. I started with this recipe from frenchfood.about.com: Carrot Salad. The only big change I made was to use pre-shredded carrots, increase the amount of parsley – more like a salad green than a garnish – and add slivered almonds. The proportions, for a 10 oz bag of shredded carrots, works out as follows:

1 10 oz bag of shredded carrots
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)
Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Penzey’s country French vinaigrette*
salt & pepper to taste

*Optional, obviously, but it is a great flavor for this. The Penzey’s website lists the following ingredients: sugar, brown mustard, salt, garlic, black pepper, lemon, onion, French tarragon, white pepper, chives, thyme, cracked rosemary. You could substitute with some thyme, chives, rosemary and garlic powder.

Food Friday: Short Ribs

Hi folks! I’ve been doing a fair bit of cooking recently so I’ve got some recipes to share in the upcoming weeks. The other day I made some short ribs in the slow cooker, basically using this recipe from food.com: Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs. I made a few adjustments – a little less brown sugar, and no Worcestershire sauce because I was out of it. In general it was pretty tasty although if I made it again I’d reduce the amount of vinegar.

Food Friday: basic banana bread

Recently I culled my overflowing cookbook shelf before the whole thing collapsed onto the floor. One of the books I got rid of was Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics, which my parents had gotten for me after visiting her restaurant in Savannah years ago. I am not a fan of her recent public foibles, but she has done a good job over the years of capturing a particular kind of basic Southern cooking which I remember fondly from my childhood. Before I got rid of the book, I copied two pages – one for banana bread and one for zucchini bread. I made the banana bread the other day, and yep, that’s the banana bread I remember as a kid. The only change I made was to bake in two smaller loaf pans so I could throw one in the freezer for later.

Banana Bread
From Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed**

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a mixing bowl***, combine the butter and sugar; mix well. add the salt, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and bananas, and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.

*I went a little scant on the sugar, because a cup seemed like a lot, and it was plenty sweet. I would aim for 2/3 to 3/4 a cup next time. Much depends on your personal preference, as well as how sweet your bananas are.
**I had the rest of a bunch to use up, so I think I used 5. Really, you can’t go wrong with more bananas. At least 2 cups, mashed, I would guess.
***Deen points out that you don’t need a mixer for this recipe and she’s right, especially if you want a more chunky texture in your finished bread. But it does mean that you need to mash the bananas separately first, and preferably whip your eggs, so you end up dirtying more bowls that way. Also, if you are going to mix by hand, make sure your butter is very soft – literally room temp the whole way through, not just pulled out of the fridge a few minutes ago – or you’ll never get the sugar and butter to cream together unless you’re a professional arm wrestler or something.