Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ceviche and studio time

It's been a while since I last posted. I wish that I could say it was because I was so busy but that's not really the case. We did have a new friend over for dinner, though.

I wanted to make something that was served cold because of the scorching hot weather we've been having. I decided on ceviche.

I made a trial run the weekend before because I'd never made ceviche before. I used large scallops, cleaned and cut into quarters, and shrimp. I could have used the small Bay scallops but I don't like them as much. I cleaned the shrimp and cut them into three or four pieces, cut the scallops and very quickly par boiled them for a few seconds to give them a head start on the "cooking" action of the citrus fruit. I drained and refrigerated the seafood while I prepared the rest
of the ceviche. I finely chopped one small onion, one jalapeƱo pepper, a mango, about 1/2 cup of pineapple, a cucumber and a tomato. All of this went into a large bowl with the juice of one lime and about 1/3 cup of orange juice. I added the seafood to this and mixed it together well and refrigerated it until dinner. It was really delicious and refreshing. Just the thing for a Summertime supper.

We have added an additional day to our babysitter's schedule. She now comes two afternoons,consecutively. It feels so luxurious to have two afternoons to myself. When it was just one afternoon a week, I couldn't even think of what to do with the time. Catch up on sleep? Read a book? Unfortunately, I usually did something boring but necessary like grocery shopping or laundry. Now I try to do those things before the sitter comes so I can make the time useful.

After many, many months off I got into my mosaic work again. I'm making a smaller version of one of my most popular mosaics. My hope is to begin making smaller mosaic backsplashes and be able to market them. It feels good to be working on something again. While life with a new baby is certainly exciting and interesting, I'd begun to feel like I'd lost the creative part of myself. It felt like I'd left that in the past and it's good to bring it into the present again. Now, let's see what the future brings.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fried zucchini squash blossoms

For the second week in a row, we got squash blossoms in our CSA share.  Specifically, zucchini blossoms.  They are the male flowers to zucchini plants.  Female flowers are the ones that become squashes so they shouldn't be picked for frying. They are very delicate and perishable.  With our 90F+ temperatures and visiting family, I'm afraid that the first batch of them turned to slime within 2 days.  When I saw them again this week I vowed to use them immediately.  I've seen squash blossoms stuffed and fried and while that sounds delicious, it also sounded heavy.  I decided to try a lighter version.

Our blossoms were organically grown so I didn't worry about pesticide but they did have a little dirt on them. After rinsing them and drying them on paper towels I cut the stem end off and took out the stamen inside.

I made a tempura-like batter with flour, one egg and some beer and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  It was a thin batter like one makes for crepes.  A thick batter would be too heavy on the delicate blossoms.

I poured canola oil in a small frying pan until it was about 1/2 inch deep.  It should be hot enough that a little batter dropped in sizzles. After dipping each blossom into the batter and rolling it around to cover it, the blossom gets placed carefully into the hot oil.   When the blossoms begin to turn a slight golden brown, I turned them over with tongs until the other side browned.  Once they are all golden I took them out and let them drain on paper towels and sprinkled them with coarse salt while hot.  Because the oil was the proper temperature when I put them in, the fried blossoms absorbed very little oil.

I'd never eaten fried zucchini squash blossoms so I have nothing to compare them too but these were delicious.  It reminded me of a delicate tempura.  I served them with some scallops that got the same treatment with the batter and frying.  The sweetness of the scallops went very nicely with the tender squash blossoms.

I hope we'll be getting more blossoms in future CSA shares!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Recently, I've been slightly obsessed with Korean dishes.  Specifically, Bibimbap.  It's a great dish composed of rice, vegetables like greens, mushrooms, carrots, green onions, bean sprouts, tofu or beef (I get tofu), all with a lightly fried egg on top of it.  There is a dollop of a special Korean hot sauce/paste called Gochujang on the side.
You break up the egg and mix it all up together to make one delicious and healthy meal.

One of the first things that Mike and I did when I got to New Haven was to go to the Oriental Pantry, just a short walk from our apartment in East Rock.  It's a cute little Asian market that is packed to the ceiling with all kinds of food items and also teas and gifts.  They have great dishes and tea sets there.  The market stocks mostly Korean, Japanese and some Thai foods.  The owner cooks a few things, one of them being Bibimbap.  It was my first taste of this dish and it was instant love.  Why do I love it so much?  It isn't a strong tasting dish.  It's more fresh than anything and I love just about anything with an egg on top.  There is something about the hot sauce, too.  It has a definite umami flavor.  After some research I found that gochujang is red pepper paste with soybean miso in it.  A friend who has lived in Korea for years now told me that the red pepper is cut with sesame oil but I didn't find anything that had that in it when I looked for it at the market.  I did find the above jar and it had fermented soybean listed on the label.  I didn't see "gochujang" anywhere on the jar but it tastes exactly like what I've had at the Oriental Pantry.  It's much hotter than the O.P.'s, too!

I love the bibimbap at the Oriental Pantry and will be coming back for more but I decided to try to make it at home.  There is a fair amount of prep work of cutting all the vegetables and cooking them ahead of time.  I used zucchini, kale, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts, roasted nori slivers and tofu.  I used black rice since I had it.  I just cooked it ahead in the rice cooker and let it cool down. I blanched the spouts and cooled them.  In a bowl, I mixed them with sesame oil and sesame seed.  I did the same with the kale, cut into ribbons.  I cut the carrots and zucchini into matchsticks and cooked them each separately in sesame oil.  I sauteed the mushrooms and tofu in sesame oil, as well. When each vegetable was just cooked through I assembled them on a plate.

To assemble the dish, I put a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil in a cast iron pan.  I put about 3 cups of the rice and spread it over the bottom.  I layered the vegetables and tofu on top of the rice and let it all heat up together.  When everything is heated through, add an egg to the top.  Now, that is what most recipes I looked at called to do.  I made bibimbap again and fried the egg separately and I like how that came out better.  I had to cover my pan to get the egg to cook when I added it on top of the vegetables. the steam that collected made the yolk cloud over and it's supposed to remain a bright yellow.  The goal is to cook the white and keep the yolk liquid so it makes a sauce when mixed into the dish.

To serve, put rice into a bowl or on a plate (big bowl is better) and layer the vegetables and tofu on top around the sides in heaps.  Put the egg on top in the middle and dress it with nori, sesame seeds and a dollop of gochujang.  Mix, eat and enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Gazpacho, traffic and naps

We had some of the Mister's* Mike's family here, visiting from out West.  His brother, sister-in-law and her 14 yr. old daughter.  They stayed with us for 4 nights.  It was extremely hot and humid while they were visiting.  We don't have AC in our apartment so we gave them fans and tried to just deal with it.  We went to the beach, ate lots of good food, played with the baby,(it was their first visit with baby E.) and went on a tour of downtown New Haven and Yale.  I hadn't visited Yale or the Mike's workplace since we've been here so it was nice for me to go on the tour, too.  It makes me feel more at home here, after walking the campus and parts of downtown I've only driven past.  Baby E. stood all by herself during their visit which was exciting.

Baby E. has been having napping issues so the whole time the family was visiting I was working on getting her to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time.  She gets to the 30 minute mark and her eyes snap open.  Within seconds she's up on all fours and crying.  The preceding weeks have been stressful because there wasn't even enough time to get laundry done or much of anything else during her short naps.  I searched the web and found a technique that seems to be working.  Basically, the idea is that babies have 30 minute sleep cycles.  Adults do too but have learned how to fall back to sleep or go right into another, deeper sleep without waking.  Babies wake and can't fall back to sleep on their own.  I go into her room at around the 20-25 minute mark and wait for her to stir.  When she does, I put my hand on her back gently but firmly, until she settles down and falls asleep again.  After making sure she's really asleep I leave the room.  She generally sleeps for another 30 minutes.  She's so much happier after an hour nap vs. a half hour nap.  So am I!  I managed to keep E. on her nap schedule while I was entertaining the Mike's family when he was at work.  Some days they went off on their own, so that helped.  One day, they all went out and I stayed home with E.  I put her down for her nap and took one myself. I've been so tired and find it difficult to catch up on sleep.  E. slept straight through to a full hour on her own.  The family came home and were hungry so I had to wake her up so we could go out!  I guess we are making progress.  Now, if I can only figure out how to get her to sleep until 6:30-7:00 AM!

Yesterday, the family left for home.  They were supposed to take an Amtrak train to Newark where they were to fly home.  Mike dropped them off at the station in the AM and went to the gym.  Their train was cancelled, maybe due to storm damage as it was bound for D.C.  They tried Mike's phone but he wasn't answering so called me.  After some discussion about their options, we decided that in order for them to make their flight I should drive them to Newark, about 2 hrs. away.  Getting there wasn't too bad except for construction on the G.W. Bridge.  I got them there in plenty of time for their flight.  E. slept in the car.  After dropping them off, she was awake and needed a diaper change.  I got lost in Newark trying to find a place to change her and get something to eat.  Eventually, I managed to find the way home and a rest area.  After too long a time there, we got back on the road.  There was major traffic on 95N and the G.W. Bridge was a nightmare again.  E. started crying, having lost her pacifier at the rest area.  Crying turned into hysterical screaming while I sat in a traffic jam.  She eventually passed out and ended up sleeping for about 2 hrs. in the afternoon.  We got home about 2 hours later than it should have taken.  My calf muscles hurt from stepping on the brakes so often from all of the stopping.  

Needless to say, I was wiped out when I got home and didn't feel like cooking dinner.  Did you think I'd forgotten about food?  I used a bunch of our CSA produce and made a Gazpacho with it.  No recipe really, I just threw it together.  I cooked some onions and garlic because I don't like it raw.  I chopped a sweet red pepper, some heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and an avocado.  Threw it all in a blender and splashed in some balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, chipotle puree and seasoned it with salt and pepper and some Trader Joe's Smoke spice.  I liked it but I'm not sure how the Mike felt about it.  He told me before dinner that gazpacho never really impressed him.  I liked that it was easy and it was cold!  Also, it's a great way to use the abundant product from our CSA share.  I'm planning on having it again for lunch today.

*He informed me that he doesn't care for "Mister" so he will be referred to as Mike from now on.