Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saurkraut Update: Week 3

The cabbage is turning an appealing golden color, and developing a nice smell. It still mostly tastes like salt and cabbage though (no significant flavor development over the past week). I have 2 jars, so I decided to try topping one of the jars off with vinegar. We'll see how that goes.

Marinating vegetables in vinegar is probably the most sensible way of making "pickled" things at this time of year around here. Denver generally has unpredictable weather, but it seems like the summer is almost always hot and dry.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Cake

I've been wanting to try making rustic deserts ever since this book showed up in my amazon recommendations a few months ago. Crumbles, pandowdies, betties, all of the deserts look so simple and so delicious (and of course the clever names significantly add to the appeal). They usually consist primarily of fruit and sugar, with some sort of cakey/biscuity/crumbly topping playing a minor role. In my book, that's just how it should be.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rose Water

It's funny how tastes change over time. There was a time when I loved hotdogs and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles and the smell of rain hitting asphalt (petrichor to the extreme). Then there are the things that used to seem absolutely disgusting.

I always hated rose water. My mother would put it in rice pudding, and I'd glare at her suspiciously. It smelled funny, it tasted funny. It was just... gross.

But then, a couple of years ago, I started noticing the smell of roses again. I smelled it in cleaning products, tea, lotions and shampoos. It didn't smell bad anymore. In fact, it smelled quite good.

My roommate started rolling cigarettes with dried rose petals instead of tobacco (an attempt to wean herself off smoking), and that smelled good too. Then I had a cup of tea made out of rose hips, and at last it dawned on me: my tastes had changed.

Now I have some roses growing right next to my front porch. They've been blooming for the last few days. Big, red, full blooms. I've never thought roses were particularly pretty, but can certainly appreciate their practicality (for things like rose water and tea).

So today, practically on a whim, I decided to try making my own rose water.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cucumbers in Vinegar

For several months now, I've had the urge to make pickles. I've never done this before, but from what I've
read it seems like a fairly straightforward process. All I need to do it sterilize some jars and then throw in some garlic, peppercorns, dill, and of course cucumbers. Cover that with a brine made out of salt, water, and vinegar and then leave it someplace cool for a couple of weeks.

I haven't tried that yet (but probably will sometime in the near future). Instead of a proper pickle (which involves fermentation) I've done more of a vinegar marinade, which is also delicious (and a lot less time-consuming). 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Mother's Ghormeh Sabzi

My mother learned how to cook in Iran. She lived there with her first husband and my brothers for a few years in the 80's, and fell in love with the country and its people. Years later, in Iowa, she would tell stories about Iran while preparing delicious Persian food. She still does this when she comes to visit. For my brothers and I, meals like baghali polo, chelo kabab, and ghormeh sabzi will probably always taste like home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everyday Chocolate Cake

About a month ago, I discovered the frame for what is now my go-to chocolate cake recipe. It's simple (you only dirty up one bowl!), delicious, and not too sweet. Perfect for dark chocolate lovers. I found it on the smitten kitchen website.
It's an amazing recipe, but once I mastered it I couldn't help tweaking things a bit. Experimenting. Making it my own. By substituting half the buttermilk in the original recipe with brewed coffee (something we always have quite a bit of around here) I ended up creating what is now my standard chocolate cake:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saurkraut Update, 2 weeks in

When I open the jar, it still smells like cabbage. But now when I taste it, I find that the cabbage has taken on just a hint of other flavor. Last week it mostly just tasted like salt. I'm looking forward to future developments.

Some other interesting things will be happening in my kitchen later this week. But first, I need to do some grocery shopping. That will be tomorrow's project.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Taken with webcam. Hence the quality issues.
When I was a little girl the town right next to mine had a summer festival called Sauerkraut Days. The sleepy little Midwestern town would take on a carnival air with parades and amusement park rides and, of course, food. The local greasy spoon restaurant would throw open it's doors to welcome people in, and food stands popped up on every corner of Main Street.

My father and I would go to these festivals and take on the biggest, fastest rides. And then we'd inevitably stop at one of those food stands and get a couple of the biggest, juiciest brats we could find. Then we'd slather them with the saltiest, sourest sauerkraut we could find.

So, I always think of sauerkraut as a summer food. With it's sharp tangy flavor, it seems perfect served cold on a hot summer day. Imagine my surprise last week when I read up on how to make my own sauerkraut in this book, and learned that traditionally it's made in a colder climate. In order for the right kind of bacteria to flourish (and give it that delicious pickled flavor), the sauerkraut needs to be kept at a temperature somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Then it should take about a month to mature, so you don't really want it colder than that. You can also keep the sauerkraut at a constant temperature of 70 degrees and let it mature for about a week or two. The main thing is to keep it well below 80 degrees (that's when all the nasty bacteria thrive).
Now I live in Colorado, and I don't have air conditioning. It's summer, and my kitchen gets up to 80 or 85 degrees during the day. My refrigerator is too cold, and my counter is too hot. It would probably be best for me to wait until winter to make sauerkraut (when the kitchen is a lot cooler). But of course I didn't listen to advice, and last week I put together a couple of jars of sauerkraut. I'm keeping them in the fridge, so we'll see how long it takes to mature.
Anyway, here's the recipe from The Lost Art of Real Cooking:
  • 1 head of cabbage, grated or finely chopped (grating is probably better, because it brings out more juices, but I ended up chopping because I really don't like my grater)
  • 2 tablespoons salt you really do need this much, to help preserve the cabbage.
Put the grated cabbage and the salt in a mixing bowl. Knead it by hand for 10 minutes or so in order to draw out the water (this will be your brine). When you've got plenty of water out of the cabbage, put it in a glass jar or some sort of crock (mainly something you don't mind having full of sauerkraut for a long time). Keep it somewhere cool (a basement if you have one, or right on the counter if your kitchen is cool) for about a month. Taste it every day until it tastes like sauerkraut. Then eat and enjoy!

I'll be sure to post updates on my little sauerkraut experiment.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


So, here's my first ever post. I never know how to start these things, so I'll just tell a little about myself. Here goes:
I'm a twenty-something year-old woman who's slowly but surely teaching herself how to cook. I grew up in a small town in Iowa, eating Tex Mex and Persian food. Now I live in Denver, and eat whatever I can find that's healthy and inexpensive. I try to feed myself well on a budget. I avoid waste of any sort.
I suppose I'm a bit old-fashioned in the kitchen. When I roast a chicken, I turn the bones into stock. I bake my own bread, and I'm reading up on pickling. I also like to take recipes and adapt them to suit my taste. Or build on them and make new things.
I have a good-sized kitchen, but I also have three roommates. So space is a factor.
Most of my recipes come from food blogs and cook books I check out from the library.
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