Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lil Seven-up Pound Cake

This weekend was the long weekend.  And yes I relaxed, clean house, did some fall shopping with money I didn't have.  Though what would a long weekend be without something warm and sweet? Oh I don't know, probably healthier.  On the rare occasion that I get inspired to bake something, I never hold back, so you will hardly ever see any healthy substitutions.  I have no intentions of ever baking with Splenda or using fat free milk.  That's just all shades of wrong.

 I decided on a 7-up pound cake.  I've had my mouth set on this for a while.  It's not really something I have seen around these Northeastern parts unless you go to a soul food kitchen or Caribbean restaurant.  7-up is my favorite lemon-lime soda, even though it seems to have disappeared from the spotlight for some years.  I almost wondered if I would have a hard time finding it.  But Super-Walmart never fails.  Now if I could just find some Tahitian Treat around here.... (those who know this pop are smiling). Pound cakes are the easiest, no-fuss cakes to make.  No icing required. So I'm going to share my recipe with you and I hope you enjoy!

Missy's Seven-up Pound Cake
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 sticks of butter (room temp)
1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
1Tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp lemon extract
7oz 7-up (room temp)

1) Preheat oven to 300F and grease and dust a 9 or 10" bundt pan with flour.
2) Cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in one egg at a time.
3) Stir in extracts.
4) Add in flour and 7-up a little at a time, alternating mix-ins until all has been incorporated.
5) Pour batter into prepped pan and cook for 70min or until knife comes out clean.
6) When cake is done, place on cooling rack and wait at least 30min before turning it out. (I know it's so hard when it's smelling so good, but you really must wait or you will have a crumbled cake.  And don't let your guests influence you, haha...stay the course!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Preparing for the Worst

Hello all! It has been over a month since my last post. September was, in short, hell. I was working 6 days a week and ridiculous hours, but I learned a lot.  And now on to clinic time...the rosy 9-5 life, or 9-noon life in my case.  Vacation in comparison.  During September I had a hard time adjusting to the 6am-8pm schedule so dinner was often missed, or consisted of a piece of cheese, cereal, a few crackers.  NOT my idea of a meal.  Though I tell you, sometimes a bowl of cocoa crispies is what you need after a long shift.  The snap crackle pop chocolaty goodness will put you just right.  But after a couple weeks of missed dinners followed by bad breakfasts and an addiction to Luna bars, I decided enough of this food hell.  So I did the only thing I could do. I prepared for the worst...the worst being a cube of cheddar and tuna salad.  (Shudder)

Cooking bulk for many people is pasta, stews,or casseroles but since I really don't buy or make pasta, I have to go down another route...the curry route.  When I cook a 3 day supply of goodies, it's usually Indian.  I actually started doing this a while ago for my boyfriend...who just happens to be Indian and terribly afraid of the kitchen.  I was tired of hearing about his sad food life so I said hunny, you buy the ingredients and I'll make the food.  After a day, yes a full day, of cooking he left with tupperwares full of dal, green chili mint chicken curry, and chicken saag.  Let's just say he was more that satisfied.

Indian food for many is a struggle.  There are complex flavors, and even more complex recipes.  But Indian can be very simple depending on the dish.  When I was in India last summer I spent a good amount of time in my boyfriend's grandmother's kitchen and that woman made things look so simple.  I only wish I had taken video or pictures, it was really a privilege.

I think going to the library is really your go to source for exploring new cooking styles. The one thing I hate the most is purchasing a cookbook that has terrible recipes, and you wonder just how that thing got published.  The library is a safe bet.  If you find you like those recipes, then splurge, but I believe all cookbooks need a trial run.  Especially Indian cookbooks, because many times you will find the spices included in certain recipes or cooking instructions are just wrong.  I learned this the hard way when I ruined the most tender lamb I had ever cooked with a curdled curry.  One of my Indian friends' mom kindly pointed out that the recipe made absolutely no sense and that I was bound to curdle the yogurt given those instructions. So beware of those 5 dollar bargain cart books a B&N that boast 5000 curries made easy...easily deceptive is more appropriate. When it comes to finding a good Indian cookbook that you can buy without a trial, I only have one name, Madhur Jaffrey.  Jaffrey was an actress turned cooking guru who is really an authority on Indian cooking. Any cookbook by this cooking goddess divine is superb.  You will never go wrong.  And as pointed out by a friend of mine she is married to Sanford Allen, one of the first African-Americans to be a regular member of the New York Philharmonic. (Blindian couples try to find other blindian couples, lol...it's an issue).

So what do you do to make these recipes work? Often the normal New England kitchen (or any western kitchen) does not include many of the spices necessary for Indian dishes.  When my boyfriend's mother realized my passion for cooking, she gifted me a spice dabba, which is basically just a container to house the most often used spices in Indian dishes.  I could not have been more thankful, because my cabinet was so poorly arranged, with lots of ziplock baggies full of spices I had no storage for.  This is a neat way to organize yourself because usually everything you need is right before you.  Check out your local Indian grocery store, because you will definitely find those spices cheaper and a wider selection.

I decided to use recipes from a book I'm loving called Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran executive chef at Michelin rated restaurant Devi in NY.  This book is something amazing.  Suvir (yes we are on a first name basis in my fantasy world) has some of the most amazing recipes I have ever used for Indian cooking.  His other publication American Masala, is one of my absolute favorites, a fusion approach that mixes american favs, like my personal favs fried chicken (don't go sterotyping, everyone loves it, cmon KFC, Popeye's) and black eyed peas, with indian spices.  I have made the Pistachio Cardamom Pound cake from this cookbook many times and found the plate empty before I could even have a slice.  Check him out at www.Suvir.com, he's an impressive guy. I was in love with him long before his appearance on Bravo's Top Chef Masters.  I discovered him in the library, hehe.  I'm telling you, dust of that library card, it will take you places.

Enough chit chat...on to the food! Both recipes are easy to manage, but I would suggest starting with the dal first, using yellow split peas(moong dal) that have been soaked overnight.

Moong Dal
Simple Lentil Dal (w/fresh ginger,green chiles, and cilantro)
Recipe Link: http://www.suvir.com/Lentil_Dal.html

Lahori Chicken Curry w/Whole Spices and Potatoes
Recipe Link: http://leitesculinaria.com/5462/recipes-chicken-curry-whole-spices-and-potatoes.html

Chicken Curry
I would like to dedicate this post to Eunice Sammy, a Kenyan medical student who rotated with me during this gruesome September.  This food was made in part for her, because she didn't like the cold sandwiches they gave us for lunch.  And we devoured it on our break :) Eunice, I will miss you.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cookin' for the 'Cane

So Irene is coming eh? Better get prepared! How better to prepare than to cook black beans?! Everyone loves black beans, but how many people do you know just eat them straight out the can?  I can name a few...and I secretly want to slap these people (I guess that's not so secret anymore).  I have never in my life had beans straight out the can, and never felt the urge.  How can people stomach something so flavorless? I am not asking anyone to go through the soaking  and boiling of  uncooked beans (even though there is magic in this), but  a quick meal can still be something special.  Flavorful black beans are simple and only take about 30min to make.  If you want to cut time even more, use a food processor or vegetable chopper to do all your chopping.  But please friends, don't let me catch you heating up beans straight from the can.  You deserve better.

Try this recipe and let me know what you think about those canned beans now.  I'm sure these beans will kick your straight-from-the-can beans' ass.

Missy's Black Beans

1 15oz can of Black Beans
1 medium sized onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
3-4 cloves of garlic (minced)

bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt to taste

the necessaries:
1 Tbsp of Red Wine
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp of vinegar

1) Saute chopped veggies and bay leaf in olive oil and when they are nearly cooked through add in the spices.
2) Add in some of the water from the can of beans and simmer for 5 min.
3) Now add in the beans and the water and stir well.  Depending on how much water is included in the can, you may want to add about 1/4 cup additional water. Also add in red wine. Let simmer for 20-30min until sauce thickens.
4) Add in vinegar right before serving.

Okay, the food is supposed to be non-perishable so maybe I have failed.  I'd like to think I was making an offering.  Oh please Irene, take these black beans and spare me the darkness! You know, the coming howling winds and power outages.  But I've done more than just cook...

I'm armed with a flashlight...

This is sorta ridiculous...
toilet water reserve...

Keepin' those mucus membranes moist! (yes, bad medical joke)


and drinking water!

I'm ready Irene! Bring it on!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fish Fry

Last Monday was a state holiday in RI.  And guess what we were celebrating? Victory Day.  Now before coming to RI for college and now medical school, I had no idea that such a holiday even existed.  But Rhode Islanders need an extra day of beach time before the cold settles in and those jewel blue skies are gone.  Well honestly they never really leave...but the warm weather makes a swift exit towards the end of September.  So what to do when you desperately need that extra day off for some fun in the sun in Narrangansett or sailing in Block Island? Take a random holiday!  Now this seemingly random holiday that I'm sure not many of you know about is celebrating our victory over Japan...dropping the bomb... Well I didn't say it was right...but I did get a day off.  Lucky me!

In honor of our day off, my bestie decided to have a massive southern fish fry (she's from Mississippi-and yes I just used the crooked-letter song to spell that-no shame)  for friends before we started our new rotations the following day.  Always good to have food in your belly, especially good food you don't have to cook.  Ok, now before you guys get any bad ideas about me, I helped out, I did my fair share.  Chopped veggies, washed sweet potatoes, and the best job of all...the taste tester.  However I wasn't completely satisfied with just chowing down. I wanted to contribute a dish.  So what do you bring to a fish fry? Some fried veggies of course!

Okra is one of my favorite vegetables, and I love it cooked every way you can imagine.  If cooked right it has an amazing flavor and texture that is quite unique.  I've never fried okra, just sautéed and boiled it, but there are some special tricks to cooking okra that I know well.  My boyfriend's grandmother taught me the most important thing...DRY DRY DRY. I cannot emphasize that enough.  Most people hate okra because they think its slimy.  Well it gets slimy if you don't dry it and I mean thoroughly...with a towel...multiple times.  If you do this, I'm telling you, it will make a world of difference.  You may even convert some okra haters.

So I started off by playing online recipe detective, as I often do.  I knew the basics of frying okra but just wanted to see if there were any additional tips I should know about.  I love looking at other peoples blogs and combing over the comments on sites like allrecipes.com and food.com, which are usually very helpful in terms of techniques and tasty variations.

Here is the recipe I came up with.  I will note that I am usually extremely opposed to pre-seasoned mixes, because it takes a away from the control you have over your spices.  Though when time is limited...do what you must.  Enjoy!

Quick and Dirty Fried Okra

1 lb of okra chopped into 3/4in pieces
Bag of Lousiana fish fry (or seasoned cornmeal equivalent)
2 extra large eggs
1 quart buttermilk
1/2tsp red chili powder (kick it up a notch if you're willing!)
1/4tsp paprika
Oil for frying

1) Wash the okra and towel dry until all moisture is gone. Don't skimp on this step!
2) Cut okra into 3/4in to 1in pieces, however you like it, and place in a bowl.
3) Pour buttermilk into the bowl making sure all pieces are covered and stir in the chili powder and paprika gently with a spatula.  Cover and set in the fridge for 45min.

4) While the okra is chilling, set up the dredging ingredients.  In a separate bowl or plate, pour flour.  Crack two eggs in a bowl and whisk. In a final bowl place Louisiana fish fry or another seasoned cornmeal.
5) When the okra are ready, start first by dipping in the flour, next egg, and finally cornmeal.  It's a sticky mess but a fun task for the kiddies!
6) Heat up the oil for deep frying, making sure there is enough oil to cover the okra. Or use a deep fryer. Fry until golden brown to a little burnt (it helps with the flavor).

Now smack those lips!