As I mentioned, I am volunteering to test some recipes for my friend Jenny’s upcoming Georgian cookbook (the country, not the state), because Georgian food is amazing and testing recipes is fun. So far though my one attempt at “testing” a recipe has been more like “seeing all the ways that inexperienced cooks can mess up a recipe,” which is probably still helpful if you’re writing a cookbook?

So yesterday was a snow day and I tried to make gozinaki, or honey nut brittle. Jenny’s description, photos and recipe are all much better than I could describe/photograph/write so just check it out here. Due to a long series of events which I won’t bore you with here, though, I didn’t get the temperature of the boiling honey to the point where it would harden to a candy when it cooled (I’m thinking this is similar to making peanut brittle or other similar candies). So the moral of the story is use a candy thermometer, or you’ll end up with a messy pile of honey-coated nuts.

Which is an amazing consolation prize, let me tell you. My nut mixture was supposed to be half walnuts and half hazelnuts, but because I can’t tell walnuts apart from pecans (some very localized brain disorder? Just a terrible memory?) and I also have no idea how much volume nuts take up, I ended up with about a third each of hazelnuts, pecans (pretend they’re walnuts), and almonds to fill in the gap. So basically….hazelnut/pecan/almond granola, minus all the oats (everyone knows oats are just filler anyway). I’ve been eating this stuff on oatmeal, in yogurt, and by the handful out of the container. It’s verrrry rich and sweet, as you’d expect from a snack made entirely from nuts and various forms of sugar, so I think this tasty snack will last me a while, even if it’s not exactly what the recipe writer envisioned. I’m calling them “Georgian Nut Clusters” instead of honey nut brittle, because it is not exactly the most brittle thing on the planet.

I think I’m taking a bye week for Week 4 of this little experiment, because our fridge is stuffed to the gills with both leftovers and ingredients that I need to use up before going out to buy specialized ingredients for whatever. High-class problem to have, I know.

This had so much potential. It was a bunch of fruit in a bowl with a spicy vinaigrette and some pine nuts. I like fruit. I like vinaigrette. I like pine nuts. Together…it just tasted like a bunch of shit in a bowl with some spice and pine nuts. No fruit salad gestalt here. I feel like I wasted all this delicious fruit, honestly.

No photo because ugh.

Coming up for next week: Gozinaki, or Georgian nut brittle. Not from the cookbook I’ve been using. My friend Jenny is preparing a book proposal filled with Georgian recipes and asked me to test a recipe. I am so glad she is letting me test this one, because it sounds AWESOME, and hopefully foolproof after two weeks of recipe failures.

So hey, soup. Cuban Black Bean Soup with Cabbage. Sounds really warming and hearty for a winter night. Made the list, checked it twice, went to the store in a snowstorm(!), wandered up and down the aisles for ten minutes with a nagging, “What have I forgotten?” in the back of my head. Guess it wasn’t that important. Check out, come home, start the soup, and suddenly it’s time to add the beans. Oh, the beans. The beans I was supposed to buy at the store. The beans in the name of the soup.

So I present to you Cuban “Black Bean” Soup with Cabbage (And Extra Cilantro As A Distraction Tactic).

Brown onions and garlic (about 1 onion, 2-3 cloves garlic) in saucepan. Add 1 rib celery, 2 cups cabbage and two carrots, chopped, and brown/soften those. Throw in 2 cups veggie stock, about 1/2 of a can of diced tomato (not drained), bay leaves, oregano, and cumin. Add a bit of cayenne to taste, plus salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes. Toss in chopped cilantro.

It’s not bad. I think it could have used beans.

As a side note, the cookbook calls for homemade stock, which normally I’m fine with but this stock is nuts. It uses celery, carrots, shallots, tomatoes, mushrooms, LEEKS, and a bunch of garlic. Four leeks chopped up for this stock. Are you really going to be able to taste any of that over all those other flavors? Also, if I have four leeks, I’m going to make a quiche, not throw them into a stock. So I kept it simple and went with the boxed stuff.

Next week: Spicy Southwestern Fruit Salad.

 

Y’all. Y’all. Y’all.
I’m still alive. And cooking.
It turns out I am not as good as I wish I am about sticking to a regimented plan. Out of the 47 weeks that have elapsed so far this year, I cooked and blogged about 13 of them.
Turns out spring/summer is not a very good time to cook. There are so many other things to do. Oh, I cooked, but not by picking a recipe, shopping, and then following it. I just grabbed whatever was fresh in the fridge and made it into a stir fry or a pasta. Bam.

But I have been feeling the urge to nest (thanks, fall weather) and the urge to eat more vegetables, since I’ve been fairly meaty lately.

Side note: I’m not vegan, and I’m not even a very good vegetarian. But I love vegetables, and eating vegetarian is (sometimes) healthier, (often) cheaper, and (almost always) better for the planet than meat. (You could feed 17 people with the corn grown on 2.5 acres of land. That same amount of corn wouldn’t even feed one beef cow.) (Heheh. Beef cow.)

On the other hand, we did have a pulled-pork dinner over the summer that was my idea…but the fact remains I have felt like eating a lot of veggies lately.

First, no pic: a veggie shepherd’s pie. I wish I had gotten a picture while it was still in the pan, because it looked great. After serving, though, it looked… a little like garbage. But the taste. Oh man.

Adapted from Big Vegan:
Bake 1.5 lb sweet potatoes until tender. Scoop out the flesh into a food processor, add 1/2 cup soy milk (or regular milk, but soy is what I had), and a tablespoon of miso or umami paste. Puree until smooth. Leave the oven on, preheated to 400.

Saute 2 cups chopped onions, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery ribs, and 2 cups mushrooms in an oven-safe pan until the mushrooms soften. Add 1/2 cup white wine and boil off. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over everything, stir to coat, and add 1 cup soy milk. Cook until the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and add 1.5 cups shelled edamame and 2 cups chopped kale. Cover with the sweet potato mixture and spread until it’s even. Bake uncovered, 30-40 minutes. Enjoy.

Second I remade this creamy avocado pasta with basil and actually remembered to take pictures this time before snarfing it up.

avocadopasta

It doesn’t look like much. Gosh, I really need to work on my presentation.

avocadopasta2Much better.

Seriously. This stuff may not have the “fabulous but fleeting creamy green color” promised in the recipe headnote, but I could eat this every day and not get sick of it.

If Thanksgiving wasn’t next week I’d be trying a new recipe. Maybe December?

I was finding it hard to believe that this could be bad. Who doesn’t love olives and asparagus?
This unfortunately was a pretty big failure. It didn’t taste like much of anything. Luckily, I had extra asparagus and extra olives. Take that, failure recipe. On to the next.

DSC00050

Rabbit is a lean meat high in protein. Pound for pound it is one of the most environmentally friendly meats out there. This USDA study claims that you can get 15 times more rabbit meat from cows, if given the same starting amount of food. In other words, rabbits are very efficient at turning grass into meat. (Cows, as anyone who has watched a cow chew the same lump of cud knows, are not very good at this.)

Rabbits are a little more of a pain in the rear than cow or chicken. They cost a bit more than chicken (and maybe more than beef; I’m not up on current beef prices). You can’t go to the store and get a bag of individually quick-frozen rabbit thighs. I’ve only been able to find them frozen, whole, at Eastern Market, or if you’re lucky, frozen and cut up with a bandsaw, also at Eastern Market. The little ribs are kind of messy to eat around.

But it is also delicious. As perhaps conveyed by this photo from Sunday.

I am far behind on my one-new-dish-a-week goal, as it is now the 13th week of the year and I have only cooked 11 recipes. But our fridge was (and is) so full of grapefruit (thanks, Grandpa) that I’ve felt bad trying to buy more food and cram it in there. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I did end up making that pesto pizza. Pretty simple recipe: crust, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and some thin-sliced onion. I cheated and used jarred pesto, because we had it. I also made the second pizza using spinach-almond pesto, which Mr. Scrapple had whipped up for an unrelated reason.

In conclusion, par-baking a thin pizza crust (about 6 minutes) and then topping it is WAY easier than trying to scoot the topped dough onto the pizza stone. I may never go back to making pizza the old way.

I have a photo of the final result somewhere….ah, here.
pesto pizza

Okay, so my phone’s camera sucks (luckily, just bought a new, “real” camera so future pics should be AWESOME). But hey, pizza.

A few days later I made an Indonesian-ish stir fry, with rice noodles, coconut milk, shredded carrot, etc., topped with peanuts and basil. Nothing major to say about this dish. Eh, it sufficed as a Week 11 recipe.

Tomorrow Mr. Scrapple and I are cooking Hank Shaw‘s rabbit stew recipe. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the Bible it says you celebrate Easter by cooking a rabbit that has been dead for three days? Ours has been defrosting in the fridge since Friday, so close enough, right? So that will be Week 12, and then if I can get the ingredients for Asparagus Pasta with green olive-chervil sauce, that’s week 13 and I’m caught up. Hooray.

I’ve also been making a lot of overnight oats, for those who are curious. God they look just as disgusting in real life as they do in the pictures on that blog, but they taste so good. I can’t describe it. And you’re not limited to the toppings described: it seems that as long as you have some sort of fruit, some sort of nut protein (whole or “butter”ized), and something sweet, you’re golden. And don’t forget the chia seeds.

Also, kale smoothies are pretty badass. Another of those things that is impossible to believe until you’ve tried it.

More, as always, to come…