2013 Leisure Reading

Over the years, it’s become a tradition of sorts that Compatriot G and I both post the past year’s reading. He includes all the books he read for work or for play, but this is just my evening reading during the pre-sleep hour when I give myself permission to read whatever I want. I have no idea what my actual total would be, given that I also read for two doctoral seminars that I was teaching and for the book that consumed my summer months.

  1. Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook by Jacques Pepin
  2. London, the Biography by Peter Ackroyd
  3. The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Tasha Tudor
  4. Henry the Explorer by Mark Taylor and Graham Booth
  5. The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot
  6. Cooked: A Natural History of the Senses by Michael Pollan
  7. Whole Larder Love: Grow Gather Hunt Cook by Rohan Anderson
  8. One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell
  9. The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater
  10. Berkeleyworks: The Art of Berkeley Breathed
  11. Clarissa’s England by Clarissa Dickson Wright
  12. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  13. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks
  14. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol I
  15. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol II
  16. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol III
  17. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol IV
  18. Metamaus by Art Speigelman
  19. Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie
  20. Some of the Words Are Theirs, by George H. Jensen, Jr.
  21. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
  22. The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson
  23. The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow
  24. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  25. The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick
  26. Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions by Guillermo del Toro
  27. Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
  28. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola and John Byrne
  29. Newton, by Peter Ackroyd
Posted in Personal | Comments Off

Recipe Project #165: Okara Banana Bread

Some time last year, Mr. Husband started making homemade tofu. One of the byproducts is okara, which Wikipedia describes thusly:

Okara or Soy Pulp is a pulp consisting of insoluble parts of the soybean which remains after pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk and tofu. It is generally white or yellowish in color. It is part of the traditional cuisines of Japan, Korea, and China, and since the 20th century has also been used in the vegetarian cuisines of Western nations.

Okara is the oldest of three basic types of soy fiber. The other two are soy bran (finely ground soybean hulls), and soy cotyledon/isolate fiber (the fiber that remains after making isolated soy protein, also called “soy protein isolate”).

It’s very tasty when it’s simply toasted until it’s dark brown and sprinkled on while rice, but okara tends to pile up when you’re making tofu every week or two. I was too buried in my book manuscript to do much research on what to do with it and was consequently tempted to just haul it out to the compost, but Mr. Husband poked around on the Internet until he found quite a few interesting things to do with it. One of them is this banana bread from The 350 Degree Oven. It’s an astounding banana bread that has replaced the Prudhomme recipe I’ve been making for about 25 years. (The post I linked also includes a recipe for okara meatloaf that is mighty fine. See the post for visual instructions.)

2 c. mashed banana (about 4 bananas)
2/3 c. okara (wet)
2 c. sugar
1 c. canola oil
4 eggs
6 T. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray 2 large loaf pans (or 6 small ones) with nonstick spray. Mash the bananas and mix in the okara. (Your okara should be wet – but not overly wet – basically the same moistness that you have once the soy mixture is squeezed to release the milk in soy milk making.)
  2. Add the sugar, oil, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla to the banana mixture and mix well.
  3. Sift the remaining dry ingredients.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined – do not over-mix.
  5. Pour into the prepared pans and bake 1 hour for the large loaves, 30 minutes for the small loaves. Cool in the loaf pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
Posted in Cooking, Recipe Project | Comments Off

Recipe Project #164: Roasted Cajun Turkey Breast

Back in the summer, we started cooking large pieces of meat, slicing them thin on the big meat slicer, and freezing them in half-pound bags for sandwiches. This turkey breast was one of the first experiments and has become a regular. I’m planning on making another one before I start teaching again in a week. It’s adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Sunday Night Roast Beef and Gravy with Easy Rice, of all things.

1 turkey breast, on the bone
1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
+/- 1/2 cup of white wine (optional)

2 tablespoons cornstarch (if making gravy)
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Season the meat on all sides with the Essence, salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the the turkey from the pan, deglaze with a good glug of white wine or some of the broth and add the onion slices and thyme sprigs. Place the breast on top of the onions. Add the broth to the pan and place in the oven, uncovered. Roast until the breast is tender and done, approximately 160F. Let it rest for a minimum of 30 minutes after you remove it from the oven.

At this point, you have choices: you can either strain and defat the juices in the pan and save them for another purpose, or you can turn them into turkey gravy if you’d like to serve this as part of a hot turkey dinner. If you’re doing gravy, then:

Use a slotted spoon to discard the onions and thyme sprigs. Place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat to heat the turkey drippings. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the beef drippings and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to a gravy boat or decorative bowl.

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup. (I keep mine in a closed Mason jar. It’ll make two rounds of roasted turkey.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Recipe Project #163: Rigatoni Pasta Pie

Mister Husband started making this dish sometime back in the fall semester, when I came home after a particularly difficult day on campus to find him pulling these out of the oven for dinner. They’re festive and tasty and while they’re a little fiddly to make, they’re not all that hard. We’ve had them several times since and decided that they were just the right thing for Christmas Eve dinner for two. We usually halve this recipe and bake it in two smaller spring-form pans. I use my personal ragu recipe rather than what’s indicated here, which includes a mix of ground pork or sausage and ground beef and sometimes finely diced mushroom along with heartier spices, tomato sauce, and wine. We’ve also occasionally added an initial later of ricotta-based filling as a bottom layer in the tubes.

Martha Stewart’s Rigatoni Pasta Pie

1 lb rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb ground beef (I used ground sirloin)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 (28 ounce) can good quality crushed tomatoes
butter, for pan
salt
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone (I cooked mine for 12 minutes when the box indicated 14 minutes). One pound of pasta should be cooked in 6 quarts of water, make sure you are using a big enough pot so the pasta doesn’t stick together. When done, rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss pasta with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes more.

Add crushed tomatoes; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end. Spread meat sauce on top of pasta.

Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up. Stuffing the meat into the holes is a weirdly satisfying task. Enough said. [Edited: Personally, I find it tedious, but to each their own. The most efficient way to do this is to spread the filling around on top of the tubes and then gently bang the pan against the counter to get it to settle down into the holes.]

Pace in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.

Cut into wedges and serve with any remaining meat sauce you might have.

Posted in Cooking, Recipe Project | Comments Off

Recipe Project #162: Crockpot Onion Confit

In December, the weather fluctuated wildly — single digits all the way to the 60s. This was not particularly helpful for keeping a temperate root cellar. We finished up the garlic crop around Christmas, but still had quite a few white onions left. They started to soften, along with the shallots, and so one morning late in the year I undertook an Emergency Onion Audit. A few fallen soldiers went straight out the cellar door to the compost heap, but most of them came upstairs to be shucked, sliced, and dumped into my largest crockpot. Then I followed this Food.com recipe for onion confit..

I ended up with 8 quarts of raw onions to be cooked down into compote and my largest stockpot was filled with the remaining onion quarters and a huge pig bone that was almost too tall for the pot. The compote cooked down for about a day and a half, ultimately ending up as about a quart and a half of finished product. We tried it a few days later on sandwiches made from freshly baked brioche, ham that we froze at Thanksgiving, and cave-aged gruyere that had been sitting around for way too long. A few minutes under the broiler and it was an absolutely outstanding winter lunch.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons demi-glace
3 tablespoons sherry wine or 3 tablespoons port wine
7 -9 large onions, sliced enough to fill crock pot to the top
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)

If you don’t have demi-glace, take 2 cups good-quality stock and reduce to 1/2 cup.
Place everything in crock pot and thoroughly combine.
Turn to high, until just before going to bed (about eight hours). Stir. Turn to low for overnight.

Upon waking, stir, and turn back to high until finished. Water content will vary from onion to onion, so if your confit is still quite watery towards the end, remove lid and allow excess water to cook off.

Posted in Cooking, Recipe Project | Comments Off

Recipe Project #161: Spicy Black-Eyed Peas with Ham Hock for New Years

This year, our 20 year old stove that came with the house gave up the ghost over the holidays. We’d been piecing it back together in various ways for awhile, but when the oven completely died, we threw in the towel and went shopping. There were still some good holiday sales on, and we would up buying our first grown-up stove for 30% off plus free delivery and removal of the old one. The delivery schedule left us oven-less over New Year’s, which meant no making or braising. The solution? A Southern Fried New Year: Memphis spicy fried chicken, smothered greens, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese crusted under the broiler, and steamed sweet potato pudding. I used Emeril’s recipe for spicy black-eyed peas (minus the tasso), and it was exactly what I wanted.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces Tasso, small diced
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 bay leaves
2 ham hocks, about 6 ounces each
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
2 quarts chicken stock
Salt and pepper

In a 1 gallon stock pot, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, render the Tasso for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the onions and continue sauteing for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves and ham hocks. Season with salt and pepper. Add the black-eyed peas and chicken stock. Bring the liquid up to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the peas for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Remove the ham hocks from the pot and remove the meat. Add the meat back to the peas and re-season if necessary.

Posted in Cooking, Recipe Project | Comments Off

Autumn Movement

— Carl Sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman,
the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things
come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
not one lasts.

Posted in Literature | Comments Off

The Mulch

— Stanley Kunitz

A man with a leaf in his head
watches an indefatigable gull
dropping a piss-clam on the rocks
to break it open.
Repeat. Repeat.
He is an inlander
who loves the margins of the sea,
and everywhere he goes he carries
a bag of earth on his back.
Why is he down in the tide marsh?
Why is he gathering salt hay
in bushel baskets crammed to his chin?
“It is a blue and northern air,”
he says, as if the shiftings of the sky
had taught him husbandry.
Birthdays for him are when he wakes
and falls into the news of weather.
“Try! Try!” clicks the beetle in his wrist,
his heart is an educated swamp,
and he is mindful of his garden,
which prepares to die.

Posted in Literature | Comments Off

Erasmus Darwin’s Talking Head

As a doctor, retaining at least something of his old Boerhaavian training, he could even see the body as an intricate machine. When he told his old friend Albert Reimarus that he was becoming increasingly intrigued by the relation of the mind to the body, this might have been connected to another interest in language and phonetics. He discussed this with Franklin in the summer of 1771, noting how the consonants and vowels were formed differently in different languages, for instance the “W” in Welsh and German, and even in different dialects, such as Cockney or Northumbrian. How did the use of the mouth and jaw and throat affect sound? Patiently, he analysed the vibrations of air for each sound, and this in turn led to one of his oddest but most ingenious inventions: the speaking machine.

Years later, in his book The Temple of Nature, Darwin described his machine. He built a wooden mouth, with lips of leather and a valve at the back for nostrils, which could be opened and closed by the fingers. A silk ribbon was stretched from this between two hollowed pieces of wood, so that when he blew on it with some bellows it vibrated, creating a sound like a human voice. His head could produce the sounds p, b, m and the vowel a, so well ‘as to deceive all who heard it unseen, when it pronounced the words mama, papa, map and pam; and had a most plaintive tone, when the lips were gradually closed.’

Typically, Darwin never got round to finishing his model, although he imagined it singing to the piano and even believed that if a really gigantic version was built, it ‘might speak so loud as to command an army or instruct a crowd.’…

—Uglow, Jenny. The Lunar Men. 136.

Further reading here and here.

Posted in Automata | Comments Off