Caitlin McGrath's Profile

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Is Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty" a Failure?

These recipes didn't come from a restaurant, however; they're based on Yotam Ottolenghi's column for the Guardian (British newspaper), on vegetarian home cooking.

about 4 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Features

Fun St. Patrick's Day Desserts

Thanks!

about 5 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Cooking from and Commentary on the 2015 Piglet Contestants

Ah, thanks for the correction (I've heard of, but not previously read, that blog, so hadn't looked at who the blogger is).

about 10 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Fun St. Patrick's Day Desserts

Can you share your recipe for vanilla stout icing? Sounds interesting!

about 11 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Goodbye Mad Men....sniff....sniff....

Cheese fondue would be a sure bet if you're setting up stations, as a couple of others have mentioned (and there was even a scene where Megan was looking for her fondue pot in the first half of Season 7).

about 11 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking
1

Cooking from and Commentary on the 2015 Piglet Contestants

While I don't entirely agree with her characterization of Thorrison and Roberts's respective responses, her critical take on food media is very good. Thanks for linking.

about 11 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

What are you baking these days? Happy winter's almost over, I hope, March 2015 edition!

Berheenia, if you have a chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie, or similar drop cookie, that you like the flavor, texture, etc. of, no reason you can't put whatever stuff you like in it (including spices, of course). Those additions are really up to the whim of the cook—just choose a combo you like and toss them in!

What cookbooks have you bought lately, or are you lusting after? Happy Valentine's Day 2015 edition! [OLD]

Asparagus has just come into season here, and I plan to make the asparagus and potato salad with tarragon and white wine sometime soon (though I will probably cut up the asparagus and toss it all together rather than leaving it whole). I'm thinking it would be good with fish.

about 13 hours ago
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Can I simply replace water with coffee in a recipe?

Cider vinegar and apple cider vinegar are the same thing. The type of vinegar isn't crucial; plain white vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar will all work. Mostly you're looking for the acid and a light enough flavor that it won't come through. Google wacky cake and the recipes are pretty much alike, including using too little cocoa, IMO.

This one goes by a different name, but is the same deal, with a better cocoa amount. I use coffee instead of water. (Don't worry about the pan; a 9-in round and 8-in square are pretty much equivalent in area).

http://food52.com/recipes/24484-marga...

What are you baking these days? Happy winter's almost over, I hope, March 2015 edition!

The Kristin King of the recipe link is CH krisishere.

Can I simply replace water with coffee in a recipe?

Absolutely, and I would. It will improve the flavor. There will be no adverse effect; the acidity of the coffee will not be a problem as the cake uses baking soda, an alkali, for leavening (yogurt is also acidic, which is why baking soda is used here).

Downtown Berkeley Food Ideas

They took that off their menu a while ago, I believe. There's now a changing assortment of house-made pickled things that's not quite in its place, but an adjacent idea.

What are you baking these days? Happy winter's almost over, I hope, March 2015 edition!

What are you baking these days? Happy winter's almost over, I hope, March 2015 edition!

I have made a very successful dark chocolate cooked flour frosting by stirring chopped 70% cocoa content chocolate into the flour/milk mixture just after it came off the stove, about half a cup of chopped chocolate for a recipe using 8 oz butter. (Sorry I can't supply a weight for the chocolate, I just eyeballed it). The result had really nice chocolate flavor, without being as intense as ganache. Credit to buttertart for suggesting the right chocolate and ratio to me.

Incidentally, I've had the best results with the CI formula, which uses a combination of flour and cornstarch in the cooked part (google Cook's Country Miracle Frosting for their recipe).

Cooking from and Commentary on the 2015 Piglet Contestants

Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't look at the comments when I read the review. She is very gracious (and I'm a longtime fan of her books and recipes).

February 2015 Cookbook of the Month Companion Thread: "MIGHTY SPICE EXPRESS COOKBOOK" by John Gregory-Smith

Interesting! A US tablespoon is 3 teaspoons, hence my rant. I rescind my complaint, then, at least in this case (I've seen the issue in other recipes elsewhere).

Mar 02, 2015
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

February 2015 COTM "MIGHTY SPICE COOKBOOK" Reporting thread for Chapters 1 & 2

Thai Red Duck Curry, p. 81

In possession of some duck breasts of uncertain quality (from a local woman's backyard flock and, I've suspected, from not-so-young birds), I decided that a recipe such as this would be a good test, rather than a typical seared-and-sliced treatment, to determine the texture of the meat. As written, this is very simplistic, as Thai-inspired curries go, no doubt due to the artificial constraint of a five spice limit. But even given that, there are ingredients he could have included (and does in other Southeast Asian-inspired recipes) that are omitted, like fresh herbs. So I augmented the given ingredients a bit and came up with something that, with no pretense of authenticity, made a tasty meal.

Prep starts, per usual, with making a spice paste in the mini food processor. Called for are lemongrass, roasted peanuts, red chiles (I used Thai), and ground coriander, cumin, and black pepper. I also added some garlic, fresh ginger, and cilantro stems, plus a couple of tablespoons of water to help make it more pastelike. This is fried in oil (sunflower) until fragrant, then coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime juice are added and all is simmered for 10 minutes. Here I also added a little bit of sugar for flavor balance. In the meantime, skinless duck breast is cooked in a skillet to the point of pinkness inside and cut in bite-size pieces. My experimental duck breast was 12 ounces, half the weight called for, and I elected to make the full paste and sauce quantity, and added vegetables (cremini mushrooms and asparagus) to turn this into a one-dish-plus-rice meal. I added the vegetables first, and when they were just shy of cooked enough, I put the duck in. Before serving, I stirred in chopped cilantro leaves.

As I said, this was fine eating as I made it, and no doubt a bit more complex than the recipe as written, albeit not red in the least save for flecks of chile. And it told me what I needed to know about that duck - on the tough side after sautéing, but much more tender after even a brief simmer in liquid - so I can cook the rest accordingly.

Mar 01, 2015
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

February 2015 Cookbook of the Month Companion Thread: "MIGHTY SPICE EXPRESS COOKBOOK" by John Gregory-Smith

Za'atar Halloumi with Couscous Salad, p. 58

This is a truly quick and easy recipe, the more so in my case because part of the recipe is mixing up za'atar, and I just used that which is in my pantry. An interesting note to me is that his za'atar uses oregano, and while I've seen formulas that use a combination of dried herbs, all those I've seen with just one use thyme (my understanding is that za'atar the herb is a kind of wild thyme).

Anyway, half the measure of za'atar is mixed with a small measure of couscous (I used whole wheat) and hot water, covered and left to hydrate. The salad is completed with finely chopped parsley, capers, and chile (he calls for a seeded red chile; I used a serrano with seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The halloumi is sliced and one side of each piece is pressed into more za'atar (I found that the za'atar didn't really adhere, so I smeared each piece with a drop of olive oil before dredging), and it's fried in olive oil for a couple of minutes on each side. I think the order is off in the recipe, as he would have you fry the halloumi while the couscous is hydrating, and set it aside while you finish the salad. Isn't the point to have the cheese when it's nice and hot? It is to me, so I put it in the pan after the salad was mixed up.

This made a pleasant meal, though obviously, you must be a fan of za'atar, and it's not shy of salt, with the cheese and capers (my za'atar also has salt as well). The fresh, tart, and spicy notes of the salad make a nice foil to the rich flavor of the cheese. This is in the kind of catchall Not Quite Lunch section, but for me half of this two-serving recipe was dinner, along with roasted broccoli. The remaining couscous awaits another meal, when I will fry the halloumi a la minute.

(As an aside, perhaps it's my editor's eye, but a recipe that lists 1 tablespoon this, 1 tablespoon that, 3 teaspoons the other drives me crazy. Why list 3 teaspoons of something instead of 1 tablespoon in the first place, much less mix up the two equivalent measures in the same list, when there's no division of the ingredient?)

February 2015 Cookbook of the Month Companion Thread: "MIGHTY SPICE EXPRESS COOKBOOK" by John Gregory-Smith

Crawfish (Shrimp), Pink Grapefruit & Glass Noodle (sic) Salad, p. 90

This past week brought pink grapefruit in the CSA box, so I decided to see if any recipes in this month's cookbooks featured it, and found this dish, in which shrimp was an obvious sub for crawfish. Despite the title, the recipe calls for rice vermicelli, not bean threads, which are what I know as glass/cellophane noodles. I did use the rice noodles.

Prep is simple: Rehydrate noodles in boiling water, rinse with cold water, squeeze of excess water. Assemble the salad with the noodles, grapefruit supremes (I was lazy and just sliced after paring away the skin), sliced scallions, shrimp (I gave them a quick sauté to cook), pea shoots or watercress (I subbed baby arugula), basil, and mint. Dress with lemongrass blitzed in a mini processor till very finely chopped, lime juice, sugar (omitted), chile powder (cayenne, and more than called for), and olive oil. You're meant to sprinkle pumpkin seeds over, but that seemed off to me, so I skipped in favor of roasted peanuts.

This was a nice salad, with a good array of flavors, from the tart citrus, fresh-tasting herbs and greens, sweet shrimp, with a pop of spice. My noodles were a bit overdone, but that's not down to the recipe (I used fresh noodles, which are actually sort of semi-dry, and overshot the timing a tad).

Mar 01, 2015
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

March 2015 COTM Announcement: Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen

You don't need to do anything. Someone at CHOW updates the archive page, rather than the moderators, so I think they keep an eye on the selection. But I'd assume that means it won't happen till Monday, as I think they keep standard office hours.

Feb 28, 2015
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Cooking from and Commentary on the 2015 Piglet Contestants

I hadn't gone and read her response until you posted his response to her response. And his is a (blessedly to-the-point) gracious, not particularly defensive reaction to what is at best rambling, and certainly disingenuous. I mean, "Women don’t want to be judged on their looks, and neither do cookbooks"? If her second clause were true, there would be no cookbooks with sumptuous photos and considered design, and as Mel says upthread, cookbook authors who heavily feature photos of themselves are frequently criticized for it.

There's a lot of sour grapes in her post, beginning with all the ways she's repeatedly dismissive of Roberts (note that the first thing she says is that his blog fails on aesthetics [remember, no one wants their work judged on its looks!], then she refers to his "writing" [yes, in quotation marks]), carrying through to the multiple paragraphs about how she never complains. Oh, and this: "From time to time, and when I have time I like to see why they are coming, what or who has sent readers my way." No one whose blog is a business doesn't track traffic.

Bottom line, it's a real overreaction from an obviously stung first-time (I gather) book author. I hope her publisher gently reminds her that this isn't in her best interests, in terms of marketing beyond her existing reader base. Of course it can be hard not to take criticism of your work personally, but criticism is also the price of admission.

I thought I Invented Swiss Butter Cream Frosting

Not the OP here, but those are something my local (independent) cake supply store sells in little tubs, among other chocolate cake decorations.

Feb 26, 2015
Caitlin McGrath in Home Cooking

Hasnia - Algerian restaurant (Berkeley)

I had dinner here with a friend last week. They had some issue with the grill, I guess, so no sandwiches or skewers were available. We enjoyed the complementary vegetable appetizer, but not the bread served with it; in contrast to the previous two reports of fantastic bread, that night's offering was cottony, bland, and generic, also not warm (I wonder if this was related to the equipment issue). The slice of cucumber in each water glass is a nice touch.

We ordered the chicken tagine and the vegetable couscous. The tagine was similar the lamb version flavorenhancer describes. It had a tender whole leg that had been boned, a mild and flavorful sauce, and copious green olives. The couscous dish had chickpeas and cooked-till-soft oblong pieces of zucchini and "baby" carrots. It was saved by the accompanying broth, which was murky in color, with a good depth of flavor; once we ladled it over the couscous, we spooned it all up eagerly enough, but overall, it's not something I'd order again, at least not in the all-vegetable version. We weren't offered harissa, and the tables had only bottles of ketchup and Huy Fong sriracha (or in the case of the next table, a huge bottle of Tapatio).

I might be willing to return for another try sometime, if I hear that the bread situation has been righted, and there's more of the menu available. Unfortunately, I'm at a menu disadvantage at places like this, as a non-red meat eater.

February 2015 COTM "MIGHTY SPICE COOKBOOK" Reporting thread for Chapters 5, 6 & 7

These custards are plenty nice on their own, and are pretty virtuous, as desserts go. No cream, no flour, and only 2 T. sugar in the whole recipe!

ASIAN DUMPLINGS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month (February 2015)

I made pan-fried shrimp dumplings wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves instead of dough wrappers, from a recipe in Mighty Spice Express, by John Gregory-Smith. These were very good, and the concept could be used with any dumpling filling that is fairly cohesive (looser vegetable fillings might not work as well), making for an easy way to have low-carb or gluten-free dumplings.

The method for the cabbage leaf wrappers is to put the leaves in a bowl, pour boiling water over them and let soften for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, and dry (I used a tea towel to blot them dry). Then cut out the stem and thick, lower part of the center vein. Depending on the size of the leaves, you can cut them in half along the vein and use a half for each dumpling, or leave them whole. Put the filling on the leaf (I used 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons each) and fold it egg roll/burrito style, folding the sides in. They're cooked just like other pan-fried dumplings, first for a couple of minutes in a skillet with oil, seam-side down, then with water added to around 1/16 inch depth, covered on lower heat for around 4 minutes, then uncovered with the heat raised till the liquid has cooked away. Once cooked, the seams meld together making a secure packet, and the cabbage is tender but not mushy.

February 2015 Cookbook of the Month Companion Thread: "MIGHTY SPICE EXPRESS COOKBOOK" by John Gregory-Smith

Jonny's Dumplings, p. 30

These are pan-fried shrimp dumplings made with savoy cabbage leaves in place of dough wrappers. This works very well, and would make for an easy way for folks eating low carb or gluten free to get a dumpling fix (the technique would work with other filling, as well). And while they weren't done in the 15 minutes he suggests, they did come together fairly quickly, with delicious results.

The filling is shrimp, scallions, chile, cilantro, five spice powder, and light soy sauce, all pulsed to a rough paste in the food processor. The recipe calls for 5.5 oz shelled shrimp, but I had 7.5 oz, so I adjusted the rest up by a bit. Where he calls for 1/4 red chile, I used more than half of a very long serrano, with seeds. (As an aside, I find it silly when a recipe specifies jumbo shrimp, only to have you chop it all up. I mean, why spend the extra $ on size when it doesn't matter? Although, in this case I suspect it might be an effect of transatlantic conversion, as the UK will have different types available and different classifications. But still.)

To make the wrappers, boiling water is poured over savoy cabbage leaves and they're left to soften for a few minutes, then drained, refreshed under cold water, and dried. The stem ends are cut out, and then the filling is rolled in them burrito/egg roll style. A word on proportions here: He calls for using two large cabbage leaves, cutting each in two, and dividing the filling among them to make four dumplings. I had a very small head of savoy cabbage, so I used whole leaves, cutting out the stem and thick bottom part of the center vein, then sort of overlapping the two halves to bridge the cut-out part (I'm not describing this very well, but I hope you get what I mean). With my slightly greater amount of filling, I figured on filling five or six of these, given that the four he would have you make would each get around 1.5 oz filling. Well, unless your cabbage leaves are enormous rather than simply large, I don't see how you could enclose more than 1 oz worth in each half. As it was, with the volume of filling I made I ended up with five slightly larger dumplings (from the outer cabbage leaves) and five more slightly smaller (from smaller inner leaves).

Once wrapped (though they could certainly be held in the fridge for a few hours), the dumplings are cooked like other pan-fried dumplings: They go in oil in a hot skillet, seam side down, for a couple of minutes, a bit of water is added and the pan covered to cook on lower heat for a few minutes, then the lid is removed and the heat raised until the water is mostly gone. As I gingerly moved the wrapped dumplings to the pan I was skeptical about how well they'd hold together, but I needn't have worried; once fried with the seams down, everything was effectively sealed. The cooking time given was spot-on. Not only was the filling cooked through but still juicy, the cabbage leaves were perfectly tender without being mushy. He suggests simply serving with more light soy, but I made a simple dipping sauce of soy, rice vinegar, and a few drops of toasted sesame oil. The filling is well flavored, and the cabbage integrates well (and feels a bit virtuous!).

This long post probably makes the whole endeavor seem much more complicated than it is. It's really not complicated at all and, once you determine how much filling you can fit in each softened leaf, is simple to execute.

February 2015 COTM "MIGHTY SPICE COOKBOOK" Reporting thread for Chapters 5, 6 & 7

Steamed Ginger Custard Pots, p. 199

I hadn't really even noticed this recipe before reading qianning's report, despite the fact that I love, love, love all things ginger. I followed her cues in prep and serving, whisking everything in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and pouring through a strainer right into the ramekins, and letting the custard rest for 10 minutes before serving. The recipe is meant to make four, and calls for 2/3-cup ramekins, whereas mine are the more standard (at least in the US) 3/4-cup/6 oz size. The custard mixture filled three of these perfectly, and as only three will fit in my steamer rack, that is what I made.

I may have gone a little heavy on the ginger - my "finger" was rather slender, so I used a longer segment than specified - but to no detriment. The custards were nicely gingery, yet also quite delicate in taste and texture, also thanks to the extremely restrained amount of sugar. This was lovely warm, after its rest, and also delicious cold today, albeit firmer and less delicate in texture. This was so easy to whip up on a weeknight, and would be simple to do for guests, as well. I whisked everything together before dinner, then filled the ramekins and popped them in to steam after. With ~20 minutes to cook and rest, there's enough time to stretch your legs and brew tea or coffee, but not so much as to make you restless. It also took almost zero effort to dress this up a bit by topping with a bit of diced candied ginger and adding a few crisp store-bought cookies in a complementary flavor (Anna's almond thins, in this case) to the plate.

USDA introduces new maple syrup grading system

The USDA has just introduced a new (voluntary) grade classification for pure maple syrup, so we can expect to see the change on labels coming down the pike. According to what I've read, a big reason for the change is the growing popularity of Grade B syrup, prompting a shift from the old system, in which A was presented as superior to B.

Now, instead of just Grade A Light Amber and Dark Amber, Grade B, and Commercial for reprocessing, everything but the last (which isn't considered fit for retail sale) will be Grade A, with new descriptors for flavor as well as color. Apparently, the goal is clarification for consumers, but before clarification, I'm sure confusion will reign.

Here's a short article about the changes: http://consumerist.com/2015/01/28/usd...

And here's a chart comparing the old and new classifications: http://www.maplesource.com/markets/in...

Cooking from and Commentary on the 2015 Piglet Contestants

It'd probably be worthwhile to take a spin through the COTM threads: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977518

IIRC, those crackers got a good report. I enjoyed some of the stories, and cooked some good dishes when I had it from the library, but not enough to make me want to actually own it, though I really enjoy his blog and dessert books.

Best website to buy tea?

Chinese teas aren't my favorites, but Red Blossom is a nice place, with knowledgeable staff and a willingness to brew you a cup correctly to try before you buy.