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Veg*n Fish Sauce

I love Golden Mountain, but it tastes nothing like fish sauce. It is a seasoned soy sauce with a very distinct and recognizable taste. It would work well in noodles and fried rice if you like its flavor, but I don't know how good it would be in other fish-sauce applications (coconut curries, dips, etc.).

about 8 hours ago
maestra in Vegetarian & Vegan

Question about Ottolenghi's Eggplant Cheesecake

It would be an excellent side to chicken. I've served it as a main as part of a vegetarian spread and several times to people who can't fathom a vegetarian meal as a side to grilled chicken or meat. It's always a hit.
It wouldn't be very convenient as a nibble with drinks because it can be rather misshapen once cut and plated. It's also quite substantial; I guess I'd compare it to serving lasagna or macaroni and cheese with drinks.

Aug 08, 2015
maestra in Home Cooking

Question about Ottolenghi's Eggplant Cheesecake

I've made this several times, and I do not stack the eggplant. I use Japanese eggplants that I've steamed and/or broiled first, and I just mix them gently into the base mixture. I also add broiled crimini mushrooms and fresh herbs. It ends up having a lot more vegetables than the original recipe, and there is plenty of eggplant sticking up at the top of the custard. I don't see the need to cut the eggplants into long batons and then carefully stand them up.

Aug 06, 2015
maestra in Home Cooking

Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY MORE

Fried Umpa with Poached Egg, pg. 198
Big fan of this dish. First you cook some dal and leave them cool after a rinse in cold water. Fry up some aromatics and spices, add the dal, and add semolina flour and some water. After a few minutes of simmering and stirring, it turns into a thick cake/paste that you scrape into an oiled dish. I stuck it in the refrigerator for several hours; you could easily do this a day or two ahead. Slice the firmed-up cake and fry the pieces in ghee or clarified butter. Top with plain yogurt and a poached egg (we skipped the lime pickle). We ate this as the only non-avocado-focused dish as part of a dinner planned around using up several ripe avocados. It was a delicious complement to avocado toast and the Avocado, Quinoa, and Fava Bean Salad from the original Plenty.
I made some changes to the spice mixture according to what I had and prefer, but otherwise I followed the recipe. It didn't set up quite as firmly as I'd expected, so some of the "triangles" weren't too pretty once I cut them and lifted them out of the glass pan. We will definitely enjoy this again, and it will be a go-to to help me use up curry leaves when I buy them for something else.

Jun 28, 2015
maestra in Home Cooking

Where can I buy Cardoon?

I buy them at Major Market in Escondido every fall. They are still a fair amount of work (I peel away the toughest strings), but they are worth it. I look forward to the short season and buy a couple bunches every week or so.

May 31, 2015
maestra in San Diego

Cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY MORE

Eggplant Cheesecake, pg. 242
I've made this several times now, and this recipe alone will be worth the purchase-price of the book. Not only is it delicious, but it could be adapted for any vegetable that is lingering in my fridge and needs to be used. This will be in my rotation for years, and it's been a hit at gatherings as well.
I should mention that I don't care for any sweet cheesecakes, so don't avoid this recipe because you think you don't like cheesecake. The creamed cheese gets completely lost in the other strong flavors. It is there for structure and texture.
I made a few changes for ease and personal preference:
- Parchment paper instead of foil. Next time, I will make it with nothing . I will just grease the baking pan and see how it turns out.
- Strips of sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh cherry tomatoes. It is not tomato season, and now I think I prefer the sun-dried. They bring a welcomed tartness to this very rich dish.
- Steam and then broil pieces of Japanese eggplant. No frying.
- Add roasted/broiled cremini mushrooms.
- Add whatever fresh herbs I'm in the mood for. There's always basil. Marjoram and mint have both been tasty additions.
- Chunks of panela cheese sprinkled on top for extra melty richness. You could also do a parm or parm-and-breadcrumb topping if you'd like some contrasting texture.

Eggplant with Black Garlic, pg. 158
Fine, but the black garlic was sweeter than I expected. Probably won't make it again.

Tagliatelle with Walnuts and Lemon, pg. 75
Fine, but not especially memorable. Most of the ingredients are ones that I always have on hand, so it's likely to be repeated from time to time.

What cookbooks have you bought lately, or are you lusting after? Happy Spring has finally sprung, May 2015 edition! [OLD]

I don't buy cookbooks very often, but I want to report on the 3 I've acquired in the last 6 months or so:

FLAVOR FLOURS: I've made the Bittersweet Teff Brownies and the Queen of the Nile (a teff-flour version of her Reine de Saba) several times for parties with GF guests. They are excellent; the Queen of the Nile in particular is as good as any flourless or near-flourless chocolate cake I've had or made. I've made the brownies both with cocoa (I usually prefer cocoa brownies) and with melted chocolate. In this case, the chocolate version is much, much better. I've also made the Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf. It was good, but not as good as my favorite pumpkin bread recipe.

PLENTY MORE: The Eggplant Cheesecake was worth the purchase price. I will report on the appropriate thread.

PASTA BY HAND: I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere here on CH. It is an excellent book loaded with recipes for unique regional versions of gnocchi, orchiette, and Italian dumplings. I bought it after enjoying a spread with Louis's recipes in Saveur. I've only made two things: Farro Gnocchi with Pork Ragu (from the magazine) and Chestnut Gnocchi. I used spelt flour instead of farro for the first recipe (couldn't find farro), and it was great. The chestnut gnocchi were "meh." I'd never used chestnut flour before (but I had already purchased some to make something from Flavor Flours), so I didn't know what to expect. The gnocchi were very sweet and needed some major salt and umami to make them palatable (I served with crisped proscuitto, browned butter with crispy sage, and a tiny bit of creamy blue cheese). I probably won't make them again, mostly because there are dozens of other delicious-looking ideas to make from the book.

Slow Cooker Honey-Ginger Pork

Yes, you would cook this for about the same amount of time. Pork shoulder needs a long, slow cook to become tender, regardless of the quantity. I made this today because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, including an unmeasured quantity of pork. It was delicious. I did a few things differently: used 2 chiles serranos for extra heat; poured off the fat from browning the pork and then fried the garlic, ginger, and chiles until fragrant; added liquids to same pan to scrape up the browned bits; simmered it all on the stovetop instead of the slow-cooker.

Dec 30, 2014
maestra in Recipes

Basil and Rye

Dec 23, 2014
maestra in Recipes

What are you baking these days? December 2014 edition! [old]

I'm late in reporting this, but I baked both of these for Thanksgiving:
This is a spot-on chocolate cake, supposedly Darina Allen's favorite. It was even better the next day.
I found this carrot cake recipe on a chowhound thread, and I agree that it is outstanding. I topped the cake only with the glaze and skipped the creamed-cheese frosting. The glaze, poured over the cake when it's still warm, makes the cake delightfully moist and sticky - almost a tres-leches effect.

What are you baking these days? November 2014 edition (part two)! [old]

Very few of them do. Thumbing through,I'd say about 20% call for xanthan gum (usually 1/4 teaspoon). There is a good amount of white rice flour used in addition to the featured flours, but there are plenty of recipes that do not use it.

Nov 24, 2014
maestra in Home Cooking

What are you baking these days? November 2014 edition (part two)! [old]

I purchased Alice Medrich's new Flavor Flours last week and have baked two things from it. I am not "gluten free" and have no issues baking with gluten, but I loved the idea of this book's approach to using alternative flours for the unique flavors and textures they provide. I have easy access to these flours at my local health and grocery stores, so I will be playing around a lot in the next few months.
First recipe was the "Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf." Here is a link:
I enjoyed this bread very much as an alternative to my favorite, but very unhealthy, pumpkinbread recipe. I changed the spices to match the more gingerbread-flavor of my favorite recipe (2 T ground ginger, 1 t cin., 1 t allspice, 1 t clove). I actually made two loaves: one as instructed (minus the raisins or currents) and one with coconut oil in place of the butter. The coconut oil loaf did not turn out -- it was crumbly and fell apart when sliced (I also added walnuts to that version, which didn't help).
The second recipe was "Queen of the Nile," an updated version of her Reine de Saba. It's basically a "flourless" chocolate cake, with 1/4 c of teff flour. This was excellent, and perhaps even better the second day. I sliced leftovers into little pieces and snack on them straight out of the freezer. My favorite cake in this style is still the Boca Negra from Baking with Julia, but this version is healthier and much easier to make. No need to save this one for GF friends -- it is and will be a hit with everyone who tries it.

Black cocoa powder?

They do? They didn't used to, and it's not listed on their website. I'll can call to check.

Sep 07, 2014
maestra in San Diego

Black cocoa powder?

Is there a store in the SD area that sells black cocoa? I know I can order it online, but I wouldn't do so unless I caught King Arthur or another provider offering free shipping.

Sep 06, 2014
maestra in San Diego

Good bread in No County

Belen's little outpost on the far south end of Escondido Blvd. closed (in a little strip mall by the Sunset Lounge)? I hadn't noticed. I never went in, but it looked like a full cafe like the previous location a little further north. I'll have to check out what's in the space next time I drive by.

Aug 29, 2014
maestra in San Diego

Garlic in Pesto = Botulism?

No chemist or botanist here, but two summers ago I was violently ill for 24 hours after eating spoiled pesto at a restaurant. How do I know it was the pesto? When I tasted the sandwich, I thought, "Oh, yuck. I thought this didn't have mayonnaise." I opened the sandwich and there wasn't any mayo, so I thought maybe they had sprinkled a little vinegar or something on the fillings. It had a distinct tang. I ate it, and I was very sorry.

Jul 21, 2014
maestra in Home Cooking

Turmeric leaves

I'd ask at an Indian grocery store. The one in "Little India" off Miramar near the 15 has the most fresh produce I've seen, though their general stock was disappointingly low last time I was there.

Jun 26, 2014
maestra in San Diego

No Luck with Rice Noodles

If you soak, drain, and then rinse them under cold water, they won't stick when you add them to your dish. This also allows them to dry thoroughly (you set them aside while you prepare the rest of the dish), and you can get a nice char on them when you add them to the hot pan. If you add them to a soup, you'll have nicely separated noodles and no extra starch added to your liquid.

Jun 18, 2014
maestra in Home Cooking

any updates about Methow Valley / Winthrop WA?

I second the Mazama store - it's a great source for interesting snacks (bulk wild-rice sticks and partially popped popcorn kernels were my favorites last year). It caters to the hipster and yuppie tourists, so there are gourmet chocolate bars, organic snacks, good cheeses, etc. Nothing's cheap,but it's a vacation treat.
Big Apple in Winthrop has some local finds, like wheat from local Blue Bird farms. Peruse carefully and you'll find some treasures. Their cold beer case is also very good.
The old-fashioned looking gas station in the center of town, at the intersection of highways, has a great selection of chocolate bars. Again, catering to the snobby tourists (I can say that because I am one).
Organic foods store in Twisp is good too; again, some local treasures.
I know none of these are updates, but perhaps they are things fellow travelers hadn't noticed before.

Jun 15, 2014
maestra in Pacific Northwest

Favorite commercial/small batch moles?

There are mole pastes from Mexico available all over Escondido, so they must be found at in other towns as well. There are pastes sold in clear plastic, forming squarish packages, and pastes sold in white buckets. I'm not a frequent purchaser, but their flavor is worlds above Doña María. The ingredients list are concise - no American-style fillers.
The pastes are often found on the counter above the meat selection; I'm almost positive I've seen them there at our Northgate Gonzalez. I see them at smaller stores all the time. The white-bucket version is sometimes on shelves, especially if the store has a regional-Mexico section.
Off the top of my head, these pastes are available at Panadería Oaxaqueña off Grand, at El Chile Market (now Mercado El Sol; they may not have restocked completely since the turnover), at Rodeo's Meat Market in San Marcos, and as, mentioned, at the swap meet. They used to be fairly hard to find around here, but I feel that in the last 3 years or so their presence has exploded. Start by looking around the meat counter of any Mexican grocery store.

Jun 15, 2014
maestra in San Diego

Cast iron for anemia: Is pre-seasoned just as good?

Thank you, ChemK. Sounds like whatever they use at the factory won't be too different from my process at home.

May 15, 2014
maestra in Cookware

Cast iron for anemia: Is pre-seasoned just as good?

I am being treated; just trying to add every extra little bit that I can. I love cooking in cast iron anyway, but I thought I'd inquire before buying a smaller pan.

May 15, 2014
maestra in Cookware

Cast iron for anemia: Is pre-seasoned just as good?

I need to start cooking more frequently in cast iron and am in the market for an 8-inch pan (I have a 12-inch I love, but it is too large to scramble a couple of eggs, mash up some beans, etc.).
The best deals I am finding online are all for pre-seasoned skillets. I don't know anything about this "pre-seasoning" process, and I'm wondering if it seals up the pan to the point that iron will not enter my diet as well as it would in a pan I seasoned myself with just cooking oil.
Anyone have expertise in this area?

May 14, 2014
maestra in Cookware

Anyplace to buy Bao in North County?

Where are you in North County? The new version of La Sorpresa Barata in Escondido is actually an Asian market, not (fully) Mexican anymore. The one time I went in, I saw a wide selection of frozen goods. I recall a number of prepared frozen foods, not just frozen seafood and cooking ingredients. You could call them and ask.
Our other 2 Asian markets have frozen goods also, but I've looked more carefully through them over the years and have not seen any bao.
Making BBQ pork bao at home isn't very hard; makes a fun weekend project. I'm sure they would freeze well.

May 10, 2014
maestra in San Diego

Fiesta oaxaqueña opens restaurant (Escondido)

We seldom go to El Tejate anymore; the food was getting too greasy and messy. My husband and his brother go and order the parrillada when they want a meat-fest. It's been awhile, though, so I've been thinking they might deserve another try.
Now for Esco Mexican we just do La Takiza and occasionally Paulita's. I haven't even driven by Paulita's in a couple of months; they may be closed by now. The wait for their food was very, very long, but they had some solid dishes. La Takiza does great tacos on fresh tortillas. Tacos Alex (now in San Marcos) and Vamos a Texcoco in Vista are our preferences if we can justify driving for a meal.

Dec 21, 2013
maestra in San Diego


Chow has this lamb and quince stew:
I made it a few years ago. It was nice, but prefer quinces in a sweet preparation (but not too sweet). My favorite is to poach them with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and whatever other warm spice I feel like tossing in. I freeze it in small portions to each as a little dessert at work. One year, I served them at a buffet with rosewater-spike whipped cream. They were a big hit. I'd do it again, but add something with crunch for contrast.

Oct 21, 2013
maestra in Home Cooking

Preserved lemon quandary

1. Roasted cauliflower with smoked paprika, pine nuts, a teeny bit of garlic, and lots of preserved lemon. Also delicious with shrimp or squid.
2. Use in blended dips/sauces instead of lemon juice. My current favorite is roasted eggplant, a dried guajillo chile or two, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, olive oil, and preserved lemon. It blends up into a silky sauce or dip for my vegetables and rice. I recently did a green harissa and used preserved lemon for the acid. Same works for sauces/dips based on roasted red peppers.
3. The cookbook "Plenty" has at least one use; I think it was a tomato, etc. saute finished with preserved lemon.

Oct 03, 2013
maestra in Home Cooking

Help me decide: Ankarsrum or Bosch Universal?

How long have you had your Bosch? I'm trying to compile info about the lifespans of both products. Obviously both outlast a new KA, but nobody on Amazon refers to having had their Bosch or Ankarsrum for many years.

Sep 18, 2013
maestra in Cookware

Help me decide: Ankarsrum or Bosch Universal?

Thanks for your input! I did have that thought about the size of the food processor, but the thought came to me late and night and I had forgotten it when I posted this a few days later.
You've said it's possible to make a batch of cookies in the or small bowl, but which do you prefer for a standard batch? It the small bowl small enough to make just a batch of brownies, or will I still want to use my hand beaters or just a wooden spoon for that? Also, I've never made a cake in a any kind of stand mixer -- is it easy to overbeat? I make more cakes and cookies than anything else, but I do plan to get more into bread making.

Sep 18, 2013
maestra in Cookware

Favorite add-ins for fig jam?

Thanks for the great ideas! I ended up making a fig-rhubarb with vanilla bean and a raspberry-fig with rosewater. Both are excellent. The suggestions for ginger and for coriander or cardamom were enticing, but when I tasted the rasp/fig I thought rosewater over ginger, and I'm already a little sick of the cardamom-plum jam I made a few weeks ago. I look forward to playing around again next year!

Sep 18, 2013
maestra in Home Cooking