25 January 2013

Soup Kitchen I

Can you believe I almost forgot I had a blog? So in a belated effort to avoid become one of those MIA bloggers that have disappointed me in the past, I offer this little nugget of content and the possibility of an ongoing series of posts.

One of the things that I've been doing besides blogging is volunteering to cook at a local social services center that works with the homeless population in the area. As part of their day program, they provide three meals a day. A cold breakfast, a hot lunch, and a bagged meal to take for dinner. At first, I started out one day a week, just helping the employee in charge of the kitchen. Soon, I was responsible for the cooking the entire meal that day, from planning to plate. Usually it was an effort in scavenging and improvisation. There is an intense need to make do with what was on had and to use up donated food items. The situation was dire mainly because the kitchen employee was unskilled, unambitious, and entirely lacking in confidence. This lead to some really poor meals. Canned green peas were frequent side dish on the menu. I was proud to introduce scratch cooking and stuff like fresh vegetables to menu.

Unfortunately for the center, the employee in charge of the kitchen left at the beginning of this year. Despite her culinary deficiencies, she was an exceptionally nice and giving person, and will be sorely missed. This left a cooking vacuum in the kitchen, and I was luckily able to arrange my schedule to help out. Now I get to cook for these folks more often.

The point of this block of exposition is to introduce some cheap, easy blog content by the way of what I cooked for the soup kitchen, and hopefully some pithy observations (don't hold your breath on that one).

This week we had:

01 April 2012

Puffy Parathas

Sadly, I ran out of rice to eat with the palak tofu I made from Andrea Nuygen's Asian Tofu book (I recommend it!), so I had to turn to bread. The traditional pairing for saag dishes are roti made from corn, but I decided to forgo tradition and make some parathas. Parathas are a rich, unleavened, flat bread made from a simple wheat flour and water dough. The way they are deep fried gets them to puff up like pita bread. The trick is to fry it in hot oil, and baste the top of the bread by ladling or splashing hot oil over it while it cooks. This helps generate steam faster, and makes a skin that retains the steam for longer. Once out of the frier, they don't stay puffed for too long, so serve them quickly for maximum effect. The oil I used is vegetable oil, but I had previously cooked carnitas and tohu goreng bacem (twice cooked coriander tofu, also from Asian Tofu), so it was very flavorful.

The recipe such as it is:
AP Flour (may use a fraction or all whole wheat) 100
Water 60
Salt 1

26 March 2012

Okara Granola Mark 1

Okara parched in a slow oven with a little sugar, salt, and oil. Served with plain yogurt, raisins, honey, and cinnamon.

In it's current form and formula, the okara doesn't hold its crispness long enough. Needs work.

25 March 2012

Making Tofu: The Soy Milk

First you gotta soak your soybeans. There's a whole time and tempurature curve involved. Just soak them over night. You want them to be uniformly hydrated and crumble easily between your thumb and finger. I discarded the soaking water. You'll want to puree them as fine as possible in a blender. Remember when adding your water to the blender to blend the beans, you need to ration it. Since I'm making block tofu, which calls for light soy milk, I can only use 1.33 cup of water per ounce of dry soy bean. In this case, I'm allowed 21 cups of water for 16 oz of soybeans. It'll take a few minutes to get the bean puree, or go, fine enough. The first half of my beans weren't pureed as fine as they should have been, and I think that impacted my tofu yield. Pour your go into a big pot, and proceed to cooking. Some folks have you already heat part of your water ration in the pot while you puree the beans. This has the advantage of speeding up your cooking time and limits the soy's 'beany' taste because you are allowing the enzymes that you released during blending less time to work on the soybean's oils and proteins.

18 March 2012

And they call it dumpling love...

Beef, cumin, and cilantro dumplings. The combination of cumin and soy is something new to me, and I'm really enjoying it. Tried the half moon shape, I still think it's ugly and ungainly for a dumpling. Still working on the slipper fold. For now, my variation of the pleated crescent continues to rule the roost.

14 March 2012

Modernist Chile Con Queso Part 1

I got a hankering for chips and dip the other night. Salsa wouldn't cut it, I wanted cheese. The kind of creamy gooey cheese you get on convenience store nachos. The kind I'd been reading about how you can make it at home in Modernist Cuisine. So I took a look at the recipes from the 'constructed cheese' parametric table, and cobbled together a formula based on what I had in the pantry.