Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brown Butter Sauce

The other day I was making a sauce I had never tried before; as usual I didn't know exactly what to do (despite having a recipe) because there were minimal instructions and no picture of what I was making was going to look like. Brown butter...should be brown, I suppose, but I just got melted and bubbly yellow liquid, as I'd expected. I put in the salt and pepper, I put in the torn up basil (the local store was all out of sage) and stirred and turned the heat up...but I had no nutmeg. What to do? I decided to put in some brown sugar - just a pinch, not a lot - and hope for the best. It still wasn't terribly brown, but it did taste quite good over the egg pasta parcels we did get (which had meat & cheese in them). So, this is my recipe, modified from Giada's, for Brown Butter.

Brown Butter Sauce

Get some butter - you'd better start with what you'd use to make eggs and go up from there, depending on how much pasta you're making - and melt it slowly but surely. Add some pepper and salt (not too much, just enough so you know they're there) and keep adding butter until you have enough. Then tear up some sage or basil and turn up the heat so they cook and release their oils; lastly add about a quarter teaspoon (as much as you can pinch with your thumb and index finger) and add it to the butter, stirring as always. Do this and then set it aside, keeping it warm. Add your cooked pasta (ravioli or any other filled pasta) to it as soon as possible.

Definitely good eats!

Addendum: I have now made this again, using sage and nutmeg and heating it a bit longer, and it is quite something! I am astonished that something so simple is not as well-known as I sense it should be, outside of France & francophile kitchens, I suppose...

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Fool In Love (With Pasta)

Another fine recipe that I can now cook a bit faster as I now own...a zester. Trust me folks, nothing makes your citrus-friendly chef happier than possessing one, and for this recipe it's pretty much mandatory. Why? You'll see! This comes from the fine book Dude Food, by Brooks, Bosker and Darmon.

To start with, you will need two lemons (three if you dare), some white wine, some gruyere cheese, some creme fraiche (though cream cheese w/some single cream, double cream, half & half, etc. is fine), some mushrooms and some linguine/tagliatelle/long pasta.

Firstly, get out that zester and zest two lemons. (I did this by chef's knife before.) Place zest in saucepan and with about one-third cup of wine get it to a nice simmer, enough so you boil the alcohol off. At the same time, slice up your mushrooms and saute them - you can almost never have too many mushrooms, so be generous. Take one of the zested lemons and get the juice out (watching out for seeds of course) and set it aside.

Make the pasta according to instructions and once it is ready for the lemon zest/wine mixture, pour it in there and get to mixing it up; then add your cheese and creme fraiche and continue to mix, using the lemon juice to loosen things up. Once that is done, serve with the mushrooms on top and don't forget a nice sharp salad to go with this lemony richness.

Good Eats!

Eggs Carbonara

If you like the idea of one-pan cooking, then this is an excellent meal (for morning or night) with which to use said pan. It takes a bit of work up front, to be sure, but that is chopping up various ingredients, for which you only need a sturdy board and a good knife. It comes from the lively bon vivant Bob Blumer, one of my favorite chefs and a Canadian to boot. This is from his fine book Off The Eaten Path. Here goes:

Eggs Carbonara

Get some eggs - how many depends clearly on who you are serving (I would say two eggs per person). Also have on hand some olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, milk, pancetta, parmasean, scallions, parsley or cilantro, garlic and avocado.

Now get out the chopping board! But before doing that, crack the eggs into your mixing bowl and add the salt and pepper (reasonable amounts), the cheese (as much as you'd like; again, make it proportional to the eggs) and milk. This is just like making scrambled eggs, so if you are familiar with that, this is just an intense variation on that recipe.

The pancetta (or thickly sliced bacon, sliced into lardons) should go in the pan first. As it cooks, mince your garlic, dice your avocado and finely chop your scallions. The jalapeno or serrano chili is optional, though if you do include it you should remove the seeds. The parsley/cilantro you can pretty much just pinch off from the stems by hand and roughly chop.

Once the pancetta is done, remove it from the pan and drain it on a towel - Bob says you should drain the pan of fat and then add your olive oil for the garlic, scallions and pepper to fry in, but I like pancetta fat so I left that in and just added the olive oil. Do this for two minutes.

Then put the pancetta back into this mix, also adding the avocado and greenery of your choice.

Once these have all married in the pan, happily swapping flavors, pour in the eggs and make them as wet/dry as you wish.

You should feel free to add/subtract anything from this recipe, as you like - I didn't put the peppers in and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pine Nut Worship Pasta

This is a slightly more complex bit of cooking than last time, but it takes almost no skills cooking-wise and it is somewhat derived from a great recipe by Dave Lieberman, who is scandalously not available at my local library (I am going to see if I can change that). His has grape/cherry tomatoes sliced in half in place of peas, mine is more about pine nut worship (pine nuts being a main ingredient of pesto in the first place), thus the name.

Pine Nut Worship Pasta

Get some bowtie aka farfalle pasta and cook it; while doing so, get some pesto and put a good spoonful or so in a mixing bowl. While the pasta cooks (farfalle takes a little while) get some pine nuts* - a handful will do - and set them aside. Get the feta cheese out and either crumble it up a little or have it cubed up already (either by yourself or ready-made) at hand. When the pasta is almost done, cook your peas (again, a goodly handful here - more than the pine nuts) in whatever way you choose - I do it in the microwave.

When the pasta is done, drain it, make sure it is dry and then put it in the mixing bowl and start adding all the ingredients, making sure the pesto coats all the farfalle and the feta, peas and pine nuts are mixed in evenly. Serve immediately with grated parmesan on top.

*If you want something to do while waiting for the water to boil, toasting the nuts is a great idea. Just make sure they don't burn!

(If you wanted to make this more carnivore-friendly, which I understand, you could substitute the feta for pancetta or bacon.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crouton Bread

It has occurred to me that I don't post here nearly enough, and that I have yet to write down one single solitary recipe as well, so here goes: what I call Crouton Bread and what you may call whatever you like. It's as easy as cooking gets, if you consider toasting bread cooking, and I do:

Crouton Bread

Get a good piece of bread - something reasonably substantial, a French or Italian bread works best. Toast it well. Put some olive oil on it (about a tablespoon I figure, and if it's extra virgin olive oil, all the better) and then sprinkle with some salt, any salt. Eat immediately and repeat if you wish, though I made this as I didn't want to peel yet another clove of garlic as I was a bit tired after making the meal in the first place (this happy accident coming while I was recuperating).

The olive oil can and will run through the bread on to whatever is beneath it, so you may as well do it right there above your plate, esp. if you are eating pasta with salad, or something else olive-oil friendly...

The greatness of this recipe is that it takes three rock-solid classics and bluntly puts them together - the better the bread and oil are of course the better it will be, but it is up to you to choose them, and if you wanted to put some pepper on here that would be fine too.

(N.B. As you can see I am putting a blogroll together; if there are any food blogs you think I should add, please let me know. Thanks!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Listen To Your Body

Well now folks, it has been long enough without my writing here - in part because when I began I had just come out of hospital after an operation and my energies have been mainly focused on getting better, and part of those energies have been put towards eating well.

In some ways there is no better time to get to know yourself - your actual body - than when you are ill. Not death-defyingly ill, of course, but just recovering without incident from an operation. You know you are getting better because you are hungrier; because your ability to eat itself grows in appetite and what you are interested in eating.

Cooking Without Looking's philosophy - which is to say mine - is that in order to eat well you have to listen to your body. Turn your ear around metaphorically for a moment or two and listen to what your palate and stomach have to say. If you have a craving for something it is usually - though not always - because in some way your body needs it to balance itself out. Thirst and hunger in the extreme cancel out such ability to listen (the body at that point is just about screaming and doesn't really care what you eat or drink) - but if you have a glass of water and a plain biscuit and are in a good quiet state, you are ready to listen.

Of course, what your palate and stomach might want is up to them. They may want something new, something they know well, something salty or sweet or crunchy or smooth or complex or simple. The brain of course might think they need something different - but the body won't know what an artichoke or a parsnip or duck taste like and the brain might have to humor them along, throwing enough salt, oil, fruit and so on into the mix until the body says "okay." That is one hell of an intimate conversation, and I think in order to be happy foodwise you have to have such conversations - maybe not every day, but at least once a week, so you can really know at any time what your body wants vs. what you are missing out on sensually (and I am using that word literally). Too many people wolf their food down or don't really care about what they eat in that intimate way - they get that you are what you eat, to be sure, but they don't marvel at what they eat nor who they are, let alone the whole chain of events that brings the food to their mouths.

Well, I do.

I also believe that if you go beyond just getting something to nibble on or drink in the kitchen, you are cooking, even if you're just adding ketchup to some leftovers or mixing up a drink. Cooking means altering something fundamentally to make a new thing to me - not just turning an appliance on and waiting for something to start beeping or steaming. So some of what I write here may not seem like 'cooking' to a chef, but to those who are modest or phobic or reluctant or nervous - this blog is for you, along with everyone else who cooks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Mission Statement - Welcome to Cooking Without Looking!

Hello and welcome to the blog about food by someone who is learning to cook and eat new things - I'm no chef, I have no training and have minimal skills; but my mouth and mind want to learn new things all the time. I cook in an average kitchen and collect whatever cookbooks I can find (and recipes within them) that are easy, cheap and give great satisfaction (to me and my husband). I love to read as well, so I will be reviewing cookbooks and trying to cook as much from them as possible. Thanks for reading and I will be back soon!