Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of Potatoes and…..Potatoes.

Ah yes, tis the season. The season of “Pass the cookies!” and “Gym!? What gym?”

I will be heading home this week . This year Hanukkah bumps right up against Christmas. Which is great as it means I only have to make the long trip up I95 once. And which is horrible because it means I will consume more carbs in the next week and a half than any human who isn’t about to run a marathon (or two) really should.

And what form will these carb take? Why the potato, of course.

From the Jewish side of the family there will be latkes aka potato pancakes. Not just carbs, but carbs fried in oil! My Jewish grandmother makes these, and I think I have had them made from scratch, and from a box, and a hybrid box/scratch version as well. There is debate about how they should be served, I prefer them straight up with a good bit of salt. Traditional accompaniments include sour cream and apple sauce. (Carbs, fried in oil, doused in cream! It just gets better and better…) But be prepared, you, and your house, and your luggage, and your car, and anything else that was within five miles of the frying latkes will smell like fried food for weeks to come. Just to remind you how much you really need to get to the gym.

From there I will move on to celebrate with the Russian Orthodox side of my family. And the potatoes will continue, this time carbs wrapped in carbs! What the hell am I talking about? Pierogies, of course!! My Polish Grandmother always made pierogies, from scratch, for Christmas Eve dinner. I started helping make pierogies some time long before I remember, and have carried on the tradition since her death.
For me Christmas = Pierogies.

You have to start early with the pierogie making as it takes quite a bit of effort. The dough is made of flour and eggs and water, don’t ask me how much of each, its one of those things you just learn to see, you know it when it feels right. It’s noodle dough, and you mix it up and let it rest while you make the potato filling. The filling is boiled potatoes, mashed with some milk and butter and a large quantity of Colby Longhorn cheese. (Has to be Colby Longhorn. My grandfather is always in charge of buying the cheese, and sources it weeks before Christmas ever arrives.) Salt and pepper, and a good shake of onion flakes (don’t tell!!) complete the mix. Roll out the dough, cut it into squares, put a dollop of potatoes in the middle and pinch them closed, tight, so they don’t leak when you boil them. Boil them and drizzle them with butter and put them in the big big aluminum bowl which then goes in the warm oven to be picked from all afternoon.

Dad and I are the pierogie makers now. I make the dough, and roll the dough, and mash the potatoes. He grates the cheese and he eats the potato filling, and I yell that that there wont be enough. He boils the pierogies and I ask him if they cooked long enough. And my palms end up hurting from my grandmother’s old rolling pin, and the tips of our fingers hurt from pinching the dough closed. And the flour gets everywhere. Its long and hot and tiring work ad we always end up yelling just a little bit. We also always try to count how many we make, and we always lose count halfway through. (200?)

We are talking about making twice as many pierogies as usual this year, so we can stick some in the freezer and then, in July, we can experience all the tradition and trouble and toil, and love, of pierogies all over again.

Happy Potatoes everyone!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is it wrong

for me to eat this on toast for breakfast?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Life is Good

Essential elements which are currently keeping Rachel alive:

  1. Water
  2. Oxygen
  3. Truffle Oil

So. Trader Joe’s carries Truffle Oil seasonally. The season is now. Both White and Black. 8.5 ounce bottles for $8.99. Cheap enough to basically drink out of the bottle.

Which is exactly what I have been doing.

(Now, there has been some debate amongst the foodies as to the quality of this particular truffle oil, but what do you (or I) know about truffle oil anyway? And this stuff tastes pretty damn good to me.)

So besides the IV drip, what do I do with the oil?

I put the Black Truffle Oil on scrambled eggs. Make the eggs a little runny (I know! I know! I used to hate runnyish scrambled eggs too!) Drizzle truffle oil on the top and some Maldon salt and my god, breakfast never tasted this good. I lick the plate every time.

I had never had White Truffle oil before. While the black is mellow and earthy, the white is sharp and tangy and has a distinctly garlicy taste. I’ve been slicing fresh mozzarella, drizzling (read: dousing) it in White Truffle Oil and the aforementioned crunchy Maldon Salt and eating. Sop up the plate with some good bread.

Keep the truffle oil in the fridge, prevents it from going rancid and perseveres the taste. Not that it is around long enough to deteriorate. I bought a few extra bottles to stash unopened in the back of the fridge to hold me over till next season….

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Request!!

From the comments, W&JS write:
“Tell us about some of your favorite simple sauces for spicing up pasta. We love the peanut sauce, got anything else up your sleeve? A favorite cheese sauce perhaps?”

Whoo hoo a request!! I was so excited about this, right up until I totally choked and drew a complete blank on pasta sauces.

Ok. So.

First thing I thought of is Spaghetti alla Carbonara AKA Pasta with Bacon and Eggs. Now I happen to know that W&JS are vegetarians. I have made this recipe successfully by browning some soy bacon in oil instead of using the pancetta or bacon. Also, I do a more basic version of this particular recipe leaving out the onion and wine. This pasta is rich, not something you are going to eat every day, but it’s delicious.

Secondly, Pesto Pasta. Quick and easy, especially in the food processor. Leftovers are great as a sandwich spread as well.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato-Olive Sauce is more of a summer tomato recipe, but if you can find decent tomatoes now, go for it.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is more involved but worth the effort on a Saturday afternoon (make a double batch at stick one in the freezer for later.)(WARNING: I am remembering that W&JS don't like spicy stuff. Chilies in Adobo sauce can be REALLY hot. Use with caution. I bet this would still be good even if you left the chilies out completely.)

Also baked, an old family favorite my mom’s Spaghetti Casserole:

16 oz cheddar, shredded
16 oz fine egg noodles, cooked
40 oz red pasta sauce, your choice
32 oz meat, soy or otherwise, mix with sauce

Layer into a 9x13 pan and bake at 325 for one hour. Simply, yummy, and freezes beautifully as well.

I think that’s it. I have to confess, I don’t eat that much pasta. When I do, I am a big fan of DeCecco Penne with Trader Joe’s Vodka Marina Sauce with their frozen Turkey Meatballs.

So. Readers? Favorite pasta recipes to share??