Tag Archive | zoom cooking

Zoom Cooking with Amy

It’s such a privilege to be alive at the end of a day to watch the sunset, and I’m grateful for the gorgeous displays of alpenglow we’ve gotten to witness recently. I took a quick break between a zoom webinar and zoom cooking to step out on the deck and enjoy the last of it. Except for the company, it was the best part of the evening.

I’m not having a very good run of recipe selections, so I made Amy choose for next time. This week I selected Shingled Sweet Potatoes with Harissa. Amy said compared to the carrot noodles it was a 10 out of 10. My experience of it was more like a 4. I’m grateful to try a new recipe, anyway.

I loved the idea because the dish looked beautiful the way Molly Baz prepared it. I cut the recipe in half, and Amy made a third of it: hers looked beautiful too, but mine just looked interesting. Also I didn’t have pistachios so I used pecans.

I still haven’t learned the trick to cooking at altitude, after thirty years! Even though they were thinly sliced and baked at 400℉ for an hour, my sweet potatoes still had a stiff crunch. I hate hard sweet potatoes! I do! Also, they were a bit spicier than I could eat much of, so I microwaved my dish for a total of five more minutes and top dressed with some Greek yogurt. Those measures helped, but once you undercook a sweet potato it’s hard to get it right. The leftovers may end up as dog food, Wren loves spicy food, maybe from her New Mexico roots.

Amy’s looks like it ought to look. She used pistachios, and apparently black sesame seeds, and cooked in a little copper pot. She also didn’t baste every quarter hour as instructed, and said that’s why she got a crispy top. I think my problem was more the oven temperature at this altitude. IF I were to make this dish again, and I might for a dinner party, IF I ever host or go to a dinner party again, I’d bake it at 425℉. Even regular potatoes don’t bake like they do at sea level–I don’t know how much of it is altitude, and how much aridity. Everything’s a little quirky up here. At least I used homegrown fennel seeds, and they were the best part of the dish for me. Live and learn! I’m always grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, whether the food succeeds or fails it’s always a win for us.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Carrot Button Noodles

We started off with a salty dog in our RBG glasses that Amy had provided. That’s her refrigerator covered in pictures in the background, and the lights over my living room window above that. Our dish for tonight was Carrot Button Noodles, which Amy found online. I was grateful I had just enough carrots left from the garden to make the dish.

Chopped, cooked til tender–but not quite tender enough–and drained, then into the food processor to puree until smooth–but not quite smooth enough.

I ended up with little bits of carrot in the dough but so what. The recipe calls for potato starch, which wasn’t to be found in the valley, and I’m just as glad. I used half cornstarch and half wheat flour, and liked the consistency of mine. Amy found potato starch, and said hers were really chewy. I went back to the website just now to get the link, and read “When used in doughs, potato starch, when cooked, gives a chewy, translucent, and glossy end-result. They have a silkier mouthfeel than using wheat flour….I like to use potato starch because it’s a little chewier than cornstarch. You cannot use any other flours or starches as the texture will be completely different.” Oh yes I can!

After kneading til it was smooth, we pinched off small bits and rolled into balls, then poked with our pinkies. It said to use a half teaspoon to roll each ball but we both thought that was way too small. I supposed Amy might have enjoyed her chewy buttons better if they were smaller, and I would have appreciated a higher sauce to noodle ratio on mine which a smaller button would have achieved. So now we know that for next time, if there is one.

Boiled about five minutes and drained…

Then topped with the garlic-soy-vinegar sauce. Amy had scallions which would have added nice color and crunch; I did not so I used some finely chopped shallots. Then another fun part, pouring boiling hot vegetable oil over the top, which sizzled, and sprinkling with sesame seeds. Equally fun was eating them. The little button holes caught and held the sauce. Smaller buttons, more buttonholes, more sauce per bite. Which may be the whole point of these noodles. Neither of us tasted a bit of carrot in them, though they were half carrot. But it was so simple, and so delicious. I’ll definitely be making more vegetable noodles this way in the future, if I live long enough. I’m always grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.

Further research, which I wish I had done before we made them, reveals a Chinese video with a different and even more delicious-looking sauce, and slightly different steps. I believe I will make them again, with potato starch. Even if I don’t make the exact noodles, I am definitely going to try this sauce.

Zoom Cooking with Amy

I spent the day cooking. I’m grateful for the strength and energy to cook all day. I cooked down black beans with roasted tomatoes and onions left from the garden, and some oregano from the sunroom. Then rolled up a bean and cheese burrito with sour cream and fermented hot sauce for lunch. For dinner, Amy and I made Bello’s cheesy potato bread, and loaded sweet potatoes.

While the sweet potatoes were baking, we chopped red cabbage, drained garbanzo beans, tossed in some spices, then roasted that mix too. Toward the end of cooking we mixed in some chopped pecans. I forgot the dried cranberries! They were sitting on the counter but I glanced right past them. A tahini dressing with balsamic, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and garlic powder topped the plate. Pretty easy. So delicious. A successful Instagram recipe. And lots of leftovers!

But the day began and ended with bread. This sourdough is so simple, so delicious! Mix a shaggy dough first thing in the morning, let it rise an hour, fold it four times, let it rise eight-ten hours, then four-fold it again and shape into loaves. Another hour and a half rise under a flour-dusted tea towel, and into the oven at 450℉. I’m grateful for all the delicious food I concocted today, for the kitchen, tools, fuel, and time to do so; and for Amy and our time together. I’m grateful for the contentment that settles over me more completely as time goes by: for the dawning recognition that I am enough, just the way I am. It’s taken a long, long time to get here. Some people are just born with it, but for others of us it takes a lifetime of letting go to finally arrive at peace with who we are.

Cheesy Goodness

Grateful as always for Zoom cooking with Amy, spontaneously this evening. A simple snack of Baked Cheese and Onion Dip to go with our adult beverages and easy conversation. Despite the deep freeze nights there were still a few green chives in the garden, and I had a jar of pickled jalapeños in the fridge for zesty garnish. A sweet garden onion from the pantry, some staples of cheese and mayonnaise, and dinner was made. I was horrified to discover NO Ritz! But dug through some old bags of mostly stale tail ends of fancy crackers til I found a serviceable variety, and tossed the old ones in the compost.

Connections

Evening harvest of peppers. Two red bells (one unripe but wounded), two juicy Blots, five Aji crystals, six Chimayos, and a mess o’ jalapeños. I’m grateful for this spicy abundance from the garden, for the resilience of these plants that I started from the miracle of tiny seeds inside in early spring. Amazing!

I’m grateful for a day filled with loving connections with friends old and new, from down the road to Hawaii to the east coast. I’m grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, Instagram Edition. Tonight we opted for simple and quick, and prepared two recipes we’ve seen on Instagram. We started by halving and scoring some small potatoes as the butter melted in a sheetpan in the oven. We grated parmesan and tossed in spices of our choosing, mixed those with the butter in the pan, then pressed the potatoes cut side down onto the yummy goo, and cooked for about half an hour at 425℉.

While the potatoes cooked, we of course mixed our martinis, and then chopped leeks into one-inch lengths, and seared them in butter.

First one side…
…then the other
Then we steamed them in stock for about five minutes, removed the lid, and mixed in some miso (I used red, she used white), tamarind paste, and a splash of Dijon mustard, stirring until the sauce coated the leaks and thickened just a little.
And that was our dinner. So simple, so delicious.
I read to harvest jalapeños by holding the pepper at the base and pushing up: turns out when they’re ready the just pop right off the stalk that way. I checked a few and ended up harvesting a lot. Also read to harvest them often so they’ll keep producing. We’ve got at least a month before first frost, so I’m hoping this huge harvest will result in more by the end of the season.
Since peppers are one of the few veggies that freeze well without being blanched, I halved all the jalapeños, scooped the pith and seeds out, and laid them on a tray to freeze. This way I can grab a handful whenever I want to make some poppers. Apparently you can just load them with filling straight from the freezer and put them right in the oven. We’ll know more later!

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Herb Roasted Potatoes

…with feta-yogurt dip, chopped nuts, and scallions…

All I knew was potatoes and feta, and all I had to do was show up with the ingredients. Amy talked me through the recipe. How thick to slice the potatoes, how long to boil them, how much of which herbs to toss in with onions and potatoes to roast…

…how much feta and yogurt, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper to blitz in the food processor for the delicious sauce… to line the bowl with the sauce, spoon the roasted vegetables on top, sprinkle with nuts and scallions, and drizzle with honey. We sipped our cocktails and talked of many things as we cooked and ate, as we always do. I can hardly recall a single one of them. I’m grateful for the easy, long friendship (is it 50 years? 51?) that we get to continue across the continent with zoom cooking, and grateful for all the great dishes we’ve made together in person and apart. I’m grateful for locally grown, organic potatoes from Farm Runners, and for custom grocery delivery from P&P. I’m grateful for perennial scallions in my garden from early spring through late fall.

In the midst of cooking I paused to split the bread dough in two and set it on the warm stove to rise in loaf pans. I’m grateful for the sourdough starter that Ruth gave me oh so many years ago still going strong, for the new standard loaf pans I bought from King Arthur to finally replace the oversize pans I inherited from my mother oh so many years ago, for the persistence to try this recipe again and again learning a little more each time how to bake at high altitude.

I’m grateful that this time, I think I finally got it right. I won’t quite know til I slice the loaves tomorrow. They just came out of the oven and need to cool completely before I take the serrated bread knife to them, but they look and sound just right.

I’m grateful for a slow, quiet morning in the garden, and the gorgeous snapdragons I grew from seed which are just now starting to bloom. I’m grateful for connections with friends and cousins here and afar throughout the day, and grateful that as far as I know everyone I love woke up alive this morning. Not everyone did, and that stark reminder highlights the value of each precious day and every act of kindness, compassion, and connection it holds. I’m grateful for mindfulness practice, and the healthier perspective it’s brought to all aspects of life, from the personal to the political and the planetary. I’m grateful.

42+

The most perfect western tiger swallowtail I have ever seen. She must have just emerged from her cocoon. Not a tear or tatter on her as she feeds on the perennial onions in full bloom the past couple of weeks.

It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…

Honeybee on the crabapple tree a couple of weeks ago.

42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.

I don’t know western bumblebees well enough to identify this one who was enjoying the lilacs in their glory. I also enjoyed them every single day of their bloom, snipping a couple of clusters each evening to bring inside for their fleeting, saturating scent.
I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy a couple of weeks ago…
…grateful for Topaz and Wren getting along…
…for the claret cup blossoms…
…for garden asparagus from Kim, and for pesto with cashews and garden arugula, and for the Instagram inspiration to combine them…
I’m grateful that Garden Buddy had some extra plastic jugs after a well-meaning neighbor crushed all those I’d been saving to use for frost protection. Grateful to have all the little peppers and tomatoes in the ground, just in time for the last freeze–ha!–but saved by the jugs.
Grateful for Boyz Lunch again outside, with a fantastic frittata and orange chiffon cake…
… and for the silly pleasure of a successful latté stencil.
I’m grateful for daily Wordle laughs with cousin Melinda, and the gentle, mind-tickling competition between us.
Grateful for pea flowers a few days ago, and the first fragile pea pods just forming today.
Grateful for this bean sampler and a couple of extra treats from this small, fabulous heirloom bean company, and grateful to SB for turning me onto them. Looking forward to making many healthful meals with these dried goodies as the garden harvest comes in.
Grateful for time with this little old man who stayed with us the past week while his mama traveled. Almost fifteen, and I’ve known him since he was a pup. Dear old Rocky is grey and wobbly now, but still full of spunk in the morning. He’s teaching Wren some good habits, and we’re trying to preclude her learning some bad ones as well.
And finally, I’m grateful for this little cuddlebug, who softens my heart more and more each day with her irrepressible Piglet energy and her unconditional love.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Empanadas

It’s been a busy winter. We haven’t zoom-cooked in a long time. She said, “What shall we make?” I said, “Empanadas.” She found recipes and that was that. I’m always grateful for zoom cooking with Amy.
Topaz and I were both grateful to wake up alive this morning, just in the nick of time to start the fullness of another precious day. I used sour milk for the latte. That was disappointing, but I still had time to make a pot of regular coffee before a zoom meeting. I tried to drink it, I really did, and it didn’t taste bad, but I couldn’t get past the curdled foam. Had it been the last cup of coffee in the house, I might have drunk it. I’m grateful I had a choice.
We made the dough in a food processor, which works, but sometimes you have to pour out the damp sand of dough and form it together on the board. These piles became two discs which I chilled while I took Topaz for a walk. We had about an hour before Zoom time.
Caption?
We paused to sit together in the sun west of the house. But it was cold, so we didn’t stay out long.
Back inside, I made the empanada filling. Diced shiitake mushrooms and shallots, sautéed slowly in butter; when that was cooked, some chopped raisins and leftover chicken breast shredded, with a couple splashes of thick balsamic vinegar. Then it was time to send the link, and make a drink.
Amy wanted Palomas for our south of the border dinner, so we each whipped up one of those. She actually put a pepper mix in with the salt on her rim. Two ounces fresh grapefruit juice (thanks, Kathleen!), two oz Tequila, ½ oz lime juice, and a splash of agave syrup, shaken and poured over ice, then topped with a few ounces of sparkling water. It was delicious.
The recipe said to roll and cut the dough, but Amy read we could use tortilla presses, and what a brilliant idea. Perfect thickness, perfect size, and no wasted dough.
In went the filling with grated Swiss…
… pastries folded, sealed, and brushed with egg yolk…
…and baked til golden brown. They were not nearly so hard or complicated as we both thought they’d be. See where expectations get you? This was a great example of misperception, projection, exaggeration. A tiny example, but still, an example. What on earth made us think that making empanadas was going to be hard? They turned out perfectly, tasty and beautiful. And above all they were really fun to make!
She made a fancy salsa with cilantro and chili paste. I didn’t have either, but I did have leftover parsley dip from the other night when I had to use a cup of parsley I’d trimmed off the overgrown indoor plant. That had mayo, sour cream, and garlic in it. To that, I added a generous share of hot sauce and a pinch of paprika, for a perfectly spiced and creamy dipping sauce. We had cookies for dessert. Amy had sent me some chocolate chip cookies she made with walnuts and pecans toasted in butter and salted. She also sprinkled the tops with sugar and a touch of salt. Thanks to the sluggish postal service, my cookies arrived three days late, just in time for zoom cooking with Amy.
Fifty years of friendship as of last September. What a treasure.

Day Two: Beignets

I’m grateful for Day Two of Zoom Cooking with Amy. After making the dough last night, this morning we rolled it and cut it and fried and sugared it, for our first attempt at classic New Orleans beignets.

As usual it was fun, but we were both a bit dissatisfied with the quality of the beignets, though neither of us was sure exactly what they were supposed to be like. We felt that they were more doughy than they should be. She said hers were chewy. Mine were, frankly, an abject failure, overcooked outside and underdone inside. We agreed they wouldn’t pass muster with Paul Hollywood. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in the effort. First, they should have been rolled thinner. Second, they browned much too fast. I surmised, too late, that the oil temperature should be lower than stated, since water boils at a lower temperature at this altitude. Indeed, when I looked it up afterward, I found this:

Deep-Fat Frying: The lower boiling point of water in foods requires lowering the temperature of the fat to prevent food from over browning on the outside while being undercooked on the inside. Decrease the frying temperature about 3°F (1°C) for every 1,000 ft (300 meters) increase in elevation.

Kim Allison, ThermoBlog

But since beignets or doughnuts or pretty much any fried pastry is simply a vehicle for sugar, we both ate plenty of them with our coffee, and laughed about it.

I composted the first batch, rolled the remaining squares thinner, cut them in half, and fried up some more beignet logs. I learned a third lesson here, the reason they are cut square (balanced) and not rectangular: some of them wouldn’t flip over in the oil, kept rolling back onto their first side so I had to hold them over.

A few of them turned out the way I think they’re meant to be, airy in the middle, though even then they were more trouble than they were worth, in my estimation. I’m grateful we did this for the delight of cooking and spending time together, rather than with any attachment to outcome.

Fall

I’m grateful for another beautiful fall day. The brief brutal cold of ‘pre-winter’ has passed. Nights are mild in the twenties and thirties, and days warm up thirty degrees or more. The moon has filled and slowly wanes, days are bright with sun in bluebird skies. (I never understood the ‘bluebird sky’ until I saw a mountain bluebird male.) It’s perfect weather. I’m grateful the old dog is still alive to enjoy a few short wobbles through the woods with Topaz tagging along. Grateful to be learning from him just how much gentleness I possess, and how much more I can stand to grow.

I’m grateful for the golden beauty of my imperfect little aspen tree, its symmetry twisted by a heavy snow years ago. Like me, the tree is flawed but doing its best. I’m grateful for awareness and humility. I’m grateful for the winding down that comes with fall, a welcome transition between the rollicking thrill of garden season and the respite of winter’s hibernation.

I’m grateful too, for the first ever two-part Zoom Cooking with Amy. Tonight we snacked with cocktails, then whipped up a sweet, soft dough for morning. After the dough rests in the fridge overnight, we’ll reconvene with coffee to bake…to be continued!