Dinner for Three-Caprese Salad with Homemade Mozzarella

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Simply delightful

Well, it seems that I am still a completely unreliable blogger. Some things may never change. Since my last apology for not posting often enough, my wonderful boyfriend and my almost as wonderful best friend and cooking partner have gotten an apartment together. Which leads to the introduction of a new series here at Engineer Food, Dinner for Three, in which me and Larry and sometimes Will prepare a recipe (often from Bon Apetite or the NY Times) and tell you what we think. This being the first installment, however, I feel no need to stick to an established pattern. I’m funny like that.

This time I am going to tell you about a fantastic birthday present that Larry gave me:

Clearly, I was planning on being part of this documentation as evidenced by my wearing an over-sized t-shirt

That’s right folks, a very fancy, Williams-Sonoma cheese making kit. I meant to take pictures the whole way, but I was completely occupied with the whole making mozzarella thing. Sue me. While I was separating my curds and whey and slowly cooking in the microwave. Larry sliced up some tomatoes and bread and retrieved basil from the fridge.

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So damn pretty

Anyway, about 50 minutes after that horrific picture of me was taken, one gallon of whole pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized) milk was turned (with the careful addition of citric acid, rennet and some cheese salt)  into one pound of mozzarella cheese.

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Alright, the texture was a little off but it tasted right.

For Caprese Salad:

  • 2 Ripe Jersey Tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Loaf of Bread, sliced
  • 1 Sprig of Basil
  • 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (Making it at home optional)
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Difficulty Level-Extraordinarily Easy

Before eating, generously salt and pepper the tomato slices.

Cut each slice of bread in half, if they are significantly bigger than the tomatoes. On each half, place several small pieces of mozzarella, a tomato slice, some basil and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Eat with a fork and knife or be a savage and just dig right on in. Enjoy with a light white whine (chilled Chardonnay pictured above).

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Legume Week Day 2-Bowties with White Beans and Carrots

Hello, and welcome to day two of my semi-annual Week on the Cheap! This year the ingredient is Legumes!

The Rules:

  1. Each meal must come in at under $3 a serving
  2. Each meal must be bean based
  3. Each meal must be healthy (This one is easier with beans than it was with Ramen.)

Today’s adventure is Bowties with White Beans and Carrots at $0.60 a serving. This is a fast recipe because I had all of an hour to get home from class, cook, eat and get back to class. At the same time, it would be a great lunch for kids because the beans give it a nice buttery texture and the carrots give it a nice sweetness.

For Bowties with White Beans and Carrots:

  • 1/2 Box of Farfarelle (Bowtie) Pasta-$0.88
  • 1 Carrot, peeled and diced-$0.15
  • 1 Can White Beans, drained-$0.75
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil, and a pinch each of garlic powder and salt-$0.2

Look at all those ingredients

Total cost for 3 Servings-$1.80

Difficulty Level-Junior High Student

Time required-20 minutes

Start boiling water for pasta. Put the white beans in a pot with some salt, olive oil and garlic powder and heat over medium heat. In a microwave safe container, nuke the carrot bits for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the carrots to the beans and allow to cook until the pasta is finished.

Eat quickly and run to class.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 3-(Almost) Vegan Chili

Legume Week Day 1-Lentil Barley Soup

So as some of you are aware, I am a college student. Finals week has just passed. This means, for those of you who don’t remember, that I have spent the entire last week eating at pizza and burger joints. because studying had left me with neither the time nor the energy to cook. That means that this week, I am a poor college student! That’s right kiddies, it’s my Week on the Cheap. Last semester I did Ramen Week. This time, it’s Legume Week!

For those of you who don’t remember, I have 3 rules:

  1. Each meal must come in at under $3 a serving
  2. Each meal must be bean based
  3. Each meal must be healthy (This one is easier with beans than it was with Ramen.)

My first foray (my warm-up, if you will) was a delicious and hearty Lentil Barley Soup coming in at a whomping $0.75 a serving.

Cheap and Satisfying

For Lentil Barley Soup:

1 cup Lentil Beans-$0.60

1 cup Barley-$0.50

1 (large) can Spiced Crushed Tomatoes-$1.79

2 Carrots-$0.30

1 Small Onion-$0.35

3 Celery Stalks-$0.20

3 Sodium-Free Beef Boullion Packets-$0.75

Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder and Red Pepper Flakes-~$0.02

Get them

Total Cost for 6 Servings: $4.50

Difficulty Level-College Student

Time Required-60 minutes

In the heaviest pot you have, heat 2 tbs Olive Oil and as much of each of the spices as your little heart can bear over medium heat.

Now chop up those vegetables

Like so

By the time you finish chopping, those spices should be turning a nice golden brown. Throw them veggies in on top. While you are waiting for them to cook, boil some water for your barley.

This is a good time to read the barley package for cooking instructions

Go back to your veggies, are they soft yet? Awesome. Throw some canned tomatoes and about two cups of water all up in there.

Starting to look like some goddam soup

Let that come to a gentle simmer. Then add not one, not two but three whole beef boullion packets. and mix that shit in.

Oh the beefy goodness

Meanwhile, look: your water is boiling! Measure yourself a cup of barley, dump it in, cover it, turn it to low and go do something else for 20 minutes.

Back? Good.

Now measure yourself a cup of lentils and dump that in to the soup. Go ahead, don’t be shy, mix it in! Now go back to what you were doing for another 20 minutes.

Once you are drawn back by the tantalizing scents coming from your kitchen, throw the barley in the soup and suddenly:

deliciousness

Tune in tomorrow for Pasta with Canneloni Beans!

Butter-free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies? Me, after my remarkably brief stint with Group-Free Weight-Watchers. The amount of calories involved was mortifying. Add to that my natural distaste for butter and you have a good recipe for me looking for alternates. That is, until I found this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe over at All Recipes.

Some more extensive research and some wild guesses lead me to the most delicious cookie I have ever tasted:

I swoon at the memory

They may not be much to look at but by replacing the butter with equal parts applesauce and peanut butter, I took a pretty good cookie and turned it into (with all due modesty, of course) a masterpiece.

First thing’s first, a quick glance at my mise en place. The seasoned baker will notice that I have no white sugar out. There is a very simple explanation for this: I ran out of white sugar. I am also never going back, just try and make me. Besides it is one less white powder to worry about keeping straight (And as someone who has accidentally substituted salt for sugar the fewer similar looking ingredients, the better).

Those little bowls are the best kitchen purchase I have ever made

For those unfamiliar with the term, a mise en place is simply a laying out of all of the materials that will be needed as well as prepping all necessary equipment (ie, getting mixing bowls out and ready, preheating the oven, etc). When you are setting this up it will feel like a massive waste of time (Why can’t I just get the flour out when I need it?) but once you get started, it will make your life a million times easier. Doing it for a cookie recipe is like showing your work in third grade math. Yes, the teacher knows how you got there but you really need to be able to do it well once you get to differential equations. Think of it as practice for Boeuf Bourguignon.

Anyway, back to cookies!

For Delicious Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1/2 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 (or 3/2 if you don’t mind improper fractions) cups Packed Brown Sugar (Or 1 cup Packed Brown and 1/2 cup White)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 tbs Vanilla
  • 1 3/4 (7/4) cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 cups Instant Oats
  • 1 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1 cup Dark Chocolate Morsels
Pre-heat the oven to 325F

Take two bowls: a big one and a small one. Put the flour, salt and baking soda in the small one and gently mix them a little bit. I don’t have a picture of this because it looks remarkably like a large bowl of cocaine and I do not need to go through that again. Besides, its less interesting than the other bowl, which gets the applesauce, peanut butter and brown sugar (and white sugar if you insist).

And mixy mixy mixy

Thoroughly mix the three together and add the two eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Then mix in the vanilla extract.

Or, if you are me, Generic Brand Genuine Artificial Vanilla Extract Substitute

A bit at a time (because, believe me, the last thing you want is for the cops to barge in on you when you have what you swear is flour all down your front) add the dry mix, making sure that all of the flour is combined before moving on to the next bit.

Peanut butter does make this harder to mix than normal butter.

Fold in the nuts, chocolate and oats.

Arm workout ahoy!

Drop that into vaguely cookie like shapes and cook for 10-12 minutes or until just browned. And suddenly,

Cookies!

 

What substitutions have worked for you? Have any not worked? Let me know in that pretty comment section!

Of Chickpeas and Food Processors

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Do you know what’s awesome? Cooking for lots of people. And baking bread, that too (but more on that next time). Do you know what is less awesome? Having a roommate who is gluten intolerant. At least it was until I discovered a recipe for socca.

Socca is a flatbread made from equal parts chickpea flour and water and, because it is made out of chickpeas and not wheat it is lacking in, well, the wheat proteins that make my roommate severely need to lie down.

To accompany this delectable recipe I decided to make a spinach yoghurt dip and to make a go at hummus.

Unfortunately, I am lacking in chickpea flour. Fortunately, I had a bag full of dried chickpeas, which means it was time to whip out the food processor.

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I have a kinda shitty food processor

Alternating between the food processor and a fine sieve you can end up with a ratio of 3:2 for chickpeas to flour (I had some left over chickpea particles at the end, so your mileage may vary).

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Whisk the flour together with equal parts water, one scallion, a crushed clove of garlic a splash of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt.

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Pour the batter into a skillet lightly coated with olive oil and flip when it can move freely in the pan until lightly browned on both sides. Congratulations, you have just made a hummus pancake.

Recipes:

For the Socca:

1 ½ cups Dried Chickpeas

1 cup Water

1 Scallion (the green part) sliced

1 Clove Garlic, Crushed

1 tbs Salt

2 tbs Olive Oil, divided

For the Chickpea Flour

Check for bad chickpeas (black or cracked) and throw those ones out. Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor on high for one minute. Sift the resultant powder into a bowl. Replace the large chunks into the processor. Repeat three to four more times, or until you have one cup of flour. If you have extra, you can grind the rest in a spice grinder and freeze it in an air-tight container for up to one month.

For the Batter

Combine flour, water, scallion, garlic, salt and half the olive oil. Whisk gently until flour is incorporated. (Note: my end result was a bit on the fluffy side, so you might want to add more water or less flour)

For the Loaf

Pour the batter into a 10-inch oiled skillet and flip after about 3 minutes, or until it becomes unstuck from the pan.

Spinach and Yogurt Dip:

½ Package Spinach

½ cup Plain Yogurt

1 Clove Garlic

1 Scallion

1 Squirt Lemon Juice

1 tbs Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Steam the Spinach in a microwave for 2 minutes. Combine everything in the (cleaned) food processor and process until homogenous.

“Hummus”:

So… I tried making hummus without tahini. The texture ended up being more like falafel, but it was still freaking delicious, so it shall be included here.

1 cup dried chickpeas

½ cup olive oil

1 dash lemon juice

1 clove garlic

Lemon-Pepper and Salt to taste

For the Chickpeas:

I usually do a quick soak by boiling the chickpeas (or whichever bean) for two minutes in water and then letting them soak for an hour (“quick” refers to not overnight). This will double the volume of the chickpeas.

For the…Compote? Yeah, I’m gonna go with Compote

Combine everything in the (once again cleaned) food processor until it is chunky and delicious.

Enjoy!