Friday, June 10, 2011

Culinarious Explorations

lately, Totally Urban Farming has cruised on a comfortable plateau as we adjust to the new summer schedule. pearl and ninja, the dear silkies, have been providing eggs on a daily basis, and only just as of today have we been able to collect 7 in row without using them in something scrumptious!

the neighbor's compact, TUF front-yard garden has begun the bumper yield of golden cherry tomatoes, and this is one of the first handfuls. when she gives them to us, she always tells me they are for col. snuggles (our tomato-gobbling guinea pig). he gets some of them, but i skim a few off the top. they are delicious--just picked and warm, they taste like sundrops!

what follows is a chronicle of some cooking adventures lately.  i love cooking, but i am far from an advanced cook.  i find that rarely anything i make comes out the same way twice.  i guess you could say my cooking style is.....approximate?

I. sauteed tilapia.  i love fish!  all fish!  and some fish are more ethical than others...i intend to assemble a list of ethical edible fish soon.  i have read that freshwater fish like tilapia tend to be a good choice, as they are farmed here in north america and the farming techniques aren't too hard on the environment.  but i should do more research...

we often buy fresh fish at the big box and freeze it, letting it thaw in the fridge or submerging it in cold running water in the sink if we're in a hurry.  tilapia generally holds up to both these treatments well, as long as they are fairly hefty fillets.  i make sure to dry them off very well before sauteeing.

this fish was dipped in one well-beaten egg, then a mixture of unbleached all-purpose flour, breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and dried basil.  then it got sauteed in a mixture of butter/olive oil heated up past the foamy stage.  for crispy flaky goodness, i think it was maybe 2-3 minutes a side? yum.

II. rotisserie chicken.  we got the toaster oven that has a rotisserie function as a wedding gift, and it is one of the most useful appliances i've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  we use the rotisserie aspect of it more than the toaster!

it is great for cooking smallish chickens around 3 lbs, cornish game hens, and the occasional pork/beef/lamb roast.  we have even done ducks up 5 lbs, and it works like a champ.  it's awesome in the summer too, because it doesn't heat up the house like the oven does. 

this was a farmer's market bird, about 3.7lbs.  i rubbed it with olive oil/seasalt/garlic powder/paprika/rosemary/basil, stuffed it with a carrot and garlic cloves, trussed it, and let it roast-isserie for about an hour and 20.  i started the cabbage when the chicken had about 10 minutes left to go, and let it sit while i finished everything.

III. purple cabbage.  one of my favorite vegetables for its flavor, color, cheapness, and ability to last forever. i start by melting 1-2 tablespoons of butter in my biggest pan, waiting until after it foams, and then toss the cabbage in there.  i kind of semi-stir fry it for a little bit, until everything looks buttery, and then i add chopped up garlic or green garlic. then comes a substantial glug of white wine (or red, depending on what i'm drinking!), and i let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, with the occasional stir.  the color turns really lovely and translucent, and it becomes sweet and tender.

IV. jalapeno-cilantro soup **SEMI-FAIL**.  it looks good, and it had really good stuff in it (cream, avocado, farmers market onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes). but the recipe called for...i kid you not...EIGHT cups of heavy cream. (8).  which is a stunning amount of heavy cream.  determined to give the delicious-sounding soup a shot, i bravely executed the steps of the recipe.  but i freaked out after adding 3.5 cups of heavy cream, so i improvised with some on-hand half-and-half. i abandoned dairy addition after another cup of that, however.  i physically couldn't deal with that much cream!

but we tried the soup anyway, and it was extremely rich, even after my cream-reducing freak out.  much more like a sauce or fancy dip rather than soup.  frankly, we didn't like it much.  and i hate when i go out of the way to make something that sounds so delicious, and then we don't like it!  what a waste!

but fear not: we gave the leftovers to the neighbor, and she said she loved it. THANKS BONNIE!  it is so good to have neighbors!

V. chocolate mousse.  after the creamy soup fiasco, i had some heavy cream left over.  it was burning a hole in my sweet tooth pocket. (i'm not sure that actually makes sense, but you get my meaning.) i had the thought that chocolate mousse could be pretty easily made out of heavy whipping cream.

I WAS TOTALLY RIGHT.  i whisked it vigorously (a great workout!) until soft peaks stuck around.  then i melted some chocolate chips and folded them in.  THEN i poured it in coffee cups and covered it with saran wrap, and stuck it in the fridge.

one hour later: BAM. chocolate mousse as good as i've ever had in a restaurant.  so worth the curse of the creamsoup!

at any rate, i've been pleased with my cooking adventures lately.  for the record, i've also been "training" for a "5k" that i'm "going to be doing" here at the end of next week.  (it's true, i've been really jogging and stuff.  i'm kind of proud of that, but i'm not bragging, because i'm not sure how long it's going to last! but i'm glad i'm doing the race!) also, exercising regularly makes me feel very entitled to delve into as much culinary experimentation as i like.  so there!  stay tuned!


  1. I think the Monterrey Bay Aquarium has a list of sustainable fish on its website.

  2. I just followed you. I am currently trying to finish my blog so I can delve into yours! I cannot wait to read about your cooking...I've only browsed the pictures and already I am inspired and motivated! Gracias~