Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Frijoles Refritos & Mexican Rice

Here is what you do when you have your wisdom teeth pulled out:

1. Watch the entire season 4 of 30 Rock. And then watch the movie Don Juan de Marco, in which Johnny Depp is mostly shirtless for over and hour and a half.
2. Milkshakes.
3. Listen to the ever lovely and whimsical Blossom Dearie on repeat:
4. Write thank you notes and emails.
5. Make refried beans and mexican rice.

Getting my teeth out was my first surgery ever, and let me tell you what frightens me: There are gaps in my memory. I remember waking up out of the druggy stupor, but I have no idea how I made it from the surgery to my bed at home, even though I was conscious. These HOLES in my memory, they're dark and strange, and the little I can remember, it's like looking through tarnished mirror, or murky pond. The memory just isn't there, which is freaky. My mother tells me that I got to ride in a wheel chair. I've always wanted to ride in a wheel chair. AND I CAN'T REMEMBER.

I also had some spectacular daydreams. One of which was animated, like a cartoon. There were giraffes.

Today, however, I am mostly back to normal, and my mom has stopped offering to make me milkshakes, so I'm pretty certain I'm on the rebound. I made myself frijoles refritos or refried beans and mexican rice. For the uninformed, these are the "mashed potatoes" of Tex-Mex cooking, and basically accompany every main course you can think of. They are soft and comforting and delicious and hearty and my comfort food, especially when topped with a grating of cheddar cheese.

Perfect for my wisdom-toothless mouth.


Frijoles Refritos
from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh

1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
3 cups drained cooked pinto beans, broth reserved
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup reserved bean broth
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt lard in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Allow to heat for another minute, then add the beans and mash them for 2 minutes with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the salt. Add the bean broth and the black pepper and continue mashing until the beans reach the desired consistency. Tex-Mex beans are generally chunky rather than soupy.
Note: If you don't have time to cook a pot of beans, start with canned pinto beans. (Two 16 oz cans are perfect for this recipe.)

Mexican Rice
from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh

2 cups chicken broth
1 tomato coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup raw white rice
2 serrano chiles
1/2 cup minced carrots
pinch of ground cumin
pinch of black pepper

In a blender, combine the broth, tomato, and garlic. Puree and set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy-lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the raw rice; saute until it turns opaque without browning. Add the broth puree, chilies, carrots, cumin, and pepper. Salt to taste. Bring the rice to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover tightly and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not remove the lid during cooking. Allow to stand for 5 minutes after turning off the heat.

Note: I made this in the rice cooker. If you do this just be sure to saute the onion and carrots before adding them to the rice in the rice cooker.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Go-to Chocolate Cake

Hey, nerds! Who's got two thumbs, speaks limited French and hasn't cried once today? [Pointing both thumbs at herself] This moi.
-Tina Fey, from 30 Rock

I know exactly how she feels.

I also speak limited French, have two thumbs, and haven't cried today.

It's been a good day.

And that is very, very sweet.

I baked a chocolate cake for the occasion but didn't take a photo. Which is a pity, because it was the best chocolate cake I've ever made, due to the incredible frosting. I've gotten weird about frosting. I want fluffy mountains of gently sweetened chocolate on my chocolate cakes. Not too rich buttercream, not heavy ganache. I want plain jane, honest to goodness, really simple, no fuss, no egg white, simple as can be, workaday, delicious, as-low-maintenance-as short-hair-frosting.

And this frosting is all of the above. I am in love with this frosting. And this cake. It is bliss on a fork. It is my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

I am so proud.
And did I mention that I'm graduated?


Best Ever Plain Jane Chocolate Cake
from The Gourmet Cookbook

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Go-to Chocolate Frosting
from Allrecipes.com

1 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arugula, Potato and Green Bean Salad with Creamy Dressing

I do not handle life’s little mess-ups well. Rather, I do not handle MY personal mess-ups very well.

I freak.

Which, of course reminds me of the importance of living beautifully.
Though I can’t control everything, i.e. forgetting things, shrieking at a stranger who I thought was my cousin (REALLY HE LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE MY COUSIN) and misunderstanding people and generally making a fool of myself, I can create the spaces I inhabit. I can put postcards of New York City and ladies in bonnets on my walls if I want to. I can choose the clothes I wear, the people I spend time with, the music I listen to, the books I read.

And I can eat beautiful things.

Like this salad.

Also, this is the 101 post on this blog. I am so proud.



Arugula, Potato and Green Bean Salad, with a Creamy Dressing
From SmittenKitchen who adapted from
Martha Stewart

I will admit that I know virtually nothing about this recipe. My mother dearest made it last night and it is very very good. So I am posting it with the disclaimer that I didn't actually do any of the work. Were I to actually make it, I would toss a poached or fried egg on top, because I adore eggs. We ate this with stilton and steak and strawberries. But I don't think steak is very photogenic. So all you get is salad.

Makes 8 small salads or 4 larger ones

1 ounce walnuts (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, or red new potatoes cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
6 ounces haricots, verts, or other green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
2 tablespoons white wine or other mild vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
3 ounces baby arugula

Preheat oven to 375°. Place walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a colander to drain and cool. Set aside.

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Return pan of water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook until tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Drain.

Whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Set dressing aside.

Arrange arugula, potatoes, and green beans on a platter. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with toasted walnuts; toss to coat.