Saturday, February 12, 2011

There are amazing potatoes out there.

I got some dry-farmed potatoes from Little Organic Farm at  Berkeley Bowl and they were mind-blowingly good, altering the my view of the potato's capacity to be flavorful.  I previously thought of potatoes as just a bland starch to be used as a palette for other flavors. But these have a vivid earthy flavor that is amazing even without salt, pepper, or butter (although they are still a welcome addition).

High-end Bachelor Food: Grld Chz & Lentils

I'm cooking quickly for myself this evening, and so I made an Emmental grilled cheese.  I also had some lentils and mixed vegetables that I cooked earlier as described in my cooking for BVI post, with a big dollop of sour cream.

Grilled cheese is a standard item that's taken off recently, with whole restaurants specializing in them. Having done a few dozen in my time, I got my own method.  The important thing, as always, is having good ingredients.  My favorite is Emmetaler cheese, with Alvarado sprouted bread (or Ezekiel Bread).  I have been experimenting with ketchups and went with spicy Australian Ketchup For Grownups on this one.  

The technique is this:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bean and cheese burrito (ultra-deluxe edition)


  • spinach
  • tortillas
  • butter
  • cabot extra sharp cheddar
  • onion
  • bell pepper, orange (red also ok)
  • adzuki beans
  • sour cream
  • cilantro


  1. Cook and season the adzuki beans (some mix of turmeric, coriander, and cumin would be good; don't over-do it).  You can also cheat by heating canned beans in a covered bowl in the microwave.  Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans would work well here.

Basic Equipment

There's about five tools that I use to cook just about everything.  They are:

8" chef's knife.  It's worth spending $100 on this, since they last a long while and get daily use.

I've had my J.A. Henckels Zwillingswerk knife for . . . gosh, 14 years?  I love it.  Wustof and Global are also good choices.  I've used a 6-inch Henckel's chef's knife for a while at my parent's house and might even prefer it to the eight inch; when I get another knife that'll be the one.  A lot of people will tell you that a paring knife is important to have.  I have one, but I only use it when the chef's knife needs to be cleaned and I'm lazy.

Twelve inch stainless steel skillet or sauté pan.  It should be silver, because that's the color that stainless steel is.  Not black or nonstick.  I have an All-Clad; if I was on a budget I'd get the Sur La Table house brand.

Cheesy Potatoes

The last say of sailing in the BVI I had a bag of potatoes, an onion, and a half-pound of cheese left, and we were returning the boat by 11am.  Therefore, we had cheesy potatoes for breakfast.  It goes like this:

I was working with small red potatoes (often called "creamers").  Boil the potatoes in water for about 15 minutes until you can get a skewer through them kind of easily, but not really easily.  You want them "par-boiled" or almost-cooked.  Drain the water and cut them into quarters.

Cooking For a Boatload of Vegetarians

To cook for four people on a sailboat for a week in the British Virgin Islands, three of whom were vegetarians, I walked the bulk aisle of Berkeley Bowl to look for dried goods that I could bring along with me and that would be versatile in making lunches and dinners.  In particular, I was looking for protein sources, which can be hard to find for vegetarians when you're shopping in the islands.

I compiled this list of directions for those staples, and since I already had it typed out I thought I would share along with notes on how they worked out.  I hadn't been very conscious  of Fantastic Foods as a brand before this trip, but my friend Alex -- a fairly dedicated meat-eater -- said the veggie burger from their mix was the best one he'd ever eaten.  The hummus and falafel were both also very good and convenient.

Directions for cooking things for BVI

Fantastic Foods Falafel

(1) In a large bowl add 1.25 c water to bag of falafel mix
(2) Let stand 15 mins [I only waited about 5 minutes and it was fine]
(3) Form mix into 1” balls, add 1tbsp water if feels too dry [I had to add several more tablespoons]
(4) Heat ½” of oil to ~375 deg [not really necessary to have a thermometer . . . about medium-high heat, watch how fast they are cooking, and if the oil starts to smoke pick up the pot or turn it off until it stops]
(5) Fry falafel balls for about 3 mins

Fantastic Foods Nature Burger

(1) Mix equal amounts of veg burger mix and boiling water in a bowl; ¼ c for each 3” veg patty
(2) Let stand for 10-15 mins until cooled and stiff
(3) Form into ½” thick by 3” diameter patty
(4) Pan-fry on medium heat [if you made thicker patties you may want to cover while doing so to ensure the center gets hot]

Fantastic Foods Powdered Hummus

I've taken this stuff camping before, and it worked well on the boat also.  Only marginally less good than store bought hummus and much easier to transport.  Add pine nuts, more olive oil, salt/pepper, and/or paprika to the top to make it fancier.

(1) Mix 1 cup dry hummus in bowl with 1-1/2 cups warm water
(2) Add 3 tbsp olive oil
(3) Stir with fork
(4) Chill for five minutes


(1) Soak ahead of time for a few hours (optional for Adzukis)
(2) Cover beans in pot with water plus an inch or so
(3) Bring to boil
(4) Simmer for 40 mins to an hour for Adzukis, 2 hours for black beans
(5) Season to taste


The most ridiculously-easy to cook grain.

(1) Add 1.25 c boiling water to 1c couscous in a bowl
(2) Let sit five minutes


I make lots of this at home and freeze it in small tupperwares to have as a side.

(1) Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil. That means medium-high heat for about five minutes. You can put the onions in five minutes before the carrots so they get more time to carmelize if you want.
(2) Add twice as much water as you have lentils to the sautéed stuff, and add bullion (or I prefer "Better Than Bullion" brand, which comes in a jar).
(3) Add the lentils. "French" lentils (not actually from France) are my favorites.
(4) Bring to boil
(5) Simmer partly covered until lentils are al dente, about 25 minutes. I like mashing it partly with a stick blender or a hand potato masher.

Forbidden Black Rice (Lotus Foods)

(1) Add 1.25c water to 1 c rice
(2) Bring to boil
(3) Cover and simmer for 25 minutes

Cooking Dried Beans

Unless you are dealing with fast-cooking adzukis, put the beans in water anywhere from the night before to noontime, assuming you're cooking them after work.  The exact amount of water doesn't matter -- about half again the volume of the beans.  The cooking times vary, but my favorite two kinds of beans are adzukis and black beans.  The adzukis you can just cook straightaway with no soaking, although a couple of hours will help.

Once they are soaked up, put the beans into a pot with some extra space since it may foam up.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat.  You can add a bit of salt, but keep it light because the liquid will be evaporating, concentrating the salt -- and it's easier to add salt than it is to remove it.  The cooking time will vary based on the beans and how long they were soaked, but most likely it'll be 40 minutes to an hour.  Soaked adzukis might be more like 30.  Once they are cooked, you can pour off extra liquid of you want, or keep them soupy if you prefer.

Once the beans are cooked, they are a blank slate to which you can add flavors.  Add more salt now to your taste.  I like adding black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and some kind of hot sauce.  Cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary are all reasonable choices as well.