01 April 2017

Martha Washington Cooking in March

No fooling, I did cook from a historical cookbook in March - I just didn't get around to writing the post.  So here it is!  I thought of pulling out Apicius for the Ides of March, then I found the Martha Washington cookbook I'd originally intended to use on President's Day.  So I thought I'd see what she has to offer.  Since I've given up wheaten goods for Lent, I had to ignore all the recipes for baked items, of course, and figure out how to do a balanced meal from the ones included in the cookbook.

As with Thomas Jefferson's cookbook, there were few recipes for vegetables.  Most were how to grow the vegetable, or how to preserve it.

Looking at the list, I decided to make "sparragus" (asparagus) which is plentiful in March, and use the Seasonal Pickle from my CSA, which is a lacto-fermented collection of whatever odds and ends they have when they are making that particular batch of pickle.  This one includes carrots, various greens, and some onion.

For the meat I am using fish, and although the recipe is for trout, that's surprisingly expensive, so I went with a filet of tuna from the freezer. Needing a starch, and not being able to bake bread or biscuits, I found a steamed pudding that uses oats instead of wheat flour:
I used steel-cut oats, and instead of letting it simmer all night, pulled out my small crockpot, which I have used to cook steel-cut oatmeal in the past.
I used "high" to heat a pint of milk, then following the 4:1 ratio on the carton of oats, I added a half-cup of steel-cut oats.  After leaving it to cook on low overnight, it was cooked but still milky.

I chopped up a bunch of spinach and about half a bunch of flat-leaved parsley, and stirred them into the oats in the crockpot along with an egg.  I debated whether to use a second egg; it's hard to guess sizes of eggs then versus now, and I generally assume the eggs are smaller, so making a half-recipe meant I could use one large egg instead.

Once this was mixed, I took some muslin and wetted it, then rubbed on cornmeal.  I placed it in a bowl to make filling it with the pudding mixture easier.

I tied off the pudding and set it into a pot of simmering water, tying the string to a wooden spoon placed over the top to make it easier to fish out.  Then I went away for an hour or so, checking periodically and adding water once or twice.
The asparagus was just steamed a bit, that was easy.  For the fish, I followed the recipe on "How to Boyle a Trout", although using a single tuna steak instead of a while fish "cut in pieces" - fillets? steaks?  My guess would be the former, but I was working from my freezer.

This is white wine (from a local winery, plus a splash of champagne left from making New Year's celebratory cupcakes), a lump of butter, a bit of minced ginger, and a sprig of rosemary from my kitchen pots.  I thought it might be a bit large, but I like rosemary, so took a chance.

Since the tuna steak was a bit thick, I cooked it for a few minutes, then turned it and cooked the other side until the piece was done to my liking.

At this point, I took out the pudding, unwrapped it, and arranged the plate:
Seasonal pickle is top left, and simply steamed asparagus at top right.  I chose thin stalks and had to cut them in half due to the size of the pan.  The pudding is to the left of the fish, and I thought another egg might have been a good idea because it was somewhat falling apart.  Of course, I'd had to guess at proportions of the "hearbes" to oats, and was trying to not put in too many so the oats would also keep it together.

For the fish, I think next time I will add a bit more ginger and a bit less rosemary.  I love it, but that was definitely too much and starting to overwhelm the dish.  The pickle added a welcome tang to the overall dish.  Definitely a meal I'll try again, with adjustments.

Since there was quite a lot of pudding, I put it into the refrigerator.  Cold, it was much more cohesive.  Warmed, it made a nice breakfast with a bit more pickle on the side.
I've already decided on the April cookbook, and will work on getting that report posted more promptly after cooking.  In the meantime, it's an icy day outside, and I might try the fish again as a nice warming meal.  No fooling!

15 March 2017

Pi Day Cookery

Many geeky people celebrate March 14th as "Pi Day", because the number begins 3.14.  Many of my friends talked about the pies they were making for lunch or supper, ranging from simple names or descriptions to photos of pies with "π" cut into the top crust, or with the number cut or stamped around the border.

Because we were having a bit of weather here (Blizzard Stella, or whatever it was called), I continued my pantry cooking plans.  Having given up gluten for Lent meant I could not do my usual quick pie crust and bake something yummy.  I didn't think to pick up potatoes, or a Shepherd's Pie would be the easy answer.  Then I realized I've had some spaghetti squash waiting to be used, so a Spaghetti Squash Pie it would be!

First. baking the squash.  Into the oven in a baking tray with some water in it at 350°F.  Then a colleague needed help and it was almost two hours before I got back to them, which was more time than needed but luckily they didn't explode or get mushy.  This was on Monday, and I had some with a quick tomato sauce and the last couple slices of provolone from an Italian cheese tray.  Not bad.  The rest I seeded and fluffed and put into the refrigerator for Tuesday, along with a package of tomatoes from the freezer, so they would have time to thaw.  It happened to be the package from which I have taken tomatoes for other recipes, so was a bit under two cups of roasted tomatoes.

There seemed to be a pinhole in the bag, because when it thawed some of the juice ran out.  I didn't mind because this left the pulp and saved me having to simmer it to concentrate the sauce.

Before cooking, I did a quick bit of research for vegetarian spaghetti pies, to get some idea of the proportions of egg and so forth.  Most agree on two eggs although some say you can use more.  This was my starting point for the dish:
The cheese is a local product, a hard, aged cheese that I thought would sub well for Parmesan: Niantic Abbey from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm.  It has been in the 'fridge since I bought it at a farmers' market last summer, and I decided to use it so I can get some fresh this year.  I had to carve off the rind, which had gotten a bit moldy, but the cheese was fine.
I grated it on the shreds side of my new(ish) box grater.  When I was almost moving last year, I bought it (on sale for $4.99!) for my temporary apartment.  After I returned, I decided it was time to retire (recycle) my old box grater, which was not stainless steel and hard to clean.  This one is a treat!

First I shredded about a quarter cup of cheese to go into the crust, then finished the rest and set it aside for later.  I guessed at how much spaghetti squash would be equivalent to the pasta used in the recipes.  Then I mixed these with my hands, patted and spread it in the pie pan which I had oiled, and put it into the oven for about ten minutes while I made the sauce.

For the sauce, I sliced the scallions (left from St. David's Day) and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil with some minced garlic.  Then I added herbs and spices, including basil from my CSA which I had dried to keep through the winter, and some oregano, fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes, a bit of parsley.
I cooked this together for about a minute, then added the tomatoes.  I pulled out the rack with the crust on it, and spread the sauce in it.  Then I baked this for about twenty more minutes.

After that, I spread on the rest of the shredded cheese.  I thought I'd have some for later, but nope!  It's hard to see in the lefthand photo, but the crust was getting solid and crusty next to the pie pan.

After ten minutes, it was toasty, and the cheese had released oil.
I let the pie sit for a few minutes and the oil was absorbed.  Letting something like this sit for a few minutes is necessary so that it will slice neatly:
It's tasty, and the intensity of the roasted tomatoes and the intensity of the cheese play well with each other.  The other flavours are very subtle by comparison, and if I had not been hungry I would have played with the herbs a bit more.  The onion cooked down and was quite mellow.

And now I have pie to eat for lunch all week!

If you want to know how much snow we got, this picture shows the same view just after dawn, when it had been snowing for a few hours already, and just before sunset:
There had been no snow in this area the night before.  Total in my town was 14.5 inches, officially.

11 March 2017

Freeform (and Others) UFO Blog Hop

Among creative types, "UFO" means an Un-Finished Object.  Most of us have a lot of these, because we run into a creative block, or the piece becomes unwieldy, or we put it aside for some reason.  We try to encourage each other to finish UFOs, and every year in October a lovely lady named Afton hosts a UFO Completion Month on the KnitTalk list.  People post when they have completed the item and Afton sends out Prizes Of No Significant Worth with the able assistance of her Dragon-Slaying Daughter and Lara Girlcat (others of the household remain amusedly out of the way) which most recently consisted of individual pages from Franklin Habit's I Dream of Yarn and wee packs of crayons.

Everybody is delighted.

However, this is just once a year, and I have a number of other UFOs.  So when my friend Karen announced that she was hosting a UFO group, I jumped aboard.  Because Karen designs and teaches freeform beading projects (a couple of which I own, and which do not yet qualify as UFOs because I haven't started them), most of the people who joined are also beaders, but she said it is OK for me to use fiber projects as my goals.

Although I have a few other UFOs (two of which are baby blankets, but of course I cannot post about those, and one really only needs to have its ends woven in, and it's a generic one that I'm putting "in stash" for some future baby, but I digress) I decided to focus on three shawls I've started for myself, partly because of their age, and partly because people say I never make things for myself.  Which isn't entirely true, but I digress again.

One of the shawls will have beads added at the end, so it somewhat fits with everybody else's projects:

It is a ball of Taiyo Sock (which is apparently no longer being made because the Noro Yarn page just lists worsted and sport weights) that I bought at Madelinetosh a few years ago.  The pattern is an adaptation of one I was given with a ball of Kureyon Sock in a fiber guild holiday gift swap.  The pattern alternates stockinette and reverse stockinette, and after making it I decided to use all stockinette for this one because the alternating bands act as ribbing and I have to keep re-blocking the other shawl.  Since Taiyo Sock is so light, I decided to add beads to the final stripes to give it some weight.  Since I generally center-pull yarn, it was easy to determine what the colours would be and find a tube of beads that should work.  I'll report later this year if I finish and what I think of the result.

Another shawl is made from hand-dyed, handspun yarn from Iris Creek Farm.  I am doing it all in garter stitch because I think the stripes look pretty.

There is no pattern, I'm just doodling in different directions.  I'm sorry it's hard to see the directions in the full shawl picture, but when it's finished they should be more visible.  You can see the border I am doing crosswise to the previous section on the left side of the photo.

Finally, the shawl I started as part of a Knit Along when I was temporarily living and working in Wisconsin and needed something to do.  MarlyBird created the pattern and led people through it, and I just had too much solo commuting time and not enough knitting time.  Then I moved and lost track and........  

I need to get back to it.  This will be a nice big shawl that will be handy for travel, and I used a washable yarn specifically for that reason.  I'll be able to wash it easily no matter how grubby, and not worry about blocking, which the natural-fiber ones tend to need.  I love the colours, especially that pop of pewter between the blue and purple.

Some of the other participants have finished at least one UFO so far this year, but I've been dealing with deadlines (one of the aforementioned baby blanket, and items for the annual grad collection done by the mommas of Mittens for Akkol), so these are still in progress.  I have done some more on the Taiyo Sock shawl, but hope to finish the handspun one this year for sure.  To check out the other blogs in this hop:

26 February 2017

Presidents Day cookery with Thomas Jefferson

My company gives us Presidents Day off, so I decided it would be a good date for the monthly cooking experiment with old recipes.  I picked a book at random, chose some recipes, and made a shopping list.  I had projects around the house and didn't want to waste time on Monday, so I planned to shop ahead and not need to go out for additional items.

Then I thought that since it was Presidents Day, shouldn't I be cooking from a presidential cookbook?  I knew I had one or two someplace, and first looked for Martha Washington's since it's George's birthday after all.  Instead I found this one:
Since Mr. Jefferson was known as a bit of a gourmet, this seemed perfect, especially in light of the recent news about the discovery of Sally Hemmings' room.  The only problem would be to find recipes that would work with what I have in the house, so I didn't have to go out again!

I'd bought chicken (specifically, skinless boneless breasts, in part because they were on sale, and in part because I didn't feel like dealing with waste, and in part because they are most adaptable to all kinds of recipes, and in part because thighs - my usual preference - were not available, at least not at a good price) so I looked for a recipe using that, with other pantry items, and found:
Other than the meat jelly (a thickened, congealed stock used for seasoning), I was set!  Sadly, the book has almost no vegetable recipes - salsify, parsnips, potatoes, and some that look odd to modern eyes: polenta and macaroni, which we would put into a chapter about starches or grains or otherwise.  I thought about doing polenta with the chicken, but the recipe bakes the polenta with cheese and that was more flavours than I felt like mingling.

So I looked for desserts, and when I saw this one I thought it perfect, since Jefferson is credited with having introduced macaroni to the colonies and newly-born USA:
As you can see, I had everything on hand (eggs were in the refrigerator):
Usually I would use fresh cow's milk.  I always have some canned or boxed milk in the pantry in case of emergencies, and on Monday could find only a last container of soymilk from when I used it to bake for a group that contained some lactose- and milk-intolerant persons.  It would have to do.

I halved the amounts, using two large eggs instead of the five indicated, and followed the directions pretty much as written.  First, I simmered the noodles in the milk until done, about twenty minutes:
Then I stirred in the sugar (3/8 cup) and some rosewater. Since that's a tricky flavouring, I erred on the side of not much, and ended up with about 3/4 of a teaspoon, which turned out to be not enough.
Following this I beat the eggs and added them to the noodle mixture.  I did this so I would just have to stir them together, and thus not break up the noodles too much.
After that, into my handy casserole to bake.  Since no temperature was given, I set my oven at about 350(F), reducing it to 300(F) when I started the chicken.  By the way - is anybody else amused when you see those "like if you remember this" memes on Facebook, and it's an item you own and use regularly?  Yep, something close to this showed up recently, and I have several in different sizes.
Going into the oven.
Halfway cooked, still liquid in the center.
After it had baked about a half-hour (righthand picture), I started on the chicken.  Since one of the essays at the front of the cookbook said that Jefferson was interested in the oils used and worked to get olive oil for Monticello's kitchens, that's what I used in the recipe:
By the way, this was one breast from a package of four very large ones, which I cut apart into more manageable pieces.  The other three breasts went into the freezer for future cooking adventures.  Since a whole chicken would weight three to five pounds, but has a lot of not-edible-for-this-purpose portions such as bones and skin, I estimated that a pound of meat would be about half the recipe.

Since I was pantry-scrounging, and don't keep meat jelly in stock, I used twice as much of the cooked-down tomatoes from a package in my freezer.  I have a winter window garden that includes parsley, so that was fresh, but I seem to have used up the last of my garlic bulbs so had to use jarred.  And since I hadn't purchased mushrooms, because they were not needed for the original recipes, I had to use canned ones.  As I'd done last month, I substituted cider vinegar for the (still expensive) lemon, adding a generous tablespoon.
I chopped the larger mushroom pieces.
Ready to simmer.
 I covered the pan and let the ingredients simmer for about twenty minutes, keeping an eye on it in case it dried out and to keep from overcooking the chicken, which is too easy with the boneless, skinless breasts.  I miss-guessed it slightly but the ingredients made enough juice on their own.
When I cook this again I'll use a smaller pan to keep the chicken more immersed in the juices.  I used a large one to make photography easier.  I plated about half the chicken and sauce with about a third of the pudding, once again happy to have oiled the baking pan:

Overall the result was very tasty.  As I said, the chicken was a bit dry, but the sauce fixed that; I added a bit more after taking this picture, since there was plenty in the pan.  It was a tangy sauce because of the vinegar and garlic, but not overwhelmingly so.  A modern cook might simmer down the sauce to make it a bit thicker, and I am considering making polenta to absorb it the next time.  I plan to make this recipe again in the summer with fresh ingredients, and it's likely to go into regular rotation.

The pudding was mild and sweet, definitely not tasting of rosewater except a vague hint now and again.  When I make it again, I plan to use cow milk (the soy taste may have overwhelmed the others) and increase the rosewater to at least a teaspoon per pint of milk, and maybe a bit more.  The cold leftover noodle pudding made a tasty breakfast the next couple of days.

02 February 2017

Cybersecurity and Innovation Panels

I've fallen into one of my crazy-busy periods.  In addition to work's various deadlines I've attended three conferences on cybersecurity and privacy; spoken at a local event about one of my first experiences catching a cybercriminal; and I'm preparing to speak on a panel about creativity, invention, and innovation next week at the Connecticut Historical Society and Library:
My specific topic is how makerspaces, such as MakeHartford, contribute.  Since I'm also part of the Nation of Makers overview group, I said I could talk more broadly about the maker movement in Connecticut.

Moving back in time, at The MOuTH's event on "First Things First" I told about the time I caught a cybercriminal - in part because he sent me contact information because he wanted to fly his plane up and take me out on a date!  Sound improbable?  Can't make up facts like that, nobody will believe them.  The stories that have been collected from The MOuTH's events over the years are being turned into a podcast, so you may get to hear it someday.

Then there was the annual Symposium hosted by the University of Connecticut Law Review.  They had done one in 2014 for the 50th anniversary of the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, and this year's was called "Privacy, Security & Power: The State of Digital Surveillance".  Very interesting, the discussion and perspectives, especially given the changes in Washington right now.

Saturday I helped the Cetacean Society International with a display (and the only sale of the day) at the Amherst Railway Society's annual hobby show.  Sunday I caught up on things before leaving Monday for Washington so that I could attend the ACC Foundation's first Cybersecurity Summit.  A solid and long day of talking to colleagues, attending panel presentations, capped with a lively table exercise.  A couple hundred of the best and liveliest minds storming at once!

That evening I flew to Chicago so that I could speak on a panel the next day in the daylong "Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Clients and Your Firm" continuing legal education program.  In addition to preparing the obligatory materials, I spoke on a panel about what to do if you find there is a breach.

In the middle of the day I noticed the New York Times posted an article about securing  home devices which I mentioned during a speaker change because the information can be helpful to small law firms and solo practitioners.  Serendipity!