Marriage, mayo and even guggle-muggle

It’s a truism that marriage is about compromise–but it’s even better when you can get to win/win.

Here’s how I think it works: you begin by finding out that you have so much in common and you think you’ve found your soul mate. Then when you live together, you discover little things that you didn’t know about that can irk.  You realize (if you’re lucky) that the good outweighs the bad and that you can compromise and, if you’re really lucky, you can get to win/win.

In my case, Mr. Dot and I loved the same foods. When we were dating, we would joke that one of us could leave the ordering of the food at a restaurant to the other.  But when we set up house together I discovered, to my shock, that he likes mayonnaise.. I really can’t stand being around the stuff any more and if Mr. Dot eats something with mayonnaise (like the egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches he sometimes makes himself)  then I don’t even want to wash the plate.  I felt a little guilty about this  because I changed the terms by growing from mild dislike to revulsion only after we tied the knot.

Bread nut mayo in the processor. Photo by REG

Bread nut mayo in the processor. Photo by REG

Of course it would be ridiculous to blow up a good thing because of the mayo issue and so: homemade mayonnaise.  I am fine with eating raw eggs in mayo, mousse or a guggle-muggle (which is a traditional Jewish family cure for a cold—often milk and honey (one version I grew up with—but my surefire version is oj, honey and raw egg). I don’t have a regular raw egg mayo recipe—whenever I make it, I get out the  egg yolks, oil, lemon juice, mustard, and garlic and then reach for a cookbook and glance at a recipe just to get the proportions right.

Since not  every one  is fine with raw eggs, I was delighted that Mark Bittman provided the solution in The Food Matters Cookbook: a bread based vegan mayo which made it possible for me, after all these years—to finally make chicken salad with leftover chicken which is perhaps the best cold lunch food ever AND something that Mr. Dot loves. I have no special recipe for the chicken salad but recently had some leftover roasted cauliflower and added that and some dried currants to make a weeknight dinner that the whole family loved.  That’s right: win/win/win.

making win/win chicken salad with bread nut mayo photo by REG

making win/win chicken salad with bread nut mayo
photo by REG

Blue Dot  version of Mark Bittman’s bread mayo:

one slice of day old bread (Bittman says whole wheat is preferable but when I used whole wheat it was too gummy so I would advice a plain white bread; challah has also worked for me)

1/2 cup blanched almonds, walnuts or cashews

1 tbs oil or more as needed (use whatever you want to get whatever flavor you want for your mayo. Olive oil might be too pronounced a flavor for some palates)

2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

1 clove garlic–to taste

1/4 cup plus a few tablespoons water

salt and  pepper

Wet bread with a few tablespoons of water and then squeeze most of the moisture out. There’s no need to be  obsessive about squeezing out the moisture because you’ll want some of it. Add the bread, nuts,  oil, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and blitz away. With the machine running add a quarter of a cup of water and a little more oil to form the mayo–you can play with it to get the texture you like.  Add l emon juice, salt and pepper, to taste.

When you have good mayo, you can make great things with leftovers. Win/win! Photo by REG.

When you have good mayo, you can make great things with leftovers. Win/win!
Photo by REG.


Plan A Brussels Sprouts on a Plan B Day

I didn’t plan to mention my obsession with  Thanksgiving until November but . . . well, there’s no other way to say this so forgive me it sounds flip: world events took over and Brussels sprouts came my way.

Stock photo because my photographer is out of town

Stock photo because my photographer is out of town

You see, it all began with a lecture we tried to go to  last week (in fact a lecture series that I started way back when as the Director of Development at the only Jewish day school in the Nation’s Capital). Secretary Kerry was scheduled to speak, It was quite the big deal and really affirmed my thought way back then that maybe we could score some Washington bigwigs to speak at our little school.

And then it ended up being a big news days and at the last minute,  the Secretary  had to cancel.

Well, here we were—downtown and all dressed up and no place to go and so we went from 6th & I historic synagogue to the wonderful Zayitnya at 9th & G. As we walked over, we picked up a few more people from our old school and before you knew it, we had a table for 10.

Zaytinya has incredible small plates which are riffs on Middle Eastern food and fabulous cocktails (the hit of the night was the Turkish Storm). Around a year and a half ago I fell in love with their Brussels sprouts and researched them and found a recipe online from someone who tried to recreate them.  It’s not the official recipe but I’ve been making it (and tinkering with it) ever since.  One of the great things is that it follows the principle of my previous go-to Brussels sprouts recipe which I got from Bon Appetit one Thanksgiving. The author of the BA article made the point that a lot of people don’t like Brussels sprouts and so cover them up with cream and add chestnuts—but it’s best to just go for making the Brussels sprouts as yummy as possible without covering them up—and that’s what the Plan A style does.

Plan A Brussels sprouts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup dried barberries (or pomegranate seeds if you can’t get barberries)

1/4 cup pistachio nuts coarsley chopped or roasted pine nuts

1/3 cup Greek yoghurt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spread the  Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with spices and add olive oil and toss. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Around halfway through the baking, check on the sprouts and move them around so that they can get cooked on all sides. These can stay in the oven after it’s shut off if you aren’t planning on serving them yet.

When ready to serve-transfer to a service dish. If serving with yoghurt, drizzle yoghurt over the sprouts.  Sprinkle with barberries (or pomegranate seeds) and pistachios or pine nuts.

Room for one more cupcake

They say the cupcake trend is on its way out now that Crumbs is likely closing. I say there’s one more cupcake to try before you decide that cupcakes are passé.  You may just decide that sort of uninteresting overly large cupcakes are dead but yummy cupcakes with the best frosting  ever are timeless.

Overview of cupcakes decorated with Whoppers by REG

Overview of cupcakes decorated with Whoppers
by REG

My Whopper Cupcakes started out as a cake of Nigella’s (Chocolate Maltesers from Feast) ; I was making the cake for a dinner party and I couldn’t find one of my 9 inch pans and so . . . cupcakes.  And it turns out, this malted chocolate cake is even better in its American form as Whopper Cupcakes—especially if you are able to find—as I inadvertently did in one of my explorations in an Indian market—malt power with . . . are your ready . . . cardamom.  In fact, we all love the cardamom Horlicks so much,that  I have started to add more of it to the cake part than Nigella did. But the real secret to the  one cupcake you have to try is the frosting which is, as my British friends say, more-ish.  In fact, you might  wish that these were overly large cupcakes with too much frosting. But, despite their name, they’re not–and that’s probably a good thing.

Whopper Cupcakes

For the cupcakes

3/4 light brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons Horlicks malted milk power (with cardamom if possible)

1/ 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

cupcake close up

For the frosting and decoration

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon  unsweetened cocoa

1/3 cup Horlicks malted milk powder (again, with cardamom if possible)

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons boiling water

Malted milk balls, as decoration (you can buy fancy ones or you can use Whoppers, which are the American version of Maltesers).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line cupcake tins with lining cups.  This recipe might make as any as 14 or 15 cupcakes.

Whisk the sugars and eggs—while the mixer is running, heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a sauce pan until butter melts and it is hot but not boiling. When the sugar and eggs are light and frothy, beat in the hot Horlicks mixture.  Then fold in flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda.  Pour batter into cupcake tin (around 3/4 full) and bake around 20 minutes until the cakes have risen and spring back when pressed gently.  Cool them on a rack and remove.

When they are completely cool, you’re ready to frost the cupcakes. Nigella suggests making the frosting in the food processor—she says that eliminates the need to sift the confectioners sugar.  In all honesty, I’ve done it in the mixer and I’m not much of a sifter and it’s worked out fine.  In any event, blitz confectioners sugar, cocoa and Horlicks in the processor to remove lumps and combine and then add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape the sides and start again, pouring the boiling water in the funnel until you have a smooth buttercream.

The last time I made this, I added a little more water and it was a softer consistency that was easier to spread and it still became firm.

Decorate the cupcakes with malt balls.


Not particularly original

I’ll be without a photographer for the next month so I’ve been cooking her faves . . . just as a treat and also to have an inventory of pictures for the blog.

Penultimate supper of 2nd easiest salmon and coconut rice (and also cute baby zukes) photo by REG

Penultimate supper of 2nd easiest salmon and coconut rice (and also cute baby zukes) photo by REG

Some of her faves are easy so I didn’t exactly use recipes for her penultimate supper—although once upon a time I did have a recipe for coconut rice. This dish entered my repertoire around five years ago when I made it  for a dinner when my photographer was out of town for the weekend.  It was made for an “adults only” meal because at that time, my fearless photographer mostly wanted plain rice with NOTHING IN IT!!–so I could only experiment when she was away. And then one day she fell in love with coconut rice to the point where she now gets upset if I make plain rice that might deceptively look like coconut rice.  I’ve started to add the turmeric which I had seen in some recipes in order to make it clearer that white rice is plain and yellow rice is coconut rice.

Here’s my favorite way to make it:

Coconut Rice
1 cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon flavorless vegetable oil
1 15 oz can coconut milk (light is fine)
3 pods cardamom (of course)
1/4 tsp turmeric

Soak the rice in water at least one hour before you are going to cook it. Drain and soak again at least twice or even more if you are really meticulous about getting every grain perfect.

Heat the oil for one minute in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the drained rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a little so that every grain gets an oil coating. Add the cardamom pods and the coconut milk and bring to boil—and then cover and cook on low heat for around 20 minutes. When there is just a drop of liquid left, remove from the stove and add the turmeric and stir. Cover with a dish towel until you are ready serve.

Not much of a recipe but it’s delicious. If you want to make it super-fancy, you can add a cinnamon stick when cooking and serve with currants or pistachios tossed in and/or fried onions on top. But this is the simple weeknight version.

In our house, coconut rice is served alongside all sorts of things like ground turkey with peas, but most frequently I serve it with salmon. I used to make the easiest salmon in the world but then my fearless photographer discovered the second easiest salmon in the world which is probably something that most of my readers would consider to be not particularly original.

The easiest salmon in the world is when I take a salmon filet and place it in a pyrex dish sprayed with Pam, spray Pam all over it and grate fresh ginger on top and then cover it with aluminum foil and bake only until just done (15-20 minutes) so that it doesn’t get that over-cooked salmon taste.

For the second easiest salmon, I mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, grated ginger (or in a pinch, powdered ginger),  and 2 tablespoons brown sugar and marinate the salmon in this sauce for half an hour and then bake it around 20 minutes—again until just done and no more.

These aren’t really recipes and certainly won’t shake up the food world with their originality, but they are good weeknight fare and  they make my photographer so happy that she could barely stand taking pictures without digging in.  I’d say these are less recipes than advice on how to make something . . . kind of like the “recipes” that the late great Nora Ephron included in Heartburn which I just reread after many years because I treated myself to  The Most of Nora Ephron.  Every one who knew Ephron said that in general she was full of recipes and advice on how to live well–and my advice to you is to buy this book if you haven’t already. It contains lots of tidbits that–like the easiest salmon in the world or the second easiest salmon in the world–may not be revolutionary or unusual or difficult but are delicious.

Or another way of putting this is that Ephron’s philosophy is a lot like the Blue Dot credo as you’ll see in this quote n from a piece she wrote in 2006 where she rebuts critics of Heartburn‘s non-recipes:

“A food writer who wrote about the book carped that the recipes were not particularly original, but it seemed to me she missed the point. The point wasn’t about the recipes. The point (I was starting to realize) was about putting it together. The point was about making people feel at home, about finding your own style, whatever it was, and committing to it. The point was about giving up neurosis where food was concerned. The point was about riding a way that food fit into your life.”

(From Serial Monogamy: A Memoir, reprinted in The Most of Nora Ephron, pages 392-393)