Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Green Chile Cheeseburger #2: Shake Foundation

So I'm taking a pottery class (isn't that what everyone is supposed to do when they're unexpectedly unemployed in Santa Fe?), and after introducing myself on the first day to a fellow student, she asks, is Banu your given name, or your yoga name?

Fittingly, I did go to yoga last week, but as Naranka, not Banu. And afterward, I treated myself to my second green chile cheeseburger from Shake Foundation, the new endeavor of former Aqua Santa chef and owner Brian Knox.

The burger here is all gooey goodness: the single, a slim three ounces, is snack-sized perfect, and covered in Hatch green chiles and Monterey Jack cheese; tomato, raw or cooked onion, lettuce, and mustard sauce are listed as optional add-ons. The meat is juicy, hormone and antibiotic free, and topped with a soft, and slightly sweet, buttered bun. I craved a bit more salt in the burger patty, but the chiles provided good heat, and toward the end, when the salty cheese and smoky chiles had melted onto my hands and into the paper wrapping, I wanted to engulf my entire head in that paper to rescue those last tasty bits.

But one of the chefs emerged from the kitchen and said, oh you’re back, and I remembered my manners. What’d you get? The green chile cheeseburger, of course, and the fried oyster sandwich with red chile mayo, which is amazing. I wanted to say baddass baddass baddass oyster sandwich, but I don’t know that guy. Noticing two sandwiches in my basket, the chef said, whoa, you’re hungry! Nah, they’re small, whaddaya mean? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Green Chile Cheeseburger #1: El Farolito

My new idea began with dessert. A green chile cheeseburger for dessert, to be precise. My dining partner ordered cherry pie, and when the waitress looked at me, and registered my request, yeah, a green chile cheeseburger, uh huh, with everything, she said I like your style.

And so it begins.

I had planned to write about the fantastic green chile cornbread I made last week, my first week in New Mexico with my ideal new job.  I was going to describe the heirloom cornmeal I used, and the farmers I met at the market who grew it. I hoped to evoke the smoky flavor and satisfyingly chewy texture of the dried corn kernels, or chicos, that I rehydrated for the dish, and the ever-present, and unique to New Mexico, sometimes spicy, sometimes milder, green chiles that accorded this dish most-decadent-cornbread-in-life status. I would include the recipe, as I have habitually done on my blog, and discuss the beauties and challenges (altitude baking, among them), of a new life in New Mexico after 23 years in New York City. 

 And then I lost my job. And in two short weeks, things changed.

Now what?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Turkish White Beans Recipe (Kuru Fasulye)

A Christmas ago my sister and I flew to Istanbul to spend the holidays with our parents who were teaching there for the fall semester. It was the first time since my sister and I were children that we were in Turkey together as a family, and we spent it exploring parts of the city we’d never seen.

We marveled at the prevalence of shops dedicated to sequined, drag queen worthy gowns, in paradoxically, one of the most religious parts of town. We photographed shiny mosaics of Biblical scenes in the gilded Kariye Müzesi, and, en route, stopped for boza, a cinnamon dusted fermented millet and wheat beverage at the original place for it, Vefa Bozacı. At the suggestion of the owner, we bought roasted chickpeas to top our drinks from across the street, and when we returned, the teenage girls sitting across from us, assuming we couldn’t understand their Turkish, discussed how silly we looked, and rightly so, as we wondered what to do with our bag of chickpeas and our boza.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe (Zeytinyağlı Yaprak Sarması, or Yalancı)

 I’ve been feeling a little isolated lately. Most of my friends are coupled up and nesting, and the ones who are coupled up with children have little time for socializing with friends, what with the stresses of work, checked out husbands, therapy visits, and the endless round of Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday parties, the Chuck E. Cheese part of things a mystery to the childless. I imagine huge pits filled with dirty, colored balls, an inflatable, bouncy room, walls of video games, and kids running around the place with goofy hats on their heads, mouths full of pizza bites and mini hot dogs smothered in cheddo cheez. Did I get it right? Needless to say, I’m sure even these Chuck E. Cheese outings provide a welcome form of community.

Inspired by a friend of my sister’s in Portland, OR, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to get a weekly potluck thing going. I’m a bit shy entertaining alone, so beginning something, even with a friend, has proven to be a daunting task. But this week I had my first three-person potluck, with the plan to make it a more populated, weekly event. I have a friend who relocated to New York from the Portland of Europe, aka Berlin, so it’s fitting that it was she who helped to get it going. To remind her of the Turkish food she had so much access to in Germany, and to offer her Greek Cypriot roommate a taste of home, I made stuffed grape leaves and feta walnut spread.

While cooking, I remembered the rustic version I created once while visiting a then boyfriend in New Paltz, New York. I was out for a jog along the Rail Trail, when I noticed, and harvested, abundant grape leaves from nearby vines. Those stuffed grape leaves had as much to do with the prepackaged sort one finds in the supermarket as cheddo cheez has to do with Farmhouse Dorset cheddar, but though I used brined leaves this time, and they lacked the textural heft of fresh leaves, they still contributed to a complexly flavored dish.

Tranquille. Les Pieds Dans L'eau.

 Once when I was traveling in the south of France, and agitated about something, a French native said to me, “Tranquille, pieds dans l’eau.” Meaning, relax, and imagine the gentle waves of the nearby Mediterranean lapping at your feet. This picture exemplifies the pieds dans l’eau moment I needed when I took a break from blogging.

Blogging was hard work. It took weekly recipe planning, shopping, cooking, photographing. It took planning to finish cooking in time to photograph using natural light. And then the writing, the requisite tweeting, the reading others’ blogs. While a wonderful creative outlet, and the only thing I had attempted for which I was solely responsible, I had hoped that one day my blogging would eventually lead to an additional source of income, and I was making, oh, 52 cents per month from ads. I had also recently broken up with my husband, and had starting dating. With a name like Banu Ogan, and a public blog, one click and any potential suitor had quick access to my life’s details, and at that moment, I wanted to live more privately.

But I have missed it. Often, during lunch, my dance students ask me what I’m eating, and for the recipe. I’ve missed widely sharing my healthy, one-pot meals with these dancers, ever concerned about nutrition and finances. I have missed the community of food bloggers I met here, and I have missed being inspired by others’ recipes and stories. Some of you aren’t cooks, but claim to have enjoyed reading my posts, and have encouraged me again and again to restart.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread Recipe

This post is not about bread, really.

I was in Switzerland last month, teaching. My ex-husband is from Switzerland. I did not want to return to his home country for fear of dredging up both wonderful and miserable memories of our time together there. I dreaded this trip. And I dreaded writing this post, obviously, or it wouldn’t have taken me more than six weeks to get to it. My one-week Swiss challenge was to take Switzerland back for myself, to separate the place from the person, and to enjoy, alone, the aspects of Switzerland that I once loved.

I only taught one morning class on Monday, and so in the afternoon, with Bern as my starting point, I took off for Montreux, and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Montreux, yeah, to hear a little free jazz, and have a beer, with the Lac Léman and the rising Alps and the setting sun as the music’s backdrop. My Swiss demi-tarif train pass is still valid, a pass which allows me to purchase half price train tickets anywhere in the country, and so off I went. Dig it.

In the middle of the week, I spent the afternoons sunbathing by the Aare river in Bern’s crowded public park, and partook of the Bernese summertime ritual of walking far upstream, near naked and barefoot, to jump in the river and float quickly down. I tried swimming upstream to hold my spot, and, unsuccessful, wondered how Olympic swimmers would fare as I edged slowly further and further toward the red final exit signs, and the poles that I wanted to neglect to grab onto, in part rebellion, and partly in the interest of continuing this relaxing float in the Aare, around Bern, through some Swiss lakes, to the Rhine, and a little tour of Germany, and out to the North Sea. I was thinking, then, in that split second, that that’d be true freedom, really, missing that pole.

On Friday, I took the train, again, this time to medieval Murten, and not establishing an instant connection with this small town, spontaneously, and with one minute to spare, I boarded the last boat of the day to Neuchâtel. This two hour picturesque voyage took me from Lake Murten, through the Broye Canal, to larger Lake Neuchâtel, and during the voyage I alternated sides on the deck of the boat to catch the farms on the port side, and then the hundreds of birds alighting on the tip tops of trees on the starboard side, their wings in silhouette as the sun set behind them. I ate my bread with gruyère and tomato and sipped the Fendent that I had brought on board, and from time to time the captain would warn me before he sounded the horn to signal a stop, and then sometimes when it was quiet, he’d turn around and ask me, “Ça va? C’est bien?” Oui, c’est bien.

Saturday, I pulled on my hiking gear and set out for the Swiss Alps and Grindelwald. From Grindelwald, I hiked for four and a half hours and 900 vertical meters to the foot of a glacier, which I just glimpsed, before it clouded over and began to rain. On the way up, I asked a local Swiss man if my planned route was a difficult one. Not at all, he said; it’s like this, and indicating the topography of the trail, fish-tailed his hand when he should have been roller coastering it. But, as I learned from my ex-husband, I saved my calves while hiking straight up by turning the path into veers to the right, and veers to the left, and then right again, and so on, and veering slowly about like this, I passed grazing cows, and alpine huts selling cheese made from those cows’ milk, and, sometimes, I’d stop to drink from pure, Alpine streams to slake my thirst. And I talked to myself on this trek. I talked out loud about appreciating the moment. About forgiveness. About trying to be easy on myself and others. And I sang (badly), and I even yoddled a little (worse).

And later in the day, I took the train to Lauterbrunnen where I walked under one of Europe’s largest waterfalls (and met the international jumpers who fly off the top of it), had a respectable Swiss fondue (though not as good as the fondue I ate in Gruyères), and at dusk, I peacefully rode the train back to Bern through the two lakes of lovely Interlaken. It was raining lightly, then, and there was just enough light to illuminate the mountains behind the train. I stood up, pulled the window down, and stuck my head out to catch the last glimpse of those gorgeous and imposing mountains, Alpine mist on my face.

I don’t like everything about Switzerland. But hiking this verdant landscape, and swimming in its pure lakes, and eating its fresh, mostly organic, sustainable foods, and riding its comfortable, reliable trains, are all delights that I now know I will continue to enjoy. Yes, it took a love affair to expose me to Switzerland’s charms, but this week showed me that I can make them mine now, and mine alone, and that, it turns out, may have more to do with bread than I thought.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread Recipe

Note from Banu: My father makes this bread regularly, and now I know why. For my birthday, he generously sent me Jim Lahey’s book containing this simple no-knead bread recipe and a cast-iron pot in which to cook it, and ever since I’ve been experimenting with different permutations of the original recipe.

This is Mark Bittman’s New York Times adaptation of Jim Lahey’s bread recipe, but it is not that far from the original. I usually make a whole wheat loaf, and have determined that 2 cups whole wheat bread flour to 1 cup white bread flour is a pretty good ratio. I also like to add one to two handfuls each of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, for a heartier, healthier loaf. My loaves haven’t risen so much as the pictures in Lahey’s book, but the crust is incredible, and though, when sliced, is the shape of a biscotti, and not so great for sandwiches, in the morning with a little flax oil or slice of cheese? Heaven.

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

¼ teaspoon instant yeast

1¼ teaspoons salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 and 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto with Lamb’s Quarters, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Black Olives over Whole Wheat Fusilli Recipe

You know you’ve seen a lot of soccer when you’re watching a live game in the park, and, for a brief moment, after a man goes down grabbing his ankle, you think you’ll see the instant replay. The World Cup is both the highlight of my life every four years, and also absolutely disorienting. I’ve been sipping beer at ten in the morning, making friends with fans at local soccer spots, and contemplating traveling far into Queens to a steakhouse for the most authentic Argentina match watching experience. At eight in the morning on a Saturday. There may be something wrong with me.

But, in addition to the soccer watching mania, I have also been cooking and eating a lot. I made bread, twice, even in ninety degree heat; I mixed up some garlic scape pesto which I tossed with whole wheat pasta, fresh lamb’s quarters, sun dried tomatoes and black olives, and I offered a lima bean salad succotash with fresh corn and tarragon to guests at a potluck birthday party cookout in my building. And now that the day’s beautiful games are finished, I’ll begin the blogging catch up. Here goes...

Garlic Scape Pesto with Lamb’s Quarters, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Black Olives over Whole Wheat Fusilli Recipe

one bunch garlic scapes, about ten stalks
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
salt, to taste

one bunch lamb’s quarters, or spinach, or arugula, or another green of your choosing
1 to 1 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water, and chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cup oil-cured olives, pits removed

1 pound whole wheat pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used fusilli)

Pulse the garlic scapes in a food processor until smooth. Add the pine nuts and the olive oil, and process until a smooth paste forms. If the pesto is too thick, add more olive oil. Add the grated parmigiano reggiano, and mix until combined. Add additional salt, to taste, if necessary.

I spooned some of this pesto over cooked whole wheat pasta, added a little of the pasta’s cooking water, stirred in the leaves from several stalks of lamb’s quarters (you could use spinach, or another green of your choosing), and tossed the pasta with some chopped sun dried tomatoes and black, oil-cured, olives.


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