Category Archives: simple

Broccoli Aglio e Olio

Vegetables can be so beautiful. I’ve posted on cooking things with aglio e olio many times in the past, but I had this for dinner last night and thought it was so beautiful and delicious I thought I’d share a picture. Click here or a recipe (with pasta); click hereto see many other versions of this dish.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes about Bicycles

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~ Elizabeth West 

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~ Ernest Hemingway

The journey of life is like a man riding a bicycle. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. We know that if he stops moving and does not get off he will fall off. ~ William G. Golding  

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood. ~ Susan B. Anthony

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

OK…I know I said five quotes, but here’s a sixth…seven counting the graphic 🙂

 I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life. ~ Frances E. Willard 

A Bevy of Swans (and how to build them)

Before I talk about the above photo I have to mention how interesting I think it is the different names for groups of birds. A group of swans on the ground, for example is a bevy or a game, but if they are in flight they are refereed to as a wedge. The oddest one, I think, is what a group of crows are called: a murder of crows. Creepy. For a full list click here.

Anyhow, the above swans are some that were served at a brunch last week. They are so simple to make yet people are thrilled over them because of their swan apearance. They are made with a pastry, which refered to in its French name, is called pâte à choux, which translates loosely as “cabbage pastry” (or literally as cabbage paste). And no the dough does not have cabbage in it as an ingredient; the reason–I assume–that it is called such is that when the dough is baked in round balls (such as cream puffs) it comes out looking a bit like little cabbage balls.But what is truly unique about this dough is that it is a cooked dough, meaning it is made on the stove top and then baked.

The images below are how to cut the bodies after they are baked; they can be filled with any number of custards or creams. The video will show you how to pipe the dough out into the shapes (video credit: Master Pastry). For a basic recipe for the dough visit Just Hungry, and if you’d like to see step-by-step of the dough being prepared, visit Michael Ruhlman

Urban Simplicity.

100% Whole Grain Bread (recipe, photos, info)

As many of you know, I like bread. A lot. I enjoy making it, but more importantly I enjoy eating it…and I do not believe it makes you fat. I could easily be a poster boy for the high-carb diet…I eat bread, pasta, or rice at nearly every meal and am well within my proper body weight. The key, I believe, is whole grains…they are really good for you. I also believe that everyone should make their own bread (at least sometimes)…not only will it nourish your body, but also your emotions; there is something very primal about having your hands in raw dough and transforming ingredients so basic into something so complex. It is, in short, an alchemistic art-form. And breads you purchase–even though they may say “whole grain”–have a lot of other things in it besides the grain. Take a look at this label for “whole grain bread”…a paragraph long list of mostly unpronounceable ingredients is unnecessary.  In truth, to make a really good and wholesome loaf of whole wheat bread you need only these four ingredients. In the recipe pictured here–bedsides the seven-grain mix–I count eight other ingredients…all recognizable and pronounceable. If you don’t have a seven grain mix you can use whatever grain you have (brown rice works great). This is made in the same way that I make Ezekiel Bread, only it’s easier because you can boil the grain all at once (click here or here for Ezekiel Bread recipes). Anyhow, this recipe is way easier to make than it may seem at first look. I hope you try it…both your body and soul will be glad you did. If you’d like to read more about how to bake with whole wheat–it’s similarities and differences with white flour–follow this link.

Urban Simplicity.

Whole Grain Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup (6.6oz/187g) 7-grain mix
3 quarts (96floz/2.83L) water
____________
fully cooked grains
2/3 cup (5.3 oz/157ml) cookingliquid
2 cups (11oz/312g) whole wheatflour
2 teaspoons (.2oz/5.6g) instantyeast
____________
4 cups (21oz/595.3g) whole wheatflour
2 tablespoons (.5oz/14g) vitalwheat gluten
1 1/3 cups (10.5fl oz/315ml) cookingliquid
____________
1/4 cup (2fl oz/59.1ml) honey
1/4 cup (2fl oz/59.1ml) olive oil
3 teaspoons (.3oz/8.5g) instantyeast
3 teaspoons (.5oz/14.1g) koshersalt
Combine the grain and water in a mediumpot and bring to a boil; lower the heat to simmer and cook the ricefor about 45 minutes or until very soft. As the grain cooks add morewater to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which isfull of nutrients, will become part of the recipe. After the grainsare cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature,refrigerating if necessary. Then drain it, squeezing it with yourhands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.
Place two bowlsside-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. Inone bowl combine the cooked and drained 7-grains with 2/3 cup (5.3oz/157ml) of the cooking liquid, 2 cups (11oz/312g) whole wheatflour, and 2 teaspoons (.2oz/5.6g) instant yeast. Stir just untilcombined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4cups (21oz/595.3g) whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons (.5oz/14g) vitalwheat gluten, and 1 1/3 cups (10.5fl oz/315ml) cooking liquid; stirjust until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not toget yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at roomtemperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment willbegin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and theautolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
After an hour or so, combinethe ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixerfitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3teaspoons (.3oz/8.5g) of yeast (add the yeast and salt on oppositesides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover itloosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled inbulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30minutes. Turn the dough out onto afloured work surface and cut it into 2 pieces. Shape into loavesand place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves withplastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until doublein size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentationremains. Preheat an oven to 450f (232.2C). Bake the breads forabout 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (eitherwith ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every tenminutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and soundhollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allowthem to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

I Like to Cook at Home

“Cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet,” says Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress.” “And while stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. It’s a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight and even sizzling sound.”

I could easily start and finish this post with it’s title: I Like to Cook at Home. Though I cook all day at work I still like to cook at home; it’s my favorite place. Often the busier the day at work the more I want to cook myself dinner at  home. I don’t eat like I cook on the job–most chefs don’t–otherwise I would be either as big as a house or in the grave. At work I cook tons of red meat and often use cream and lots of butter. At home my meals are based on pasta, olive oil, bread, pizza, and vegetables. On-the-job cooking is often stressful; at home it is relaxing. Cooking at home can be a form of therapy. Most often it is just my son and I, or even just myself. The above picture is tonight’s meal in progress. Chicken ragu in one pot, macaroni boiling in another; broccoli aglio e olio sauteing in the foreground, and a seven grain mixture boiling in the rear (which I’ll make into seven grain bread in the morning). At work I never allow a radio or stereo playing (there’s enough white noise in a stressful kitchen), but at home I always listen to music or NPR; tonight I was listening to Fred Eaglesmith. I can’t image not wanting to have the desire to cook for myself; I feel blessed. People ask me all the time if I don’t get tired of cooking. No is always the answer. But if I were to elaborate I would say that while I still enjoy and feel lucky enough to cook for a living–no matter how stressful–my most favorite place to cook is at home, and sometimes just for myself.

I don’t have a typed recipe for tonight’s meal to offer, but this one–which contains fish and is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes–is really good and similar to the chicken version we had tonight. If you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice a few years ago on these very same thoughts, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Olive Oil for the Dogs

That’s Franklin on the left and Maxwell on the right, and they love olive oil. Well, OK…they would love any food I gave them. And yes, while some may find a pug unattractive, I think they are almost too cute…they are great house dogs and companions; and it’s like having two little aliens follow me around the house all evening. Anyhow, I’ll get to my point. Most know that olive oil, which happens to be my favorite cooking oil, is good for us humans on many levels, but did you also know that it is good for dogs as well, specifically their skin and coat? And this, I believe, is true for any breed dog, not only pugs. But I have  to back up a bit. Pugs, I’ve come to learn over the last few years, are prone to skin problems; Maxwell and Franklin are no exception. They get rashes and itchy skin so bad that sometimes they chew themselves raw (literally). I’ve taken them to the vet only to spend big bucks on medications and physician’s fees with little results. A few people have suggested putting fish oil on their food, which I did for a while. Recently, though, I came to learn that olive oil is just as good. I put a tablespoon or so on their food in the morning and evening. It took about a month to really show difference but what a difference it is. Their coats are soft and shiny again, and they have nearly stopped scratching…they even smell less “doggy.”  The only issue is that now every time I reach for the olive oil when I’m cooking dinner they start going nuts because they think it’s their dinner time…

Anyhow, I just thought I’d pass this along to other dog owners.

If you’d like a few recipes (for humans) using olive oil, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Olive Oil for the Dogs

That’s Franklin on the left and Maxwell on the right, and they love olive oil. Well, OK…they would love any food I gave them. And yes, while some may find a pug unattractive, I think they are almost too cute…they are great house dogs and companions; and it’s like having two little aliens follow me around the house all evening. Anyhow, I’ll get to my point. Most know that olive oil, which happens to be my favorite cooking oil, is good for us humans on many levels, but did you also know that it is good for dogs as well, specifically their skin and coat? And this, I believe, is true for any breed dog, not only pugs. But I have  to back up a bit. Pugs, I’ve come to learn over the last few years, are prone to skin problems; Maxwell and Franklin are no exception. They get rashes and itchy skin so bad that sometimes they chew themselves raw (literally). I’ve taken them to the vet only to spend big bucks on medications and physician’s fees with little results. A few people have suggested putting fish oil on their food, which I did for a while. Recently, though, I came to learn that olive oil is just as good. I put a tablespoon or so on their food in the morning and evening. It took about a month to really show difference but what a difference it is. Their coats are soft and shiny again, and they have nearly stopped scratching…they even smell less “doggy.”  The only issue is that now every time I reach for the olive oil when I’m cooking dinner they start going nuts because they think it’s their dinner time…

Anyhow, I just thought I’d pass this along to other dog owners.

If you’d like a few recipes (for humans) using olive oil, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

A Quick and Simple, Yet Delicious and Nutritious, Way to Prepare Eggs

If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I am somewhat of a creature of habit when it comes to preparing my own food. I like food that is not only relatively quick to make, but also full flavored and nutritious (and interesting to make, too); this is a perfect example. It’s a cross between a Spanish tortilla de huevos and an Italian fritatta (but closer to the Spanish version, I think). But as fancy as it sounds in romance languages this really is nothing more than a baked omelet. And what makes this so healthy is that it is chock full of vegetables…just enough egg to hold it all together. The real beauty of this dish is that there are no rules when it comes to its ingredients…anything goes (literally); it’s a great way to use whatever you have on hand (my favorite way to cook). This is a variation on many versions of this recipe I’ve posted previously, but tonight I included–besides the eggs, of course–sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cheddar, and a sort of sofrito made with onion, garlic, and hot pepper. Here’s how to do it. Preheat your oven to 400F/204C; do this first so that it heats while you prepare your ingredients. Cook the vegetables; I steamed the carrots and broccoli and sauteed the onion mixture (the sweet potato was cooked from a previous meal). Mix everything together with the eggs, including the cheese. Heat a skillet on the stove top with a little olive oil. When it’s hot add the vegetable-egg mixture, smooth it out with a spoon or spatula, and place the pan in the oven. By the time you pour a beverage and slice some bread it will be ready; if the oven was preheated it will cook in 5 or ten minutes. For more recipes like this, click here.

Urban Simplicity.