Archives For Food

Squash Pudding Improv

Matthew Bietz —  September 11, 2008 — Leave a comment

Squash Pudding
Dan’s in Seattle, and I spent the day in Irvine, so I hadn’t planned on cooking tonight. But by the time I got home, I wasn’t in the mood to go out to eat. The only main ingredient in the fridge was the leftover half of a big butternut squash. A little improvisation, and voilĂ ! Squash pudding. Much better than I had expected!

Here’s an attempt at a reproducible version. The amounts are guesses, but exact proportions don’t matter all that much. The basic squash + eggs + yogurt base could work with several other ingredients. For a Thanksgiving thing I might add pecans and dried cranberries. Or maybe a more Mediterranean flair with feta and red peppers.

Squash Pudding

  • 1/2 large butternut squash
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1 c. frozen corn
  • 1/3 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • nutmeg, salt, & pepper to taste

First, cook the squash until it’s soft. I peeled the squash and cut it into cubes, then dumped it in my steamer, but I could have microwaved it or boiled it or baked it. Whateva. Let it cool a bit (you don’t want it to cook the eggs) and mash it up.

Mix squash with the rest of the ingredients. Spray 6 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray, and fill not quite to the top with the mix. Cover with plastic wrap. Steam for about 25 minutes or until they’re set. (You could also bake them in a water bath in the oven, but then don’t use the plastic wrap.)

Squash Puddings in Steamer

To serve: hold the ramekins with a towel (they’re hot!), run a knife around the edge, and then invert ramekin onto plate.

I haven’t been particularly wowed by the iPhone. Sure it’s cool, but in the end, the price-to-value ratio seems just way too high. But the new Urbanspoon iPhone application tickles my fancy. You shake your iPhone like a Magic 8 Ball, and it finds a random nearby local restaurant that’s gotten good reviews by their users.

I just love the idea of interacting with a computer by shaking it.

It was Dan’s night to cook. He made Leek and Potato soup:

Dan purees

and focaccia:



White Chili Pork RisottoI needed to use up some leftover roasted pork, and I was in the mood for risotto. I wanted to do something a little different, so I adapted a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for white chicken chili, turning it into a risotto instead of a soup. I think it turned out really well.

The chilis, once they are seeded and the ribs removed, are all quite mild. You can leave in a few seeds if you like some heat, but I didn’t. One of the weird things about California grocery stores is that poblano chilis are called pasilla chilis and the Anaheim is also known as the green chili. The combination of the three different kinds of chilis and two cheeses give a nice depth of flavor.

Here’s what I did:


For the Salsa:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • pinch salt

For the Risotto:

  • 6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 jalapeno chilis, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine
  • 2 poblano chilis, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine
  • 2 anaheim chilis, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine
  • 1 ½ c. arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 16 oz. leftover roast pork
  • 1 c. frozen corn
  • 2 oz. monterey jack, shredded
  • 2 oz. chevre
  • ¼ c. cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¼ c. flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • lime juice, to taste
  1. Mix salsa ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Pour chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  3. Heat olive oil in large saute pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add all of the chopped chilis, and cook stirring occasionally for another 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  5. Add rice, and stir for 1-2 minutes until grains turn translucent.
  6. Add cumin and coriander, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
  7. Add wine, and stir until almost all liquid is gone.
  8. Add a couple ladles of chicken broth, and stir until most of the broth is absorbed. Repeat until all but 1 cup of the broth has been added and the rice is cooked.
  9. Stir in pork, frozen corn, and 1/2 cup broth, and cook until heated through.
  10. Add cheeses and the rest of the broth, and stir until incorporated.
  11. Just before serving, stir in cilantro, parsley, a squeeze of lime juice, and salt to taste.

Serve topped with salsa.

Shrimp Paste

Matthew Bietz —  January 6, 2008 — 3 Comments

My friend Serene posted a mouthwatering photo of Thai Noodle Soup and it looked so good I had to try the recipe myself. It calls for Thai shrimp paste (belachan), which meant a trip to one of San Diego’s many Asian grocers.

We discovered something that’s not clear from the Wikipedia article or most of the other references we found online: there are 2 very different things available called “shrimp paste.”

Shrimp Pastes

Our first stop was a Vietnamese store, and the only thing we could find were several brands of the stuff on the left: shrimp paste in soybean oil, whose ingredients include shrimp, garlic, soybean oil, pepper, salt, paprika, and often MSG. However, from what I’d seen online, that didn’t seem right. It smells shrimpy, but it wasn’t the “light pinkish gray” or dark brown block that I was expecting. So then we stopped at a Korean store, and picked up the jar on the right. Ingredients: shrimp and salt. Light pinkish gray. Smells like death. But called “shrimp sauce.”

We made the soup with the stuff on the right. It was great (thanks Serene!). Like fish sauce, it adds a wonderful earthy richness when it’s cooked in the soup. The other stuff seems a bit more like a condiment or stir-fry sauce – it’s still got a strong shrimpy aroma, but nothing like the gut-wrenching power of plain shrimp paste (the recipe calls for “a pea-sized piece”).


Matthew Bietz —  December 28, 2007 — Leave a comment

FruitcakeI’m quite sure that most people who say they dislike fruitcake haven’t had good fruitcake. And they definitely haven’t had my mother’s fruitcake. Little bits of candied fruit and nuts enveloped in a moist (because it’s been soaking in cream sherry) dense cake. Nummy.

Mary Blair, 1920-2007

Matthew Bietz —  June 25, 2007 — 1 Comment

Grandma MaryGrandma Mary had a very sudden massive cerebral hemorrhage yesterday morning. She never regained consciousness, and passed away this morning.

She was a great lady, and I’m going to miss her terribly.

I have to mention her sense of humor. Every time we talked on the phone, we had to share any dirty jokes we’d heard. One memory keeps sticking in my head: We were watching the news together at her house. It was during the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the newscaster had just finished giving all the sordid “blow-by-blow” details. She shook her head, turned to me, and said, “Bah. If you’re gonna sleep with the president, you should at least do it right and go all the way.”

A highlight of any visit to her house was a meal of her tomato soup (always served with corn bread, of course). It’s hearty farm food – not fancy, but boy did it put Campbell’s to shame! I’m sure that part of the reason it was so good (and mine never tastes quite the same) is because she made it with home-canned tomatoes. Here’s the recipe if you want to remember Grandma too.

Grandma Mary’s Tomato Soup

1 qt. tomatoes
1 qt. water
1/2 cup rice
1 onion
2 tbsp (about) cornstarch
1 cup whipping cream
salt and pepper

  1. Cook onion and rice in tomatoes and water until tender.
  2. Mix cornstarch with water, add to soup.
  3. Add cream and bring to a boil. Season to taste.

I just discovered the Cooking for Engineers blog. Recipes seem good – haven’t tried them out myself yet. But also includes recipe and cooking method testing (like different ways to cook bacon).

But one thing that sets this blog apart is the “Tabular Recipe Notation” technique for recipe visualization. This is the batter for a Pecan Coffee Cake:

Tabular Recipe Notation

When you’re in the kitchen, and have 3 different dishes going at once, it’s easy to forget where you are in a long text-heavy recipe. Cook’s Illustrated is one of the worst offenders. They insist on fitting what should be a 25 step recipe into 5 steps (maybe so they don’t seem too complicated). But as a result, it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the text. Their spinach lasagna recipe has only 3 steps, but step 3 (formatted as a single unbroken 256-word paragraph) includes blending the filling, preheating the oven, soaking and drying the noodles, a complex layering process, baking (bake with foil, remove foil, readjust oven racks, then broil), cooling, and serving. Every time I look away from the recipe, I lose my place in the paragraph and have to spend extra time and effort making sure I’m doing the right thing. And I must admit, I have gotten to the last layer of noodles and realized I’ve only added half the spinach.

I haven’t battle tested the tabular notation, but I think it could help with the “quick – what do I put in the pan next” problem.

P.S. I found out about CfE from a link in the comments on post about rendering bacon fat on the Simply Recipes blog. It’s another good one to check out!

I called him Monty

Matthew Bietz —  April 21, 2007 — Leave a comment

Last night I cooked a whole fish for the first time.

I had gone to Whole Foods thinking fish. The fillets they had were uninspiring, and there wasn’t a salmon steak in sight,. But the whole fish looked good, and the best-looking ones that were in my price range were Orata. I’d never heard of it. Farmed fish. Just under $10/pound. I was a little annoyed at the fish counter people – they won’t let you get near the fish until you’ve already selected it and had it wrapped. They’ll open the gills for you to look, but you can’t feel it or smell it. But I didn’t feel like driving the umpteen miles on a rainy Friday afternoon to go to a better fish market.

So I get home, and the first thing I do is look up Orata. From what I could find, it’s also called Dorado. Hey – I had Dorado in South Africa several times and really liked it. Score!

I used the Whole Roasted Sea Bass recipe from Martha Stewart. With a little tweaking for what I had in the house (e.g. added ginger, didn’t use parsley, only did one fish).

Fileting was a little difficult, and I didn’t end up with the prettiest pieces. And it seems that the bone structure may be a little more complicated than on the type Martha demonstrates in the video.

The fish itself was pretty mild and I think it benefitted from being cooked whole. It didn’t taste fishy, but it seemed to have a depth of flavor that I haven’t gotten from cooking just filets. But this was the first time that I’ve done this fish at home, and it’s been a while since I had it in South Africa.

Served it with a wild/brown rice mix (thanks Carmen!) and roasted white asparagus with cheese (raclette) sauce.