Following up

Tofu Croutons

Last Thursday,
I wrote about making Tofu Croutons for a salad. I’ve in the
past processed the Tofu into a vinaigrette to improve the protein
content of salad, but I thought the croutons would also be useful
for soups. The cookbook
I got the recipe from said that if you kept them tightly covered
in the refrigerator they would last for 3 days. Mine were fine
the second day, but soggy and tough on the third day.

Logitech 550

I posted the day after the Logitech 550 Universal
Remote
arrived. I intended to not follow up until I’d had
another round of programming, but I’ve found a couple more
problems that I don’t think programming is going to fix:

  • I have my DVD player hooked directly to the Stereo
    amplifier, since I generally prefer to get the better sound
    quality on movies, although there’s lots of TV that I’m happy to
    just use the TV speakers. I will look around the next time I
    get around to booting Windows and running the Logitech program,
    but the remote is making an assumption that you can adjust the
    volume on a DVD with the TV volume control, and that isn’t true
    for my system.
  • The software button labeled “Aspect” during “Watch DVD” does
    in fact bring up the “View Mode” menu on my TV set, but the
    arrows that are the only way I know of to select a view mode are
    the DVD player arrows, not the TV ones. Again, I don’t know
    that there’s a way to program around this.

Speaking of aspect ratios, the TV set I have (a
Sharp AQUOS 32 inch with 1080p resolution
) has a very
unfriendly interface for picking this. What you usually want
(sidebars) is at the top, but then to get to anything else, you
have to scroll through the useless “Stretch” option that
distorts the aspect ratio. Then if you’re trying to play a DVD,
you have to guess which of the other two is the right one. On
some kinds of screens, it’s obvious, but by Murphy’s Law, you’re
always going to decide you want the bigger picture on one of the
screens where you can’t tell which ratio the director used. I
would expect an option for “make the biggest picture you can
without distorting the aspect ratio”, which it must know how to
do since it knows how big the sidebars are on the sidebars option.

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Beet-walnut salad, with tofu croutons

Mark Bittman’s Minimalist
column
in the New York Times food section last week had a
recipe for beet walnut salad.

It sounded good, and I had intended to make it for the
after-rehearsal food for the band on Tuesday. But one of the
members said there was a large tray of salad left over from some
conference where she works, so although I had already diced and
roasted the beets, I didn’t get around to making them into salad
until Wednesday night.

The band had made a large dent in the salad on Tuesday, but
there was still a lot left, so I took some of that and added the
beets and walnuts to it. I made a very basic vinaigrette with
just olive oil, vinegar and mustard.

In order to make it more of a main
course, I added some tofu croutons, from Bittman’s How
to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Basically, you cut the block
of tofu into small cubes, flavor them the way you want them, and
put them in a 350°F oven for an hour. I used olive oil mixed
with a mild chile powder and herbes de Provence, salt,
and pepper. I may try 325°F next time; the smallest cubes got
a little charred at 350.

I don’t have anyone else’s comments to pass on, but I’m looking
forward to eating the rest for lunch today. The beets and walnuts
do go very well together — the sweetness of the beets needs some
kind of contrast, which in borscht is the sour of the sour cream,
but the nuttiness of the walnuts is good too.

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Cream of Parsnip Sweet Potato Soup

This was the soup of the week after the Cantabile Band
rehearsal last Tuesday.

I talked to someone at a party in January who had also just
gotten a farm share for the first time, and she said the
associated purchase she had enjoyed most was an immersion blender,
so you can make blended soups right in the pot without other
dishwashing. So I was at the hardware store for something else
last week and I bought a Cuisinart
Smart Stick Hand Blender
. As was also true of my cuisinart
bread machine
, it came with a nice booklet of sample recipes, one
of which was for a parsnip-sweet potato purée. I still had
a bunch of small sweet potatoes from the farm share, so I decided
to modify it to make a soup.

I had about 5 small sweet potatoes, and a pound of parsnips.
I peeled them and cut them into small chunks and put them to simmer in my
2-quart cast iron pot with water to more than cover and salt and
pepper. I sauteed an onion, some garlic and some peeled and sliced
fresh ginger root, and added that. When the parsnips and sweet
potatoes were soft, I took the blender to the mixture and then
left it on the back burner, which has an especially low simmer.
Then after the rehearsal, I added some half-and-half. If you’re
cooking vegan or for the lactose-intolerant, I don’t think the
half-and-half is necessary; it was a pretty creamy soup before I
did that. But I’d bought it with the parsnips, so I decided to
use it.

One thing to note about soups: the recipes all minimize the
cooking time, and then say to use broth, which has previous
cooking time built into it. If you just simmer you soup for
several hours, the vegetables that are in it make the liquid into
broth. In the case of my after-rehearsal soups, the cooking is
usually done around 6 PM, and the eating is after 10 PM when
rehearsal ends, so there’s always several hours of simmering. So
I don’t bother making broth separately.

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Squash Pudding

I’ve been cooking something easy to eat and share at the end of the Cantabile Band
rehearsals. It started when I got the farm share last fall,
and had lots more vegetables than one person could possibly eat,
so I started making them into soup. Now I do it even when there
isn’t something that needs to be used up, because chopping
vegetables at 6 PM to eat soup at 10 seems less rushed than
trying to throw together a dinner and eat it before people start
arriving at 7:30.

Last Tuesday, the thing I had that should be used up was two
butternut squash from last fall’s farm share. The squash soup
that I’d made one week hadn’t been a great success, and I was
too lazy to make piecrust for squash pie, so I decided to make a
squash pudding instead.

googling turned up a recipe
that looked doable, with some modifications:

  • I couldn’t figure out what the baking powder could possibly be
    doing there, so I left it out.
  • I usually reduce the sugar, so I
    used just a half cup instead of three quarters. Next time I may try substituting maple
    syrup.
  • I was too lazy to get out the blender, so I just mashed
    the squash with a fork.One really nice feature of this way of doing it that way was that I just
    baked it in the same pyrex bowl I mixed it in, so no extra
    cleanup.
  • The recipe called for 2 medium butternut
    squash, and I had a medium and a large, so I left half of the
    large one out.
  • It’s winter, so running the oven is essentially
    free, so I baked it instead of microwaving it. One really nice feature of this way of doing it was that I just
    baked it in the same pyrex bowl I mixed it in, so no extra
    cleanup.

I liked it; most people had seconds; one person asked for the
recipe. The quarter or so left was a good sized breakfast the
next morning.