No Flip-Flopping: The Perfect Waffle

Editor’s Note: Lisa Fox, owner of FINO restaurant in Austin and blogger at For The Love of Food, shares this recipe for FINO’s perfect waffles. The secret: yeast, proofed overnight, for a waffle that is perfectly crispy on the outside, light and airy inside, and full of flavor all around.

Goodnight Waffles

The night before:

Combine and let stand 10 minutes…
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast

Stir in…
2 cups warm whole milk
½ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Beat in 2 cups flour until smooth…

Wrap bowl tightly with plastic wrap, let stand out on the counter overnight.

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Feeling Saucy

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I currently have three — three! — kinds of soy sauce in my refrigerator.  So why is it that I can’t make a decent stir-fry?

I really do find it astounding that I’m the proud(?) owner of three varieties of the stuff that they give you for free at Chinese takeout restaurants.  But the saltwater that they put in those plastic packages is absolutely vile, so buying myself a bottle of Pearl River Bridge soy sauce was a no-brainer.  If you can get your hands on that brand, I really recommend it!  I’m sure I needed a bottle of dark soy sauce for a teriyaki recipe or something, so I grabbed a bottle of that at some point, too.

But when I pulled a recipe out of my Thai cookbook this weekend, I was required to add to my collection by purchasing sweet soy sauce, also known as kecap manis, which I didn’t even know existed until just now.  I’d go to the trouble of describing for you what sweet soy sauce tastes like, but if you just add some molasses to your regular soy sauce, it’s pretty much just that.

The dish, a Thai take on beef with broccoli in a nam pla/sweet soy sauce, was a bit overly-sweet and generally flat.  Which means it’s exactly like every other stir-fry sauce I seem to try.  I’ve varied all elements…soy, mirin, garlic, sherry, ginger, oyster sauce, sesame oil…you name it.  But I just can’t seem to get a brown sauce that ever measures up to decent take out.

So I’m begging you, dear readers:  Does anyone have a foolproof recipe or set of ingredient ratios that can help me out?  I’m perfectly happy to keep ordering out — I can’t get my scallion pancake as good as they do at China King — but I’d like to be able to whip up a good weeknight chicken and string beans every now and then!

(Photo: FotoosVanRobin)

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Boiling Away Hate

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I totally get why little kids would think spinach is gross. Most probably share my first vision of spinach: Popeye drinking dark green goo, out of a can, and then beating the shit out of people. It was totally weird and random. Did spinach bring out rage in sailors?

Eating vegetables, let alone drinking them, was just not on my things to do list (which included making my oma judge my many productions of a My Little Pony beauty pageant. Moondancer always won.)

But I still don’t get what gives veggies a bad rap in general. And some more than others. Carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, there’s really not that much angst against them. But brussels sprouts? It’s like they’re so hateful that they’d rather stop helping the homeless than let two consenting adults build a life together.

Why are brussels sprouts so hated?

They’re pretty cute, actually. Adorable little bulbs with pretty, pale green petals. They’re not scary, weapon-like spears like asparagus. They’re not slimy with a clinical and unappetizing sounding name—fungus—like mushrooms. They don’t splooge juice like a tomato. Brussels sprouts are small and neatly compact.

Why all the hate?

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One Last Warm Breeze

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Editors Note: My neighbor Kashou Bennett who blogs at The Straight Torquer has been bragging about his garden for months. As we wrap up our outdoor activities, Kash gives us one more remembrance of warmer days.

The leaves are turning, the wind is getting chillier, and I have finally retired my garden.

I had harvested most of the vegetables a few weeks ago, but my basil plants this year just kept on kicking. It was a small garden, not difficult to keep weeded and tended to, just a tidy patch of tilled earth in the front yard of my house in Columbia Heights, Washington DC.

The reason I kept those last hardy basil plants around as long as I could was that the little group of plants represents more to me than just a place from which I can get a bit of food.  My garden was a public statement — and when I say public, I mean front yard public — of organic living and self-sufficiency that I was inspired to undertake by Michelle Obama’s organic garden in the backyard of the White House.

Sure, I could have avoided some sidewalk casualties had I protected my pepper plants in pots on the back porch.  Several times I rescued the fragile flora from incoming threats of various nature.  From inebriated friends staggering through the yard and just not realizing what they were standing in (hey man, watch out!), to the daily assaults coming from the games of the kids who live on my block. 

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Never Can Say Goodbye

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I don’t care that it’s 50 degrees out and windy and rainy and my body is begging my wallet to buy a winter squash for a warming soup.

No.

I refuse.

If there are still tomatoes and eggplants and zucchinis at the farmers market, then I’m holding out for summer’s brightly colored bounty to keep me happy in the kitchen. And because of this ridiculous self-induced rule, I also over-buy, which is easy when 6 long and slender eggplants only cost $2.

What to do with that many eggplants?

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Switching Savory for Sweet

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It’s absolutely KILLING ME but I haven’t been to the White House farmers market yet. It’s only a few blocks from my office, but I’ve been out of town, then out at a conference and then this week I didn’t leave my desk until quarter after 6 and the market closes at seven. No Michelle Obama treats for me.

But I hid my disappoint and redirected my energy to the challenge at home. 80P had to leave for class by 7:30, meaning we had to start eating by 7 (or at least start taking pictures of what I made.) I got home 6:30. I literally had to make a 30 minute meal. This alone is comical.

My aunt bought me one of Rachel Ray’s 30 minute cookbooks, I think it was entertaining themed. The recipes easily took me triple the 30 minutes (probably because I refused to follow the instructions. Whatever).  But that was years ago. Could I actually whip something up, and not just breakfast burritos, in 30 minutes?

Okay, so I mentally scan my kitchen on the bus ride home. What’s going bad? What’s fresh? What can be made quickly. And then I remembered what I almost made for dinner the night before. But then the Phillies gladly interrupted my life and I had to find a bar to watch the Phils capture the division. Yes, ma’am, that’s a three-peat.

My focus was on the rosemary country white loaf. Very about-to-go bad. And dude, isn’t that scary: how can a sliced loaf bought in the store last 3 weeks but an unsliced loaf bought at the market last for days.

Anyway, I had to use that bread. And I didn’t just want to cube it for croutons. I thought about a dish incorporating eggs, of course. I noticed that stratas require hours of marinating.

What about french toast? Those slices only take minutes to absorb the egg and milk. But wait. There’s rosemary in that bread. Syrup won’t work with rosemary. Hmm…

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Finding a Happy Home for Hash Browns

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It’s one of my favorite times of year—there are a shit ton of tomatoes everywhere. The tomato soup I made last week left an awesome taste in my mouth and I couldn’t wait to create that on a bigger scale.  More tomatoes. More garlic. More wine.

This time around I again roasted the tomatoes, but I also sauteed an onion while the tomatoes were in the oven. Oh, and before I roasted the tomatoes I strained the juice and reserved that for later in the process. So onion, roasted tomato, garlic, juice of tomatoes, red wine vinegar (no wine opened) and then some fresh sage.

Ah. Fresh sage. I was at my uncle’s house this past weekend and holy lord he has a serious garden. I lugged back 3 or 4 bags worth of rosemary, sage, basil and this herb that smells so strongly of lemon (lemon balm?).

Actually, here’s my uncle with a tomato. He also grows raspberries, blueberries, hot peppers, mustard greens, purple beans, okra and lots of other goodies. One day I’ll have a backyard… (or maybe I can stay in the city and take advantage of a rooftop!)

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Anyway, the soup was crazy chunky and I just wasn’t perfectly pleased. Then my sister grabbed leftovers from lunch: hash browns from the diner. She conducted a search for a snack while I thought up dinner, but concluded cold, old hash browns were not the snacking answer. They were however, the answer to dinner.

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