Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Slice an Onion

Slicing an onion, to some, is like boiling water--a simple culinary exercise that can be done automatically and without much thought. This confidence comes from experience. But some of us are just extremely clumsy no matter how many hours we log in the kitchen. Which is a roundabout way of saying I cut myself real bad chopping an onion earlier this month. I've shown it to friends from nurses to brawny men who play full-contact sports and they all have the same reaction: cringing, tongues stuck out, "GUAHHHH GET IT AWAY FROM ME!" This can all be avoided by being mindful and keeping best practices in mind. I know I've mentioned using a fan to blow those tear-enducing gases away while you chop. The most important trick, however, is the finger tuck. You're practically digging your nails into the skin of the onion, pulling them under the knuckles. This way you'll hit the flat of the blade of your knife against your knuckles before you have a chance to lose any finger tips. I like the skin trick on this video.

You'll notice--no surprises--that my next recipe is onion free.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soup in the Second Degree

Oh boy, did I underestimate this guy. I wouldn't call this a premeditated soup. This is soup perpetrated in the second degree. I had the cannelini beans presoaked because a quick inventory of my pantry earlier in the week informed me that little else was on hand. Two unharmed heads of garlic had been purchased with the idea of oven-roasting them for no reason other than it is seriously delicious. Things just turned out well for the soup bandit and this recipe. I cooked the beans and garlic while watching TV and put the whole thing together before turning in for bed. Though not particularly hungry, I fixed myself a small bowl to taste. And when I had finished that, I got back up and served myself another. This will be enough for two, and I regret not having made more. I'm presenting the original proportions that I cooked with, but I suggest doubling everything.

1/2 lb cannelini beans, dry (Great Northern or navy beans work as well)
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream or half and half
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon oregano
salt to taste
olive oil

-Cook the presoaked, well-rinsed white beans until very soft (a little over an hour) but do not salt them.
-Preheat your oven to 350.
-Place each head of garlic in a piece of aluminum foil. Soak the tops with olive oil, sprinkle a bit of black pepper on top if you like, and close up the foil. You can cut the bottoms off the garlic heads beforehand to make extraction easier, but I don't find this step necessary. Cook for about an hour and 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, open the foil and let cool. Do not handle until at room temperature.
-Press gently at the tip of each clove to extract the garlic. It should be buttery in consistency. You can squeeze the whole thing in your fist to amuse yourself, but it gets pretty messy.
-Combine the white beans, broth, cream, and oregano in a food processor and blend. Add two tablespoons of the roasted garlic and a couple pinches of salt--you shouldn't need very much. Blend again.
-Heat a skillet and coat the bottom with olive oil.
-Break up the cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces.
-Salt and fry the cauliflower on medium-high heat until you get a bit of char.
-Serve the soup topped with the fried cauliflower.