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Cooking for 26!


jrshaul
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FWIW, here is a recipe from the classic "Diet for a Small Planet" that has pleased even carnivores for decades, a casserole of brown rice, black beans, green chiles, ricotta, jack cheese, etc.. Wish I had some now... :wub:

That recipe sounds delicious....and there are others at that site, such as Vegetarian Shepard's Pie, that may work for the OP.

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Jrshaul, is the number 26 a constant in your diners or does it contract or inflate depending on the cook? I found when I was cooking for the house, I often had more diners than I had planned for, which was around 14 who lived in the house, including myself. What I did was post the menu on a chalkboard and had the diners sign in until there was no more room at the inn, so to speak. One or two stragglers can usually be wedged in, but more than that, well they were welcome to the peanutbutter and jelly.

If it was a special occasion, then all I asked for was a week's heads up to allow for extras. Fortunately, I did not have to also do the shopping, but gave a list to one of the other girls who had more time and followed the list well.

Good luck and keep us informed!

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....post the menu on a chalkboard and had the diners sign in until there was no more room at the inn....more than that, well they were welcome to the peanutbutter and jelly.

What a sensible solution to the "guess how many are coming to dinner" dilemma. It also gives the finicky the opportunity to join in on palatable sounding menues or forage for themselves.

eGullet member #80.

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It worked really well, better than a magnetic board where you were either in or out since people would forget to move the magnets. Signing in everyday worked great and also made everyone responsible for whether or not they got fed. It wasn't hard to remember, really, since it was right by the door to the street that everyone used.

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Good news! I've found that the house actually has a lot of unused food on scheduled deliveries. While the fresh vegetables tend to be exhausted well before the weekly delivery, there's quite a lot of stuff at a tremendous surplus, including a whopping five gallons of tahini paste and a lot of root vegetables no one can be bothered to cook.

Speaking of tahini, the house eats an absolutely insane amount of hummus - something on the order of ten pounds a week. They're paying $4.50 for itty-bitty tubs of the stuff, and I'd like to start producing it en masse. I've made hummus before, but never from dry garbanzo beans - any thoughts? Also, beyond the roasted red pepper and roasted garlic, any ideas for alternative flavorings?

Another "freebie food" is tofu, which nobody else cooks. I've had some good luck at home stir-frying it in smoking hot peanut oil, but I just can't seem to get the temperature of the wok or frying pan up high enough to keep it from sticking. I'm pretty new to stir-frying, but I'm fairly sure the issue is temperature related; at home, I make enough smoke to fill the apartment but in the co-op kitchen my infrared thermometer measured the pan at a lowly 280F!

Maybe something could be done with the broiler? It's an industrial unit that also heats the griddle above it; it actually doesn't seem to get very hot under it but it does toast the top very well. I can take pictures if my description isn't helping.

EDIT:

Apparently, what I'm looking for is "tofu dengaku," broiled tofu in miso sauce. The wide-area broiler should make these pretty well, and I can add some heat to the sauce for a few of them. The better recipes all seem to use egg whites, though - is there a decent vegan and gluten-free alternative?

Also, anyone know where I can buy cheap mirin and dashi stock? The guy who does food purchasing is a peach, but he has some trouble with the exotics. I've heard that fungi soaked in water make a pretty decent substitute, and I can get a big package of "dried black forest mushrooms" for $3. I have no idea what they are, but the Chinese students could probably tell me.

This column really brings into very sharp focus for me a huge difference between young people today and those of several decades back. I don't know, I'm probably generalizing, and probably even wrong, but I doubt the percentage of people with genuine food issues, like celiacs, etc., has increased that much. But what has clearly increased is the percentage of people that adopt whatever food trend is currently in vogue. I remember a time when cooking for college kids meant one thing - did you make enough.

Agreed 100%. There's one former resident who frequently visits for dinner who is very seriously allergic to lactose and gluten - the narcolepsy is not an exaggeration. He's now a happy and successful individual who politely turns down pie when offered. For the longest time, I thought he just didn't like the food.

Fun fact I learned from him: Commercial butter has a sufficiently small amount of lactose that many celiacs can have small amounts of it. Same with a few hard cheeses.

Jrshaul, is the number 26 a constant in your diners or does it contract or inflate depending on the cook? I found when I was cooking for the house, I often had more diners than I had planned for, which was around 14 who lived in the house, including myself. What I did was post the menu on a chalkboard and had the diners sign in until there was no more room at the inn, so to speak. One or two stragglers can usually be wedged in, but more than that, well they were welcome to the peanutbutter and jelly.

If it was a special occasion, then all I asked for was a week's heads up to allow for extras. Fortunately, I did not have to also do the shopping, but gave a list to one of the other girls who had more time and followed the list well.

Good luck and keep us informed!

On average, it's more like 16 on most days. However, it can be much higher at times. Sometimes people just go make PB&Js to make up the slack, but this just seems inadequate.

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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Speaking of tahini, the house eats an absolutely insane amount of hummus - something on the order of ten pounds a week. They're paying $4.50 for itty-bitty tubs of the stuff, and I'd like to start producing it en masse. I've made hummus before, but never from dry garbanzo beans - any thoughts? Also, beyond the roasted red pepper and roasted garlic, any ideas for alternative flavorings?

I think it's pretty receptive to little tweaks like adding lemon zest or subbing sherry vinegar for the lemon juice. Buying hummus in that quantity is a real shame, heck you could use canned beans and come out ahead on that one. Cooking from dry would be even better, just simmer them with halved and peeled onions, big chunks of carrot, and bay leaf, and you should be golden. I cook dry beans almost weekly but I've never done chickpeas so I can't help with cooking time, but when I have seen others do this they used just simple aromatics.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Do you need to rinse/drain chickpeas like other beans? When I said I'm a newbie cook, I wasn't kidding...

On a related note, can anyone suggest things that only make sense in foodservice-size quantities? High-gluten flour starts to make sense when bread is baked on a weekly basis - and everyone likes pizza!

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Trust me: Buy canned chickpeas, rinse them well and go from there. They are so inexpensive it's not worth the trouble to pick through the bulk peas to get out the stones, then boil them for an hour and a half, then rub the skins off.

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Trust me: Buy canned chickpeas, rinse them well and go from there. They are so inexpensive it's not worth the trouble to pick through the bulk peas to get out the stones, then boil them for an hour and a half, then rub the skins off.

You need to rub the skins off? I wasn't aware of that.

Well, that's one crisis averted...

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You don't have to, but they can get between your teeth and can be bitter. You should be able to find industrial sized cans, they used to be #15 (I think) but I'm not sure.

You should also look at dented can sales and end stock at places that carry that sort of thing.

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For 1 or 2 people, cans might make sense but if you're doing 10lbs of hummus a week, it might actually take less effort to dump a giant sack of dried chickpeas in a pot then open a ton of cans. Regardless, the most labor is going to be at the end, with the pureeing, especially if you have a tiny food processor.

You can cook chickpeas from dried without soaking, just get a big pot and set it at the lowest simmer with plenty of water and forget about it for a few hours. With hummus, it's impossible to overcook the chickpeas so just let it go. Alternatively, you might want to talk to your house about getting a large, pressure canner style pressure cooker to speed up the cooking of beans, lentils and such. Given the menu, it seems like it would be a worthwhile investment.

PS: I am a guy.

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If your people are OK with the hummus in the little tubs, I wouldn't stress out about removing the skins, either. I only do it when I'm feeling really ambitious, and if you ask me the resulting hummus made with the skins is still damned good. Of course, my blender is a monster, which helps.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Another "freebie food" is tofu, which nobody else cooks. I've had some good luck at home stir-frying it in smoking hot peanut oil, but I just can't seem to get the temperature of the wok or frying pan up high enough to keep it from sticking.

Tofu resists frying because it contains a high percentage of liquid, 50% to 60% someone told me. Also, that liquid tastes ick so it's always a good idea to drain and press off some of the liquid in tofu, if possible.

You can cut the tofu in slices and place them between layers of paper towels or smooth kitchen towels (not terrycloth) to absorb some liquid. That helps. For serious pressing, wrap the tofu in cheesecloth or a towel, place in a colander in the sink, and set a plate and then a weight (like a big can of tomatoes) on top. That last method probably isn't practical if you're cooking tons of tofu for your crowd, but it is effective.

In her cookbook This Can't Be Tofu, Deborah Madison suggests placing sliced or cubed tofu on an oiled pan and letting it bake in a 375F oven. After 10-12 mins, the tofu will have released a lot of water. Drain it off, and let it cook another 10 mins or so, until the tofu is firm. I haven't tried this method myself, but it sounds reasonable and more practical for prepping tofu in quantity. Then you can add the tofu to whatever dish you're making.

There's no reason to struggle with stirfrying tofu. Try marinating or oiling the tofu slices, then baking or broiling them. You can serve the slices on the side, or cut them into cubes and toss them into the stirfry just before service. The tofu still tastes good, and it won't be all broken up and crumbly.

Also don't overlook how you can add tofu cubes to soups, stews, and braises. The tofu in vegetable braises becomes nice and chewy, with a pleasant texture against the vegetables. I actually prefer tofu in moist cooking, rather than frying.

BTW, for tofu cookery, I suggest you track down Madison's This Can't Be Tofu if you can. Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone also has many tofu recipes. Googlebooks has a preview of the tofu chapter from Vegetarian Cooking, here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Ujfe46rgt8kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=madison+vegetarian+cooking+for+everyone&hl=en&src=bmrr&sa=X&ei=Cl4_T_nxJqOuiQKQmKWqAQ&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=types%20of%20tofu&f=false

there's quite a lot of stuff at a tremendous surplus, including a whopping five gallons of tahini paste and a lot of root vegetables no one can be bothered to cook.

Ok, I'll bite. What are the root vegs you have that nobody else will cook?

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Ok, I'll bite. What are the root vegs you have that nobody else will cook?

Pumpkin. Lots and lots of pumpkin - in cans, and a few lonely gourds in the root cellar. Also, sweet potatoes, onions, and a few conventional spuds. As a rule of thumb, anything that can't be eaten instantly isn't consumed for the DIY breakfast or lunch, and no one seems to do much with sweet potatoes.

Thanks for the tofu tips! I've had some surprisingly good luck cooking tofu at home with relatively little oil, though I have a small cast-iron pan (not a wok) and a big electric burner. I also drain it really well. Pre-baking the stuff might be interesting, and it should throw off a lot of water - perhaps making it more suitable to fry? I suspect phase-change heat loss is dropping the heat of the pan to unsuitable levels.

On a totally unrelated note, I've found that, when cooking in large batches, it's practical to put a lid on a pan and slowly render the fat out of the chicken skin. It tastes fantastic, and gives a powerful chicken-y flavor to a dish where you can't have quite enough meat.

Anyway, on the List of Stuff to Learn:

1. Hummus. Hummus consumption at peak is over 20 pounds per week, and at $4.50/lb, that's not really sustainable. I figure I can make it for 1/4 that. I found a Vita-Mix without a lid; hopefully, once restored, this should make hummus prep a lot easier.

Due to my inexperience with dried beans, I soaked them overnight, washed them, then did the "rapid soak" procedure where you briefly simmer them then leave them in water some more. This is overkill, but as someone who has great difficulty with improperly cooked beans, I'd rather not have to make anyone else suffer.

2. Tofu dengaku. I think I've had this before, and the recipe's great: Chop tofu into bits, broil, apply easy sauce, broil more. I'm not a fan of tofu outside of Asian food, and most of the other food co-oppers aren't either; however, I think they'll like this a lot. The only catch is finding a vegan egg substitute (or just making something else for the vegans.) Also, mirin and daishi are unpleasantly expensive; I'm hoping to use mushroom broth for the latter.

Here's a recipe that seems pretty safe to me, though any comments would be welcome.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/07/seriously-asian-tofu-dengaku-recipe.html

3. Chili and cornbread. I think I'm set on this one.

4. Pumpkin stew. Someone has to eat that pumpkin! Probably with peanuts. One batch will have heat and meat; the others will be for the non-adventurous and the vegans.

5. Mapo dofu. Eating tofu with pork sauce changed the way I thought about tofu. Also, there's a grad student from China who's quite keen on more spicy food.

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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Mapo Dofu is a great use of tofu. You might want to try mafe which is an African Pumpkin & Peanut stew. I just use powdered dashi. It's a reasonably expensive upfront investment but you can make a ton of dashi from it so it's cheap on a per-gallon basis.

PS: I am a guy.

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Also, you should be aware that dashi contains bonito fish which is not vegan. Shiitake mushroom broth would probably be the best vegan alternative (dried shiitakes steeped in hot water). The eggs appear to be primarily for thickening, if you can get it, xantham gum would be the best alternative but if not, a bit of cornstarch would also work.

PS: I am a guy.

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Also, you should be aware that dashi contains bonito fish which is not vegan.

...or suitable for vegetarians!

I like the shiitake broth idea.

For alternate hummus flavors, try google-ing major brands such as Sabra, Tribe, Cedars....

There was an excellent Vietnamese curry in the 2011 "Recipes that Rock" thread which features sweet potatoes.

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One of my favorite vegetable roasts is peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, onion (preferably red) and whole garlic cloves, tossed with olive oil, s&p, and some kind of herb or seasoning--dried thyme, herbes de provence, curry powder, chipotle powder, whatever. Then bake in the oven 425 or so for 45 min. Nobody doesn't like it. Peeled, seeded, and cubed pumpkin should work great, too.

By regular potatoes, do you mean russet? Those can be used to thicken soups in lieu of or in addition to cream.

And tho it's probably not exactly what you're looking for, this is one of my all-time favorite soups, I'm sure it could be adapted to your purposes for the meat eaters. Should work with canned if you want to go that route.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Here's a recipe I came up with for a cooking contest fundraising event (and it won). All recipes had to be based on sweet potatoes. You could just use water instead of the stock, to make it vegetarian. Also, I think peanuts would work in place of almonds, or even just leave them out. You could also use a curry powder blend, instead of all the individual spices, if it's more easily acquired. I don't know how you could make it lactose-free, though.

Roasted Sweet Potato Curry

1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes

1 medium yellow onion, peeled & quartered

1 1/2 T olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 t ground cloves

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground cardamon

1/2 t black pepper

1/2 t ground ginger

1 c chicken stock

1 1/2 t garam marsala

1 t chili powder

1 1/2 t ground coriander

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/2 t cumin

1/2 c whole milk yogurt

1/4 c ground almonds

2 T salted butter

2 T heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place the squash, onion & garlic in a small roasting pan. Pour in the olive oil & stir to coat. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, pepper & ginger. Stir until all the vegetables are coated well. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the squash is tender but not smooshy. (You can do this step ahead of time & refrigerate until ready to use.)

Put the chicken stock into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garam marsala, chili powder, coriander, cayenne & cumin. Whisk in the yogurt. Add the almonds, butter & heavy cream. Once the butter has melted add the squash, onions & chicken if using. Bring to a simmer & let cook uncovered for about 15 minutes.

Serve over rice

4 (generous) servings

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How about pumpkin lasagna? I'd heat some chopped garlic in oil, add some crushed sage, then mix in the pumpkin. Layer with lasagna noodles (vegan), drizzling each layer with browned "butter" (vegan margarine), ending with noodles. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and browned butter.

Or Thai-seasoned pumpkin soup: Saute some onions and garlic in oil, some Thai green curry paste, add pumpkin, heat and thin with coconut milk and vegetable broth (cubes or powder or your own). Serve with croutons, cubes of sauteed tofu and cubes or slices of sauteed sweet potato.

(In your shoes, I'd try to turn all (scrubbed) vegetable trimmings into broth.)

eGullet member #80.

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How about pumpkin lasagna? I'd heat some chopped garlic in oil, add some crushed sage, then mix in the pumpkin. Layer with lasagna noodles (vegan), drizzling each layer with browned "butter" (vegan margarine), ending with noodles. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and browned butter.

Now there's an idea! But unless I missed something, it only has to be vegetarian, right? Not vegan? That would let you use real brown butter--will margarine even do that? The browning of butter is really a toasting of the milk solids, which margarine doesn't have. In a perfect world walnut or hazelnut oil I guess would be the better sub, but that wouldn't be very budget friendly here.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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You can bake sweet potatoes just like Idaho potatoes. Rinse and scrub them, trim off the ends if they've gotten hard and dry, and bake in a 400F oven until the potatoes test done when pierced with a knife or skewer. Split them open, add butter and salt, and enjoy. One of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes. Your DIY'ers can reheat leftover potatoes in the microwave for breakfast.

I'd be cautious about using the canned pumpkin like fresh pumpkin or fresh winter squash. They're not the same. That canned pumpkin is the equivalent of watery boiled pumpkin, and it's lost flavor in the can. I believe it's usually intended for pumpkin pie filling, with plenty of sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar) to make it taste better. You can use the canned pumpkin in other baked goods, like a pumpkin quickbread. You might be disappointed if you use it in a savory soup or stew. Anybody else know?

A pumpkin quickbread recipe, adapted from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I haven't tried this one, but Marion Cunningham's recipes are usually reliable. http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pumpkin_bread/

Have you checked out the Ma Po Tofu thread on EGullet? Here:

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As expensive as sweet potatoes are, I can't believe you have a bunch of them lying around. Lucky you! I also like to bake them like potatoes, djyee, but I scrub them, poke them to release the steam and wrap them in aluminum foil since they make a hella mess if they drip in the oven.

Canned pumpkin, as cautioned above, is not the same as fresh pumpkin and won't behave the same way.

What is this fascination that college kids have with not eating meat? One of my sons is a senior at University and he knows a few girls who are occasional vegetarians, but no one who is hardcore about it. Is it fashion? I used to think it was for economy, but it's more expensive and more time-consuming than eating a meat based diet.

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As expensive as sweet potatoes are, I can't believe you have a bunch of them lying around. Lucky you! I also like to bake them like potatoes, djyee, but I scrub them, poke them to release the steam and wrap them in aluminum foil since they make a hella mess if they drip in the oven.

Plain baked sweet potatoes are hugely popular in our house. Always have been. I also scrub and poke, but don't wrap them in foil for cooking. Instead, I put them on a cookie sheet and let them bake a long, long time, until they are collapsed, and nice and caramelly. True that they would make a hella mess if they weren't on that cookie sheet, but they are! Then we just serve them like you would any baked potato (although you do have to scrape them off of that cookie sheet with a sturdy spatula): split them open, tuck in a nice wedge of butter, and a dusting of salt and pepper. I have made some good spreads with butter and brown sugar, or piloncillo, or molasses, and maybe a dusting of cinnamon, and orange juice or lemon juice (or Rancho Gordo banana vinegar which is ambrosial) to serve when we have guests coming over, but for the most part, we are purists. If I don't have a lot of time, I start them in the microwave. Give them about five minutes or so, and then into the oven. No aluminum foil unless they're ready before we're ready to start eating. Then I wrap them in foil to hold until dinnertime. That foil keeps them nice and hot while we get the rest of the meal together.

So so good.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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