So like two years ago, my mom got me a vegetarian cookbook. 'Madhur Jaffrie's World Vegetarian'. It's a huge volume of recipes from all over the world, (though mostly indian-asian cuisine) and though it's generally easy to follow, it's totally intimidating. Just to cook some greens means making several sub-recipes, aquireing bizarre spices and oils, and lentils that need hours of prep time to soak or cook are always somehow involved.
When we moved to our new place, i realized two things:
A) i want to cook at home more, and not eat out all the time, and
B) i have no upper limit for eating indian food. i could shovel their yummy gloopy veggie stuff till the sacred cow came home, had some chai, stayed up all night watching bollywood films, and then left for cow-work the next morning.
So i dove into 'World Vegetarian', and.... i love it! I'm practially down the street from all the Indian Spice stores i'd need, and even though i work late, all i want to do when i come home is see what insane combo of veggies and spices i can make. So, that said, i'm posting here to formally announce my Intent To Cook Food Lots! I'm sure i'll have lots of questions, and if i have any successes, i'll be sure to share them.
We went to Andalu on Friday and checked out the pre fixe menu. All the yummy things I had planned to order weren't on there so we passed and went for the usual menu...
I liked the interior: busy, spacious, loud, bustling, kitchen open yet hidden in the back, well stocked bar in front, upstairs banquet area (with "happy birthday" floating down), the huge lovely mural and the simple circular space-theme overhead windows.
We started with the fondue, which was all right. The accompanying toasts were nice and having both pears and apple slices was great. The cheese itself was grainy and somewhat flour-y. It was exactly like a gorgonzola pasta sauce P. makes and I was expecting something thicker and with a smoother texture.
Next up, the polenta fries with tomato sauce. YUM! These sliver-moon shaped fries were cooked perfectly and the tangy tomato viniagrette was great. I added salt to my fries because it just tasted more like sin that way.
The pitcher of sangria was yummy, mild but yummy! Service for glass refilling was excellent as well.
Next up, dish of andalusian olives. Now, I don't quite understand this, but they had a hint of root beer. I kept trying to pin the flavor but never quite got it. These were standard briney olives and a nice in-between dish.
I ordered the butter lettuce salad with radishes and it was excellent. The croutons were flavorful and the light dressing tangy and nice. I didn't go for an entree as there wasn't really one that rang my bell. (more room for dessert) P. had the cassoulette /duck confit and the bite I sampled was delicious.
And onto dessert! I ordered the fresh mini-donuts with Mexican hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was served in small cups. Very strong with thick condensed milk. Yum yum yum. The donuts, unfortunately, were severely disappointing. Not what I was expecting at all. Did you make bread balls as a kid? Where you pull off the crusts of your wonderbread and roll it up in your fist until it's a gummy snow-ball? Cover that memory with powdered sugar and there you have the dessert. I was disappointed by the yeasty bready donuts. I was hoping for some soft cakey ones. Oh well. Maybe they'll catch on that dessert donuts went out of fashion last year?
P. ordered the banana and pecan tartlet and I think I had a bite but I was so unhappily fixated over my donuts that I forgot if it was good or not.
Ah well, guess I'll just have to go back and try it again!
What better way to spend a sunday afternoon then baking.
Shari and I were just settling in to watch 'the big game' when there
came a knock on the door, and heather appeared. Now I really was
inspired to bake something. I handed Shari 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' and asked her to pick out a cupcake recipe. She chose the 'burnt-butter brown-sugar cupcakes' , sounds very strange, but they taste really good.
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
5 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 Tablespoons milk
12-cup muffin pan lines with 12 paper baking cups
Preheat the oven to 400F and then get on with burning your butter. Put it in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring all the time until it turns dark golden color. Take the pan off the heat and strain the butter into a bowl or cup, as it will have made a sediment. In other words, this is like clarified butter, but with a smokey note. Let the butter solidify again but don't put it in the refrigerator; you need it to remain soft for the cupcakes. This shouldn't take long, except in hot weather, in which case leave the preheating of the oven till after the butter's been burnt.
When the butter is solid but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz to a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture.
Divide among the paper cups, and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking get on with the icing.
1/2 cups ples 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
12/3 to 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk
It's the same procedure for the butter-- burn, strain, solidify -- then beat it with half the sugar or enough to make it stiff. Add tablespoons of milk and the remaining sugar alternately to reach a good consistency, and finally the vanilla.
While the icing's still soft, smear messily over the cooled and waiting cupcakes.
I was unable to find cheese cloth to strain the butter but found that the sediment was not a big issue. Additionally, I had problems with the butter becoming solid again, so I just waited until it had cooled and then threw it in. I used my kitchen aid and not a food processor and all came out well. There was more icing then the little cakes could hold, but it was all really good.
A very unusual flavor but quite pleasing... The cake is very light, crisp on the edges and buttery... hmm maybe the remainders will be today's breakfast.
Michael Bauer found some time to check out Platanos - my only excuse is that he does this for a living, kids. He gives it the thumbs up, but isn't as rhapsodic as he was about Limon. Still, a damn fine first review from M.B. - and a nice bit about Mission dining that i think is right on, and is one of the reasons i love my 'hood.
This morning i was on a mission - to make cookies for my granddad, Tom Raison. He's in the hospital, and he loves to eat, adores dessert, and chocolate chip cookies are about at the top of his list. I was determined to bring him some that were freshly made today.
I've been on another mission to thoroughly evaluate my copy of How to be a Domestic Goddess so that i can have a proper opinion - but for such a thoroughly American cookie, i had to turn elsewhere - and David Lebovitz didn't let me down. This recipe is from Room for Dessert. Mr. Lebovitz has the clever suggestion of rolling your batch of dough into four logs, and freezing a few of them, so you're always ready to slice a few cookies off the end and bake them for friends who have stopped by to say hi. I have three logs now, just waiting. ;)
I especially like that this recipe turns out cookies that aren't too sweet. It's not that they aren't dessert - they're just not tooth-achingly sweet. Try them!
Makes about 50 cookies.
2 cups nuts, toasted (i omitted these - i hate nuts in my cookies.)
1/2 lb butter, at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2.5 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
1. Coarsely chop the nuts. Cream the butter with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla. If you use an electric mixer, it will take about 1 minute. [note from mko: If you use cold butter and a KitchenAid, it will take about 3 minutes!] Stop the mixer once during beating to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula so all the butter gets incorperated.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue beating until thoroughly mixed.
3. Mix together the flour and baking soda and stir into the creamed butter and sugar. Stir in the nuts and chocolate.
4. Transfer the cookie dough to a lightly floured surface, divide it in four, and use your hands to roll each piece of dough into a log about 9 inches long. Wrap the logs in plastic rwap and refrigerate until firm, about one hour. The dough can also be frozen at this point for up to 2 months.
5. To bake the cookies, position the oven racks in the center and upper part of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Slice each log into 3/4-inch-thick slices and place the cookies on parchment-covered [note: i use silpats!] baking sheets, 3 inches apart. If any unbaked cookies fall apart, just push them back together with your hands. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and switching racks midway through baking. When done, the cookies should be very lightly colored in the center, and just barely baked - if you like chocolate chip cookies chewy.
The newest occupant of the old (and much beloved) Radio Valencia space has thrown open the bar and kitchen for business. I predict that The Last Supper Club will be much more sucessful than the mediocre Thai joint that preceeded it. The LSC opened on Monday night; we had dinner there on Tuesday. It's owned by the folks who run Luna Park; the menu is primarily Italian. We ate there again (at the bar, this time) with Andy on Thursday.
The Last Supper Club is located on Valencia at the corner of 23rd street in the Mission district. They serve until 10:30pm on weekdays, and 11:30 on weekends. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 11:30am.
If you can imagine it, take the same spirit of twist on French food you see at Luna Park, and apply it to Italian food - you'll come out the other end with the menu at The Last Supper Club. There is a reasonable vareity of dishes that are priced well for the neighborhood - not taqueria-cheap, but not Foriegn Cinema-expensive. Apps run from 5 to 9 dollars, and pastas and entrees from 8 to 16 or so. Desserts are all $6.
Cocktails are great - and having a full bar is an added bonus for the Borogove family, as Russell drinks no wine and little beer, but plenty of whisky. They serve a Harry's Bar Bellini (fun - a drink i love to make), and leverage the white peach puree to make a white peach cosmo. I tried the peach cosmo on the first visit - not too sweet, and not too tart. A good mix - i can imagine it as a lovely dessert on a hot summer evening. Russell's Manhattan was good; my sidecars were excellent. One of the bartenders "takes [his] sidecars very seriously", and it showed. I let him mix me a second one with Hennessy, after discussing the relative merits of several brandies. They do a lemon drop with limoncello that piques my curiosity. I will report back.
On the appetizer front, we tried the truffled cheese fondue - it was divine, if a bit too truffley for Russell at the beginning. (That's ok with me; i get the first few extra-truffley bites, and am actually doing him a favor!) They use the same cute ramekin-tealight contraptions that Luna Park uses, and the make the same sort of tasty grilled bread chunks; the truffle comes from a healthy dose of truffle oil floated atop the hot cheese. We loved this enough that we ate it a second time when we were there with Andy. This and a salad would be a great meal, in my book.
The carpaccio is pretty standard - it needed salt, but salt is always close at hand in a handy pinch bowl. When we were with Andy, we also tried the wild mushroom, roasted tomato, and chicken liver bruschetta. A lovely surprise; it was three long toasts - one with the mushrooms, one with the roasted tomatoes (and a goat cheese, i think), and a third with a thin, thin slice of chicken liver pate over the top. Each was sensual in its own right, and together they will make a good late-spring supper with a cup of soup or some salad.
Portions are hearty; on our first outing Russell and i split the gnocchi with venison bolognese, and on the second Andy, R & i split two entrees (the chicken-under a brick & the hazelnut ravioli with guinea fowl). There was more than enough food on both outings.
The gnocchi dish was great - the gnocchi were huge, and had a pleasant texture. The sauce was more like a ragout than a bolognese - and it was delicious. Plenty of big melting chunks of venison to lap up. The chicken was well-executed (Russell really liked it, and he doesn't often enjoy roasted chicken dishes past the first few bites.) The ravioli were decadent, filled with a puree that seemed half mascarpone, half hazelnut; they were sweet and rich and contrasted perfectly by the earthy shredded guinea fowl on top.
We only tried dessert on our first outing - an excellent affogato that was HUGE. It had two scoops of espresso gelato, and one of chocolate gelato; the espresso was pre-chilled.
The restaurant is a little more out-of-the-way than Luna Park; i'm hoping it doesn't get terminally hip and crowded every night of the week. Selfishly, albeit - i think i'd love for this to become my new neighborhood haunt.
16-ounce tube of organic polenta, divided into 16 slices
8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh minced parsley
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, "italian herb-flavored" in juices
6 oz fresh blackeye peas (if pre-cooked, don't simmer as long)
2 tbsp Olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Saute' mushrooms, garlic in olive oil until soft. Mix in parsley, tomatoes, and blackeyed peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. In the meanwhile, prepare the polenta.
Coat baking sheet with cooking spray, place polenta slices on sheet, lightly brush polenta with olive oil. Bake 5 minutes or until polenta is lightly browned.
Flip polenta slices, lightly brush with oil, and bake 5 more minutes.
Season sauce with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer until fairly thick and chunky. Blackeye Peas should be tender but not mushy.
Spoon sauce over polenta.
Given my trackrecord, one might think I eat nothing but soup and salad. Lately, that might be the case! My favorite soups and salads tend to be light on the belly and quick to prepare, making them achievable even on the busiest days. This soup clocks in at about an hour's preparation time, but most of the hour it's very hands-off so in my book it still qualifies as 'easy to make' - and those cooking sweet onions will perfume your kitchen wth a heavenly smell, to boot!
Here is a new recipe I tried this week, courtesy of 'In Style'* February 2003:
Sweet Onion Soup with Goat Cheese Toasts
6 tbsp unsalted butter (or substitute veggie oil)
3 large sweet onions, sliced (Maui, Vidalia)
8 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground corriander
1 cup white wine
8 cups chicken or veggie stock
salt and pepper to taste
thin slices of challah or brioche, lightly toasted
6oz. goat cheese
In Dutch oven melt butter (or heat oil) over medium-high heat. Stir in onions; cover, reduce heat and simmer until softened but not browned, stirring occassionally (about 30 minutes). Mix in garlic and corriander. Add wine and bring to boil until liquid is absorbed (7-9 min). Add broth, bring to boil again. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread goat cheese over toasts, broil until cheese is golden. Ladle soup into cups and top with toasts. Serve hot!
Makes about 12 cups.
* Culinary inspiration can be found in the oddest places. In this case, sandwiched between an article on throwing the perfect bridal shower, and a review of a celeb-happy New York restaurant that Woody Allen and Salma Hayek swear by. Mon dieu!
Gordon's House of Fine Eats has closed the doors for the last time. Last Saturday night (18 January) was their last evening of operation...
Russell and i walked over on Thursday for a last meal there - we sat at the bar, had a few cocktails, and revisted some favorites from previous trips. Gordon's is responsible for convincing us that brussells sprouts might we worth eating - i'll have to try and replicate the dish, it's so damned good. Leaf the sprouts, and quickly sauté them in bacon fat. Toss with salt, pepper, the bacon shards, and balsamic-reduced onions. The sprouts should still have a bit of firmness to them. We also sampled the smoked salmon flatbread, and the camembert and pear pizza. And the doughnuts. We had the fantastic, hot, steaming assortment of doughnuts. As usual, we couldn't finish them. We were glad to have you while you were here, Gordon's!
Created in honor of Hawaiian Dick, a tiki noir comic from Image & Isotope Comics - our favorite comics shop in the City. Based on the original bruised kidney - vodka and french sparkling lemonade in about the same proportions, same framboise treatment.
Fill a tall, clear glass with ice. For best results, use big blocks of ice. Fill the glass full.
Add some white rum. A third of the glass full will do - unless you're trying to kill the pain.
Pour in a bunch of pineapple juice. Add a splash of ginger ale to the top. Stir up the drink.
Drizzle in (down the sides of the glass, for optimum streaky lines) some framboise (or creme d'cassis, if that's what you have, or some other dark, sticky, red liqueur). Serve immediately, garnished with a slightly battered cocktail umbrella. Maybe with a cherry.
(If you're mixing up a big pitcher of the mixer, 4 parts pineapple to 1 part ginger ale seems about right. I always booze to taste for the lucky recipient.)
(Sadly, we had no umbrellas at photo op time - battered or otherwise. Click the drink for a larger photo.)
Ending with a bang, a whimper, a near-scorching, and a cornucopia of bread.
Our final day of class began like a world tour, or at least like viewing pictures from somebody else's world tour. Somebody with a serious obsession for flatbreads, that is. Naan coming out of a tandoori, tortillas coming off a stove, and even a North African flatbread that's traditionally cooked by dropping it straight on top of hot coals. I wound up trying this direct approach myself, as it turns out, but more on that later.
The flatbreads we made today sampled some of the world's oldest recipes. From India we made naan and paratha, lavash from the Middle East, pita from the Mediterranean coastal areas, and foccacia from Italy.
We also continued yesterday's breads, not only baking the sourdoughs but also beginning recipes for dinner rolls and pretzels. With the class ending, we of course needed to make sure we finished anything we started today.
It all looked doable on paper. As it happened, there was too much to juggle at one time, and today we didn't get the chance to follow the other teams as much as we would have liked. The recipes were simple enough, as flatbreads tend to be, but there just wasn't enough time to really learn the techniques.
For one example, I had hoped to work on my dough-rolling skills. When I roll out dough I usually get something that might be construed as a geometric shape, if you stood ten feet away and squinted your eyes. Oh, and if you lived in a non-Euclidean universe. In a professional bakeshop like that, though, most serious dough-flattening was done with a machine designed for the purpose, and that was what we used today.
Still, the basic principles were easy enough to grasp. Lavash is simply a yeast-risen mixed-grain bread that's rolled very, very flat, sweetened a little with honey, coated with seeds, and baked to a near-crisp. In ye olden days of the Middle East you could take months-old lavash, drizzle water on it, leave it in a towel for a bit, and produce a tasty staple. However, I don't have a saddlebag to pack lavash in (or a camel to hang the saddlebag on) so I'll have to take their word on it. Fresh from the oven our recipe came out crispy and marvelous.
Paratha represents the most simple variety of flatbread: whole wheat flour, salt, water, and ghee, baked to a soft flat disk. Naan uses white flour and is often leavened with yeast, though some versions use only baking soda and yogurt. Tiff & I were handling the naan, and wound up letting it rest while we worked on the bagels we formed yesterday.
we cooked the bagels in classic fashion, boiling them for about a minute before dipping them in toppings and baking them. We had fun devising topping mixtures, including a sunflower seed / black sesame seed / salt / red pepper flake mixture that we really should have named on the spot, because it rocked. However, it's imperative to get the bagels in the oven immediately at this step, rather than waiting until the whole batch gets dipped. We failed to do this, and the bagels came out a little flat and tough.
Meanwhile, another team made pretzels, which start as a bagel-like dough but are dipped in lye prior to baking. The lye not only gives the pretzels their dark brown color, but also adds extra salty flavor. I knew of this step in the back of my mind, but there's nothing like the sight of someone in gloves and goggles dipping the raw pretzels into a caustic chemical to really drive the point home. I still find the two images (soft and innocuous pretzels vs. skin-dissolving sodium hydroxide) incongruous, but I can at least appreciate the necessity of it.
Tiff & I then completed some dinner rolls flavored with chopped rosemary. At this point Chef Robert showed us a genuinely useful technique for rolling dough into balls. You cup your hands and roll the dough in a downward-cupped hand, pinching some of the dough between your outside fingers and the table. For the first time I felt like I'd actually learned something about manually shaping dough. I don't think Chef had many more tricks to show, though ... the dough he handled seemed to willingly and happily take whatever shape he desired. He could lightly press dough with the heel of his hand, and any seams would simply vanish, like Dr. Crusher could always do with skin cuts on Star Trek. Perhaps his skill comes mostly from his subconcious. Perhaps he has some kind of psychic dough-bond. Perhaps he's from the future and is hiding a Star Trek gizmo in his palm. Perhaps he's just that good.
With everything coming to a head, it was time to try and bake the naan. The school actually had a tandoori, of the top-loading style. It was shaped like a bell, with a hole at the top for loading food. To cook the naan, you reach through the top opening and slap it on the upper inside surface, retrieving it with a hook. You must keep the sides very hot to allow the naan to stick, though, and rain earlier in the week meant that the tandoori took its time to warm up. We gave it a shot anyway.
Whether or not the sides were hot enough, the air coming out of the top hole certainly was. Slapping in that naan was probably the toughest thing I've had to do all week. My first piece of flat, garlic-encrusted naan stuck properly, but in my haste I managed to slap it with the topping side against the clay. My second piece dropped right off into the fire, North-African style. By this time, though, Chef decided that the tandoori just wasn't hot enough, so we completed the rest in the oven. By that time the naan had just been resting too long, and the texture came out less than ideal.
So, sadly, I didn't learn to make a really great piece of naan as I had wished to. But then, I'm not ready to build a tandoori in the backyard, so perhaps this was inevitable.
With a flurry of activity, everything came out of the oven all at once. pretzels came out pleasantly pretzel-like, the bagels came out a bit flat (as I mentioned earlier), and the dinner rolls came out very nicely indeed.
we also finally got to try the different sourdoughs. As I said yesterday, we prepared both traditional sourdough (flour, water, salt, and starter) and a contemporary sourdough that added some whole wheat flour and wheat germ, plus some malt to aid fermentation. The traditional sourdough had a nice and simple characteristic flavor, but the contemporary version mellowed out the sour bite with a smooth tang of lactic acid. The difference wasn't so stark that I could identify one or the other in a blind taste test, but side-by-side the difference was apparent.
The final day was the busiest by far, and it took some time to recuperate, but the experiences of the whole week are starting to sort themselves out in my head. I'll post a wrap-up of the week soon, and then I'll post some of the key recipes we worked with.
Man cannot live by bread alone, unless perhaps it's really good bread.
Let me get something out of the way first. Our instructor today was definitely bread for success. We made some good dough; it was a license fer menting money. We kneaded nothing else to be happy. We took the time to stop and smell the flours.
Now that that's out of my system, you can probably guess what we focused on for Day 4. I have no objection to cakes and other sweet treats, but more than anything else I wanted to leave this week with a more solid feeling for the process of making good bread. Store-bought bread rarely satisfies in the way home-baked bread can. Bread machines can cover some of the gap, but their loaves still feel soulless in a way I can't quite describe.
Enter my new savior, Chef Robert Jorin, who spent today taking us on a whirlwind tour of some basic breads. Contrary to some very small fears, Chef Robert taught us patiently and comfortably, with none of the feeling of impatience one might expect from one of the world's top breadmakers when dealing with complete bread newbies. He began with a quick rundown of the breadmaking basics, covering not just the actions of yeast, but the myriad ways of letting yeast go about their job. Today's first bullet point describes the different ways of setting up fermentation:
1) In "simple mixing," the baker mixes all of the ingredients at the same time. The yeast begin their fermentation at this point, and within hours the bread may be baked. Such breads have a very simple taste, not bad but not interesting on their own.
2) In the "sponge method," the baker mixes a portion of the flour with some of the liquid and all of the yeast, allowing it to ferment overnight. The next day, this sponge joins the remainder of the ingredients, and the bread is made normally. The longer fermentation allows more complex flavors to develop. Sponges vary in density, from the more watery "Poolish" sponge to the stiff "Biga" sponge to a generic sponge somewhere in between. In softer sponges, yeast produce more lactic acid, leading to a yogurty flavor. Harder sponges produce more ascetic acid, for a vinegary flavor.
3) Sourdoughs, in which one maintains a culture of natural yeast on a daily diet of flour & water, simply using it in place of dried yeast in the recipe. This produces the complex flavor associated with the eponymous bread.
Today we explored all three varieties, using a Poolish sponge to make ciabatta, simple mixing to make baguettes, and two varieties of sourdough. The sourdoughs represent two different approaches to the same bread: the traditional sort composed only of flour, water, salt, and starter, and the contemporary "basic" sort which added milk and some other minor ingredients to spiffy up the product. We didn't bake these today, so I'll have to describe them tomorrow.
After bringing the first round of breads into the fermentation phase, we started another, this time exploring more involved recipes. Tiff and I tackled bagels, while other teams made rosemary & olive bread, whole wheat sunflower bread, and challah.
Then came shaping, the tricky art of subdividing your dough and preparing it for baking. I had great fun braiding a 4-strand loaf of challah. Indeed, I had fun with all of it, though it's quite challenging to turn out seamless bread.
Finally, we were ready for baking. Chef Robert showed us the art & science of slicing the top of the loaf just before oven insertion, and how to use steam at the start of the baking process to give bread a proper crust. Ever wonder why bread from a bread machine often develops cracks in the side? It turns out that when you bake bread in unmoistened air, the crust forms too quickly and any weak spots will give later. To delay the process and ensure a beautiful crust, give the loaves a last-minute spritz of water.
Before I knew it, finished loaves popped out onto the cooling rack, looking as appealing as any food I've ever seen. The baguettes, as expected, lacked the deeper flavor that comes with pre-fermentation but were excellent nonetheless. The challah came out moist and pretty, though the loaf that I braided developed a tumorous bulge right in the middle. The ciabatta, which had been pre-fermented, garnered the most acclaim; it was as close as I've seen to perfect bread. When we served it to the entire school at lunch, once of the long-term baking students walked up and complimented us on turning out a better ciabatta than they had earlier in the week.
Unfortunately, there was no time to bake the sourdoughs, so we left them to finish rising overnight in a "retarder" that keeps conditions optimum for just such a procedure. I'm more than a little intrigued by the difference between our two sourdoughs. The bagels and rosemary bread will also be finished tomorrow. And for one last final project, we made the dough for naan! If I can learn to make a good naan, you can expect Indian food to overrun my kitchen.
One more day left. Tomorrow's update may take some time to get written, because I've got to drive straight home from the school tomorrow, but it will show up soon.
Today's random factoid: someone asked Chef Robert about bromated flour, which I've never seen in any store. This flour contains potassium bromide, which has the twin effects of maturing wheat more rapidly and allowing it to absorb more water. Both represent cost efficiencies when running a large-scale operation, so some commercial bakers rely on it. However, both California and New York have banned it for reasons unknown to Chef.
These Greek turkey burgs have been a favorite of mine for a few years. They're
so super yummy and um piquant n shit. The recipe's from Cooking Light,
So so yum.
Greek Feta Burgers
1 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 lb ground turkey (orig. recipe called for lamb; ew.)
1/2 c crumbled feta
1/4 c chopped fresh mint or 4 t. dried mint flakes
4 onion buns
1/2 c. diced tomato
Cucumber-Dill Sauce (combine 1/4 c peeled, seeded, diced cuke, 1/4 c
plain lowfat yogurt, 1/2 t chopped fresh or 1/8 t dried dill, 1 minced garlic
clove, stir well.)
Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl, stir well. Add meat, cheese, and mint;
stir well. Divide mixture into 4 half-inch-thick patties. Grill or broil 5 min.
per side (CL says to spray grill rack with cooking spray.) (or, I guess,
George 'em!) Place patties on buns with 2 T chopped tomato and 2 T
We started Day 3 by eating the scones we made yesterday. I expected them to be good, but after eating them I can declare them the best scones of my life. They possessed that distinctive scone crumbliness, yet were moist enough to eat without washing them down. The crust, specked with large-grain sugar, shined in particular.
And then came the chocolate, today's sole focus. We began with a brief discussion of making a ganache. A ganache is pretty much any preparation in which chocolate is melted and then emulsified in a liquid, often cream. We made a variety of these today, each with different concentrations of chocolate and for a different purpose. The first baking session of the day produced:
1) A simple chocolate tart. We poured a simple ganache of dark chocolate into a pre-baked pie crust and chilled it. It came out quite good, though if I were making it I would pour in less chocolate and add a layer of fruit to the tart.
2) A flourless chocolate cake. I prefer to think of flourless cakes as "egg cakes," because that's why they get to be flourless. We whipped eggs to a thick froth, mixed in another simple ganache of melted chocolate and butter, and baked it. Since flourless cakes remain liquefied at high temperatures, you have to use a thermometer to gauge doneness rather than any kind of sampling. I enjoyed the eventual results, though I would like it better as a complement to other dessert components rather than a base component itself.
3) A mint chocolate torte. If (like me) you weren't sure of the difference between a tart and a torte: a tart is a filling poured into an open pie-like shell, while a torte is actually a variety of cake that's usually thin, dense, and often containing ground nuts (in this case almonds). We used a ganache containing crushed mint to flavor the cake batter, and carefully mixed chocolate with water & mint liquer as an icing. Chocolate and water, of course, don't always get along, but with careful mixing and proper temperatures you can get them to mix quite happily. This icing stunned me with its lightness and taste, though the cake itself proved a little boring.
At one point, the baking class in the other side of the room burst into applause after a demonstration by their instructor. Our instructor, Chef Stephen, said half-jokingly that he felt a bit outshined because we had yet to spontaneously burst into applause. I wouldn't expect much in the way of spontaneity or excitement from our class, which is composed of 5 older women, 2 mid-twenties tech professionals (Tiff & I), and a fresh graduate of Chico State who's planning on entering culinary school and is in this class for a head start. A pleasant crew, but completely unmemorable (as I'm sure I am to them). If Chef Stephen feels a little underwhelmed by the group, he hides it well.
Tomorrow we begin the 2 days of bread baking, under a different chef with intimidating credentials. Eight years ago an organization in France launched Le Coupe de Monde de la Boulangerie, a prestigious baking competition between 3-man teams from each competing country. Last year the Americans won it for the first time, and our instructor for tomorrow, Robert Joren, was one of them. I feel more than a little honored, and only a teensy bit intimidated.
But back to today. After the cakes, We returned to the classroom to discuss chocolate in all its varieties. Today's keywords are "courveture" and "compound" chocolates. Both contain chocolate enhanced with extra fat; in the former extra cocoa butter is added, while the ladder merely gets vegetable shortening. Think "premium baking chocolate" vs. "Hershey."
For our other key technique of the day, we learned to temper chocolate. To temper chocolate, you melt it, then add in some blocks of solid chocolate and melt them while keeping the temperature within a narrow range. The resulting product contains microscopic crystals organized into long chains, and when dried has that crisp, snappable property that you want in chocolate that's going to coat or decorate something else. It's one of those techniques that I'm sure goes back centuries, but which can only be explained by 20th century science.
We put this technique to use to make truffles. We prepared various ganaches, one of milk chocolate, one of dark chocolate, and one of white chocolate. We formed each into balls (hard to do right) and dipped those in tempered chocolate (even harder). As I was trying to clean some dried chocolate off the workspace, Chef showed me a shortcut: run a torch over the chocolate to quickly melt it! Using a torch for cleaning! I'm having fun already. The truffles came out lovely, thank you very much.
Lastly we tasted some of yesterday's projects. The chiffon cake was even better than before, after being flavored with syrup. The Genoise cake was moister at least, but the syrup's flavor wasn't well distributed. Neither could hold a candle to the tiramisu, which I'll have to re-evaluate as a "boring" dessert choice in the light of the mind-bendingly good Mascarpone sauce.
Though it's been wonderful, I'm definitely ready to leave desserts behind and start tackling the more substantial breads. I may be ready to eat dessert again some time next week, but for now bring on the starch!
In which our hero does battle with delicate cakes and a fearsome tabletop burner.
Day 2 found us spending much more time in the kitchen, focusing on the trickier baking technique of whipping eggs until they foam up and trap air. The basic idea wasn't new to me (as it probably isn't to you), but the intricacies of the process were. We made three different such cakes today:
Sponge Cake (Genoise): For this cake, the eggs are first mixed whole, with some sugar added, until they form a foamy liquid. The resulting cake has a light texture, but by itself is dry and not really worthwhile by itself. We slathered it with a soaking syrup* flavored with Framboise, and will check it out tomorrow.
Sponge Cake (Chiffon): Chiffon cakes get their texture by utilizing only egg whites for aeration. Egg whites trap air more efficiently by themselves, and since the yolks don't need to be whipped they can be used to help form the batter before the whites get mixed in. This means the whites are subject to a minimum of mixing, and the trapped air stays embedded in the cake.
Lady Fingers: Lady Fingers, the small little cake tunnels that usually get made into tiramisu, are even more aerated. The yolks and whites are separated, but then individually whipped to maximize the amount of air. They're baked into small, very soft tubes that you squirt out with a pastry bag.
My friend Tiff, who's taking the class with me, worked with me on the Genoise cake, and I fear to say I overmixed it. It came out a little denser than is ideal.
That was nothing, however, compared to my disaster with our second project of the day, a chocolate cream pie. We're working in a baking-specific area of the kitchen that lacks built-in burners, so when we need one we bring out appliances that provide a single burner. Unlike normal individual burners, though, these feature induction, which means they use some kind of magnetic trick to directly heat the pot. These burners are approximately 6.1 bajillion times powerful than any burner I've ever used.
The first step in chocolate cream pie is to prepare a custard, and the first step in custard preparation is boiling milk. Our milk was just about to start simmering when I turned around to wash off a scraper. Maybe 15 seconds later, I turn around just as the milk begins to boil over. This was no mild splash, though ... in a span of about 5 seconds I saw what turned out to be a pint of milk geyser over the sides and onto the table!
Fortunately, I had just learned what will turn out to be a very useful fact. One of the chief problems of preparing custards is that the milk must not be heavily boiled lest it start caramelizing on the bottom and become "scalded." This requires careful attention. But when you add some sugar to the milk beforehand, the milk stands up to the heat much better. So in this case we could still use what milk we had.
The other 3 teams (there are 8 people total in the class, in 4 teams) prepared coconut cream, lemon meringue, and buttermilk pies, all without incident. All products were judged excellent, including even our pie. I especially enjoyed the decoration process, and will soon be adding a set of pastry bag nozzles to my kitchen.
As a final project we made scones. This recipe bound the dry ingredients together with only cream, a variation I'd never heard of. I'll report on the results when we eat them for breakfast tomorrow.
* A "simple syrup," as you may know, contains equal parts water & sugar. A "soaking syrup" has half as much sugar, for use in larger quantities.
I sprung this Firecracker Vegetable Roast from the Jan/Feb 2003 Cooking Light on my unsuspecting salon attendees on Friday night, and it made a big hit among those who dared it. The flavors are really unique, kind of Indian merged with Italian (in a good way, honest). I took the seeds out of the jalapeno for safety's sake, but it was still plenty hot. After my guests left I had some hardcore grubbin' on the leftovers.
Preheat oven to 450.
Place 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 garlic cloves (halved), and 1 jalapeno pepper (halved) in a food processor; process until smooth.
Combine basil mixture, 2 cups cauliflower florets, 2 cups broccoli florets, 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb), 1 cup red bell pepper strips, 1 cup yellow bell pepper strips, and 1 cup thinly sliced red onion, tossing well to coat. Arrange vegetable mixture on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 1 medium tomato, cut into 12 wedges, and 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained; bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve over 6 cups hot cooked basmati rice.
For a Christmas & Birthday present this year, my
sweetie enrolled me in a Baking & Pastry class at the
CIA's Greystone campus, located in Napa Valley.
Herein is my journal for the week.
I admit, I was a little scared at first.The CIA normally teaches at the professional level, and my view of the professional cooking world has been colored more by _Kitchen Confidential_ than anything else. This is another campus of the same school, after all, that Anthony Bourdain himself told stories about. Nor was their introductory letter very reassuring. It suggested that I shouldn't show up at all without a full chef's uniform and a suite of my own kitchen tools. Sure, I could bring my own spatulas, but a "bench scraper?"
And worst of all, I feared I'd be cooking on an empty stomach. I can't eat much very early in the morning, and class was scheduled to run from 7 am to 1:30 pm. Sure, we would get to eat what we baked, but how much pastry could I eat? And how could I make it that far on little food.
Pshaw - my worrying was for naught. The atmosphere turned out to be just what you'd expect for a campus in the laid-back Napa Valley. My day started with a very pleasant breakfast, served in the huge communal kitchen / dining room that all classes share. After a bit of orientation, we met our teacher for the first three days, Stephen Durfee. Chef Stephen's credentials are impeccable; he's worked as a pastry chef at the French Laundy (in Napa) and at Charles Nob Hill (in San Francisco). He's also an extremely personable and patient guy.
Oh, and for lunch, every active class contributes their makings to the general potluck, along with some extra dishes from the teaching assistants. This means we get a wide variety of dishes at every lunch, all of them cooked either by (or under the supervision of) experts. Five days worth of fabulous food practically makes the entire trip worthwhile.
Let me get back to the class, though. The first two days are all about baking things that are leavened by whipping air into the ingredients before baking. Today we focus on the "Creaming Method," in which the first step is mixing butter & sugar in a mixer until the sugar forms a lattice that traps air. This is the foundation of Pound Cake, of which we make two varieties today. It's also a great way to make cookies, which we also make.
The key nuggets of knowledge for today are:
1) The proper way to "cream" together butter & sugar. For cookies this means minimal mixing, but for cakes you want to fully aerate the mixture to lighten the final product.
2) The proper way to emulsify eggs into this mixture before adding flour. Done right, you can form a batter without the overmixing that can make a cake tough.
3) The different types of flour. Cake flour, bread flour, and pastry flour all have distinct properties, and sometimes you really want to avoid "All-Purpose" flour.
4) Biscotti is resilient stuff. We made a batch and got through the initial baking fine, but ran out of time to do the second baking, where you lay the slices out flat and toast them for an hour. Chef Stephen said he'd take them out in an hour since we was going to be around anyway. Then he forgot, and left them in for 8 hours! And they still came out excellent! Turns out the toasting process mainly dries the biscotti, and once dry it's pretty impervious to further heat.
A tasty lunch followed, with the more advanced cooking class working elsewhere in the room turning out tasty versions of various Chinese dishes. There's another baking & pastry class going on at the same time, a serious 30-week one, and they're producing lots of amazing little delicate cookies. Still, our classes chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies disappeared plenty fast, so we got that warm glow of satisfaction.
Tomorrow: more egg-whipping than you can crack a whip at!
This is one seriously meaty entrée - it is so rich and tasty. It's definitely just right for a rainy day and night, when you have many hours to let it cook, warm up your home, and make things smell delicious. I prefer mine served with simple mashed potatoes; Russell prefers his with big pearly israli-style couscous. Leftovers are divine on day two. Make sure to start early enough; the first time i cooked this i started at 5:00 pm and we didn't eat until 10:30. don't let the number of steps intimidate you - this is an easy and inexpensive dish; there's plenty of wait time while things simmer. Serve this with your favorite starch and a simple leafy green salad, and comfort is nigh. Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2001, pp.12-14.
6 oz slab bacon, trimmed of rind, and cut into lardons [note: the original calls for salt pork here. I keep a ziplock of bacon lardons in my freezer for dishes like this.]
10 sprigs fresh parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
2 medium carrots, chopped coarsely
1 medium garlic head, cloves seperated and crushed but unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
4-4.5 lbs chruck roast, trimmed of silverskin and fat and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
salt & ground black pepper
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/3 c all purpose flour
3 cups of veg stock or chicken stock or water
1 bottle of wine, preferably red burgundy or pinot noir
1 tsp tomato paste
Onion and Mushroom Garnish
36 pearl onions (about 7 oz) [note: frozen work fine]
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 oz white mushrooms, whole, halved, or quartered according to size.
2 tbsp brandy
3 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, minced
1. If using salt pork instead of bacon, boil for 2 minutes and drain.
2. Put whole parsley, thyme, onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, porcinis in a stockpot or non-reactive dutch oven. [note: the original recipe says to wrap this up into a bundle in cheesecloth, but i usually don't and just strain it all out in the end. I'm forever out of cheesecloth, for some dumb reason.] If you want to cook this in the oven, put the rack in the bottom and turn the oven to 300 degrees F.
3. Set a skillet with the bacon over medium heat; sautée until lightly brown and crisp, around 12 minutes. Remove to your pot or dutch oven; pour off all but 2 tbsp of the rendered fat and reserve. Season your beef chunks with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high, and brown them in a single layer until deep brown. Turn them once or twice. Do this in several batches if you need to, adding more pork fat as needed. Transfer cooked beef into the pot/dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with a half-cup of water.
4. Return the skillet to medium heat; add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook to a light peanut-butter colored roux. (About 5 minutes.) Gradually whisk in your stock; increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. (Congrats! You've just made a thinnish velouté sauce!) Pour mixture into your pot/dutch oven. Add 3 cups of wine, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover and set in oven or turn your gas down to warm, and cook for 2.5 to 3 hours - until the meat is tender.
5. Remove pot from oven/from heat. Use tongs to remove your cheesecloth bundle, if you made one. Put the bundle over a strainer and press out the liquid. Remove the meaty bits with a slotted spoon or your tongs. If you haven't used cheesecloth, strain the liquid into a bowl or another pot. Let it settle, and skim the fat off the top.
6. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to about 3 cups and is the consistancy of heavy cream.
7. While the sauce is reducing, bring the pearl onions, butter, sugar, salt, and a half a cup of water to a boil in a medium skillet over high heat; cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, shaking pan occasionally. Uncover, increase the heat to high, and simmer until all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms & cook, until the liquid released by the mushrooms is gone and the veggies are browned and glazed. Transfer the veggies to a large plate and set aside. Deglaze the pan with a quarfter cup of water. Add this to the reducing sauce.
8. When the sauce has reduced to about 3 cups, and thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, reduce heat to medium low. Stir in beef, mushroom s and onions, the reamining wine from the bottle, and brandy. Cover pot and cook until just heated through. Adjust seasonings and serve with minced parsley sprinkled over each portion.
This turned out to be a very tasty, not-too-heavy, very flexible app. I used it for the fish course at NYF 2002. Beca and Russell don't eat artichokes, Tad doesn't eat meat or fish, and Russell's allergic to crab, so i wound up doing 3 platings as stated in the recipe (photo), one without the artichokes (for Beca), one with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms in place of the crab (for Tad - see photo), and one that was stylistically the same, but had diced avocado and diced raw ahi for Russell (photo). The ingredients are simple, but the lightly astringent dressing on the potatoes really set off the sweet intensity of the crab and the earthiness of the artichokes in a lovely manner. It's a great dish for a dinner party; everything but the actual assembly can be done in advance, and all the ingredients are served between cold and room temperature. The recipe is adapted from Cooking with Patrick Clark. (Note: when looking for a fancy French name for the dish, i changed it to "tour de fruits de mer", or tower of seafood.)
Make 1 recipe each of the artichoke salad, potato salad, and basil vinaigrette.
yield: about 1 cup.
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch dice
1/2 shallot, minced
3 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Drain and transfer to a paper towel to dry. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss witht he remaining ingredients. [note: the original recipe calls for some chopped kalamata olives, as well. I omitted them due to guest preferences.] Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 8 hours.
yield: about 1.5 cups
4 large artichokes, cooked
1 tbsp freshly squeezede lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Remove all of the leaves from the artichokes and completely scrape away and discard any of the fuzzy center. Dice the artichoke bottoms into 1/4-inch pieces and toss them in a bowl with the lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to tate, and refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 4 hours.
yield: about 1 cup
20 fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp fresly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tsp cold water
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Purée all the ingredients in a blender for 1 minute, or until they are thoroughly emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. [note: the original recipe left the bits and pieces in, but i wanted a smooth purée for my presentation.] Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Crab Salad & presentation notes
1/2 lb crabmeat
salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp fresh basil chiffonade
To prepare the crabmeat:
Season the crabmeat lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
Place a ring mold in the center of a plate. Fill the bottom 1 inch of the mold with the potato salad, pressing firmly. Add an equal layer of artichoke salad, again pressing firmly. I found that jiggling the pieces about so they fit in a tight layer was helpful, too. Add a layer of the crab, again pressing firmly. Holding the salad in place, slowly remove the mold. Top the salad with the basil chiffonade, and if you like, add some fancy baby greens on the side of the plate. Spoon some of the basil vinaigrette around the plate.
At last. I have a kitchen! I will now post my vile creations! Bwa HA HA HA! You poor suckers. I have a strong leaning towards health foods, but am constantly tempted by southern greasy wonders. You'll see all in my posts. You'll watch me progress from newbie to foodie slowly as I rediscover the long dormant and dusty food creativity I used to have.
The fun part about this? I have only meager equipment and will be looking for suggestions on where to pick things up now and then. meriko's most excellent advice was to pick it up as I need it - which solves my problem of: I want that! and that! and that! and Duane! build me a bigger kictchen for my STUFF.
Duane likes them spicy dishes - so if you've gotten something hot food-wise squirrelled away (how do you spell that?), bring it on.
Enough - enthusiasm rebounds.
Not a NYF recipe! This is a fantastically simple and aromatic soup - it's often what i want when i'm sick. It takes only a few minutes to make (maybe 15-20, tops), and you can usually find all the ingredients in the pantry, even when you're scraping the refrigerator clean. You can up the garlic if you like, and the spice - it's great for both comfort and clearing out your sinuses. Today i made it too spicy for Russell, but just right for sickie me. The recipe comes from the Terra cookbook.
For the croutons:
Oven @ 350 F
1/2 tsp minced garlic (I really use about a tsp here)
1/2 baguette, in 3/4" dice (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp paprika
a bit of olive oil
Combine olive oil and garlic. Toss croutons in garlicky oil; sprinkle with paprika. Spread out, and bake on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until crispy. (I turn them once during baking.)
While croutons bake, make the soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic (I use about 1.5-2 tbsp, to be fair)
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne (I use more like a 1/4 tsp)
5 c. stock (recipe says chicken, but I've sucessfully used veg)
Salt and pepper
Brown garlic over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and cayenne - stir a lot so they don't scorch. Add stock IMMEDIATELY. Return to heat, bring to a boil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
By now, your croutons should be out. Turn the oven up to 500 F
Get some oven-safe bowls. Ladle in soup to about half full. Add croutons to soup, in a circle around the outside. Crack an egg into the middle. Spoon some more stock over it until the bowl is 4/5 full.
Bake bowls for 4-5 minutes, until egg white is semi-set but the yolk is still runny. Sprinkle with chives. Have everyone stir their egg in to thicken and enrich the soup at the table.
More soup cravings! More soup gets made! Now we explore the world of lentils... I started yesterday with a recipe from VegWeb, but I thought it was a little too bland. So I added more veggies, and more spices, and I was just delighted with the results. Next time I would either cut the lentils in half, or double the stock/veggies, since I found the proportions to be a bit off. But it still tasted great!
Last night was actually a great night for cooking for me, since I improvised on this recipe, and liked it better for what I added. And then Shari came over, stressed out from work, and I made her Christmas Cupcakes from Ms. Lawson's book, topping them with cream cheese frosting (as voted on by the group). I was really super pleased to be able to make things entirely out of my recently-stocked pantry and have everything taste as I expected... or better!
Sweet Potato - Lentil Soup
* 1 lb lentils (2 1/3 cups)
* 2 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced (I ended up adding in regular red potatoes too)
* 1 cup diced onion (Vidalia if available)
* 3-4 stalks celery - sliced
* 3-4 large carrots - sliced
* 32 oz vegetable broth (I used Imagine, which is thick, so I added more water)
* 6 - 8 cups water
* (optional - other soup vegetables)
* 1 tbs+ oil
* organic raw sugar (to taste - 1-3 tbs.)
* 2 tsp. salt
* basil to taste (1 tbsp)
* oregano (1 tsp)
* black pepper to taste (1/2 tsp?)
* dash of clove powder
* tbsp minced garlic
Sauté onions in oil until soft. Add garlic and then sugar and saute briefly. Add all other ingredients except carrots & potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, then add potatoes and carrots and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Preparation time: 1.5 hour+
Notes: I was thinking that it would be good to grate an extra carrot and saute it briefly with the garlic before adding the stock. I left the skin on the potatoes, because I like them that way. I added cloves because a friend once advised me that they add a "smoky depth" to vegetarian soups & stews, and I think I agree. I added garlic to their recipe because I scoff at the notion of a soup without garlic, and because it's good for sickies. I also think the soup would be gorgeous to try using a variety of colored lentils - do they taste different?
It's that time of year again - January 11 through January 31 is San Francisco's Dine Around Town fiesta. The deal: You take your Visa card to one of the fine restaurants listed at their website, and you'll find special 3-course prix fixe menus ($19.95 for lunch, $29.95 for dinner). There are a number of great fine dining establishments listed - maybe this is the time for a gastronome outing? (One hint: Bruno's does the $29.95 prix fixe year-round, provided you come in on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night.)
I'm still really loving the Chronicle's Wine Section. Today's paper featured a new column on cocktails with a delicious - and informational - description of making the perfect margarita: Presenting the whole margarita. Luckily this column is going to be a regular weekly!
Also interesting was a recipe for Beef and Mushroom Roulade. Ok, I don't eat beef - but I'm a sucker for roulade recipes.
My least favorite phrase of late (that seems to be in every recipe) is "softened butter".
How in the name of heck am I supposed to have soft butter in any part of a chilly San Fransicsco kitchen? I leave the butter in a bowl on the stove, with the oven on, for an hour, it's still rock hard. Last night I put the butter in a bowl over not-quite-boiling water, and the butter was both rock hard and liquid.
I don't have a microwave, (yet), so I am pleading for suggestions. How can I take the chip off my stick's shoulder?
If only i were Russell, i could feel good about titling this recipe "danger mushroom soup". I fear that i don't have a formal recipe to share; mushroom soup is one of those things i make by the seat of my pants. It's a little bit different every time, but it's always yummy (if you like mushrumps!). This is more of a method - definitely comment with your own riff! If you're the visual type, here's a picture of the plating from NYF 2002.
The basis for this soup is pretty simple - mushrooms, aromatics, herbs, and stock. It can be made with just about any kind of stock - i most often use chicken or vegetable, but have been known to use beef or oxtail stock if i have it.
Put some fancy dried mushrooms in hot stock to soak. You'll get a fantastically rich mushroom liquid to throw in your soup, as well as some earthy mushrooms to pump up the depth of the mushroom-ey flavor. Porcinis are my favorite, but any mix will do. After soaking and draining the mushrooms, run the liquid through a strainer or coffee filter to de-grit the jus.
Slice or dice or quarter (as you see fit) some crimini or button mushrooms. If you're using portobellos, scrape off the black gills first; they'll turn your soup a nasty color. (I don't bother using expensive wild mushrooms in this soup - save them and sautée them for toast or pasta, or garnish your soup with them.) Chop up an onion or a shallot or some leek; all will flavor your soup nicely. Sautée your onion-of-choice until translucent in a little butter or olive oil (or duck fat, if you have it!), and then throw in your mushrooms. Cook these until they've released their liquid and are nicely browned, with a good fond on the bottom of your pan. Throw in some fresh thyme, and deglaze with your choice of sherry, sweet vermouth, or white wine. (Red wine is good, too. It's especially nice against a rich, deep oxtail stock.)
If you want, you can roast your fresh mushrooms instead. Put them in a pan with the chopped onion, toss the mix with a little olive oil, and pop them in the oven at 350 for around an hour. Check in every 15 or 20 minutes and stir them up. When you're done, pull out the mushrooms, and deglaze the caramelized bits on the bottom of the roasting pan.
Dump all of this into the bottom of your soup pot, add the rehydrated mushrooms and the liquid, and top your pot off with stock. Simmer this for at least 20 minutes - you can let it go as long as you like. I think it simmered for about an hour for NYF 2002.
Puree the soup. You can do it with a stick blender and leave it a little chunky, or you can do it in a blender and make it smoother. For the ultimate satiney mouth-feel, you can push the blended soup through a fine mesh strainer. Return it to the pot, reheat, and add salt and pepper to taste. You can add milk or cream to thicken it and add a little richness; if you use soy milk, be sure to heat it to the same temperature as the soup before adding it. If you're feeling flush and fancy, add a drop of truffle oil to the top of each bowl of soup before serving. Other good garnishes include a few fresh leaves of thyme, a swirl of créme fraîche, or a drizzle of roasted red pepper puree.
This is very cool. The New York Times food section has a great article on my favorite little bit of wine country - the Anderson Valley. My fave wineries all get a mention: Navarro, Greenwood Ridge, & Handley. One of these days i will have to check our Roederer!
Feeling some guilt for not conTRIButing, here's my recent kitchen adventures:
-bought and cooked chard for the first time, and it's surprisingly yum (combine
appropriate amounts of butter and olive oil in a pan, saute chopped garlic,
add chopped chard, cook for ~5-8 minutes depending on preferred bite.) i find
it hard to locate veggies I really like, so this was exciting.
-made once more the scrumptious, easy Epicurious roast chicken w/ potatoes and olives
recipe. yum. yum. yum.
-made apricot & walnut rugelach (also from epicurious, ask me if'n you want
the recipe) when i was home for christmas, and my picky family ate 'em.
still in the kitchen, but not very forthcoming about it. :>
This soup is so gorgeous - it literally comes out the color of the green in the gastronome logo. You can peek at a picture in the NYF menu entry. The flavor is very delicate, and so savory! Pushing it through a strainer or a tamis is a lot of work, but the smooooooth texture definitely makes the effort worth the payoff. I picked this soup because i know Beca loves watercress - and because i thought it would nicely complement a mushroom soup. The recipe comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables.
2 bunches watercress (about 1 pound)
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken stock or water (i used vegetable stock)
a few parsley leaves
a few tarragon leaves
salt and pepper
Pick through the watercress and discard any thick stems.
Peel and slice the onion and the garlic thin and stew them in the olive oil, covered, until soft and translucent. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. After five minutes, add the parsley. Have ready a large bowl half-filled with ice and a smaller bowl, preferably stainless steel, that will nest inside it and rest on the ice.
Remove the soup from the heat, add the watercress and tarragon, and allow th esoup to tand for five minutes, no longer. Immediately purée the soup in a blender and pour it through a medium-fine sieve into the bowl on ice. Stir the soup until it is at room temperature, then remove it from the ice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reheat the soup to a simmer just before serving; do not boil it. LAdle the soup into bowls and garnish lightly with lines of lightly salted créme fraîche streaked on the surface.
Note: This recipe also makes excellent spinach soup: just substitute tender young spinach for the watercress.
Note from meriko: I kept this in the fridge for about 5 hours before service; the bright green color held nicely.
Our friends April and Ryan brought this over for dinner one evening and it was amazing. The loin is packed with the tender and mild morel stuffing. I don't even like mushrooms and I couldn't get enough of this stuffing and would recommend doubling it! Not an easy recipe but the results are so worth it.
1 1/2 ounces small dried morels (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (wash and dry before
a 3- to 3 1/2-pound center-cut boneless pork loin (about 3
1/2 inches thick)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cups rich veal stock or demiglace
In a small bowl soak morels in boiling water for 30 minutes and transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened coffee filter or paper towel into a small saucepan and
simmer until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Add one third morels and reserve. Finely chop remaining morels. Morels may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large skillet heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute shallot and garlic until softened. Transfer mixture to a
bowl and stir in chopped morels, bread crumbs, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Stuffing may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring stuffing to room temperature before proceeding.
To make a hole for stuffing that runs through center of pork loin, pat loin dry and, beginning in the middle of one end, with a long, thin, sharp knife make a lengthwise incision toward center of loin. Repeat procedure from opposite end of loin (to complete hole running through middle). With handle of wooden spoon or your fingers open up incision to create a 1 1/2-inch wide opening. Working from both ends of loin, pack stuffing into opening, pushing towards center. Season outside of loin with salt and pepper.
In skillet heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over high heat until hot and just about smoking, and brown loin on all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Transfer loin to a
flameproof roasting pan and roast in middle of oven for about 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted in center of meat (but to the side of the stuffing) registers 160F. Transfer loin to a cutting board and let stand 10
While loin is standing, on top of stove add lime juice to roasting pan and deglaze over moderate heat, scraping up brown bits. Add stock or demiglace and reserved morel liquid with morels and simmer sauce, stirring occasionally,
Slice pork loin and serve with sauce.
just for fun -- a foodie quiz.
I scored higher than I thought I would, but I read about cooking more than I actually cook, and I'm a bit of a trivia hound as well, so maybe it's not so surprising.
So - you've seen the menu. You've seen the photos & a bit of commentary. Soon you will see recipes. Today? Today you will see some of the non-cooking process i use to put one of these things together. Heidi, in reference to a kickass birthday brunch she hosted a few years ago, mentioned "...not for another couple of years. Meriko, i don't know how you do it." This entry is dedicated thusly to Heidi and Heather.
New Years Feast is a treat - i start musing on the menu, plotting, reassigning, mucking about, and finally deciding what i'll serve a month in advance. I take it as part of the treat about NYF; it's definitely a once-a-year thing. Once i have the menu in my head, i'll sit down with all the cookbooks housing the relevant recipes, and make up a shopping/ingredients list. I march that into the kitchen, and it becomes my shopping list.
Next i develop something i call the 'component' cheat. It's an in-between step; it rarely gets printed, and it's definitely a stepping-stone to getting a timeline in place. The component sheet lists the major components for each dish/course, and takes a guess at how hard or long a task it is - and whether it can be done in advance. You'll see me add "a la minute" to the ends of tasks; it means that that item CANNOT be done in advance, but has to be done during service. I definitely try and minimize non-plating cooking tasks during service, so if there are too many of these? It's a signal to move around the menu or look for some substitutions.
The component cheat feeds directly into the timeline - which is key. This is probably my most important non-cooking tool during NYF. I double-check recipes, and try and draw up a reasonable schedule for my cooking tasks. (The cleaning timeline goes up on the whiteboard, where it can be quickly eliminated from guests' view!) As i finish each, i cross it off; this helps me keep on top of what is being done, has been done, and needs to be done - it also helps anyone Russell and Beca be efficient sous chefs. Much of what they need to know is up on that timeline. Once i paste the timeline up on the cupboard, i add to it in pen; this year i added plating information a few hours before the guests arrived - what dishware & garnishes each course should use.
Finally, i construct my recipe cheat. At this point, i'm very familiar with the recipes i've chosen, even if they are new to this meal. I transcribe just enough of the recipe to keep me from needing the cookbooks in the kitchen during work hours. You would be hardpressed to cook from these unless you were already familiar with the recipes and techniques, but they're great to have on hand when you're firing each course.
(And i say i'm not a control freak. sigh)
Christmas Day is my day for cooking, what I consider, I large meal for my family of about ten. It usually involves pork of some sort.
I watch far too much food-related TV and came across America's Test Kitchen show on fresh, brined ham. Perfect!
The receipe has an "alternative" brine option that calls for cola instead of water which I chose. With the glaze du jour: Spicy Pinapple-Ginger
First, the quest for the perfect fresh ham. Our regular source for all things meat is Dittmer's (in Mt. View) which for some reason was closed on Dec 23. We headed down to Dreyger's in Los Altos where we grabbed the last bone-in shank - a whooping 16 lbs.! I am a baker, not a cook so when I receipe calls for a 6-8 lb. fresh, shank ham, that's what I'm going to get. Tom assures me that this mammoth pig will do fine. Hmph.
6 liters of cola (not diet)
3 cups of Kosher salt
2 heads of garlic, pealed and slightly smashed
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup of cracked peppercorns
You can brine for as little as a few hours or as long as 24; I went for 24 just because I had other stuff to cook the day of. I used a medium-sized cooler, lined it with a plastic garbage bag and poured in the brine and pork. I threw this in my extra refridgerator (or just use ice packs at the bottom of the cooler and store somewhere cool) for the night. Scoring the ham was quite a challenge for me; this receipe calls for this to be done before you brine.
First step is to take the ham out of the brine, rinse and dry it throughly and let it sit out for about an hour.
I used fresh sage, parsley, garlic, salt and olive oil to make a nice rub for my ham. Then I glazed it about every 45 min. Oven should be at 500 degrees for 20 min. and then at 350 degrees. Cook until internal temperture of the ham is around 150-160.
Spicy Pinapple-Ginger Glaze
1 cup pineapple juice
2 cups packed dark or light brown sugar
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated (I used a bit more cuz I like it)
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Bring all ingredients to a boil in small nonreactive saucepan over high heat; reduce heat and simmer until syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/3 cups, 5 to 7 minutes.
I stand by every brined fowl or foe I've eaten; brining wins hands down for producing flavorful, moist meat. Try it next time you're making a lovely chicken, turkey or HAM!
As promised, a reveiw of my attempt at wine pairings from this year's New Years Feast. I think i was definitely more successful with the whites than the reds, overall. The champagne with the caviar was a no-brainer, and i finally got to pop the corks on several bottles from Handley that i've been eyeing. It was very cool to see everyone make the discovery that caviar and champagne make gustatorily more than the sum of the parts. And the parts are pretty fantastic in the first place.
We started with vodka cocktails - these started sweet and ended bitter on the palate, which i think was a nice appetite opener.
With the caviar, we enjoyed a 1996 Handley Brut. Handley's a lovely winery in Mendocino, and they create sparkling wines using the traditional methode champenoise. The caviar and bubbly, as noted above, were a perfect match.
Moving onto the soup course, i think i scored a direct hit with the 1997 Navarro Premiere Reserve Chardonnay. I don't generally care for California Chardonnays, but Navarro refrains from over-oaking them, and i think this one nicely complemented both the very delicate watercress soup and the earthier, more robust mushroom.
The fish course prominently feature crab, so i thought we needed something a little dryer and flintier. I pulled out a bottle of the Bonny Doon 1999 Viognier (cleverly titled The grape formerly known as ... viognier), and poured it against the potatoes, artichokes, and crab towers. Artichokes are notoriously hard on wine, but i think the viognier worked wonders with the crab and the lime elements that dressed the salad. Again, a sucessful pairing.
I don't think i did as well with the meat course; i served my last bottle of Kaz's Ascend, which is a fantastic blend of zinfandel and petite syrah. It was just a little bit large and complex against the tartare - something older and mellower, or just plain lighter would have worked better, i think. This wasn't bad - but the food and wine certainly didn't play off of one another, or complement each other in a significant way.
With the rich tart, i served a 1994 Navarro Cabernet Sauvignon. This was maybe a bit past its peak - very mellow, rich, earthy. I actually think that i should hvae swapped this with the Ascend mentioned above - it was big and robust enough to compete with the sweet, rich, and goat-cheesey tart. The cab was mellow enough to complement the tartare. Again, not bad - just not a winner. ;)
Finally, we tryed a 1998 Handley Brut Rose sparkling wine for our midnight toast. I liked the crispy and tart flavors, but not everyone cared for it. Reading back on it - oops, it's a food wine, and here we were drinking it by its lonesome. Interestingly, Handley recommends you pair it with crab - if i had another bottle, i'd definitely try this out.
I think this will be my year of soups. I crave soup all the time lately, and it's a good thing to be able to make 'in the background' while I'm doing schoolwork at home. I made this soup for Christmas eve this year, and we've been munching on it ever since. We polished it off last night, and at a week old, it was better than ever. Tim doesn't like black bean soup typically, but he loved this one. I'm making a batch tomorrow to freeze.
If you haven't ever checked out vegweb.com, it's got some great features. You can generate menus and shopping lists from their recipes, and the user ratings are generally useful.
I'm also looking for a recipe similar to the black bean soup that Cha Cha Cha serves - we had some with fried plaintains on the side there, and I was in heaven. Any suggestions?
Maya's Black Bean Soup
from vegweb.com http://www.vegweb.com/food/soup/3134.shtml
* 2 cups (one pound) black beans
* 6 cups water
* 2 bay leaves
* ¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 cup (2 medium onions) minced
* 6 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 cups celery with leaves minced, (3 stalks)
* ¼ tsp celery seed
* 1 cup of carrot, minced or finely grated
* 1 tsp. ground cumin
* 1 tsp. dried bazil
* ¼ tsp. oregano, dry
* ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
* 1 tbls kosher salt
* ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
* 1 lime juiced
* 1 dash cayenne (red) pepper (or more to taste)
* 2 tbls vegetable broth
This is a VERY easy recipe. Prep time is only about 20 minutes. Cook Time varies depending on whether you use a pressure cooker or conventional pot.
A FEW NOTES: This soup is meant to be pretty smooth. It can be made smoother or chunkier with little effort. A food processor for getting a really fine mince on the veggies (I have a very small one and it works just fine for this) will be a huge help. You will also need a blender or one of those hand-held "stick" blenders you can immerse in your pot. Lastly, you don't need it, but a pressure cooker will allow you to make this soup in about an hour. I know, I know-I used to be scared of them too. The new ones are not like what you remember from your childhood. Get a big one. You will wonder how you managed without it. Really.
Remove all foreign matter (stones, etc.,) from the beans. Rinse then completely cover the beans with water and soak overnight. (This is better than quick soaking because it helps remove indigestible sugars and almost eliminates digestive problems.) Drain the old water and place the beans in a deep pot or pressure cooker. Add 4 cups of water and the olive oil. Cook beans on medium heat, covered, until soft (about 1½ to 2 hours or just 15 minutes in a pressure cooker at the high setting). If using a blender, pour 2/3 of the beans into the blender and puree. If using the hand blender, remove 1/3 of the beans and puree the rest. Return all to original pot, add bay leaves and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Heat broth in a large non-stick skillet and saute onion, celery, carrot, cumin, basil, celery seed, cayenne and about 4 minced cloves of garlic until vegetables are tender (10 to 15 minutes). Add this to the beans along with the parsley, lime juice, black pepper and salt. Add remainder of water (or more) to thin soup to the desired consistency. Cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remainder of garlic, finish cooking with another 15 minutes.
Garnish with vegan sour cream and some bits of green onion.
Serves: 6 to 8
I made this easy tart for the Bornschlegel xmas festivities. We kept wanting to call it a cheesecake, for obvious reasons (like the length of the above title), but it's quite a bit lighter than a typical cheesecake because of the egg whites.
The recipe is from a Jamie Oliver cookbook, transcribed while in the Amsterdam airport bookstore on a 5-hour layover, so the wording is mine, not his.
Prepare and bake a tart shell. I didn't copy JO's recipe since I used meriko's pate sucree recipe (pastry scares me but I've successfully used that one before). I think a graham cracker-type crust would also be good. Underbake it a wee bit since it will get baked again.
Preheat oven to 325.
9 oz. ricotta cheese
9 oz. mascarpone cheese
4.5 oz. confectioner's (powdered) sugar
grated zest of 3 oranges
seeds from 2 vanilla pods
2 eggs, separated
3.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Combine everything except the egg whites and chocolate in a mixing bowl, whip until smooth and shiny. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the filling. Pour the filling into the tart shell, then sprinkle the chocolate on top.
[The recipe called for making an extra crust to lattice on top, but that sounded like too much work for my taste, and overkill besides. If you like the idea of overkill, brush the lattice top with beaten egg and dust with powdered suger.]
Bake 40-45 minutes (light to medium brown...I believe it also looked fairly well set but don't quite remember, sorry).
The odd amounts are because Oliver's a Brit and when listed in grams they were nice neat measurements.
I used 8 oz. of each cheese since the mascarpone came in that size tub.
I used one real vanilla pod plus some vanilla extract since I'm a cheapskate.
Pop on over to this photoessay that chronicles our meal - or just peek at the menu. Over the next few weeks i'll post the wine pairings & my thoughts, prep sheets, and recipes. If there's a particular recipe you'd like, shout it out & i'll key it in first. Overall rating: a success! Russell and Beca are great sous-chefs, and even my shattered-and-reassembled puff-pastry tarts cooked up beautifully. Themes for the meal:
- Well, there's definitely an overall French theme going on...
- Breads & pastry i have & have not made before. I did three "new" ones, and one old one. New to me are the pain de mie, blini, and puff pastry. The familiar one is our old faithful - pate sucree.
- We started and ended with citrus. A nice note, i think.
The plaintext final linup, for the record....
a new years fete
31 decembre 2002
aperitif - key lime pie
échantillon de caviar
duet des potages - champignon & cresson
tour des fruits de mer
tarte du poireau et chèvre