Sunday, May 31, 2009

Did you know?

This year is the Year of the Kitchen.

I did not know that, but I am glad I found out before December.

Maggi v Maggi

I cannot be the only one who doesn't like fancy pants Maggi. You can say what you like, it's not the same.

End of story.

From what I can tell, the one on the left is from Europe, while the right one is from Asia.

Pancakes Take Two, Part Two

Oh my holy fricking moly, my guess-ecipe worked!

I took the batter out of the fridge this morning and thinned it out a little bit, with maybe about a quarter cup of water.

In my kitchen I use either the wok, a cast iron pan, or a non-stick pan I got at Williams-Sopricey for $10. Mmm, guess which one I use for pancakes..... For the first pancake I melt a thin slice of butter, and then maybe re-butter every other pancake or so, maybe less. Get the pan nice and hot, and pour in about half a cup or so (less if anything) of batter.

Let me explain this part. I hold the pan with one hand, and then pour in the batter with the other. As I pour, I twist and tilt the pan so that the batter evenly coats the pans in a thin layer. Believe me, this is something you learn with practice. Half the time the batter coats beautifully and evenly, the other half of the time there is a small pancake in the center of the pan from which loads of batter tentacles extend. Not pretty, but still edible.

So as you can see the edges cook first. Don't flip until the pancake goes from this:
To this:
Completely cook and then flip.

One side will be golden:
And the other side will be dotted with golden bits. Two sides of deliciousness:
Stack on a plate. You can try to not pick the crispy bits from the edges, but why suffer? Just eat them. They are delicious!

You can roll up your pancakes with anything you want - Nutella, strawberry jam, peanut butter & fluff. Almost always I roll mine up with lemon juice and sugar. And always regular sugar, not confectioners sugar. This time I had a Meyer lemon, which I used. A side note about Meyer lemon - either I had a bad one (possible) or I don't like them (culinary heresy). Something didn't smell right to me. Maybe I am just used to the hyper-acidity of a plain old lemon. Oh well. It didn't taste bad, I just won't use it again. Unless someone tells me it was a bad one.

I also rolled up a few with the rhuuuuuuuuuuuubarb compote from yesterday. Which just sort of turned into me eating it out of the jar, skipping the pancake altogether.
Behold! The wreckage! The carnage!

Oh and a random side note - I made the batter with out this:
I realize now that the reason the pancakes didn't taste exactly right is because I forgot the orange flower water. Meme used to add a bit to her batter and that is exactly what I was missing from mine. Eh. Next time!

In case you were wondering...

I listen to music constantly. It helps me to keep moving in a more forward direction. People sometimes ask me what I listen to, so here is a little sampling of the first few songs that played this morning during pancake making time.

Enjoy. Or not.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Pancakes Take Two, Part One

Yesterday I woke to the most glorious morning in what felt like FOREVER. Sun shining like mad, birds chirping, clean clear air blowing through the window. And immediately wanted I thought "ahhh pancakes for breakfast!"

Which I had had every intention of doing after a shower. But then my friends called and said lets go do a little of this and a little of that and a tee and a la-la-la.

And I was like: yeah ok fun!

We ended up having breakfast at the Ashmont Grill, which was ok. Sometimes I feel like the Ashmont Grill, while still good, used to be better. It's just that I feel like they are cutting corners a little.

So anyway, I didn't have pancakes. But last night I made batter just in case.

And guess what? ANOTHER glorious morning!!! Fantastic!

Which means pancakes for breakfast today for sure. I am posting the batter making photos now, and will post a few pancake pics later. I sort of guessed at the recipe so maybe there won't be pancake pics later....

Possibly Pancakes

First of all my default pancake is a crepe. When people say pancake, that is what I picture. Truthfully I mostly don't like any other kind of pancake - too thick, too soda-y tasting. Unless of course I am using it solely as a vehicle for maple syrup.

Ok, so I used about 3/4 cup of cake flour, about a cup of plain flour, a pinch of both sugar and of salt. Cake flour? Yeah, I am just experimenting here with that.

I added one egg, a splash of vanilla, and about half a cup of yogurt.

I whisked that together and then added about a cup of cool water.

Looks like paste. Keep whisking.

Because at some point it will be smooth and batter-like.

So at this point I stuck the batter, covered, into the fridge, and went to bed.

What I am thinking is that either it has turned to glue, or it will just need a little more water to thin it out a little and then I will make crepes.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Whoo hoo Rhuuuuuubarb!

I love rhubarb.

It reminds me of Grandpa and the house down by the beach where he and Sally-Nana used to live. The tangy-astringent sweet red syrup that it makes when cooked is like no other taste. For me, it is the taste of spring segueing into summer and make me long for things that you can only have in the summer like grilled corn, or peppermint stick ice cream, the smell of coconut tanning oil, cool cotton sheets, freshly mown grass, the feel of seawater salt drying on the skin.

Granted these are things you can have year-round, but in New England it is only truly appreciable during the fleeting summer months.

So all that being said, it is really hard for me to pass by rhubarb in the market without buying a couple of stalks.

And usually I have every fabulous intention of making a rhubarb "pizza" or sorbet or schnapps but invariably I just end up roasting it as it is the fastest route from raw to mouth.

The one thing I have noticed is that rhubarb has that same weird effect on my teeth as spinach - a peculiar stripped feeling. A quick Google search brought up the reason: oxalic acid. Yep, the same thing in spinach, and in beets and cocoa and some other stuff. Which is weird because sometimes I don't notice it at all and other times it feels like the enamel is totally stripped away.

Anyway, here's how I (and tons of other people) cook rhubarb:

Yes, my kitchen counter is really teeny. But I actually prefer that.
Ok, so ingredients: rhubarb and sugar. Optional ingredients: a blood orange, some flabby strawberries that were about to turn, vanilla, and salt.

Chop the rhubarb into about 1" pieces. Hull and quarter the strawberries, if using.

Toss with about half a cup of sugar. I also added the zest and juice of one blood orange, a splash of vanilla, and a small pinch of salt.

Throw it all into a oven-proof dish and then into a 375 degree oven.

Cook it for an hour or so. I don't really time it. Sometimes I forget how long the pan has been in the oven, but unless it is raw or burnt I am happy with the results.

Ahhhh mighty mighty rhubarb! I usually just eat it all right away, but I promised some to La Maman. And I wanted to try it after all the flavors came together for a few hours.

Happy Rhubarbing!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Office party cake

Yeah, I brought CAKE to the party yo!

What remains.... on Twitpic

The best dang chocolate cake recipe ever.

But this cake story is a funny one and if you want I will tell you privately because while it is funny, it is funny at someone else's expense and well after it IS work related...

So email me if you want to hear the rest.

(And yes, in case you were wondering, that IS 1.5 inches of frosting on top)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not exactly oatmeal

You know what I had for breakfast?

Couscous with raisins, a smidge of brown sugar, and a little splash of half & half.

High in protein and very delicious.

Dinner for hungry, tired people

Well Grandpappy is still at the rehab hospital. Poor guy. For the first time ever he wants to stay in 24 hour care, which bums us all out. I mean the guy has been able to take perfectly good care of himself up until a couple of days ago so it's an adjustment.

Let me explain - he is 93. Yeah, yeah, I know! But the last time he was overnight in the hospital for himself was 8 or 9 years ago. Before that was when he was born, or maybe when he had his tonsils out because now that I think about it, I think he was born at home.

Probably because back then it took too long to hook up the horse & buggy. Har har!

Anyway, so Grandpaps is for real unwell. Which has put us all out of sorts. Plus Mercury is in retrograde.

Then today I took a vacation day to have a new computer installed at my folks house, and also used this time to do all my laundry.

But I could not shake the feeling of out-of-sorts-ness. I felt like I ought to have been doing something else, or going somewhere else. Ugh, it's that same feeling when your clothes don't fit and you feel itchy.

So I decided to make dinner for me and La Maman. Sometimes out-of-sorts-ness can be cured with wine and girl time.

I can't promise that this recipe will work out amazingly because I made it up out of found items - found in the pantry, found in the fridge, found in the freezer. But I suppose that just makes it more out-of-sort appropriate. Oh and do yourself a favor, read the whole recipe through. I am a dreadful recipe writer and I bore quickly of it, so make sure you know what I am trying to tell you to do before you do it.

Out-Of-Sort-Ness Supper

I found a bag of plain frozen potato gnocchi, a yellow pepper, an onion, some garlic, a can of chopped tomatoes, a few spoons of capers, and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

If you haven't got gnocchi, try some cooked broken up spaghetti or cooked farfalle or rotini. You can use a green or a red pepper, or a finely chopped cauliflower would be nice. If you haven't got the capers or Parmesan, don't worry about it. As for the onion, garlic, or can of tomatoes, if you don't have those, forget cooking - you need to go shopping!

First prep the veg and get all the ingredients together. Take the bag of gnocchi out of the freezer, have olive oil and butter handy. Sliced up the pepper, lengthwise and then in half. Peel the onion, then cut in half, leaving the root end attached. Lay the onion, flat side down, and make a cut lengthwise before slicing thinly. Eh, cut it however you like, basically you are looking for thin, uniform, quarter slices. Peel the garlic and chop finely or get it ready to squish through the press. Put aside about three tablespoons (more or less depending on how you like them) and have the Parmesan out.

In a big, deep cast iron pan I heated up about a tablespoon of olive oil and about the same of butter which should sizzle and bubble up. When it does, pour in the entire bag of frozen gnocchi and saute for a few minutes, turning with a spatula as they brown. Don't cook for too long, or they'll get gummy - maybe about 5 to 7 minutes. You are going for crispy crust here, not hard boiled - so to speak.

Remove the gnocchi to an oven proof dish and return cast iron pan to heat, which should be about medium. Add a splash of olive oil, give it a minute to heat up, then add the chopped pepper. Stir occasionally to turn for a few minutes, then add the sliced onion. Let it cook for a bit, stirring now and then. You want to cook it sort of slowly so that it gets caramelized and brown, not burnt and black. I added in a pinch of sugar to aid in the caramelizing, but you don't have to.

Just as the pepper and onion mixture is starting to brown, add (or squish in) the garlic and the capers. Cook for a few minutes longer, turning now and again. Then drain the can of tomatoes a little, and dump into the pan with the pepper and onion. Cook this for about 3 - 5 minutes, letting some of the liquid boil away. You don't want a terribly wet mixture, but not bone dry either.

Add back in the gnocchi and stir everything together over the heat. Season with ground black pepper, and if you didn't use the capers, add in a pinch of salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper. When it's well combined and just heated through, transfer everything back to the oven-proof dish.

Cover the dish until ready to serve. If it's not going to be for a while, reheat in the oven, until just hot. Before serving, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Alternatively you can dust the top with a layer of breadcrumbs before reheating the dish, or you can toast under the broiler until golden.

Could possibly serve three or four with a nice side salad - maybe a few arugula leaves tossed with a squeeze of lemon and a few grains of sea salt.. However this, plus a glass or two of a nice wine, will happily serve two out-of-sorters.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I *heart* Mark Bittman

Because he brought me the Mexican Chocolate Tofu pudding.

I made it on a lark and now I am in love.

It IS easy. It IS true about using really good chocolate because it will taste exactly like the chocolate & flavorings you use. And it WILL set up in thirty minutes.

It is a miracle dessert for someone like me. You know, someone who sometimes just need to stuff her face with chocolate pudding occasionally.

Soup for Ole Whatserface

Monday is that day of the week that starts off all dainty and fresh and new but then finishes like a whiskey-chugging, chain-smoking old strumpet bag that kicks me in the teeth.


So when I get home at the end of the day all I want is to eat something comforting, delicious and simple, before crawling onto the couch to read vampire books and watch Antiques Roadshow. Usually that means soup. Because frankly soup cooks itself and by that point I have nothing left to give.

Same as every Monday. Except for today a friend told me how she got wicked kicked in the teeth (and in the balls, and oh, in the head - poor thing) and so I promised to make her some soup too, with the added bonus of a very large shaker of martini. So to dear Ole Whatserface, this is the soup I will make you to go with that big drink shaker.

For the rest of you who also need Monday Night Recovery Soup, here is the recipe:

Monday Night Recovery Soup

I happened to have an old chicken carcass in the fridge, so in a large pot I sauteed a sliced onion, three chopped scallions and a clove of garlic until light gold. Then I added the carcass and sauteed that for a bit.

Then I added about 8 cups or so of water and a big pinch of salt and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Then I strained it, and rinsed out the pot. You could just eliminate this step and use vegetable broth, or chicken broth, or stock. Just not those bouillon cubes. Those you have to throw straight away into the garbage please.

Ok so back to the rinsed out pot. In a little olive oil I sauteed another sliced onion, about 8 whole cloves of garlic, and a box of white mushrooms that I sliced up.

After the onions cooked for a bit and the garlic cloves bronzed and the mushrooms absorbed and then released their earthy liquid, I threw in what I think was some sort of Asian spinach but a handful of plain old spinach would work - or some lettuce leaves maybe, whatever you have on hand is fine, and another few chopped stalks of scallions. This soup is a great way to use up that withery looking bunch of scallions stuck in the back of veg bin. Let the leaves wilt, then pour back in the strained stock.

I then added a stub of grated ginger and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro.

This cooked for a little longer, maybe twenty minutes. Then I served it to myself, in a big soup bowl, over a large scoop of cooked rice and a splash of toasted sesame oil. And a few splurts of Maggi - because I am an addict.

Fricking the most delicious soup for a tooth-kicked kind of a day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cake and Hammer Time

Yep, I totally was listening to MC Hammer this weekend. Yeah, so?

But I also made CAAAAAAKE!

It was for my friend Rochelley's birthday. For my birthday she sent me a gigantic pot of chocolate-covered strawberries and so for her birthday I wanted to make her fat too... er I mean bake her something delicious!

Here you go:

First I made a chocolate cake from scratch. The recipe is from the Whimsical Bakehouse, a fabulous cake book and so far I've had amazing luck with each recipe I've tried. The recipe made a 9" and an 8" cake - one for the party and one for Mother's Day.

Please note the coffee in the background. Flavored with Baileys natch!

Then I made buttercream from scratch. The kind with the boiling sugar syrup and the little bits of butter cut in and whipped for ages and ages. All the while threatening to blow the crap out of my KitchenAid. Which, hallelujah!, did not happen.

Then it was frost.

And decorate.

And give it to the birthday girl!
A couple of notes:
The recipe I used produces a cake that is moist in the way that box mixes are, but the taste is way better. It was light AND moist and paired beautifully with the light and airy buttercream. Truly it was a delicious cake and I am my own harshest critic.
Also, I really need a support team to mix frostings for me and set up my decorating bags. Seriously, I would be the worst cake decorating divas ever if given an inch.
Thirdly the best ever way to work up an appetite for cake is merengue. Especially when you are white from way back and there are a dozen fabulous Latinas trying to get you to move your hips in biologically impossible ways. I am all herky-jerky with absolutely zero swivel, but I didn't care because I was working my way to cake!

Frozen Cherimoyas Part Deux

For those of you who are more visually inclined, may I present:

The Frozen Custard Apple aka The Fresh-Frozen Cherimoya!

You will find them in the frozen section, three or four in a plastic mesh bag. I have no clue how to pick out a "good" bag. Just pick one that looks good to you.

Let it defrost fully. It will develop a frost fuzz, which makes it totally look like a little frozen brain.

Of course I could not wait for it to fully defrost. I broke it open as soon as I could.

It wasn't too bad. Not like the passionfruit incident. The taste is sort of frozen-flabby-sweet-beige and so I really need to try letting one defrost completely before eating it.
When and if that should happen, you will be the first to know.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Steaming it up in the kitchen.

During one of my random internet strolls I came across the Steamy Kitchen website and lately I have been HOOKED!

The recipes are for the most part pretty easy, well, the stuff I am interested in cooking anyway. Basically I just want to learn a pretty easy stir fry and Jaden explains stuff in a way that my brain comprehends.

Furthermore I knew I had stumbled upon the right site when I read her recipe for fried rice. Turns out we both had the same miserable experience when we made it the first time on our own.

Growing up we had a woman who cleaned our house once a week. Her name was (still is) Thu and she and her family had left Vietnam involuntarily. Basically from what I can remember La Maman had a friend who had hired Thu and then promptly called all her friends and told them to hire her too.

I thought (still think) that Thu was pretty amazing. Not only did she clean our house, but then she would leave us a giant pot of fried rice on the stove for dinner. I was totally addicted to this rice. I would douse it liberally with Maggi and then pick my way through the rice, eating the veg first, and then egg and finally the rice. It was, in my mind, a very special treat that only tasted right when Thu made it.

Because the first time I made it, let me tell you, it tasted like sh*t. I had no clue about making a dish that you had to layer. I just bunged rice, veg, and egg all together in a pot and cooked it. Then promptly threw it out because it tasted disgusting.

Until I came across the Steamy Kitchen recipe, I had vowed to never make that again.

But now I have a very nice wok and for tonight/tomorrow lunch I made fried rice with chunks of sauteed tofu, garlic, broccoli, scallions, corn, and egg, using the techniques described in the Steamy Kitchen recipe rather that just bunging it all together in a pan. And it totally came out like it was supposed to! Frickin' delicious!

Yeah, I love my new wok.