Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts and Feta Cheese

Pretty, isn't it? Well, it didn't taste very good. I can't figure out if it was the beets or the fact that I used fat-free feta cheese, but it just didn't work for me. It was a salad with romaine lettuce, red cabbage, candied walnuts, feta cheese, beets and an orange vinaigrette.

It's kind of fitting for this post, because I wanted to ramble a little about where I want this blog to go and if I even need to place rules on it. The problem is that when I came up with this idea, I thought that food blogs had to have original, delicious recipes, gorgeous photos and/or witty humor in every post. This leaves me being hyper-critical of what I have posted and my potential ideas. This is just not gonna fly if I want to post more than once or twice a month.

So I'm going to try and be more open and willing to post whatever the heck I want. There's no rules here, just the ones that I place on myself.

So there's my crappy salad. Deal with it.

Just kidding. If you're actually reading this, you rock.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One of my childhood comfort foods - Golden Curry

When I was 7 years old my family moved to Tokyo Japan. We lived there for three years. No, my dad was not in the military, he worked for a large corporation that had business overseas. I have never been back there since we moved away, but I would love to go back and visit. It was a rough time being 7 and moving across the globe, but my best memories are of the scenery and the food. Go figure that I didn't like sushi back then, but I consider it one of my addictions now.

I remember stumbling upon a store that had all imported Japanese products in it when I was in college. It was like a window into my past. Nowadays my local grocery store sells things like Pocky and Nishiki Rice. Recently I discovered that they also sell Golden Curry. My mother used to make this for my family when we lived in Japan and I love making it today. It is as much a comfort food to me as mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.

There is no recipe for me to post here. It's all on the back of the box. If you can't find this in your local grocery store, than look for your nearest Japanese grocer. I used chicken, potatoes, onions and acorn squash with this incarnation. You can add whatever you want to it. You just sweat the onions, throw everything else to the pot and add water. At the end you add the cubes of the Golden Curry and it thickens right up. The taste is very distinct, curries from different countries do taste somewhat different.

I hope to have more posts about the 5 years I spent overseas as a child. It's so distant, both by time and geography, but it's the old photos and memories of the food that remain. One day I may be able to go back, but for now I'll just try and find the food that brings me back.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brown Sugar Cookies

I'm not sure what to write about these amazing cookies. They were delicious, chewy, deeply flavored and gone very quickly. If I had any complaints it would be that they were a touch too greasy. However, when brown butter is one of the star ingredients, I guess greasiness is hard to avoid. The cookies taste butterscotch-y and almost chocolatey, which threw me for a loop. How can something with no chocolate in it taste chocolatey? I'm thinking it's the burnt milk-solids in the brown butter along with the molasses in the brown sugar that make them so dark and rich.

The recipe can be found here if you have an online membership to America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated.

If you don't have a membership, then I apologize because I don't know if it's right to post the recipe when they want you to pay for it. My conscience says no so I will leave it out. But if you're considering paying the 4 bucks for it, I would say these cookies are worth it.

***EDIT*** the recipe can be found online here for free, and with only one very minor adaptation.

Now I just have to fight the urge to make four more batches and sit on the kitchen floor with Ian (my husband) drooling, shoving cookies in our mouths and snarling at the cat.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Goblin Pie (dealing with bad apples..)

So the apples weren't bad really. I just tried to experiment with baking and failed. I had a feeling it wouldn't turn out well, but forged on for the sake of experience. The result.. Well, less than photogenic. Pallid and kind of evil looking. I present to you, Goblin Pie!

Ugly, ain't he? This also shows some problems I'm having with photo-editing. I have a fancy new computer and monitor and I just can't seem to get the color right. I could drop over $300 to get some calibrating software, but instead I'll just complain about it here. I've been experimenting with converting NEF files and I am not liking the resulting web image. Oh well, I'll figure it out eventually.

The goblin pie didn't taste horrible, just a little bland and off-flavor. It was probably a combination of the apples I used and fiddling with the recipe. I won't go into it because it's just not necessary, and you really don't want to bother making that pie. However, it makes me want to go one step further and make a slimy green oozy pie that looks disgusting and tastes delicious. I am completely in favor of playing with food, so hopefully there with be a new and improved goblin pie in the future.

So, what do we do with bad apples?

We throw them in the pit, yarrrrr!!

(Maybe it's just me, but I think this looks like slimy appendages trying to escape from a pastry prison.. just in case you're sitting there scratching your head and thinking I'm insane. Who knows, you may be right.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Delicious Meat Cubes! Who could ask for anything more?

I have been feeling kind of uninspired lately, at least food wise. I chalk it up to this time of year. Late February seems to be a month for hibernation and laziness. While I have been yearning to stay in bed 24/7, I have been really busy these past couple weeks. Anyway, enough excuses. I need to find a good rhythm with this blogging thing and I apologize for any lapses.

I was seeking some inspiration, and after staring blankly at my moniter for several hours, I grabbed Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking and paged through it. I was looking for something simple and tasty and decided to make "The Most Delicious Meat Cubes" and "Spinach with Ginger and Green Chilies". Well, it turned out to be less than simple as I had to make four stops at different grocery stores, It also took a really long time because I don't have a pressure cooker. It was very tasty though.

I'm not sure what the ethics are with food blogging. If you don't modify the recipe at all is it okay to type out a recipe from a book? Or is it better to just link to the book and summarize the recipe. I have seen it both ways I think. Anyone want to weigh in on that? Please comment if you have an informed opinion. For now I think I'll just summarize, just in case.

The meat cubes consisted of cubed pork shoulder that was slowly cooked with ginger, garlic, curry leaves, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper and green chili with a squirt of lemon at the end.

The spinach had ginger and green chilies in it of course, with added garam masala, sugar and cayenne pepper.

I bought some frozen naan at my local Indian grocery store and kind of made a sandwich with everything. I actually thought that the meat and spinach tasted better together on the bread than they did individually. Definitely something to consider for lunches on the go if I can just figure out how to contain it better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greek Potato Stew

I'm always on the lookout for dishes that have that unidentifiable deliciousness to them. You know, that thing that finds you face down in your mostly empty plate, slurping up the dregs like a cat drinks milk. The Japanese call it umami, which is loosely translated as "deliciousness". I won't go into an in-depth discussion of the term, but you can read more about it here.

Well I gotta say that this dish has it. I'm not even a huge fan of olives, but I think it's that ingredient that provides the umami. If you hate olives you may still hate this dish. But if you're trying to insert more vegeterian dishes into your diet, this is well worth a try.

Greek Potato Stew
(adapted from this recipe)

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tblsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned (reserve juices)
1/4 cup vermouth, or more to taste
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
parsley, chopped
feta cheese, crumbled

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and stir. Stir in the garlic. Add the olives, cook and stir for several minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, vermouth, and oregano. If you need more liquid, add more vermouth or use the reserved tomato juices. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more reserved tomato juice if needed. Serve with parsley and feta cheese.

(For breakfast the next day, I served the leftovers with a couple fried eggs, and it was delicious!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bleeding Heart Cakes (well.. sorta)

I try not to bake too often because my husband and I have been known to consume entire loaves of banana bread or whatever I make in the same evening. We definitely have issues with the concept of moderation. Nevertheless, I wanted to bake something as a nod to Valentines Day. I decided to go with the color red as a theme instead of hearts as I'm definitely not a pink hearts kind of girl. I thought it would be pretty neat to make something deep red and oozing, kind of like an actual heart.

Well, I failed at the deep red and the oozing part. The raw batter was a nice shade of red, but turned brown with a hint of red when they were cooked. The cakes were pretty tasty, but this was my first time trying to make a lava cake. After the prescribed amount of time, I unmolded one and it just gushed carnage all over the plate, So then I overcompensated and cooked the rest until the centers were mostly cooked. Ah well. They looked pretty in the ramekins.

Heres' the recipe I concocted, though I'm not sure how succesful it was.

Bleeding Heart Lava Cakes
(adapted from Epicurious)

3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of buttermilk powder
Red food coloring (a whole lot of it)

4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 425° F. Butter four 3/4-cup custard cups. Dust with flour; shake out excess. Combine chocolate, butter and salt in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle buttermilk powder and food coloring over mixture and blend in.

Beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 2 minutes.

Fold in chocolate mixture. Using electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites and 1 tablespoon sugar in medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups.

Place custard cups on baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed but still soft in center, about 11 minutes. (mine were undercooked at 11 minutes and overcooked at around 20 minutes) Transfer baking sheet to rack; cool cakes 1 minute.

Using small knife, cut around sides of cakes to loosen. Place plates on top of cups. Invert cakes onto plates; remove cups. Top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

In the end, they were pretty tasty, although I think the white chocolate actually took away from the overall chocolaty experience. They also puffed up a lot, and I'm not sure if lava cakes are supposed to do that. Unfortunately, the name no longer applies when they are sitting in the ramekin, no lava flow in sight. But it's such a cool name, I'm keeping it! Maybe I'll try it again some time.