March 27, 2011

Carrots and Lentils in Olive Oil

I found this recipe via one of my numerous rss feeds (yeah, I know, rss is supposed to be dead, go figure). I cooked it up this weekend, minus the mint, and it was very tasty. Jean agrees, Renee opts out due to her aversion to cooked carrots.

One thing I learned is that one does not need to soak lentils before cooking them. The dish tastes fine, but I'm afraid by the time I finished cooking it, it was more of a porridge than a lentil dish. I'll try adding the lentils (washed but not soaked) later in the recipe, and add less water so it doesn't need to boil down so long.

Note to myself: once I have revised this recipe to suit my tastes, record the differing version here.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2010

Sriracha Sauce

I didn't plan ahead, so I only took a handful of snaps, but you can see our experiment producing homemade Sriracha Sauce in this photo set.

The recipe is supremely simple. The biggest part of it was driving up to Uwajimaya and buying Fresno peppers. Since they are supposedly 'in season' this time of year, I can easily see this becoming a 'holiday tradition'. It's definitely got a bite, but the overnight soak in vinegar tames it. Very good. I had some with a bit of home made pita bread this morning.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2009

Scottish, Irish and English Breakfast Teas

I've always been a green tea drinker, preferring them to most black teas. I never liked the scented, fruity Darjeelings or Oolongs. I make an exception for gunpowder or lapsang souchong, but until now that's about been it.

Recently, though, Jean introduced me to the world of breakfast teas, of which the principal varieties seem to be Scottish, Irish and English. They are rich, not perfumed, and taken with milk really do fit in well with breakfast. She started me off at a high standard, sharing her fave-of-the-moment, Taylors of Harrogate Scottish Breakfast. It was very good.

Last weekend I tried to find something equivalent at the local grocery store, but the best I could do was Stash's Super Irish Breakfast Tea, which was above average for a black tea, but much below the standard of TofH Scottish. Anyway, I've had a cup of breakfast tea most every morning at work this last week, and can see doing the same for awhile.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2009

Breakfast Experiment

I'm not much for elaborate breakfasts. I tend to eat raw oatmeal with walnuts and banana chunks half the time, protein bars and some sort of fruit the other half (and skip the odd day out). But Kottke really sold The world's best pancake recipe. It's a buttermilk pancake recipe, and sounded good. He does have a tendency to qualify the hell out of it ("real" buttermilk only, for instance), so any failures will surely be put down to my laziness in not hunting down 'authentic' ingredients.

Still, Renee and I gave it a try this morning. She had maybe one and one half pancakes, and I had two. Jean tried one bite. The consensus? "Eggy". Jean says "too sweet". Overall, it was quite a filling dish, something I could imagine getting served on a farmstead before the long day in the fields. But for a more or less sessile knowledge worker like myself, it was more than necessary.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2009

Genmai Cha

I actually had my first sampling of this tea a few days ago. What's more, I used to have a rather generous quantity of same in a lovely airtight canister, but I've long since exhausted that stash. Anyway...

This version, gotten from the same Perrenial Tea Room, is not a disappointment. I guess you could call genmai cha the vanilla of green teas. Actually, chocolate is probably closer to the mark. Genmai cha is made with green tea and roasted rice. One cup is like having a little snack. It's a bit like drinking one of those thick dark beers that substitute for a meal.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2009

Taiping Hou Kui

The last time we went to Seattle I brought home a bunch of teas from The Perennial Tea Room. Most of them made their way to my office, and I worked my way through them over the months. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to record my experiences.

So this time, I'm going to talk about the two teas I bought during our trip for Renee's 14th birthday. I'll keep it short, as I'm at work, but I can always come back and add new notes later (yeah, right).

The first tea was recommended by a lean, grey-haired woman who obviously loved her product. I suspect that she was fully infused when I asked her about the Chinese green teas, as she charged in and opened about six different jars. I ended up purchasing her favorite, the Taiping Hou Kui. The envelope contains the additional caption: Great Green Monkey King - Anhui China Green. At $6.25/oz., it seems rather dear (try this one at $11/oz.!), but you can make a cup with a single teaspoon, so it should go a long way. The website says you can resteep leaves up to three times, but I only have the one steeper, and I like to alternate flavors, so I'll take the wasteful route and steep once.

The leaves themselves are long and thin, and have the expected green tea aroma, but with a flowery accent. The taste is very mild. Could I distinguish it from any other green tea? I think so. Would I buy it again? At the rate that I drink tea, and with all the varieties that are out there, I think I might get to it again when I hit 80. But it is definitely as good a green tea as any I've had.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:02 AM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2009

E'njoni Cafe

Jean, Renee and I went to E'njoni Cafe today to celebrate Jean's and my birthday. Her birthday trails mine by exactly three weeks (we're otherwise exactly the same age), so we have a celebration together.

The food was very good! Let me get that out of the way first thing. Renee ordered the Sega Tibs, I got the Alitcha Dorho and a yam and peanut soup (sooo good!) and Jean ordered a three vegetable combination. They were all served together family-style on a large, lovely ceramic platter. Or rather on a large sheet of injera, resting in turn on the platter. There were other nibbles, but all was very tasty.

This is a family owned business, and the husband came over and talked with us for several minutes. He's lived in America for (I think) 32 years now, and was very happy to talk to us about his business and his efforts to get wider recognition. So here you go, fella!

Seriously, from Tualatin, it's around 20-30 minutes to get there, but finding it was easy, and parking was not difficult to find. Still, I wish there was an Ethiopean/Eritrean restaurant closer to home.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2009

New Flavor

Anyone know if there will be an importer carrying Pepsi Shiso here this summer? Maybe I should check at Uwajimaya...

Anyway, sad that it's slated to be Japan only. It sounds tasty!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated's recipe for Kung Pao Shrimp, this was a good one!

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2009

Mexican Pulled Pork

Recipe was from a 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated, so of course it's not online. But it was definitely good. This makes two weekends in a row where I've cooked a recipe that required the use of the broiler!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2009

Catching Up

This will be an omnibus post, as I just want to jot down some notes while I think of them.

Food

Jean's been encouraging me to get back into cooking, and this weekend she selected a recipe for me to try. It was from an older copy of Cook's Illustrated, so I can't link to the online recipe (it's behind their paywall). Instead, I'll just include a generic link to Chicken Tikka Masala. We modified the recipe, substituting plain yogurt in the masala sauce for the cream in the recipe. Verdict: definitely very good.

Movies

Mid-last-week, I began an experiment with Netflix. I got the minimal subscription, with one DVD at a time. I really wanted to try out their instant streaming, as we are now using Hulu to watch a number of television programs, and I hoped that we might be able to do the same with some movies. I was skeptical, as most posts seemed to complain about quality at higher bandwidths than we get. It turns out that some movies are watchable, but not all.

I tried watching Banlieue 13, a French action movie with a lot of stunts based on parkour. The stream paused and even skipped, every few seconds. This turns out to be a bad thing for a movie filled with physical stunts.

On the other hand, we watched a movie recommended by one of Jean's co-workers, Monsoon Wedding, and it was not too jerky. The movie itself was great.

Finally, our first actual DVD from Netflix arrived this weekend, and we watched it today. It is called Bride & Prejudice and is a Bollywood-style musical based on Jane Austen's novel. It was produced by Indian, British and American companies and was mostly in English. I love musicals, and have a weakness for Bollywood musical romances and comedies, so this was a real treat. Jean seemed to enjoy it too.

Coming up in our queue next will be Memento.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2008

Mugi

Last year for my birthday we drove all the way into Hillsboro to eat at Syun Izakaya. This year I decided to stick closer to home, so we ate at Mugi. Sushi again! Boy is that a fun restaurant. Renee and Jean both had cooked meals, but I had the raw fish, and of course, yamaimo. Yum, yum!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2007

Vegan 'Scramble'

I tried this recipe for a vegan Spanish Scramble this evening. I don't really think there's any point calling it that, as there is no mistaking it for eggs, and no need to either. It was very tasty, and had a nice, interesting texture.

I don't think I processed the nuts to the coarseness specified in the video. My mix was pretty fine. Still, with tomatoes, scallions and spinach bought from the farmer's market this morning, it filled and nourished me just great.

Don't be afraid to try vegan dishes. If you eat a salad now and then, you're eating a 'vegan' recipe.

P.S. - no, I'm not vegan, and not turning vegan. I eat fish practically every day, and have been known to eat beef if it's on a buffet at work. I just like my fresh veggies!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2007

Farmer's Market

Once again, the Beaverton Farmer's Market is open. I forgot to mention that in addition to Syun Izakaya, we went the the Market yesterday. I grabbed a bunch of French Kale, daisy greens and a spring onion, and along with some garlic, ginger, jalapeno and an orange bell pepper, made an awesome stir fry. To complement it, I bought a white bean and bacon soup at the Market as well.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

Syun Izakaya

Yay! I took Jean and Renee to Syun Izakaya, my favorite Japanese restaurant, this evening. I've been there twice before, with my friends, but this is the first time I have been there with my family. Neither Jean nor Renee are big sushi fans, but there are enough other cool dishes there that they managed to find something to eat. I've put up a photo set on Flickr, to commemorate the event. I was using my new toy, a point-and-shoot camera called the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2007

Salsa!

Alan asked for my salsa recipe, but of course I have two now, so I had to put the second one online in order to point to both of them. Here we go...

Ingredients

  1. Put a colander into a bowl.
  2. Drain tomatoes in colander for 30 minutes.
  3. As tomatoes drain, layer on jalapeño, onion, garlic and cilantro.
  4. Shake colander to drain off excess tomato juice (this stuff tastes really good).
  5. Empty bowl and wipe clean.
  6. Put colander contents into bowl.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of lime juice, toss.
  8. Taste, and add minced jalapeño seeds to make hotter if you want.
  9. Add sugar and additional lime juice to taste.

That's it! As always, good, sharp knives help with the prep.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2007

Thanks for Saturday

I just wanted to thank Tom for inviting me along for the pilgrimage to Syun Isakaya for sushi and many, many other delectable dishes. It was a lot of fun.

Oh, and a big shout out to the folks from up north, most of whom I've not seen in awhile, and a couple whom I haven't seen in ages or not at all. It was great seeing you folk too!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:30 PM | Comments (2)

November 24, 2006

Holiday Menu

Jean and I tried to stay out of each other's way this Thanksgiving. Instead of making everything at once, she had control of the kitchen most of yesterday. She made the turkey, the homemade cranberry sauce, the brussel sprouts, the blueberry muffins and Renee's mashed potatoes. She stripped the turkey carcass and she made Renee a shepherd's pie with the remains. In all, many tasty and nutritious dishes. Thanks Jean!

I made the pastry dough for my pumpkin pie Wednesday night, and in the late afternoon Thursday, I made the pie filling (from a recipe supplied by Alan Batie) and baked the pie. I also soaked a batch of pinto beans Wednesday night, and precooked them yesterday. Today, while Jean was at work, I made my fave, Blue Ribbon Tofu Chili! Creating my mis en place ahead of time, the work was actually pretty easy this year. And I had some for lunch. Very tasty.

Come Christmas, I'll probably make my more standard pumpkin pie recipe, from The Best Recipe baking book. Much goodness. Needless to say, I won't be making any special dishes over the weekend. No room in the refrigerator!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2006

Black Bean Soup Returns

I made this recipe before, but I had to substitute black turtle beans for the black beans I used before, and it did make a material difference to the recipe. Not as thick, different taste. Still, it tastes better than the average soup, and I loves me soup. I put a few servings away in the freezer as I was worried that we wouldn't be able to use it up before it turned, but the weekend is not over yet, and the larger tupperware bowl is down to about one serving.

Pity this recipe is so time-consuming to make. It takes upwards of two hours, with frequent attention required. So I won't be making it weekly, but my it's good!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:33 PM | Comments (2)

October 09, 2006

Have Santoku, Will Travel

I need to find more excuses to cook with other people. Yesterday was my friend Burr's 50th birthday celebration. It was held at his mother-in-law's house in Woodburn (which he lovingly calls Deadburn -- ooh, like Deadwood!!!). I managed to get lost briefly on the way down, but not for long. Ten people got together to cook, dine and giggle.

Burr orchestrated the central theme, which was sampling ribeye from various breeds of cattle raised in different ways. We had five different samples, two of which were grocery-standard beef (Angus?) and tasted totally blah to me. One was a grass-fed local, which scored high marks with me, another the same type of animal, but aged beef, again high marks, and finally Wagyu beef, which is the American equivalent of Kobe beef. That came in a close second after the tied two just before it.

In all, two of my favorite three ribeyes were grass-fed. So much for Jean's mother, who claimed the last time they visited us that "grass-fed is tough, it's just awful. And the taste is not nearly as pleasant as grain fed!" When I tried to tell her I'd been reading articles about the various breeds and feeds, she pulled the "I'm an old farm girl" card on me. Can't argue with that. But now I can state from first-hand experience that some grass-fed beef is definitely superior to grain fed.

Burr had been taking cooking lessons for the last year from a friend of his who is a chef, so he was cooking the steaks, and directing the preparation of the vegetables. I got to prepare the tomato salad, composed of Roma and some other (Beefsteak?) tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese balls and balsamic vinegar (to taste), tossed with a pinch of salt. It was great. I'm afraid I had three helpings of this dish alone.

The other dish I got to prepare was a root vegetable casserole. Various potatoes, carrots, garlic, asparagus, herbs, etc. Baked until tender. Yum! Another dish that I ate too much of!

Both of these dishes were prepared with the help of my new favorite knife, my santoku! I carried it down with me to the party (in the trunk of my car, so I wouldn't get some paranoid cop cuffing me for a concealed weapon. Fun fact: America's Test Kitchen did an evaluation of santokus, and all through the segment, Adam and Christopher referred to them as santukos. Only an effete snob like myself would take such pleasure in belittling their fumbled terminology!

Alan Batie served up some truffly coconut cookies and two pumpkin pies, and Toby and his mate served up custards prepared in cooked squash! I had to try that one, given my history with creme brulee and my love of squash. It was excellent!

During the festivities, Burr's wife Lori unveiled her big present for Burr, a chef's hat and a set of chef's whites. Needless to say, Burr looked ever so cute in his new chef's get-up!

So anyway, doing all my cuttting, dicing, hand folding of ingredients, oven watching and every five or ten minutes shouting out "hot oven opening behind you Chef!" was just more fun than I can truly convey. Burr has to be my most conventional, white-bread friend, but this idea was pure genius, and really reached into my core. I hope he gets another fifty.


Posted by dpwakefield at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

More Songs About Buildings and Food

No pictures this time, sorry.

Renee thought up a menu this weekend, and we picked up the ingredients for it so she could cook and serve her own personal dinner tonight. Fortuitously enough, one of the staples was ground pork, so we just got more when getting my maxed-out meatloaf fixings. Jean already had it cooking on the stovetop when I got home from work.

Renee practically jumped on me: "Dad! Would you like to help me make my dinner tonight?"

"Just let me put away my gear, and I'd love to help out." I swear she was bouncing up and down like a maniac.

So here's the menu:

Stuffed Tomatoes

  1. Hollow out two tomatoes. Her original plan was to use the tomato innards as part of the stuffing, but once she saw the seeds embedded in the gelatinous guts, she discarded that plan.
  2. Fill about two thirds full with pre-cooked ground pork.
  3. Add diced onions
  4. Add a small amount of garlic
  5. Mix ingredients
  6. Place tomato 'lids' onto stuffed tomatoes and put tomatoes onto a greased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven (350) for fifteen minutes.

While that was cooking she had me help her assemble, on three separate plates:

Nachos

  1. Lay down a layer of grocery-store tortilla chips.
  2. Distribute a light layer of ground pork.
  3. Drizzle home-made salsa (made by Dad over the weekend) on top.
  4. More of those diced onions...
  5. Hand sliced olives are added next (Renee did this with a small knife, but it was sharp, so I was nervous--turned out okay)
  6. Finally, add slices of cheese on top, microwave each plate until the cheese is melted.

Renee set the table while I cleaned up the counters and loaded the dishwasher. Jean and I were each given stuffed tomatoes (that was the grown-ups only portion of the meal, apparently), and we all got her pork nachos. Honestly, it was very tasty, if very rich.

Renee asked leading questions which amounted to "how much do you love it?" We gave appropriate praise, and she just beamed. I expect her to come up with other recipes in the future.

I had a great time working in the kitchen with her.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2006

Maxed-out Meatloaf

I came across this recipe in a book I've been reading from the library: The Fifth Taste: Cooking With Umami by David and Anna Kasabian. Today was the day to try it, with some substitutions and omissions. Anyway, you can see it in the banner, and a series of photos on Flickr. Apologies for the presentation. It tastes much better than it looks!

Serves 6 to 8 for Dinner

I know, this is starting to sound downright evil, isn't it?

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Heat EVOO in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent (4 minutes). Add garlic (and mushrooms if you dare) and saute until the mixture is carmelized (6 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  3. Core and cut the red bell pepper into quarters. Coat with EVOO and broil until barely cooked through. Cool, chop roughly and save.
  4. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add ground beef (pork), cooked veggies, tomato, corn, bread crumbs, soy sauce, truffle oil if you have it, salt and pepper. Gently mix in, but don't overdo it.
  5. Spray a pan with olive oil. Put the mix on the pan, shaped twice as wide as it is tall. Drape bacon (!) diagonally across the whole thing, completely covering it. Stake the suckers in place with toothpicks.
  6. Place in the middle of the oven, turn the heat down to 375. Bake for one hour, or until internal temperature is 155 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, it's ridiculously rich, and Jean was worried about overwhelming her digestive system, but it is really good! I had two slices, I'm sorry to say. So anyway, I had to transcribe it so I could make it again some day. Difficulty: medium.

There's one other recipe that I hope to try from this book before I have to return it, but it'll have to be just for me, since Jean doesn't generally go for soups (except that black bean soup, yum!)...

Next time: Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Candied Pecans

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2006

Speaking of Food...

I went to the Beaverton Farmer's Market this morning and picked up fresh ingredients for the 'manual prep' version of salsa. I made it this afternoon and it turned out great. I'm looking forward to making both recipes to take to Tom's next weekend!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2006

Practice, Practice

Baked chicken Saturday, no fancy additives, just lots of onions, a touch of garlic and a coarsely chopped jalapeno. I'm really liking those roasting bags. You can cook a bird for an hour and not worry about drying it out. It was quite tasty.

More to the point of the title of this post, I made one of my two salsa recipes today. The food processor variety. Maybe next weekend I'll do the recipe that is all hand prep. Then when I've gotten both of them down again, I'll make both at once and take them over to Tom's place. Make sure that you're there then, Adam!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

A New Salsa

At Jean's behest, I prepared a new salsa recipe tonight (at America's Test Kitchen, free but eventually to be behind their paywall). This is the second Cook's Illustrated salsa I've tried. It's a bit more work than the first, and while I'm sure it tastes different, I'm not so sure it's any better. I will have to do a side-by-side comparison sometime later this summer.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:55 PM | Comments (4)

June 04, 2006

Senate Restaurant Bean Soup

I should just rename this the Bean Soup Weblog. I got around, at Jean's request, to making the famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup, made with small naval beans and ham shanks instead of hamhocks. It tastes quite good, but I still prefer the Black Bean Soup we prepared earlier. Not that this soup is not good. It's great. The black bean soup is just so much better!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

Black Bean Soup

I'm immensely tardy writing up my experience with this recipe, since I prepared it last Saturday, but better late than never. Max wanted me to ping her when I tried out a new recipe, so here you go. I'd rank this recipe a low-intermediate difficulty. Not nearly as much work as my most time-consuming favorites, but not the simplest to prepare either. Total prep and cook time was in the neighborhood of two hours.

The result, to my tastebuds, was excellent. Without the addition of fats or creams, the soup was rich and creamy in texture. I used black turtle beans, and they kept their integrity enough to lend a nice texture and chew to the soup. For my own portions, I added a simple topping of mushed avocado and diced onion. Definitely try that.

My daughter, Renee, who is not all that fond of soup or beans (other than canned baked beans) gave it an unqualified thumbs up. Okay, she qualified it with the "even though I don't like soup..." line.

Jean was sitting next to me the evening I made it, and had just put a spoonful into her mouth, when she looked at me like she'd found a bug in it. Wide eyed, pausing in mid-masticulation. Then she said, "... this is so good!"

So there you have it. If you like soup, or black beans, try it out. The link leads to America's Test Kitchen online, and they annoyingly insist on a registration email, but they are not really that spammy, so I think it's worth it. But you better hurry. The recipe is free for now, but once the program's television season is over, they'll move it behind the online subscription firewall.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:19 PM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2006

Fuji's

We had a little family outing tonight. It wasn't planned, in fact it kind of popped up without warning. Jean wanted to reward Renee for various reasons, and Renee picked going out to a restaurant, especially one with noodles. I knew she meant soba noodles, so I did a little Googling for Japanese restaurants in Tualatin. We ended up going to Fuji's in Sherwood.

Turns out that Fuji's is one of those Japanese grill restaurants where they prepare your dish on a grill at your table. Renee got her yakisoba, in fact we all got yakisoba, and grilled veggies. Jean got gyoza, Renee got chicken teriyaki, and I got grilled calamari steak. It was good. I took a chance, considering that I'd never been to this restaurant before, and squid is too often overcooked, to the point of becoming rubbery. Here it was smooth, buttery and rich.

I talked to the sushi chef, asking him about the toro, which was on special for $6.95. I don't think I'll be blowing a big chunk of change on sushi at Fuji's. That seven bucks get's you two pieces of fatty tuna on rice planks. Even at Mugi's, which is a really good hole-in-the-wall sushi joint, I can get more for my money.

Anyway, it was a fun outing. The chef, who was a young guy, definitely not Japanese, did a trick where he stacked ring slices off an onion into a cone, filled it with oil, and lit it to make a 'volcano'. Renee was tickled, and claimed it was 'scary'. Too much fun!

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2005

Pie, Pie, Pie!

Yesterday was Chicken Pot Pie, and my filling runneth(-ed) over, so today I made a huge shephard's pie with the remainder. Topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. I've yet to eat any, but I can't imagine it tasting much worse than the original. Renee made noises like she wanted some, which is why I made it, but came the time, she turned her nose up at it. Sniff.

But that was really because we were capping the holiday weekend with a pizza pie. Half ham&olive, half 'Hawaiin'. Yummy.

If that's not enough pies for you, I spent the last of my holiday energy making a sweet potato pie (recipe courtesy of America's Test Kitchen). Sort of reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but there is no mistaking the presence of sweet potato here. The recipe calls for placing a layer of dark brown sugar on the crust before pouring in the filling, and it makes for a nice sweet note under all the tuberiferous goodness. I'll have no problem eating up this one.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2005

Chicken Pot Pie, Slowly Escaping Kitchen

My holiday dish had a few quirks. For one, my notion of what constitutes a medium onion or a medium carrot is apparently a good deal larger than that of the cooks at America's Test Kitchen. In addition to this pie, there's a whole casserole full of the filling that went into it. For another, you may have noticed that the crust seems to be listing to one side. I followed the directions for sizing and shaping, but my alignment left a bit to be desired, and it was still a little overlarge.

But it tasted damn good! Tomorrow, I'll take a stab at making that Sweet Potato Pie I was going on about.

If you have a hankering for more holiday photos, head on over to my Flickr gallery.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2005

Traditional Holiday Fare

So I came home early today to prepare dishes in advance of the holiday. I like to flaunt tradition, although I could be said to be creating my own. Once again I made tofu chili. This is one hell of a tasty dish, and it's a shame not to make it more often. I also made a pumpkin pie, though I'm not planning on eating any until tomorrow (when I'll whip up fresh whipped cream as well).

Tomorrow Jean will make fresh cranberry sauce and turkey. No, I'm not planning on losing weight anytime soon.

Ooh! Next recipe I wanna try from the Best Recipe baking book, probably for Christmas dinner: sweet potato pie!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

Three Umami and a Little Lady

Saturday afternoon I mixed up a batch of the fajita marinade that we enjoyed so much, and threw in a pound of chicken and a pound of pork. After refrigerating it for twenty-four hours, I sauteed a medium red onion and one jalapeno. I chopped the meats into one inch cubes and added them to the onions. Then I opened a can of diced tomatoes, added them and two diced roma tomatoes, and cooked the whole shebang for another ten minutes over a medium heat.

It was all very juicy, so I strained off some of the juice, and put the mix into a bowl to cool. We had it for lunch on Sunday, wrapped in flour tortillas. It was very tasty. Monday night, it was even better. I'm adding this to my permanent recipe book. Now I'm thinking about variations. Jean suggested some sort of lettuce or celery, or cabbage. I must ponder...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

Summer Squash and Corn

Meaty main courses were not my only goals this weekend. I pulled a recipe out of Aprovecho: A Mexican-American Border Cookbook (neat book from the library). The ingredient list runs sort of:

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the other ingredients and cook, stirring. The book says five minutes, but I cooked it ten or fifteen, and it seems just perfect to me. This is hella tasty!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This weekend's main course was Chicken Cordon Bleu. Pretty tasty, rich as befits a three umami dish. I'm afraid the chicken breasts were my master, as I was unable to pound them thin enough to make for a decent roll. The four 'cordons' were big honking fat things, and I had to cook things twice as long as the recipe called for. But the taste and moistness were spot on, so in all, a success.

I got to thinking tonight about the 'umami' notes in this dish, both with the pork and the sodium from the ham curing, and the swiss cheese. This makes this a very filling, hearty dish. I got to wondering if I could make a similar trifecta of umami with some variations. How about chicken (not very umami, but a good base), pork (lowering the sodium content, but retaining the umami traits of pork) and tomatoes (one of the few vegetables with a high umami quotient)? I thought I'd dice the chicken, shred the pork, rough dice the tomatoes, and cook them in a light oil, like EVOO or saflower oil. Then toss this in with some pasta, such as farfalle. Or maybe make a layered dish like ravioli. Or wrap the umami mix in a corn tortilla! Ooo, getting excited here!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2005

Weekend Recipes

I see I've pulled a 'Tom', in not posting for nearly two weeks. So just to prove I'm not dead, I'll share my latest recipe experiments:

Mulligatawny Soup with Chicken (this link is behind a free registration firewall, and will likely disappear behind a subscription firewall in a few weeks). This is a really simple recipe, and tastes great. It is very spicy. Not too hot, really, just 'floral' spicy, though it's true that there's cayenne in there too. The thing I like most about this recipe is that you cook the ingredients (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, chicken stock, chicken), then you puree it in a blender! That was a lot of fun. Oh, and set aside the chicken before blending. I chopped the chicken into 1/2 inch chunks, and added it back to the puree for a bit more cooking afterwards. This recipe makes a lot of soup (the chicken stock alone is seven cups), so I'm freezing some of it. I loves me soup!

Pork Loin with Prune Sauce. This came out of some magazine Jean has, so I don't have a link to a recipe. It's another really simple recipe. Really simple. Thinly slice an onion, cook over a low heat with a tablespoon of EVOO. The aim here is to soften, not caramelize. Add finely minced two cloves of garlic and cook a little while longer. In a separate saucepan you'll prepare 3/4 cup of chopped prunes, ?? cup of apple cider and a teaspoon of cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer over a low heat until reduced by half. Throw the mix in with the onions.

In the meantime, cook your pork loins, first searing in a pan (couple of minutes) then baked in an oven at 400 degrees. When they're done (internal temperature around 140 degrees), take 'em out and pour the prune sauce over 'em. Serve and enjoy.

I think I need to marinate the pork loin with something, as to get them cooked properly toughened them up. Or next time I'll substitute pork tenderloin and make medallions, as the sauce will work with that too.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2005

Creme Brulee!

After receiving positive feedback on my fourth batch of creme brulee at Tom's gathering, I thought I'd write down the specifics of the recipe and how I modified it. This will serve as well as a placeholder I can point Max to, since she expressed an interest in the recipe. Credit where credit is due: the original recipe comes from The Best Recipe (pages 525-526), one of the many fine books from the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I highly recommend this book, their magazine, and their television show, America's Test Kitchen. What follows is that recipe, modified over four trials, to get the results which resemble the dessert I had at McCormick and Schmick's.

I have four ramekins, each holding between 6 and 7 ounces (bought by my wife at Fred Meyer's). This turns out to be just right for the amount of custard produced by this recipe. Find an oven safe pan that will hold the four ramekins and enough water to reach the halfway point on each ramekin. Place a small dish towel in the bottom of the pan, and fill with hot water. Place into an oven and preheat to 295 degrees (the book calls for 275). Let the oven reach equilibrium.

In a large bowl, place six egg yolks. I save the egg whites in a separate container and make a fried egg sandwich the same day as my prep work. Whisk the egg yolks by hand for a couple of minutes. I'm not sure why this helps, but it does. Next, add six tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the sugar in until it is evenly distributed. Finally, add one and one half cups of cold heavy whipping cream. Whisk till there is a bit of air in the mixture, but don't try to whip it. When the mix is even, place it in the four ramekins (you can butter the ramekins with unsalted butter if you want to. The recipe calls for this, but I discovered that it didn't seem to matter}.

Gently lower the ramekins into the water bath, called a bain marie. Set your timer for 45 minutes. When the time has elapsed, check the ramekins. The mixture should still be loose in the middle. If it is not, you've overcooked it and should stop. If it is very loose, rotate the pan and continue cooking. In my oven, I found that an additional 15 minutes, for a total of an hour, seemed to give the best results.

While you're waiting for the custard, get out a cookie sheet, and line it with aluminum foil. Place four tablespoons of brown sugar on the foil, and use the tines of a fork to gently separate the sugar and spread it about the cookie sheet. When your cooking time is over, remove the bain marie, but leave the custards in the water until it gets close to room temperature. Turn off the oven and place the cookie sheet into the oven for twenty minutes. This dries out the brown sugar.

When the custard has approached room temperature, remove it from the water, and cover each ramekin with cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the brown sugar from the oven, and scrape it all into a sealable plastic sandwich bag. Roll a rolling pin over the bag until the brown sugar is a fine powder. Set aside until tomorrow.

The next day:

When you are serving dinner, sprinkle equal amounts of brown sugar evenly over the tops of the custards, and place the ramekins on a cookie sheet. Set your oven on broil and place the cookie sheet directly under the broiler. What happens next depends on your oven, how thickly you've spread the brown sugar, and whether the gremlins have visited overnight. Anywhere from one to three minutes will be required to caramelize the brown sugar. Take it out too soon and you get a gritty agglomerate on top of your custard. Leave it too long and you get carbonized sugar, which is not generally appetizing. Once you remove the ramekins from the oven, give them a couple of minutes to cool, then put them back in the refrigerator for thirty or forty minutes, to really crystallize the sugar. Then you can serve them. Be aware that if you leave the sugar capped ramekins in the frig more than a couple of hours, the custard will begin to absorb the sugar and make it soggy.

That's all I recall that went into fine tuning the recipe to work with my equipment. I fully expect that your experience will be different from mine, so be prepared to try a few times rather than giving up and assuming I've sabotaged the recipe to retain trade secrets.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:44 PM | Comments (3)

Jerked Chicken

Jean found a recipe for jerked chicken in some magazine and we fixed it up this weekend. The main concept is a spice rub, applied both under and over the skin of a whole chicken (though cut into pieces). There was nutmeg, allspice, cayenne, salt, pepper and I don't remember what else. All this gets mixed in with olive oil and lime juice, then smeared onto the chicken, which is then baked at a high heat on a bed of scallions.

The recipe also mentioned a corn bread with scallions and minced jalapeno, so Jean made that part.

We served it up for lunch, with lime wedges for the chicken. It was a very interesting dish, but perhaps too spicy to do very often. By spicy, I don't mean hot, just bathed in spices. That gets a little overwhelming after a short time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

Creme Closure

So I ate the last creme brulee from batch three. It turns out I didn't do so bad. The two which seemed done perfectly were, in fact, done perfectly. A very creamy custard, not runny, and not cheese-cakey. The third certainly seemed loose in the center to visual inspection, but on eating it, I found it was near enough to that perfect texture that I was satisfied. Number four, this evening, was the most suspect. It was not runny, but the center had a bit of 'juice'. Still a creamy custard.

I'd like for each ramekin to be filled with a perfect creme, but 3.5 out of four is not too shabby. I pronounce this experiment complete, though I may attempt to make a batch to take to my friend Tom's in a couple of weekends, so his friend Max can try it out. Hope I don't screw up that batch if I take it on.

I've been pondering what to do with the ramekins other than put them on a high shelf. Jean suggests individual apple crisps, Kelly wants 'tarts' and I'm thinking chocolate mousse. This evening Jean and I were watching America's Test Kitchen, and they made a dessert called Lemon Souffle. It sounded tasty, but I'm worried about the fact that they whip egg white and stir it into the mixture without any cooking. Is this safe?

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2005

Microwave Caramel

Shirley Corriher has a very interesting discussion of caramel, it's chemical composition, and how difficult it is to make. After all the caveats, however, she supplies a recipe which is supposedly very easy, and relies on the knowledge of chemistry occurring during the formation of caramel. Consider:

  1. 1/2 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup corn syrup
  3. 2-4 drops lemon juice

Put the above into a microwave safe two cup container (thoroughly mixed). Run the microwave on high until bubbles begin to form on top of bubbles. Then 'watch the mixture carefully'. As soon as it begins to turn tan, remove it. It will continue darkening once removed. If you don't feel it is dark enough, return to the microwave for ten seconds, and another ten if needed. Time taken depends on how dark you want the caramel, and the strength of your microwave. So, guess as best you can.

I tried this today, and in typical male fashion, decided that if it wasn't distinctly dark, it wasn't cooked enough, and kept putting it back into the microwave. Eventually it was dark enough, and I relented. I've never seen caramel preparation, only the candies and sauces labelled caramel. These are all opaque, but I suspect this is due to the addition of dairy products. My experiment was clear, and after it had cooled, was totally crystalline. It's a pain to cut a chunk loose, but definitely has a smoky caramel flavor.

I'm gonna try again some other day, and stop sooner. According to Corriher, longer cooking produces more, shorter sugars, leading to a denser crystalline matrix. So I took it to the limit, I suppose. I want to try for something more gooey next time. Dunno why, as caramel is not generally my choice of candy. Guess I just enjoy the chemistry!

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

The Chicken Variations

Today I tried a variation on the Marinated Pork Tenderloin recipe which was so successful the other week. The marinade this time substituted Jean's mother's barbeque sauce for the hoisin sauce found in the original, and I used the grocery store's generic boneless skinless chicken breasts, pitiful things really. As they did not have nearly the mass of a pork tenderloin, I had to guess at the temperature (chose 400 degrees) and the cooking time (12 minutes). They were a tad overdone, but still tasty.

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2005

Another Pork Tenderloin Recipe

I have a standard recipe I use for preparing pork tenderloins, from, yes, the folks at America's Test Kitchen. It involves searing the tenderloins in a fry pan to seal in the juices, then baking them. Using an instant read thermometer lets me know when they are done without overcooking them. Cut on the bias, they yield juicy pork medallions, and make for a nice main course.

I've been reading Shirley Corriher's CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking with over 230 Great-Tasting Recipes. It's similar to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, but in addition to the science and chemistry of foods, it includes a number of very interesting recipes.

For example: Juicy Pork Tenderloins with Spicy Chinese Sauce. This recipe is really simple, and quite easy. Start with a freezer bag filled with 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Put two tenderloins in the bag and seal it. Place in the refrigerator at least an hour or overnight. I did overnight. Making the marinade takes around five minutes.

The next day, line a tray with foil, spray a cooking rack with vegetable oil spray, and put the marinated tenderloins on it. Roast in a preheated oven (500 degrees!) for nine or ten minutes, turn over, and repeat. The internal temperature should reach 148 degrees if done.

In the meantime, take the marinade, put it into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil. Boil gently for a few minutes, then add 4 tablespoons of butter. Bring back to a boil. I boiled until it had reduced a bit. I also tented the pork tenderloins for a few minutes after they were out of the oven.

Slice the tenderloins into medallions, cover with the sauce, and sprinkle with sliced scallions.

We had this for lunch today, and it was very tasty. This is the second marinade recipe I've tried (the other was a lime chicken marinade) and I'm becoming a believer.

Another item that makes Shirley Corriher's book so neat (in addition to the food science sections -- read her treatment on making caramel to learn about the breakdown of sucrose in high heat into 124 other sugars!) is her tips on ingredients. Here is what she says about hoisin sauce:

"This dish is highly dependent on the taste of a good hoisin sauce (Chinese barbecue sauce). Unfortunately, hoisin sauces vary greatly, and some are not that good. It is well worth a trip to an Asian market to get Koon Chun, an outstanding brand. It comes in jars or cans with a blue and yellow label."

We had to make do with Sun Luck brand (I foresee a trip to Uwajimaya in Beaverton soon...) but the dish turned out great. I asked Jean if she thought that Sun Luck was one of those 'good hoisin sauce(s)' or if the dish would have been even better with Koon Chun. "Definitely it would have been better!" Of course, she was humoring me.

Posted by dpwakefield at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2005

Quadrangulating...

My iFriend™ Pascale, asks in a comment to the entry before this:

How about triangulating with different recipes?

Like this one: Creme Brulee

Oven temp: 325
Cooking time: 35 minutes

In fact, Pascale, I have looked at other recipes, and considered trying them. Your recipe reminds me somewhat of this recipe, for instance, though as engineers, they are satisfied with vanilla extract. Shirley Corriher's Cookwise has a nice recipe, with the added twist of a crumb crust shell!

The reasons why I find myself doggedly pursuing this recipe from Best Recipe are manifold. Firstly, I've suffered all my life from completism. I've gotten better over the years--for instance I don't slog through a book to the finish if I am not enjoying it. But I still have tinges of the disease. Secondly, I've had a lot of success with recipes from the America's Test Kitchen crowd over the years, and I'm hoping that the hiccups here are just a fluke. To be clear, the unflavored custard of this recipe to my palate tastes great. It's just the texture that I'm working on.

Finally, and this is one Jean will appreciate, I can only make so much creme brulee. My first experiment was unsettling enough that Renee will have nothing to do with it. And Jean just plain don't like custards, as I've mentioned before. So this experiment is just for me, and I have to eat all my results (no, I won't throw out perfectly good food). Since I feel I'm so close to getting this right, I don't want to hare off on another tangent, introducing a whole new pack of variables that need nailing down. If this next experiment is still off, I'm confident I can get it right by the fourth try.

Once I get it right, I'll probably put away the ramekins and not return to them for a long while. I've got lots of other recipes that are a tad more forgiving of deviation that I want to try. Still, I'll probably try Pascale's recipe come the holidays, especially if she has done that recipe herself and vouches for it. Pascale?

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:27 PM | Comments (4)

August 24, 2005

Triangulating the Recipe

Still using the recipe for Creme Brulee that I found in our Best Recipe cookbook, I took another shot at preparing the dessert. Last time, the centers were downright soupy, so I knew that with our oven, at least, I would need to either cook longer or hotter. Since I was using a bain marie, I felt that longer was needed (since the bain marie is supposed to stabilize the cooking temperature at 212 fahrenheit, boiling water temperature).

Our oven runs about 20 degrees hotter than the dial indicates, as measured with an oven thermometer. Last time, I set the oven to around 255, as the recipe suggested 275 degrees. What difference would this make, if the bain marie limits the cooking custard to 212 degrees? I theorized that (1) the tops of the custard are still exposed to the full heat of the oven, and (2) the water bath gets pulled toward the boiling point earlier the higher the oven temperature is. So this time, I set the oven to 275 (making the actual temperature around 295 degrees) and put the bain marie into the oven to preheat, rather than pouring hot water into the bain marie when adding the ramekins. This way, when I added the ramekins, the water would already be close to the boiling point, and the custard would be exposed to the full temperature from the start.

I put the ramekins in and started with the specified 45 minutes. When I checked, the centers were very liquid. So I set the timer for another ten minutes. The centers were still liquid, but I wasn't sure if they were too liquid, so I set the timer for another ten minutes. I should have been watching, but I just waited for the timer. When I checked this time, the custards were rock solid, no jelly motion at all. Oops. I took them out, let them reach room temperature and refrigerated them.

The next day I took two out and layered the brown sugar on top. Into the broiler they went. You're supposed to broil them two to three minutes, until the sugar is carmelized. I got distracted and let them run a full three minutes. One turned out okay, the other got carbonized, rather than carmelized. But the custard tasted great! The texture was more akin to cheesecake than custard. But at least it was not runny.

So I have to try one more time (triangulate, triangulate!). This time I used an oven set to 275 (295) and a preheated bain marie, and cooked a total of 1 hour, 5 minutes. Forty-five minutes was way too little, and the latter was a bit too much. Where in the middle to set it this time? I'm really stuck. The difference in cooking time is twenty minutes, so split down the middle I should add ten minutes. But the custard still looked really liquid at 55 minutes. Would it have coooked through on residual heat when I pulled the bain marie out of the oven? Or would I have still had a liquid center, albeit smaller? Maybe I'm gonna try this two more times...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:46 PM | Comments (1)

August 15, 2005

Creme Brulee

While my dad and Bette were here, we did a Sunday lunch at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant at Bridgeport Village. True glutton that I am, when the dessert tray was presented, I ordered the dessert sampler. This consisted of a small berry cobbler, a small chocolate mousse, and a small creme brulee. I shared the cobbler with Kelly (as she was named back then ) and gave her most of the mousse. But the creme brulee tasted so good that I pretty much hogged the whole thing for myself. Since then, I've been kind of obsessed with trying to make one of my own.

Creme brulee is basically an egg custard with a carmelized sugar shell. There are tons of recipes on the web, varying widely in their ingredients and techniques. Here is a decent example recipe. For my first attempt, I decided to try the recipe in our Cook's Illustrated cookbook. This is definitely a 'for me' project, as Jean is clear on her 'no custards' policy.

The recipe calls for cooking the mixture in ramekins bathed in a bain marie, fancy French for 'water bath'. This has the dual effects of creating a uniform cooking temperature, and limiting the temperature to 212 degrees, regardless of oven setting (as the water reaches boiling point, that energy is bled off into the stove). You are supposed to cook at 275 degrees for 45 minutes, then remove the bain marie from the oven and let the ramekins cool in the water to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least two hours.

I let the custards sit in the refrigerator overnight, and I'm afraid the centers were still more of an eggnog than a custard. I'll have to try the recipe again, with a longer cooking time (one hour?). In the meantime, the periphery is somewhat custardy, suggesting that the recipe will be quite satisfying when I get the cooking time down pat. And there are always those hundreds of variations online, as well as the recipe I found in Cookwise, a cookbook recommended in On Food and Cooking.

On the bright side, the brulee part, the carmelized layer of brown sugar on the top, turned out very nicely. It's pleasing to get at least one component of the recipe right the first time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2005

Farfalle

What is farfalle? That's what I was asking myself this weekend at the grocery store. I'd selected a recipe on America's Test Kitchen called Farfalle with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta to make, based on an all-pasta episode of the television show. Farfalle was the pasta called for by the recipe. It turns out that farfalle is bow-tie shaped pasta. So I got my farfalle, some tomatoes, kalamata olives, extra-virgin olive oil ('ee-voh' on all the cooking competition shows I've watched recently), mint leaves and feta cheese.

The tomatoes are diced, the olives chopped, the mint leaves chopped and mixed in with the olive oil. The pasta is cooked al dente and drained. Stir in the ingredients, then add the feta last and stir some more. Sound like a traditional American spaghetti and meatballs dish? No, of course not. But almost all the dishes on the ATK pasta show were like this one. Cook pasta, prepare a bowl of ingredients, mix 'em together. I was intrigued by this approach, which I'd seen a few other places in the past, so I determined to try it myself. This particular dish was one of the simplest.

How did it work? It worked great. It's easy to prepare, and very tasty. Given the high starch content, I don't imagine I'll be making it all that often, but for a change of palate, it's pretty neat.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2005

Tea Time

Our other 'holiday' outing was a visit to the Lavender Tea House, in Sherwood (or as the proprietress informed us, Smockville, after the man who owned most of the land in the downtown Sherwood area). Jean and I both had the 'Queen Mum', which is a plate with various finger sandwiches, some fruit, and a scone. This was served with a homemade strawberry 'freezer' jam and a clotted cream. I had some vegetable soup and a chilled tea with pineapple flavoring. Jean had a loose-leaf black tea.

Jean was telling me that her hairdresser was surprised that I was willing to go to a tea house. She apparently knows some guys who think it is 'unmanly'. Sorry dudes, I'm too secure in my masculinity to miss out on a neat nosh just 'cause it seems 'girly'. It was a lot of fun, and I'm really pleased that Jean and I got to do it!

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2005

Chicken Fajitas

I don't know if this link will work in general, as it required I input a code (9052) on the Cook's Illustrated home page, but the Chicken Fajitas I made today turned out great. We did not do outdoor grilling, nor did I use a broiler. I simply cooked the onions and green peppers in a saucepan on the stove, and fortuitously carmelized the onions slightly, which Jean says is just the right thing. The marinade really made the chicken, and I'm thinking of using the marinade again, even without making fajitas. Jean suggests that it would work well with shredded pork too. Yum!

I'll excerpt just the marinade here to whet your appetite:

In medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeño, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup marinade in small bowl; set aside. Add another teaspoon salt to remaining marinade. Place chicken in marinade; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Ketchup Experimentation

I recently re-read an essay by Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite non-fiction authors. The essay in question is The Ketchup Conundrum. In it, Gladwell explores why there are several successful variations on the theme of mustard, but the standard model for ketchup, Heinz, reigns supreme. I don't think he really answered the question, what makes mustard different, to my satisfaction. But his explanation for ketchup makes at least superficial sense. Ketchup (and here I mean the mainstream variety we generally think of when we hear the word) has nearly equal parts of each of the five basic flavor notes: salt, bitter, sweet, sour and umami (protein). In addition the Heinz formulation carefully blends these notes, so that no one stands out so much higher than the others that we can instantly recall it -- and grow tired of it.

Does this mean that specialty ketchups are inferior to mainstream ketchup? As a condiment, perhaps. If you think of them as sauces, they stand on their own, like a spaghetti sauce. But since we almost exclusively think of ketchup in the condiment role, specialty ketchups labor under a handicap. In fact, when considered solely as an artisan food, some of these ketchups seem quite appetizing. Consider Gladwell's signal example, World's Real Ketchup:

[..] He starts with red peppers, Spanish onions, garlic, and a high-end tomato paste. Basil is chopped by hand, because the buffalo chopper bruises the leaves. He uses maple syrup, not corn syrup, which gives him a quarter of the sugar of Heinz. He pours his ketchup into a clear glass ten-ounce jar, and sells it for three times the price of Heinz, and for the past few years he has crisscrossed the country, peddling World's Best in six flavors--regular, sweet, dill, garlic, caramelized onion, and basil--to specialty grocery stores and supermarkets. [...] The ratio of tomato solids to liquid in World's Best is much higher than in Heinz, and the maple syrup gives it an unmistakable sweet kick.

I might not drop several bucks having a jar shipped to my doorstep, but it does make me want to try cobbling together an artisan ketchup myself! Since Gladwell mentions a renowned tomato historian who also has written books on tomato cooking, I looked him up at the library, and found Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes by Andrew F. Smith. So look for my experiments in the near future!


Posted by dpwakefield at 09:54 PM

June 14, 2005

The Knife

It's Summer Rerun Season on television, and I've fled to Reality Television for respite. However, I'm not sliding completely into the pit. Instead, I'm watching cooking competitions. Three shows demonstrate how each of their respective home networks approach the concept of an elimination contest.

Cooking Under Fire is the first show I began watching. This runs on PBS. The concept is that twelve cooks of varying levels of experience and from several walks of life compete under the watchful eye of three professional chefs. One chef, Todd English, will grant the final winner a position as chef at one of his New York Restaurants. The concept is simple and is replicated in all three shows.

Each week the contestants are given a task (a recipe, a kitchen activity, a theme) and we watch while they perform. At the end of the show, the judges share their criticism, then hand the loser for that week a skillet emblazoned with a large '86ed' logo. I thought Todd English was pretty harsh, being bluntly critical of his prospective chefs. But this show is a cakewalk...

Hell's Kitchen stars Gordon Ramsay, who is apparently one of the most popular chefs in England. He is also, at least in the context of this show, a foul-mouthed tyrant. Cursing, spitting out food and berating his chefs with sometimes physical insults. This show is on Fox, and I guess it shows...

The Next Food Network Star is so whitebread. I'm enjoying it, but I can't help but put it on a continuum with the other two shows. This show is the 'nicest', then the PBS show, then Fox is the nastiest.

I've generally been kinda picky about what cooking shows I watch. I like America's Test Kitchen for their practical, lab-like approach to cooking, and their personable cooks. I enjoyed Iron Chef for it's over the top entertainment value and racing the clock theme. In fact I plan to watch season two of the American version (I missed season one). But it took the 'dead season' doldrums to get me to watch cooking shows more frequently, and reality shows still have to work very hard to get under my radar (good examples being the 'House' shows on PBS, i.e. Colonial House).

All this cooking on the brain! Remember my knife diatribe? I cooked my curry recipe today, and I used that Chef's Knife. Okay, maybe I'm selling myself based on all I've read, but what a difference. It is partly because this knife is so danged sharp -- I have to be very conscious of what I'm doing with this knife. But also, that offset blade makes cutting and dicing much smoother. I wish I'd known about 'the proper blade' sooner.

Guess I'll have to read up on knives in The Professional Chef. I grabbed this one from the library, because I wanted to follow along with the cooking shows a little better. It has a chapter on equipment, and sections on each of the major meal 'groups'. Poultry, meat, breads, desserts. And in each section they lead with mise en place, which I first heard about on Cooking Under Fire! Cool!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:33 PM

June 06, 2005

Honest Tea

I promised in yesterday's post that I'd talk a bit more about Honest Tea. This is not in the way of a testimonial, but an anchor article for an experiment of mine. By way of background, I have to confess that while I eat healthy foods, I still indulge a few bad junk food habits. I'm currently abusing corn chips, Peanut M&M's and diet fruit colas. I'd like to at least cut back on all of these, but one thing at a time.

Recently I read a pair of articles, Kicking Sugar to the Curb and How to Give Up Coffee. Now I do not drink coffee. I consider it a foul beverage and an inferior caffeine delivery mechanism. But the two articles spurred me to try an experiment directed at gradual withdrawal from caffeine. The sugar article extolled the praises of Honest Tea, so I checked to see if they stock it at Wild Oats. They do, and so I bought seven bottles, each a different flavor. Two were caffeine free herbal concoctions, while the rest were variations on green tea. Since green tea has less caffeine than some caffeinated pops, I figured that this would let me start the gradual withdrawal plan, finally substituting the herbal varieties to complete the process. An added bonus is that the teas are low in sodium and don't have any of the Phosphoric Acid or Potassium found in pops.

So the rest of this post will contain my impressions of the various flavors of tea, since I may want to buy more, and will want to eliminate the truly hideous flavors from my choice list.


First Nation Peppermint

I drank about half of this early Sunday, and wasn't impressed. It tasted bland and a bit weak. Off to the refrigerator with it. Later, I was preparing my Chicken Enchilada recipe, listening to WFMU on iTunes Radio (they played Steve Harley!!!) and I grabbed the remainder to quench my kitchen induced thirst. It tasted much better. I don't know if the thirst was responsible, or if the flavor grows on you, but I'm willing to try this again in the endgame of the experiment.

Community Green

This green tea is a bit too bitter for my tastes. They flavor it with Maltese Orange, which might be the culprit. In any case, I'll be wanting to try out all the other flavors before I rate this one. First impression is not too favorable.

An unfortunate factoid: Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi has 24 mg. of caffeine per 8 oz. serving, while this tea has 26 mg. Since I drink the entire 12 oz. can of pop, and the entire 16 oz. bottle of tea, I end up consuming more caffeine (52 mg. versus 36 mg.). So in order to actually use this tea to cut back, I'd have to actually adhere to the '8 oz. per serving' labelling. In any case, I am getting the benefit of avoiding the Phosphoric acid.

Moroccan Mint Green

I'm halfway through this bottle, so I'll withhold judgement until I finish it. Plus note: I poured half the bottle into a cup and drank it. Eight ounces might be enough to sate my desire for a 'special' beverage after lunch...

Okay, I finished it with lunch, and it works to sate my need for a sweet, slightly caffeinated beverage. Like the First Nation Peppermint, it seems to grow on me with exposure, but this one's caffeinated.

Assam Black

This is one of the teas that, I must not kid myself, will do nothing to reduce my dependence on caffeine. 67 mg. in 8 ounces! Yikes. They calmly assure me that this is "1/2 the caffeine of coffee", but I don't drink coffee. I drink a can of pop that doses me with around 36 mg., so one serving of this baby is nearly twice that. Imagine if I drank the whole darn bottle!

That said, it has a pleasant, fruity appeal. I definitely know I'm drinking a black tea here, but I liked it quite a bit. Despite the higher caffeine content, I'm going to add it to the rotation, at least until I've phased out caffeinated pop entirely. Then I'll start concentrating on eliminating the big offenders like this one (fingers crossed!).

Kashmiri Chai

I definitely like the taste of this tea. It's very mild, with a cinnamon and flowers aroma. Not quite the caffeine offender as Assam Black, but still a bit high. I'll keep telling myself that at least I'm not getting all that sodium, excessive phosphates and artificial sweeteners of soda pop...

Black Forest Berry

I realized that I'd forgotten to mention this no-caffeine herbal tea. I had half the bottle with the first batch we bought. It's a very pleasant fruit tea, and I'd buy it again.

Decaf Ceylon

Another good tea, and with no caffeine! I had actually had my post-lunch tea (Assam Black) when I felt a further craving, so I finished off this bottle. Definitely buy again.

Green Dragon

It's hard to describe this tea. Most green teas have a pretty distinctive taste, and my only experience with teas with 'dragon' in the name is that they are pretty strong. No doubt that is just marketing rather than a long accepted cultural tradition.

Green Dragon tea is neither strong nor distinctively green. It's quite mild. However, I find it very satisfying, and it definitely makes the grade for future purchases (until I transition to all herbal teas to eliminate the caffeine)...

Peach Oo-la-long

One of the heftier caffeine doses, so I'll try to avoid this one, it is nevertheless reasonably tasty.


Here are the '8 oz.' caffeine quantities of their teas (herbal teas have no caffeine):

  Assam Black, 67 mg
  Community Green, 26 mg
  Green Dragon Tea, 26 mg
  Heavenly Honey Green, 27 mg
  Kashmiri Chai, 58 mg
  Lori's Lemon Tea, 67 mg
  Mango White Tea, 14 mg
  Moroccan Mint Green, 27 mg
  Peach Oo-la-long, 62 mg
  Pearfect White Tea, 14 mg
  Vanilla Mint White Tea, 14 mg

So it looks as if the Assam, Chai, Lemon and Oolong teas can only be used to wean me off the carbonated, artificially sweetened aspects of my pop addiction, as an 8 oz. serving of each is going to exceed what I get from a 12 oz. can of pop. The Green, Dragon, Honey and Mint Green teas are mostly only a gain if I limit myself to 8 oz. servings. Mango White, Pearfect White and Vanilla Mint White are clear wins. We'll see how well this all works out, but I'm skeptical right now...

NOTE: I have some flavors waiting in the wings, but here are flavors I've as yet been unable to locate:

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:05 PM | Comments (2)

May 01, 2005

Chicken Enchiladas (with Red Chile Sauce)

This weekend's experiment was Chicken Enchiladas, as seen on America's Test Kitchen. I'm a big fan of this show, and I've made more than one of their 'simplified' recipes. They strive for recipes that are less work than traditional renditions, while attempting to preserve authentic flavors. This recipe is another winner. The link is behind a registration firewall, but it's free, so I'd recommend it.

I followed their directions pretty closely, with a few elisions (Jean's emphatic directive of no cilantro!!! being one of them ). We also used chicken breasts, rather than chicken thighs. On the plus side, this lowers the overall fat content of the meal. On the minus side, breasts don't tend to shred on cooking 1/4 inch strips, as thighs do, so our enchiladas had a bit more body than the authentic variety.

Their recipe needs some sort of adjustment, as they have ten six inch corn tortillas clearly specified, but a third of a cup of filling each, which barely permitted folding, much less "tightly rolled" enchiladas. A 9"X15" pan was just the perfect size for ten of these oversized suckers, though, so they got that right.

Kelly liked the sauce, which was spicy enough, containing ingredients such as onion, cumin, coriander and chili powder (three tablespoons!). But when it came to the filling, she put her foot down. She was okay with the chicken, but those little pickled cublets of jalapeño acted as little heat bombs on her young tongue and palette. No more standard filling for her. I suggested that I would make the same recipe next time, but prepare a side plate of ground chicken or turkey so she could grab some of the sauce and concoct an impromptu chili. That won't be for awhile, as this dish takes a bit of work.

Next time, too, I'll have to prepare a bit of our homemade Salsa.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:57 PM

April 24, 2005

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Jean is feeling better, the stars are aligned right, and I don't have any more errands like sick computers or dead microwaves, so today marked my first attempt at preparing Sweet and Sour Chicken. Another high effort recipe, but pretty much worth it if I do say so myself.

Today was mega-calorie day, as Jean ordered a pizza to reward herself for making it through another week of fourteen hour shifts folllowing a cranky nurse. She had gastroenteritits last week, is now running nonstop again, and to add insult to injury, doesn't really have time to eat dinner during these torture shifts. So the pizza was both a reward and an attempt to put on some weight again. Pizza for lunch, S&S Chicken for dinner... The only thing she failed to follow up on was a threat to get a milkshake. I failed you, Jean!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:25 PM

Kitchen Entropy

After a few years, and a couple of trips to the shop, we finally had to retire our sturdy microwave oven. On reflection, I realized that we had, for one reason or another, always bought Sharp brand microwaves. I haven't kept any records, but they all seemed to need a trip to the shop after one or two years. I don't know if this reflects poorly on Sharp, or is representative of mass market consumer appliances. Consumer Reports indicates that Sharp has one of the highest rate of repair of any brand.

So. Over the weekend I did a survey of various brands, then checked a few local stores for what was available, and we settled on a Panasonic model available at Fry's. Consumer Reports rates it second only after Sears Kenmore, and it's got the requisite features, so we are back up and running. This entry serves as a reminder of when it went into service, so I can check if and when it starts having problems that doom us to another service trip.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:18 PM

April 20, 2005

Yummy Curry

Yesterday evening as Kelly and I awaited Jean's return from her twelve hour shift, I thawed, diced and stir fried about two pounds of chicken. Tonight after work, I made the How to Make a Simple Curry "Anything" recipe with chicken. Eaten with vegetables for dinner, it was very tasty. If my experience with tofu chili is any guide, it will be even better after marinating for 24 hours.

One lesson I learned is not to dice jalapeno peppers with bare hands. Four hours later, my fingertips are only now cooling down. I washed them two times with soap and warm water, and even then my lips and gums were hot when I flossed my teeth. Jean has some size-large surgical gloves, so I'll try them next time.

Do try the curry recipe. It's really easy, and quite cool, er, hot!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:50 PM

April 14, 2005

Torn Between Two Food Groups

Jean's got a vote in for Sweet and Sour Chicken, so I'll have to make that first, but I can't wait to try this Curry recipe. It's really a curry base, to which you add the 'something' of your choice. But chicken is pretty much the main currency around here, so Curried Chicken it is!

I love curry. I haven't been to an Indian restaurant in yonk's ages, so I've evolved the rather trashy habit of making faux curry sauce to have with my veggies. It's really simple. Get a little jar of that red curry paste that every whitebread supermarket stocks in their 'Asian foods' section. Put a dollop on your plate (not too much!), cover it with ketchup, and mash it all together. Voila! Instant skanky curry!

The thought of making a scratch sauce that actually resembles an Indian curry makes me all warm and fuzzy inside!

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:31 PM

February 13, 2005

Szechuan Chicken

We're down to minimal posts here, so I'll just note that this week's recipe was for Szechuan Chicken. This recipe mentions dry sherry and soy sauce without giving any amounts, so I took a guess. In addition, I wanted more, so I doubled the recipe. In any case, it turned out very tasty. Jean gives it the standard "not-as-good-as-Kung-Pao-Chicken" thumbs up.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:41 PM

January 23, 2005

Today's Dish Is...

Cashew Chicken. It turned out quite tasty. Jean thinks it has too much garlic (is that even possible?) but still seems to like it. She wants to try another recipe we found online that emphasizes cabbage next week.

About my only complaint with this recipe is that it created so much, but since it's tasty, that's not much of a complaint.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:11 PM

January 16, 2005

Chicken Success

So the experiment with General Tso's Chicken went well. It takes a bit less time to make than Kung Pao Chicken, but is still a middling complicated recipe. Probably the two longest recipes I know (discounting pies) are my Tofu Chili recipe and my whole wheat bread recipe (which takes around seven hours!!!). So these two Chinese chicken recipes are a 'cakewalk' compared.

The General Tso's Chicken recipe needs some tweaking, in my opinion. The sauce base is 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/3 cup water. As you may imagine, it's really salty. And it doesn't really reduce enough for my tastes either. I want a sauce that isn't watery, and in the entire time I was 'wokking' it, it was still fairly thin. Still, with the ginger, garlic and hot peppers, it was tasty.

Funny little aside. I mentioned how Jean had made a sort of conceptual leap from General Tso to Governor, remember? So I was at Hunan Kitchen in Wilsonville with a couple of my work friends having lunch, and I told them about it. I got to the punchline just as the owner was leaning over setting out our tea. She chimed in, "uh huh, Captain Chicken, Sargeant Chicken..." We all cracked up that she just joined right in.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:59 PM

January 12, 2005

Eleven Secret Herbs and Honorifics

So our exeriment with Kung Pao Chicken went so well that I was bubbly. I told Jean that I wanted to try my second-favorite Chinese dish, General Tso's Chicken. She encouraged me, and that seemed to be that.

Then yesterday, Jean handed me a sheet of paper. "I found that recipe you wanted to try." And there it was. A recipe for ... Governors Chicken.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:58 PM

January 09, 2005

Kung Pao Shricken

Today I made Kung Pao Chicken, using chicken breasts, and a recipe for Kung Pao Shrimp. The only flaw seems to be that in order to get the chicken cooked perfectly, you have to accept any chicken fat into the bargain. That accepted, the dish turned out excellent, if I do say so myself.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:49 PM

January 02, 2005

Culinary Holiday Swan Song

Tomorrow is my last day off work, though it's already filling with chores. So it is fitting that this weekend saw the last of my 'fancy cooking'. Saturday I made a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini, which was great hot out of the oven, and perhaps even better this evening after a day marinating in the frig.

Today for lunch I made Pork Tenderloin Medallions. We've had this before, but it turned out great all the same. Dunno when I'm next gonna do a special dish, but I think it needs to be a pie, to try out my stocking stuffer pie weights.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:42 PM

November 15, 2004

Tampopo

So where is the best authentic ramen in the Portland Metro area? In the Southwest 'burbs? Or am I stuck with Top Ramen?

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:15 PM

October 10, 2004

Cookin' Weekend

While I was somewhat busy with the usual weekend chores, the big adventure this weekend was cooking. And at that, some folk will consider this tame (Brenda). But for me, I really cook so infrequently that it's a fun outing.

Saturday, I tried a recipe from a magazine I subscribe to, Cook's Illustrated. The dish was Pork Tenderloin Medallions. I've had pork chops before, but never tenderloin. This is quite tasty and tender (as named). Two tricks from the recipe: one, brown the tenderloins in a pan on all sides, to seal in juices; two, bake in the oven, but judge how done it is by the temperature from an instant-read thermometer. This lets you cook the meat just enough, so it is neither dry nor tough. Even Kelly found it great. I skipped the suggested sauces as neither Kelly nor Jean were interested. Kelly went so far as to mime gastric eruptions at the suggestion, but she's at that age...

Tonight was something even more homespun: macaroni and cheese. Now I won't call this 'from scratch'. I didn't make my own cheese, or even milk the cow. And I didn't roll my own elbow macaroni. But given those basic ingredients, I did all the rest homestyle. What we ended up with was very rich, with a nice texture to each mouthful. There was enough for a couple plastic containers to set aside for more meals. Kelly said that Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese, which she went through a phase of living on, rated a five out of ten, while this recipe rates eight or nine. Coming from Kelly that's high praise indeed.

Next weekend, I might try my hand at their recipe for Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart. Since I'm usually the one to try main dishes and Jean is the baker, this'll be a bit of an invasion, but who cares!

And when Thanksgiving rolls around, I've got a use for all that leftover Turkey: Turkey Tetrazzini. Go, man, go!

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:07 PM

August 29, 2004

Whole Foods

Our big adventure this weekend was a trip to Whole Foods Market in downtown Portland. I'd read about it in this article, and decided that it sounded interesting. It is, like Nature's Fresh Northwest, an upscale grocery store with an emphasis on natural, organic and world foods, though they try to carry locally grown produce whenever possible.

It was a lot of fun, and we spent over twenty bucks on healthy junk food, such as four varieties of cheese, vegetable juice, and wheat berries. Yum yum. I think I'll go back for their cheese selection alone. The guy at the counter said they carry something like two hundred types of cheese, and I can believe it. They let us sample any cheese we were interested in, which was a diabolical plot, considering the amount we ended up buying.

Next time, I'm going to buy some of their Peary, and perhaps a cider. What a glutton I am.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:19 PM

December 18, 2003

QOTD

More of an excerpt of the day, as this article by Clay Shirky on experiencing lutefisk for the first time reminded me of my own encounter with sea urchin sushi...

The moment every traveller lives for is the native dinner where, throwing caution to the wind and plunging into a local delicacy which ought by rights to be disgusting, one discovers that it is not only delicious but that it also contradicts a previously held prejudice about food, that it expands ones culinary horizons to include surprising new smells, tastes, and textures.
Lutefisk is not such a dish...
How to describe that first bite? Its a bit like describing passing a kidneystone to the uninitiated. If you are talking to someone else who has lived through the experience, a nod will suffice to acknowledge your shared pain, but to explain it to the person who has not been there, mere words seem inadequate to the task.

Ode to Lutefisk (found via BoingBoing

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:01 PM

November 27, 2003

Ah Lahk Pah

Yum, that was the best Pumpkin Pie I ever had. Kelly found it too spicy, Jean found it too rich, so it's all mine! Mwah hah ha!

And I made real whipped cream. That's about the easiest thing in the whole world to make. I'm never gonna buy Cool Whip again (not that I buy it more than once a year anyway...).

What'll I make next? I'm psyched!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:14 PM | Comments (2)

November 26, 2003

Food Is Afoot!

Seriously, what else did you expect on Thanksgiving Eve? Kelly and Jean made mini-muffins (blueberry) and tapioca pudding. I just finished putting the tofu chili into the refrigerator to stew in it's seasoned juices. And Kelly helped me do the non-sticky part of preparing dough for the pumpkin pie crust.

On tomorrow's menu of scratch and not-so-scratch prepped entrees are Freedom Loving Turkey (died in a hospice with soft music playing, "go to the light!"), also known as free-range turkey (Kelly's suggestion), pumpkin pie (pured pumpkin from a can, everything else done from scratch), and yams. On the convenience front we're having cranberry sauce (canned), baked beans (canned) and sparkling grape juice.

I'm sure you more sophisticated types are gonna have the fancy stuff, like Pumpkin Cheesecake and flan, but that's it for us!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:00 PM

November 23, 2003

Anti Flan Clan

Friday I was hunting up recipes for pumpkin pie, so that Kelly and I could make one for Thanksgiving. I'd thought I had one in my cooking magazine, but it turned out to be a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. Riffling through our cookbooks, my mind was taken by a random thought (at least it seemed random at the time). "You know what I wanna make? Flan!"

"Eeew!" Jean cried. "Flan is so bland!"

Kelly took up the cry, because to Kelly, there are really only two or three edible foods, and I usually don't suggest them. Soon I was overwhelmed with protest, and what had been an idle thought became a resolve. "I'm going to make flan!"

So yesterday I made flan. I cut the recipe in half, improvised on some of the ingredients, and sorta guessed on some ambiguous wording in the recipe, so what came out wasn't really flan as it is et in Espaa. The texture is rather coarse, it tastes too much of cinnamon, and it 'weeps'. Still, it is recognizable as flan.

This afternoon, I gave Jean a sample, and she made a kind-hearted attempt not to scowl. Then I held a forkful out to Kelly, who, distracted by television, allowed it to get into her mouth. Moments after that she jerked her head back, gave me a dirty look, and ran into the kitchen to spit and rinse her mouth out.

So no flan for this clan.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:34 PM | Comments (6)

October 28, 2003

Ice Cream In A Bag

Awhile ago I made some sorbet for Kelly using this technique, but I guess I forgot to write it down. So here it is for my reference, this time producing ice cream (the physics and chemistry are the same with sorbet):

Ice Cream in a Bag

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Fill the large bag half full of ice, and add the rock salt. Seal the bag.
  2. Put milk, vanilla, and sugar into the small bag, and seal it.
  3. Place the small bag inside the large one and seal again carefully.
  4. Shake until mixture is ice cream, about 5 minutes.
  5. Wipe off top of small bag, then open carefully and enjoy!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:49 PM

October 19, 2003

Baker Baker

I'm not much of a baker. I have one or two bread recipes I really enjoy, but my favorite takes all day, and I just don't have 'all day' any more. Besides, I can't find my favorite bread book (Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book)!

But for the past three weekends, Kelly has been pulling me in to the world of baking. It started one Sunday when I was resting downstairs after digging around in the garage and breathing too much dust and dander. She'd asked Jean if they could bake something, but Jean was studying. I think Kelly knew I wasn't a baker, but she's eight years old, and the world if full of possibility.

So we hauled out her Easy Bake Oven, dug through a few recipe books, and ended up making some kind of crispy chocolate chip sheet cookie. Two cookies were made in the Easy Bake, and the rest in the conventional oven. They turned out great, and I'm almost through the lot (two weeks later).

Last weekend, we decided to make a cake. I looked through The Best Recipe, and we found a chocolate cake to make from scratch. We also made a vanilla butter creme frosting from scratch, which, by the way, is mostly butter.

This recipe took a lot of time, and a lot of effort. When we were done, Kelly had a mini-two layer cake made in her Easy Bake, and I had a regular-sized two layer cake made in the oven. It was delicious, and I admit to eating two pieces in the last week. Kelly's been eating the rest, and Jean is putting a ban on cakes like this one. Not that we'd make another, given all the fuss and bother.

This Sunday, we decided to make something different, and tried out a croissant recipe. The recipe was confusing, ambiguous in several places. Still, we forged ahead, and managed to bake the suckers. The Easy Bake did not play a role this time, as a risen croissant could not be pushed out of the narrow slot in the side of the oven. I told Kelly if she tried, she'd have a petrified croissant forever in her Easy Bake.

These creatures don't really taste like croissants to me, and their texture is more 'baking powder biscuit' than flaky pastry. But they taste goooood! They are evil, filled with much butter, and I think we will be skipping such foods entirely for a few weeks. Jean suggests muffins, so maybe that's next. I couldn't convince Kelly to learn how to make Eggplant Parmegian, for some reason.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:51 PM

July 17, 2003

Food Safety

Via Rebecca's Pocket come these articles on vastly decreasing the chances of intestinal bugs from fresh fruits and vegetables. How to disinfect your salad and Most potent natural household disinfectants:

In her tests, [Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University] deliberately contaminated clean fruits and vegetables with Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli O157:H7 -- all capable of inducing gut-wrenching gastroenteritis. On its own, the hydrogen peroxide was fairly effective against all three germs, she found. But the best results came from pairing the two mists. For instance, she told Science News Online, "If the acetic acid got rid of 100 organisms, the hydrogen peroxide would get rid of 10,000, and the two together would get rid of 100,000."
...It doesn't matter which you use first - you can spray with the vinegar then the hydrogen peroxide, or with the hydrogen peroxide followed by the vinegar. You won't get any lingering taste of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and neither is toxic to you even if a small amount remains on the produce.
...35% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide (H202) 460 ml bottle costs around $15.95 and can be purchased at ... most health food stores ... One bottle will last a family of four approximately 2 months. Please note: drug store Hydrogen Peroxide has chemicals and is not recommended for food use.

Using these two solutions in tandem is just as effective, apparently, in the bathroom. And just as inexpensive!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:21 PM

April 03, 2003

Curry Recipe Experiment

I'm lazy where food prep is concerned, if that's not become apparent by now. I like dishes and condiments which can be prepared with a minimum of fuss and bother. To illustrate: I like curry, a lot. I have a jar of red curry paste in the fridge. But to use it, I usually just put a dollop of ketchup on a plate, drop a teaspoon of curry paste on top, and mash it in with a fork. Voila! Instant curry sauce!

This evening, however, I decided to try to make something approaching an authentic curry sauce, albeit with no advance preparation. I looked on the web, and found this recipe. Okay, do we have any cream? No. Do I want to make a full-fledged white sauce? No. But there is some condensed milk in the cupboard! Now, this is an experiment, so I don't want to make the full recipe, but I don't want to try scaling things down mathematically (this never works anyway), so I just dump a teaspoon of curry paste into a bowl with about half of the condensed milk and warm it in the microwave (a saucepan on the stove would also be too much work).

After the warming, it looks rather thin, so I look at the recipe and see the flour. I add some white flour I find in the cabinet and stir it up. Kinda better, but still runny. More flour. Now it's getting to be the consistency of curry sauce as I know it. Time to heat it up again. After about a minute I pull the bowl out. Uh oh. The flour has more or less cooked, and I now have something that can best be described as a Curry Muffin.

More condensed milk, vigorous stirring and minor heating pass, and I now have a passable curry sauce.

Lesson: at least have the right ingredients on hand, and try to mimic the proportions in the recipe. I might try this recipe again in a week or two after actually shopping for the ingredients...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM

January 16, 2003

Mango's Successor

Jean bought me a White Sapote at the grocery store this weekend. I'd told her "surprise me." And since I didn't know what the heck a White Sapote is, she succeeded.

We cut it up this evening. Very creamy, almost custardy, though it may have been a bit overripe. The taste was lemony, with a hint of pear and banana. Very sweet! I'm gonna buy this one again.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:29 PM