Sunday, December 28, 2014

The New Recipe Challenge: Pumpkin Meringue Pie

The most beautiful pie in the world

Look at this pie. It's like, the most beautiful thing in the world. Just read the caption; it says it right there. This pic is not mine. It is not the pie I made. I am a mere mortal, incapable of creating such a heavenly pie. Here is mine. 

My photography skills are fierce, eh? The secret: have 2 Old Fashions, use unnatural light only and work with your phone camera. Ok back to the pie.

I brought this to a Christmas dinner that some friends were hosting. I ran out of time, so I whipped up the meringue and placed in a ziplock bag at home. After dinner I piped the topping and browned under the broiler in my friends' kitchen. Not sure if the meringue lost volume in the transportation, but I got nowhere near the height shown in the recipe's image. Jeez Louise, I forgot how much I love meringue though. I'm realizing that anything with egg whites is an instant win in my book. Meringue, marshmallows, egg white drinks, egg white omelets... Just kidding about the omelets. I mean, they're ok and all. Anyway- PIE! I was talking about pie. The pumpkin portion was fantastic, a little sweeter and darker than a typical pumpkin pie. The meringue was amazing against the custard-like filling. 
The dessert was a success with the rest of the dinner guests as well. One asked for the recipe, another went back for a large second helping, and James started raving and didn't stop until two days later. 

Some modifications I did: I don't care for (american) cinnamon, so I used only half a teaspoon and added a tablespoon of cardamom instead. I have no 8" spring form pan so I just used my regular 9.5" pie pan. (I also used my go-to pie crust recipe, from Joy of Cooking.) This meant no "deep dish" presentation, and surprisingly, the pumpkin filling part of the pie took perhaps an additional 15 minutes to cook. 

Repeat Factor: Absolutely will make this again. 

Next Time: Cut the sugar in the meringue and work on incorporating an additional flavor into it instead? Maybe the cardamom can go here. Or fresh ginger?

The New Recipe Challenge: Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

I've had a bag of matcha in the cupboard for a while now. I think originally for flavoring/color in icing? Anyway, was invited to a cookie exchange recently, so I thought it was a good excuse to try out that green tea powder. These Green Tea Shortbread Cookies were simple enough to try. Not sure if the powder breaks down after some time, but my dough, while definitely green tinted, was nowhere near as vivid as the dough shown with the recipe. 

As far as the flavor, this was a nice shortbread. The green tea flavor was very subtle (another sign that the powder may have been old?) After dusting with sugar, I dusted the cookies again with straight matcha powder in an attempt to layer up the tea flavors. However, whenever any hint of moisture hit the powder, the tea bloomed into a dark smear. While this didn't negatively affect the taste, it made for a certainly unattractive cookie. No one likes eating what appears to be a moldy cookie.

Repeat Factor: Possible, but Low
A decent recipe, but not really wowing my pants off, if you know what I mean. 

Next Time: Lay off the powder at the end. ;)

Monday, December 8, 2014

the New Recipe Challenge: Coconut Noodle Salad with Caramelized Limes

EEEEGAAWWWD where to even start with this one. First off, the recipe is sorely lacking in detail. Of course I take this as free license to start freestyling right off the bat. Heavily. I've got about a 50% success rate when I do this with new recipes. That's pretty good odds of strong, unequivocal failure. And I'm chalking this one up on the FAIL side. 

Where did it all go wrong? Well, Numero Uno Bad Sign: I suspect this is supposed to be a cold noodle salad. But nowhere does it REALLY say that. So I decided to make it hot. No protein mentioned in recipe, so I decide to add shrimp. The amount of noodles seemed large, but that's the one thing I apparently didn't have the mind to question. Dressing is supposed to be on the side; I'm going to cook the shrimp in it instead. An entire tb of sugar? I do half. Oh and hey- why don't I try to do this in one pan, just to make it fun? 

Verdict: Overcooked shrimp on a massive amount of almost gummy, bitter rice noodles, not enough discernible liquid left over for moisture, no real understanding what the hell the limes are doing on this plate, blah blah blah. The limes were a mystery all to themselves. They never caramelize- just seeped copious amounts of juices that had to be drained half way through. The peels made for a very bitter component, especially contrasted against the juice-soaked sugar (this flavor combo was the only redeeming element of the experience.) While not exactly palatable on their own, the pulp squeezed from them was intriguing when blended with the dressing. Speaking of dressing, the dish was edible once another side of the coconut cream and fish sauce was added for moisture (this time, with the sugar.) The dish fared better when eaten as leftovers for lunch the next day- debased to the microwave status of ready-to-heat dishes like Annie Chung Pad Thai. 

Next time: What of these limes? Must explore.

Repeat factor: Non-existent for this recipe. 

Another bad sign: I don't like how "caramelised" is spelled in the dish's name. Click through to see for yourself.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the New Recipe Challenge: Chocolate-Caramel Pecan Tart

Ah holidays; yes! My favorite excuse to overeat sugar! I made this tart for a Thanksgiving dinner. While pumpkin pie is normally my go-to, the friend that had invited me had already called dibs on creating the most awesomest of all holiday pies. Seemed a perfect time to venture out into the great unknown. Tarts. And now, with no further adieu, Chocolate-Caramel Pecan Tart.

Smoky nuts, salty hint, flakey crust- this is nowhere near the cloying goo of a typical pecan pie. 

I had no tart pan with removable bottom, but just threw the crust into a spring-form cake pan. At first I was dismayed to find that my crust shrank in considerably from the edges, but really, turned out to be no big thing. So don't worry about what kind of baking pan you use. 
The bit about cooking the corn syrup for 8-10 minutes... complete lie. Just watch it carefully- it turns fast. Luckily, Mama was on hand and coached me through most. Including a bit where she stopped me from scraping gritty bits of sugar back down to the goey mass. Apparently that is a big no-no in candy making, and I narrowly escaped turning my batch into a gruesome crystalline mess. Or something. 
Next Time: I doubled the salt as well- and I probably could have used even more. Other than that- I'm not changing a thing. 
Repeat factor: Very high. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

the New Recipe Challenge: Chipotle Pumpkin Soup with Chorizo & Apples

Wow, it's been a while! So hectic, much time, blah blah blah. 
Ok, now on to the good stuff; I've been pushing myself to try one new recipe a week. 
Last week I made a large batch of this Chipotle Pumpkin Soup. The recipe can be found here.

Verdict: A solid recipe, that definitely got me thinking about other directions to take this, should I attempt again. 
I usually find smoked paprika a bit heavy handed, and that was no different here. I doubled the coconut milk. The chorizo (as much as I detest cooking it, the oil, ugh) was absolutely necessary to the texture of the soup,  that fatty grease was perfect drizzled over the top! The apples were also an awesome addition- I wanted much more than what the recipe called for. The acorn squash halves functioning as bowls? Completely superfluous, but I had to. 

Next time: Double the coconut milk and omit the cheese. Change out the spices to perhaps some star anise, coriander seed, cardamom, or a chili blend a little more sophisticated. Rethink the protein addition? Halve the recipe as well. 

Repeat Factor: Yes, but doubtful in this exact form again. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Avoid the County Fair: Make Kettle Corn at Home!

Anyone who's ever lived with me knows that I am addicted to popcorn. And I like all its derivatives: caramel corn, kettle corn, cheesy corn, rosemary corn, brewer's yeast parmesan corn, corn seasoned like Chex mix, and even the commercial riff-raff like Cracker Jack and Fiddle Faddle. But no microwave popcorn for me; I do have my limits. So today I had a craving for kettle corn, that pleasantly salty, lightly sugared stuff you find at carnivals and mall outlets. Maybe it was subconscious because the county fair opened today. At any rate, I made my own and avoided the crowds. It's easy with only 4 simple ingredients:

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup oil

Put the oil in a pan that has a lid, add 3 popcorn kernels, and place it over medium heat. When the 3 kernels pop, quickly stir the sugar into the hot oil. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels.  Put on the lid.  Shake the pan around on the burner every so often while listening for the kernels to start popping. When you hear the kernels begin to pop, lift the pan from the stove and shake to keep the popcorn from burning. Return it to the burner after several seconds and listen for more popping. Repeat the process until it's all popped. Pour into a bowl and salt to taste.

I ate mine while watching the movie They Live
Where are you going to eat yours?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tea Smoked Salmon

I recently read about tea smoking, an ancient Chinese culinary technique.  Sounded intriguing! I'm not sure if the old-time Chinese people had salmon, 
but this style of cooking really compliments this fish!  I'm not an expert with 
the barbecue, but this was quite easy.  

First I put my salmon in a marinade for an hour or so: 

  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange or lemon zest 
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Then I started a fire with briquettes in my barbecue. While waiting for the 
coals to form, I prepared the smoking ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup mixed whole leaf oolong and jasmine tea 
  • 1/4 cup white rice 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 8 whole star anise 
  • 2 tablespoons crushed cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole allspice 
I put the smoking ingredients in a few layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and formed an open packet. 

Smoking ingredients mixed in a foil packet:
The tea and spices infuse the fish with a subtle, slightly bitter taste.
The brown sugar sweetens up the fish and adds a caramel color and undertone.
The rice acts as a fuel to keep the aromatics smoking.

When the coals are white hot, place the foil packet of smoking ingredients directly on them.  Put the grill in place above the coals, and shut the 
barbecue lid. Partially close the barbecue's air vent.  When you see 
smoke rising from the vent, it's time to cook! My coals were quite hot, 
and smoke appeared in just a few minutes. 

Remove the salmon from the marinade and pat it dry. Brush it lightly with 
oil. I used a mixture of sesame and peanut oil. You can place the salmon 
on a pre-soaked cedar plank, but I'm not that fancy. I used a nonstick grill 
basket that I bought  for a few dollars. Put the salmon skin side up (if it has 
skin) and put the cedar plank or grill basket on the grill. Close the lid and 
the air vent. Let the salmon smoke for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how 
thick your fillet is. Flip the fish once and smoke again to medium doneness.  
Usually this requires another 3 to 5 minutes. I bought salmon trimmings 
that were quite thin, so I smoked it a scant 3 minutes per side.  

My experiment was a success!  I think this was the most delicious salmon I have ever eaten.  Next I think I'll try this technique with shrimp laid directly 
on the grill.

Inexpensive salmon trimmings smoked to perfection in 6 minutes!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ferry Building Smorgasbord

My friend Alejandra and I went to this event Friday night hosted at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, here in San Francisco. The Ferry Building houses restaurants, cafes, small food vendors, a book store, and a Sur La Table. On Saturdays, they have a farmers market set up outside, which draws large crowds. I was here earlier in the week, just roaming around, for no particular reason (it's one of my favorite things to do), and found out about the event.

We showed up promptly at 5:30. As was explained to us, $20 gets you 10 tickets. Tickets get you wine and hors d'oeuvres. Wine was 2 tickets for a glass. And food, depending on the item was either 1 or 2 tickets. We started with 10 tickets. After all, we had already eaten lunch; this was just fun snacky-wine-hangout time.

Tuna tartar... the tuna was fresh, the cabbage was really good, and the crunch from the chip was great. So, I'm tasting all of that, and then the spice monster hit me! Washed it down with a swig of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and I was good to go.

And there was dancing, ahhh C'est la vie.

Chris Cosentino, the chef and owner of Incanto, in San Francisco, also has a sandwich shop, Boccalone Salumeria in the Ferry Building, where he serves up freshly sliced salumi on rolls of crusty bread with cheese and mustard. He was there that night! He's the one in the background. I made my friend stand in front (hence the cracking up), to pretend I was taking her picture! I didn't want to look lame, and star struck.

Because, you all know how I'm slightly obsessed with Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations....Well, when he came to town to make the SF show, Cosentino was one of the chefs he visited at his restaurant. SOoooo, a bit of celeb chef sighting happening here. I know, Imma dork!

Mini lemon and salted chocolate tarts!

"Ooooohhhhh, oysters!" We exclaimed unanimously. Before the night was over, we had spent $40 on tickets, had 2 oysters a piece, at least 4 glasses of wine (but whose counting!), and ate and drank our way through the smorgasbord. As the evening progressed, fun snacky-wine-hangout time became the perfect girls date night. I always have a good time with Ale!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A hot dog walks into a bar...

Stopped by Bird Dog and had a chicken fried hotdog covered in sausage gravy. The illustrious Jr had a rueban dog and some really greasy chili fries. We then vowed to return and eat sausage until the end of the world. This is a hard life. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Ravioli

It's a new year, and that means another year to be filled with delicious foods! First dinner of 2012, homemade ravioli. It was my main dish at our Chávez christmas dinner, delicious but not so pretty. Back in San Francisco Mónico and I tried out the recipe again and finally got the knack of it, they were much prettier this time around. And very yummy, it was very hard to stop going back for just one more.

Pasta recipe very simple,

4 eggs
3 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix eggs, water, salt, and 2 cups flour until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the flour. refrigerate 20 minutes. THOUROUGHLY flour surface, and then Roll out 1/8 inch thickness, then flour some more.... and then a little more flour.

we used a biscuit cutter for each side of the ravioli then put filling on one side, brushed a bit of egg and water mixture on the other and pressed them together with a smaller ravioli cutter. they turned out very cute, don't you think?


Kinda just added a bunch of stuff together. Italian Sausages, browned sweet onion, spinich, tofu, salt, pepper, basil, and other things I am sure. All cut up really small. use whatever you want! yay