Sunday, October 31, 2010

From Armenia

I had the most amazing weekend. I left school after Physics and Economics on Thursday and landed in Boston before the rest of my school was out of class for the day. After getting off of the T at Porter Square, I turned around and saw my dad getting off the same train I had just been riding. You can't get better timing than being on the same train. That was the serendipitous start to a most excellent (and most gourmet) weekend. I don't know how to go about posting the food from this weekend other than in chronological order, so I'm going to start with the first meal I ate after arriving.

Diane is half Armenian, so with her came a whole new genre of food. She doesn't really cook Armenian food, but she loves visiting the Armenian grocery stores and bringing home delicious treats. For dinner on Thursday night, we dined on delicious Armenian treats that she had picked up that morning. We had lentil koftas and a delicious eggplant concoction with bell pepper and tomato and warmed spinach and feta pies and some lamejun. Lamejun are thin, round circles of bread topped with a mixture of meat and spices. These Armenian pizzas are as fun to eat as they are yummy.



Remember to check back in later for pictures of all sorts of fabulous food from this weekend! (imagine: homemade chocolate truffles flavored with orange, coffee, and tea)

Ketchup

After a blissfully computer-free weekend in Boston, the first thing I did when I got home was to turn on my trusty laptop. After a quick email and facebook check, I decided to start today's work by updating my list of eats to bEAT. My gourmet weekend has brought that list up to eight individual posts, over a week of blog posts if I go at it one per day. Wow. I better start right away. I haven't yet taken this weekend's pictures off of the camera, so I'm posting some pictures that I've been meaning to upload for ages.

Do you remember my man cookie and pasta salad from a while ago? Both were made for Tap's goodbye party. Most of what we ate was amazing Thai food, and inexplicably, I've never gotten around to putting up these pictures.


Fried kanom jeeb


Tap cutting some ribs

Trying new things 

I was confused by its crispy, crumby texture, but the cashew-sprinkled stuff is actually fish and it's really really good!


Caution: This doesn't look as spicy as it is

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And Slices Of Quince, Which They Ate With A Runcible Spoon


"No Indy today, but lets play Vivaldi. And cook quinces."

 Despite that excellent assurance of immediate quince-cookery that I received as a text message on Tuesday morning, hours passed with no sign of the quinces being removed from the position in the fruit bowl they had maintained for a month.

I rehearsed my speech on my way home from orchestra rehearsal. "I know we both have a lot to do tonight, but it has been a very long day, and I think we need a break. Let's just abandon our responsibilities and stay up late making a tarte tatin." 

But lucky me! My speech was not needed. As I awkwardly stumbled through the door with my cello on my back, I was overjoyed to see my mother peeling quinces in the kitchen. She's a mind reader, I'm telling you. 


I jumped right in with peeling quinces and apples. They went into the skillet with butter and sugar. After everything was nicely caramelized, the skillet went into the oven to cook the fruit some more. My mom had made the pastry dough while I was at rehearsal, so it was soon rolled out and tucked over the cooked apples and quinces. When the entire thing came out of the oven, it was flipped over to reveal the brown caramelized fruit. 




 By this time Marten was home. He happily ate some pasta with chicken and even downed some delicious brussel sprouts without any complaints. He looked a little dubious about the beets with dill and balsamic vinegar, but he tried them anyways. When we offered him a slice of quince tarte tatin, though, he couldn't take it anymore. 

"Now you're just making stuff up!" he exclaimed.

We explained what a quince is, referencing "The Owl and the Pussycat" for proof that quinces are indeed a real fruit. He had never heard of "The Owl and the Pussycat." It was only after a thorough search of the bookshelves to find a children's poetry book, a brief poetry reading performed standing on a chair, and a vigorous uprooting of the cutlery drawer in search of a runciple spoon that we finally sat down to eat our tarte. 


Mm. This tarte is evil, but delicious. The fun part is that the quince and different types of apples cook to different textures. The outside ring of fruit is apple that cooks down until it melts in your mouth. Just inside that circle are slices of quince that hold their shape firmly even after so much cooking. And while this tarte is obviously heavenly right out of the oven, it is also addictive at any time and any temperature. I mention as a warning: it is impossible to pass this quince and apple tarte tatin on the counter without helping yourself to a slice.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mango Raspberry Smoothie

For breakfast on Sunday, I made myself a delicious smoothie. Ake had given me some incredible mango the day before and I needed a good use for it. It's the end of the mango season, but there are still some perfect ripe, sweet, and juicy ones left. When I put the mango into the blender, it instantaneously whipped into a puree. I added one small container of raspberry yogurt, frozen raspberries, and a few ice cubes. The smoothie was rich and creamy and healthy, too.




Monday, October 25, 2010

A Snickerdoodle In A Cone!



We took Marten, our friendly neighborhood OFA guy, to Snow Bear on Saturday. I was hoping for some Nutella, but despite the Nutella jar casually resting on the ice cream case tempting me, there was no Nutella left. While I've heard that Snow Bear's pumpkin is delicious, I wasn't in the mood, so I tried something new, even though it sounded a little boring. I was very happy with it though! Cinnamon frozen custard is like a snickerdoodle crammed into an ice cream cone. I love cinnamon on toast, apples, and cookies, and now ice cream is being added to that list as well!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The End Of A Good Thing

Saturday's farmer's market may well have been the last that I attend this season. While I didn't need any vegetables, I stopped by to buy some jam and take a few photographs because I was a few minutes early to a workshop that my acting troupe, First Class Only, was doing with Ship of Fools down the street at Civic.

After sampling a few different choices, I chose a jam called "I Love You Jam" that is described as raspberry dark chocolate jam. I am eagerly anticipating my toast on Monday at breakfast.







Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where The Men Are Hunky And The Chocolate's Chunky




As soon as Ake asked me to bring a dessert to Tap's goodbye party, I knew that it should contain chocolate, preferably in very large quantities. Cookies seemed too everyday and a cake seemed too over-the-top. I wanted an original chocolate concoction for which I wouldn't have to follow a recipe. I decided to make a man-cookie in the style of Men's Pocky and Yorkies.

I used a recipe from a cookie cookbook for a giant layered cookie. I added cocoa powder to the cookie dough to make it chocolatey, plus an entire Ghirardelli semi-sweet bar chopped up and most of a bag of white chocolate chips. I baked these triple-chocolate cookies one at a time in a big cake pan with a removable bottom since I didn't have the pan that was called for in the recipe. In place of the recipe's cream cheese icing in between the layers and on top I spread a thick chocolate icing for between the layers. I based it off of a recipe from the Joy of Cooking and I added both unsweetened and semisweet chocolate. On top, I drizzled melted white and semisweet chocolate chips for a simple finish. 


My concoction was definitely a cookie and not a cake. The icing and the cookies were both dense and fairly dry. To lighten it up, I would definitely use cream cheese frosting or even serve this with whipped cream or ice cream. I certainly didn't have a problem with it just as the way it was though. With five or six types of chocolate in it, it was the king of chocolate cookies: dense, rich, and impossibly chocolate. A true man-cookie.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pasta Salad To Say Goodbye

When life handed me lemons this weekend, I pickled them.  Why? Because Mark Bittman told me to. And I do what Mark Bittman tells me. The preserved lemons were a key part of a delicious pasta salad that I made this past weekend.

On Sunday was a goodbye party for Tap, who is going back to Thailand. I know that I will miss him, and I've only known him for a few months, compared with the years that he has been an integral part of the Thai Essence family. Ake asked me to bring two dishes: one dessert and something savory. I was as nervous as I was excited. Despite Ake's assurance that there was no pressure, I certainly felt pressure. I decided on a pasta salad because I love pasta, I love salad, it can travel at room temperature and be ready to serve immediately. Plus, nobody hates pasta salad.


Planning for my salad, I brainstormed ingredients and ended with a fairly minimalistic salad. Between couscous, israeli couscous, quinoa, tortellini, ravioli, and all the other grains and starches that I love in salads, I chose rotini. I eliminated broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, and greenbeans, but put in just arugula and tomatoes. I skipped over olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts in favor of Mark Bittman's preserved lemons. I avoided fancy nuts like pistachios and pumpkin seeds for simple walnuts. I added walnuts and lemon to play up the flavors from the basil-arugula-lemon zest-walnut pesto that formed the flavor base of the dish.


On Sunday, I began by getting my lemon pickle ready. I was a little bit anxious about the recipe. It just seems a little odd to chop up an entire lemon, which is mostly peel, and serve it to people. I trusted the source though, so I tried it anyways. The recipe is extremely simple, just chop lemons and add a bit of sugar and salt. I chopped the lemon a bit smaller than the picture showed because I was so nervous about putting giant chunks of peel in my pasta. I let the lemons get juicy as they sat in a bowl for the next few hours.


Next, I cooked the pasta. The pesto emerged from the freezer, where it had been frozen in an ice cube tray. I defrosted the cubes with the help of some hot pasta water and mixed it in with the pasta. I chopped cherry tomatoes, both red and yellow. Halving cherry tomatoes is a dangerous feat. The entire kitchen soon was covered in cherry tomato seeds.


I toasted walnuts and employed my very special ireallydon'tfeellikedoingphysics walnut chopping method: after toasting, I individually rubbed each walnut half to make the skins fall off, then broke them into chunks by hand. Time consuming? Yes. Satisfactory? Yes.


As the hour to go approached, my lemons were looking picklier. I mixed a few spoonfuls in with the pasta, pesto, tomatoes, and chopped fresh arugula. After I put the pasta into a big salad bowl, I added the walnuts and freshly shredded parmesan on top. 


My favorite part about this pasta salad was the hidden lemon flavors. Despite the pesto's strong visual presence, its flavor really wasn't as pronounced as the lemon zesty flavor from the preserved lemons. I really enjoyed the flavors of this salad. It wasn't particularly original or unique, but I think that it was well executed and I was very pleased! This is the perfect pasta salad.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kiss My Aff


Maybe xkcd is right and all cultures have as many inside jokes as each other, but I believe that some select groups are especially prone to inside jokes, like debaters for example. I have inside jokes with lots of different groups (I can walk up to a few orchestra friends and mention a Sicilian Largo and have the group folded in half with laughter), but I think policy jokes will always be closest to my heart. There's something about the quality of the humor when a group of nerdy high-schoolers engage in intellectual argumentation that results in terrifically amusing conversations. 

Obviously, the whole point of inside jokes is that they are really not funny once they are explained. I am torn between just finishing this post with "I made a giant cookie and wrote something dumb and punny on it," but I feel like that would be unsatisfactory, and a little rude to any out-of-towners. Even if it ruins the joke completely, I'm just going to go ahead and explain the whole darned thing.

Of course, this is in reference to Debate Treat Number Two. I wanted something without nuts for the peanut-free debaters, and preferably something that I could write on. I also wanted something quick and easy to make, but cool and usual. I settled on a recipe for a cookie pizza. The cookie was extremely standard, almost boring to make. I didn't have a pizza pan on hand so I pressed the cookie dough onto a buttered cookie sheet. It spread and browned and looked delicious. While it was in the oven, I suddenly realized that I didn't have any clue how to transport this giant cookie to a high school three hours away on a school bus... but that's another story.


For the topping on my giant cookie, I was a bit unsure what to do. I knew that I wanted to write on it, but just leaving it blank with writing on top seemed boring. I didn't have cream cheese for the topping for which the recipe called, but I figured I'd do some sort of icing anyways. Too lazy to make real icing, I spread it with melted chocolate chips. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is just to melt chocolate to a smooth consistency. Even going slow and stirring it frequently, I messed up the microwave melting process and had to save the chocolate with water and cream and more chocolate and lots of stirring and all together far too much work for one measly bowl of melted chocolate. On top of the smooth dark chocolate, I used my favorite zip-lock pastry bag trick to write with melted white chocolate. (White chocolate chips are rarely found in my house, but they were bought for another amazing creation that I will write about tomorrow.)


And now, to be utterly polite to those outside of the debate community, I ought to explain the joke. The writing, which is to be pronounced "West Laf debaters are sexier," has an obvious meaning. But why is sexier spelled CX? CX refers to cross-examination, more commonly known as cross-ex, which is the time when one debater questions his or her opponent in an unscripted fashion. Cross-ex is so integral to the type of debate that I do, policy, that policy was once known as cross-examination debate. Thus, debaters, and most important policy debaters, are CXier. And those from my school, of course, are the most CXy.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't Hate, DB8.


The debating season has finally begun. I went to my first tournament of the year on Saturday, but because my partner was busy, I judged instead of debating. Instead of happily accepting the hours when I would have been preparing as a gift of time that could be spent on homework or those dreaded applications, I spent far too long baking up some tasty treats to help motivate our novii. I came up with two delicious concoctions. (I'm probably going to write two separate posts about them simply because I don't have the time to write a giant post now, so get excited for db8 treat no. 2.)



My first thought when thinking of a debate snack was that it should be at least slightly healthy. While I am a huge fan of Ben's famous saltine concoctions, which combine the basic butter, sugar, chocolate, and salt combination, I wanted something with a little substance. I thought of making oatmeal cookies, but then decided on peanut butter cookies. While I know that peanut butter cookies aren't exactly health food material, a little added protein can make a difference in a long day at a tournament. Since peanut butter cookies aren't really my thing, I knew I'd have to Beaify them. Note: read Beaify as add chocolate.



I started with a recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip bars from my Wooden Spoon Dessert Book, a gift from my grandma a few years ago. Our oven is usually too hot, which usually doesn't make too much of a difference. I just turn it a little bit less than it says and take the cookies out sooner. Unfortunately, this time it actually made a difference. My dream of a soft and chewy peanut butter cookie was squashed by the stiff and crumbly reality. I knew they could be fixed though. I realized that I should just trying more Beafication. With a dip in chocolate, the problems of the universe disappear. 

While some food bloggers have fancy camera equipment and lights, what do I have to work with? This picture was taken with my head stuck in the refrigerator as the chocolate set. It turns out that fridge light is quite nice.


This is what happens when I dip cookies in chocolate at midnight. I ended up trailing my hair through the wet chocolate multiple times. Yum, chocolate dipped hair! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Albino

We don't really eat that much cauliflower. I mean, if you are going to eat a vegetable, and the whole point of vegetables is their bright and beautiful colors, why buy a white vegetable? That's simply no fun whatsoever. I made an exception for this cauliflower though. It was a breeze to roast and the result was sweet and evil and delicious. I would do this again in an instant.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wonderful.


I have always been the kid who brings strange lunches to school. While sometimes other people's confusion is their own fault (a girl once pointed and asked "What is that?" when I was munching on a whole tomato), I understand that a lunchbox packed with quinoa is not a common sight. Over my years of school lunches, the single most commented upon food item is definitely pomegranate. Red and sparkly, pomegranate never fails to get people's attention. From people who love it to people who have never seen it before, everyone wants to pop a little jewel into their mouths. Like a squirrel with a hidden acorn stash, I have learned to love pomegranate privately, away from the greedy hands of so called "friends".




The bottom image is a salad that actually began as our version of the warm fingerling potato salad from the New York Times potluck recipe collection. We didn't want a plain potato salad though, so we added spinach and broccoli, then replaced the capers with pomegranate seeds to brighten the dish.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reach


And all that glitters is gold. Only shooting stars break the mold.

bEATS on Beets


I honestly do not understand why beets are disliked. Like brussel sprouts, beets are highly underrated and misunderstood. Their flavor is clean and earthy, they are delicious roasted or boiled, and they win the award for most stunning vegetable by anyone's standards.

I wouldn't say that I ever adored beets, but I always liked beets a lot. In contrast with the general population of beet-haters, of course I was marked as a beet-fanatic. I didn't mind the label though, it just meant more beets for me! In general, I like my beets boiled and peeled and served drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and basil if there is any. A (strangely) perfect combination is beets and hard-boiled eggs. Those two are excellent with salad cream.

Below is me after peeling beets the day of the Feast of the Hunter's Moon, thus the Feasty shirt and belt.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Crackers to Crack Nerves

For a fast good luck lunch before my competition on Sunday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blender Tsimmes

On the day that we were leaving for Massachusetts several summers ago, my mom had a To Do list that was miles long. She was completely overwhelmed and frustrated and didn't even know where to begin. So how she start? With a few hours in the kitchen making applesauce. 
On Friday, I had no idea where to start. I had a concerto competition to practice for, homework to do, essays to write, and a theater project to get ready for. Yet the only thing that I could think of doing was boiling carrots for a crazy concoction that had been dancing in my head for a while



A few days before, we had sweet potatoes that needed to be eaten. We roasted a few to eat that night and boiled the others, which were left in the fridge. Since the moment they were placed in the fridge, I was plotting what to do with them. My first thought was to mash them. Reading through Gourmet Today, I was intrigued by the idea of a carrot puree, so I decided that my sweet potato mash would have mashed carrots with it. That combination reminded me of tsimmes, one of my favorite dishes on the Passover table, so I decided to add prunes. (Prunes are this year's winner of the Bea's New Favorite Dried Fruit Award. Previous winners include cranberries, dried cherries, and Trader Joe's giant raisins.) With my strange concoction planned out, I was just waiting for an opportunity to make it.


That afternoon, I began with peeling, slicing, and boiling carrots. While they were cooking, I blended the sweet potatoes with a bit of milk, a bit of water, and a bit of carrot cooking water. I blended the carrots as well, and mixed the two together with chopped prunes as I heated it up on the stove. For some strange reason, we had pumpkin seeds in the house as well, so I toasted a handful to toss on top. Et voila! Bea's fabulous blender tsimmes! It was smooth and creamy and rich, and very delicious. It could be a very good side with just about any meat dish, although it was a little labor intensive for every day cooking.