Monday, January 31, 2011

How To: Make Truffles!

"Americans consume 100 pounds of chocolate every second. From birthday cake to Halloween treats, the American addiction to chocolate has made it a 16 billion dollar industry." A fairly decent introduction, no? That's from this afternoon, when I gave my second speech for my speech class: a demonstration speech on how to make chocolate truffles. 

I spent a few hours on Saturday making these truffles, meticulously documenting the steps for my powerpoint. Several times I had to call out for my mom's help as a third hand. You try pouring cream from the carton to the measuring cup while holding a camera and taking a picture. 

I was worried about making truffles that my classmates wouldn't like or appreciate, so I didn't flavor them with coffee, tea, orange, ginger, mint, cinnamon, or any of the other things I wanted to mix in. I was considering using milk chocolate, but following my usual logic, I decided that if they don't like dark chocolate, then clearly they should reevaluate their taste buds and align them with my preferences. 

I used semi-sweet for the ganache (fearing people's aversion to bittersweet), then coated them in chocolate and swirled white chocolate on top using a ziploc as a pastry bag. 

These truffles may have taken forever with photography at every step, but they were gorgeous! I love how the white paper makes them instantly professional. 

I wish I could conclude this post the same way that I concluded my speech: by passing out chocolates for everyone to try. But until Willy Wonka's television system functions on computers, you'll have to make these yourself. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Curiosity and the Cat

Tibby was very much intrigued by dinner tonight. She loves salmon. Too bad she's a cat and this is people food.

Pasta with fresh dill, smoked salmon, and a splash of heavy cream.

Jeni's Two

Takeshi brought us two new flavors of Jeni's this week! 

I had the chance to try Roxbury Road and Bananas & Honey. Roxbury Road is like Rocky Road, but more amazing. Here's Jeni's official description: "Dense, dark milk chocolate ice cream studded with handmade marshmallows and crunchy smoked almonds, with a homemade caramel sauce swirled throughout. A devilish detour from traditional Rocky Roads." The handmade marshmellows were amazing (but I wish there were more of them) and I love any ice cream with any smoky flavor, so the smoked almonds were wonderful. I was a little skeptical of Bananas & Honey, because I'm not a fan of fake banana flavor, but Jeni's never fails to turn things that should be gross into delicious treats. Instead of tasting like fake banana flavoring, this ice cream tasted like a banana tossed into the blender with a vanilla bean and a swirl of honey. It was simple and sweet and just right on top of a gingersnap.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

9, 9.5, 9.5!

ISSMA Solo and Ensemble Contest was this morning, and I got to add three more gold medals to my little drawer of ISSMA golds (not that I'm bragging or anything, but I have over thirty of them).

This morning started bright and early with our large ensemble playing a Handel concerto grosso with Jonah, Gauri, and me on the concertino parts, followed by my Haydn solo (after a brief trip home to change and make sandwiches) and the Borodin quartet Christopher, Joon, and Roberta (after a picnic in the hallway with my mom).

It was very relieving and a little sad that I'm now officially done with the crowded halls of Harrison High School where the contest is held every year. After the State competition, I'll be done with ISSMA forever! But this year's contest was definitely a success. The judge gave our quartet a standing ovation and a perfect score! Even if Roberta and Joon still despise the piece, I now feel justified in convincing them to play it.

And distinct from the success of ISSMA, our hallway picnic was lovely. We had cherry tomatoes and sandwiches with chicken, avocado, sprouts, and my favorite mustard on potato rosemary bread. Eating real food off of red checkered cloth napkins certainly calms the nerves.

(remember to click on this to view it larger)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Miso Soup

After 27.5 years of living on my street, I believe that have enough experience to say that it is undeniably the single best street in the entire universe. Maybe I don't have much with which to compare my little avenue, but I'm quite confident in my assertion. Our street is overflowing with the most neighborly of neighbors and the most childlike children that anyone has ever seen. The neighbors gather for parties and games or simply to play football in the street. Whenever anyone is in need, he doesn't have to look far to find someone to help. 

An example of excellent neighbors: right after my mom's birthday, our neighbor from diagonally across the street came over bearing gifts. One thing that she brought was a box of miso and her recipe for miso soup. I love miso soup, but the only miso soup I had ever made was the instant kind. I had never actually used real miso, so I was very excited to try it out. 

We wanted to make miso soup for dinner tonight, but we'd be making a few changes. First, we didn't have any nori. Second, we knew we'd a more substantial soup for dinner, so we decided to throw in some ingredients: noodles, watercress, and tofu.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the miso. It turns out that white miso more or less has the texture and appearance of pumpkin puree. 

We boiled the noodles separately, then added them to the pot with the water, mushrooms, watercress, and tofu. We mixed in the miso (that we had blended with water) and green onions. Even with the extra ingredients we added, this was prepared extremely quickly.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't the most traditional miso soup, but it was really good. For something so light and quickly made, it was very filling and warming. The miso flavor wasn't very strong, so next time we'll use less water or more miso. And also, next time we are making a trip to the Asian grocery store for some nori! But now that I know how easy it is to make miso soup at home, so I'll definitely do it again soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Midnight Microwave

I guess you could say I have a thing for darkness.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wilting Watercress (and Adverbs)

Watercress, a tragically ignored variety of rabbit food, is surprisingly delicious and excellently versatile. We bought some healthfully organic watercress at our conveniently located supermarket and used it in a refreshingly crisp salad.

Tonight, in search of a quickly prepared dinner, we speedily reheated some pasta (ingeniously, we had made far too much the day before) that contained sun-dried tomatoes, olives, broccoli, broccolini, and leeks. Freshly washed watercress piled loosely on top of the penne and elegantly wilted. With a casually sprinkled handful of toasted walnuts, our aromatically stimulating dinner was ready!

(Adverb usage as percent of total words used: 15.22%. Success? I think so.)

Pre-microwave pile of watercress:

Post-walnut-sprinkle plate of goodness: 

P.S. I have a beautiful little bottle of balsamic glaze that I am incredibly excited to use, but I can't decide what its initial use should be. I want my first balsamic-drizzled bite to be delicious and perfect. Any suggestions? I was thinking perhaps beets with balsamic glaze? Or maybe some meat, like balsamic chicken? Comment with any suggestions or opinions on what you'd like to see dripping with balsamic glaze!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Food like this shouldn't be allowed. I eat way too much Thai food for my own good, but I love it so much. For my mom's birthday yesterday, I brought home basil rolls, pad see ew, pad Thai with beef, and passion fruit ice cream. If you haven't tried the ice cream at Thai Essence, you are missing out! 

Oh, and just in case anyone is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to find out the results of the debate district competition I mentioned in my last post, you'll be waiting for a few more weeks. Tragically, the tournament was cancelled this weekend due to snow. With luck, it will be rescheduled soon. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

For John

Because he is one smart cookie.

Sitting in the physics classroom watching Mr. Spencer grade our final exams was one of the most stressful moments of my life. But we did it! I'm looking forward to a new semester as successful as the one we completed (but hopefully less stressful). Things are looking up.

I made these cookies with the original recipe for "Original Toll House Cookies." Apparently, the original recipe for Nestle cookies differs from the new one found on the back of chocolate chip packages by an entire 3/4 of a cup of white sugar. The old recipe calls for just brown sugar while the new recipe has exactly the same ingredients plus an extra 3/4 of granulated sugar. I made this batch without any granulated sugar, to much success. I know nothing about the chemistry of cookies, but somehow these seemed cakier and softer than they are with the new recipe. I think I'll be making this change permanent! Thanks to the blogosphere for this new old change!

After a large mental debate about nuts or no nuts, I decided to put walnuts in for the simple reason that I like walnuts in my cookies. It's not that the fact that I like them means that other people like them too, but if I like them, then other people ought to learn to like them.

Lastly, district debate starts tomorrow! I'm not competing because the type of debate that I do has its own district tournament in a few weeks, but I'm incredibly nervous just knowing that my teammates' fate will be decided tomorrow. Good luck to all of our debaters!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How To: Eat a Vegan Cupcake

1. Select a delicious looking chocolate cupcake from the table of eco-conscious foods at the ECO club Martin Luther King Jr. Day tie-dye gathering.

2. Use a slice of apple to smear caramel across the top of said cupcake.

3. After careful removal of the cupcake paper, remove the bottom half of the cupcake and place it on top of the caramel topping. Squeeze gently to glue the two halves together. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Midnight Egg

Because eating toast or cereal at midnight would be normal, I have to eat hard boiled eggs with mustard and sprouts.

I swear this new mustard tastes like salad cream mixed with honey mustard. Its my new favorite thing.

Winter Soup and Salad

An amazing watercress salad with roasted cauliflower, roasted butternut squash and gruyere. Perfect for cold winter evenings!

And the winteriest soup to accompany it: chickpea and leek soup with a sesame seed lavash, care of Bill and Lisa. This was an amazing soup! I loved how warm and filling this dinner was, even though it was just a soup and salad. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Seven

The last of winter break! Finally. 

On our way to Provincetown, we stopped at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans. The carrot cake there was completely amazing (I'm a huge fan of cream cheese frosting), but the frozen hot chocolate was hardly interesting. We also selected a box of chocolates to bring to my aunt.

Provincetown was beautiful, but cold. We went on lots of long, windy walks in beautiful places, like these amazing bike paths. Along the edges of the paths were cranberry bogs, which made my mother terribly excited. 

While in Provincetown, we went to The Mews where I had what was without a doubt the most amazing meal that I have ever had in my entire life. The Mews was filled with happy customers, friendly waiters, and delicious food. The best part was our waiter, who was the friendliest man I've ever met. He helped us make many ordering decisions and pretty much considered himself a part of our table. 

I'm going to present the dishes in order, first with the menu's description, then any personal thoughts. 

First, a beautiful, fruity martini with chunks of mango at the bottom. 

We tried very hard not to eat much bread.

Scallion Pancake with Smoked Duck Breast
Served with hot onion date relish & shaved Gruyère cheese.

Despite my mother's doubts about the duck, I definitely loved this appetizer, even if the smoked taste was a little much.

Prosciutto & Caramelized Onion filled Agnolotti
with fresh sage, extra virgin olive oil & shredded Parmesan.

These agnolotti were basically ravioli on steroids. I can't complain because they were amazing just like that, but the sage and parmesan were so flavorful, that the prosciutto and onion was essentially lost. These would have been just as delicious with cheese inside.

Grilled Palomilla Skirt Steak & Seared Scallops
South American "Chimichurri" marinated 10 oz. steak with seared local scallops, creamy bean ragu and red onion, parsley lime relish. Served with sweet potato fries.

I'm not sure that I've ever had scallops before, or if I have, they didn't make much of an impression. These were amazing, though. The sweet potato fries were to die for. I could have done without the beans, but the rest of this entree was perfection.

Medallions of Venison
with Madeira, Kahlua & fresh tarragon glaze over mashed potatoes with caraway seed & sauteed portobella

I had a little trouble ordering venison (you know, Bambi dancing across my vision and all that), but it turns out that venison is the single most delicious thing that I have ever eaten. I've never known meat so perfect before. I could eat nothing but venison and mashed potatoes until the day that I die.

Lobster Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash
Chunks of butter poached lobster with wild mushrooms and English garden peas drizzled with scallion and truffle oils

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have some doubts about the risotto before I ate it. I'm not a huge lobster person, plus the combination of ingredients seemed so strange. Lobster with butternut squash? And why put butternut squash in risotto? Want some carbs with your carbs? We ordered it anyways, because my aunt said we simply had to and because our other two entrees focused around red meat. Of course, she was completely right. I have never tasted a dish that came together as perfectly as this did. Every single element was just the right complement to every other part. Amazing. 

We probably shouldn't have ordered dessert because we were all too full to move, but we couldn't help getting a dessert that came with a page of instructions.

Extreme Chocolate Cookies and Cream
Mews made extreme dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips separated by coffee gelato served with a steak knife and eating instructions

I would have enjoyed this dessert infinitely more if I wasn't one bite away from vomiting due to the vast quantity of food I had just consumed, but still, it was really good. And the whipped cream was real! I'm a sucker for real whipped cream and chocolate.

All in all, this meal contained the best food I have ever eaten. In retrospect, I think that we could have skipped the appetizers, because as good as they were, the entrees were superior. When we left, I felt like Humpty Dumpty. But it was all worth it, of course.

Before long, we were back in Newton for a night before catching our flight back home. It felt good to be back, but the start to the new semester was far too stressful for my taste. It seems like things have calmed down, at least for a little bit. I'm done with college applications (phew), just working on financial aid forms and the like. I have a major orchestra concert coming up in February as well as the District and State debate meets, but after that, I can relax! Translation: expect more frequent blog posts, and hopefully no more posting food two weeks later.