21 March, 2008

sauce dishes

There are a lot of pretty dishes out there, and when the time comes we'll assemble our own set instead of getting a box of something generic. Sometimes, though, it's hard to choose.

Sauce dishes are a place where I think it would be more interesting to collect than to choose. There are these ceramic dishes and these glass dishes, and many more to consider. I'm indecisive to begin with....

Instead of having a serving set for 8 or something, we'll probably collect pairs of interesting dishes that we think are neat, and just pick whatever we want to use. This might also carry over to other small dishes and serving bowls or platters. Matching isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Mudflat Gallery

Mudflat Gallery is a little store at Porter Square (Cambridge, MA) that showcases an interesting mix of work from fibers and paper art to glass and ceramics; their website is pretty terrible and useless though. My favourite pieces were the dichroic slump glass dishes done by Judith Copeland, and though her website doesn't do it justice you can see a few more of them at another gallery. Mudflat sells the smaller 3"x3"ish ones for about $14 each, but the craft is very nice. The palette of greens, blues, and violets is obviously appealing to us, and they would easily make a nice set of matching-but-not-identical dishes for something. I have no idea what though. Lisa Knebel also had some noteably nice pottery, which can also be seen at the other gallery's website. Swirly pottery is nice; spotty pottery is ugly.

Cherry Soup?

I've been perusing a book Banik has titled "The Book of Food" which is essentially an encyclopedia of cooking ingredients. (It's a neat book, and most importantly to someone of my background, it has a lot of pictures.) The author often talks about preparation methods of the ingredients, and while reading about cherries I was surprised to discover the eastern European tradition of cherry soup, both hot and cold. I don't care for cherries, but as Banik loves them I thought this was worth a bit of research.

It would appear that Hungarians are most well-known for cherry soup, but the recipes reflect that every family has its own version. All of the versions I found are chilled, but I suppose you can eat anything warm if you like it.

This Cold Hungarian Cherry Soup from Soup-aholic uses:
2 pounds fresh cherries, pitted and stemmed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream, Sour cream or plain yogurt for topping
Orange or lemon zest or mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

This Hungarian Cherry Soup from Chef2Chef is also served cold:
1 lb morello cherries, pitted (pits and stems reserved)
3 c riesling or other dry white wine
1/4 c sugar
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 lemons, 1 peeled & the peel reserved, both squeezed
1/2 c brandy (optional)
2 c sour cream

And this Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup from RecipeSource is yet another version:
1 1/2 quart water
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries (not canned)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

20 March, 2008

of Portals and Cake

So during my spring break visit to the Frozen North, Banik has intoduced me to a little game called Portal. Now we're thinking about trying to make the cake. From the rantings of GLaDOS and the feedback of other people who have attempted this I have assembled a recipe with goes something like this:

1 (18.25 oz) package chocolate cake mix
2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs (+ 3 large eggs? will add as required to balance consistancy)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (at least half replaced with applesauce)
1/3 cup water (we always use milk)

1 container prepared coconut frosting

2- 6 oz OR 12 oz (no idea which is needed yet) containers vanilla frosting
2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (we're going with ample minichips for good coverage)
25% of the above vanilla frosting, pre-cocoa additiong (or enough for 8 rosettes)
8 cherries

Prepare the frosting the night before and refrigerate; leave ample time for re-warming and workability before icing.

Set oven to 375 and prepare 2-10" pans. Mix the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl, I would cream the butter and sugar, then add the other ingredients in the order listed; egg quantity will be as noted above. Slowly add in the dry ingredients; adjust consistancy if necessary.

Divide between pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until done. Cool thoroughly before assembling cake; recommendations are to cut this into about 16 slices due to the rich content.

The finished cake should resemble this. Clearly various alterations could be made to get an end appearance more like the original if you're a stickler for details.

05 March, 2008

Quinoa Blackbean Salad Recipe

So this recipe is from a friend of ours. She's totally a California hippy, but we love her anyway.

It's for, as the post title suggests, a Quinoa and Blackbean salad recipe. I had this cold, but I imagine it could also be served hot, perhaps as a bet for enchiladas or a piece of roast chicken.

rinsed black beans and cooked quinoa in the same amount
1 tbs red wine vinegar for every 1.5 cups beans
combine beans, quinoa and vinegar
add chopped chives, red pepper, cilantro, (and corn) to the bean/quinoa mixture
one red pepper for every 1.5 cups beans
at least .5 (1/2) cups lime juice for every 1.5 cups quinoa
cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper to taste

This is pretty tasty stuff, for being healthy ;-) You can add pretty much any vegetable that's in season, or any fresh herbs you happe to have lying around. I'd definitely suggest adding the corn, I like the sweetess it brings to the party. You probably want a little less corn than quinoa or beans, but it's up to you.

And, everybody's favorite part, the variations. All of these are based on the above bse recipe, scale as you see fit.

Throw and asian twist in by adding 1-1.5tsp of toasted sesame oil and substituting Mirin for the red wine vinegar.

Add a little southwest/SoCal flavor by chopping up an avocado and jalepeno to add in, along with a bit of cumin and coriander and/or chipotle seasoning.

Go the Italian route by substituting balsamic for the red wine vinegar, using Basil instead of cilantro, chopping up and adding a tomato, cubing some mozzarella, and using a splash of olive oil to make it all go down smoothly.

What is it with the regional variations toaday?

Oh, yeah, maybe a bit of onion and garlic would be tasty in there also. Everybody loves garlic.

I think that's all that's on my mind for now.


Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib) Recipe

As request, I'm posting the recipe that I use to cook a standing rib roast, which is a prime rib with the bones (the ribs) still attached. After all, everyone knows the sweetest meat is next to the bone.

I am a carnivore. Well, that's not precisely true, I do enjoy vegetables and starches, but a well cooked, or uncooked, piece of flesh is a tough meal to beat. The standing rib roast is not exactly inexpensive, but cooking it at home is much more economical than, say, paying $35 for a 16oz portion out somewhere. Anyway, on to the recipe.

Turn on your oven : 250 F.
Remove your roast from the packaging. Make a note of its weight.
You can do a little bit of trimming at this stage, but not too much. I mean it, leave at least half the fat on there.
Rub it down with olive oil.
Spice it as you see fit. ie:
-Salt & Pepper
-Montreal Steak Seasoning
Place on a rack in a roasting pan. Do Not Cover.
Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the cut, making sure it's not touching any bones.
Put your roast into the oven, and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 122 F. ***
Remove from oven, cover with foil, shiny side in, and let it rest for At Least 30 minutes. You're waiting for the temp to stop rising. It should stabilize somewhere near 130-132 F. DO NOT REMOVE THERMOMETER!
At this point, you can let the roast sit for up to 2-3 hours, I wouldn't go much further than that.
When you're about 30m away from serving time, remove the foil and pop it into the oven which is at 500 F. for 12-15 minutes. Pay Close attention to it during this time. You want a crust, not a carbonized husk of sadness.
Once your crust is done, remove the roast, let it sit for at least 10 minutes covered with foil.
You are now ready to cut and serve.

There aer a couple important things to note. First, do NOT remove the thermometer until you're ready to start carving. Even then, leave it in if you can. If you remove it at the wrong time, it the resulting puncture into the roast will do its very best to emulate old faithful, spewing forth great gouts of flavorful juices. Those flavorful juices that are supposed to remain in the roast until you have freed them with your diligent mastication.
*** Second, the actual aim point temperature listed above as 122 is a varying number. Treat the aim point temperature as X degrees below you desired final temperature, where X is ~ 1.5 times the weight of your roast in pounds. This number is actually 1-2 times the weight of the roast, but 1.5 is a good generalization.

So here's an example. I want a tasty roast, somewhere around the rare to medium rare boundary (or, another way to put it, I want it a deep pink/light red and warm in the center). This means I want the final temperature to be between 130 and 135 degrees. Now, I need to know how much my roast weights. Let's say that it's a 4-rib roast, and it weighs in at a reasonable 6 pounds. So, I take my 1.5, multiply it by 6, and subtract that number from my final temperature of, say, 133 degrees. That means I get 133-(1.5*6) = 122F.

Funy how it all works out in the end, eh?

So the best way to carve this delectibal delight is as follows. You'll need a long shasp knife, or one of those fancy electric carvers. First, cut along the ribs, so you're separating the large piece of meat from them all at once. To describe it dirrferently, the knife blade will slide along all of the ribs at once as you cut away the meat. Now you should have two pieces. Your ribs, all stuck together, and this large, perfectly cooked loin of beef. The beef loin you may now slice into portions as you see fit. The ribs can either be separated and given to the more feral in your dining group, or frozen/refrigerated for soup/midnight snacks later.

Last. but not least, we have our variations and suggestions, in no particular order. Try one or all of them.

For a more even doneness level throughout, take the roast out of the fridge 2-3 hours before you plan on cooking it. This will start equalizing the temperature throughout, giving a prettier, more even level of doneness throughout the roast.

Before putting olive oil onto the roast, coat it with a bit of liquid smoke.

Dry age the beef prior to cooking. All this entails is putting it into the coldest (bottom rear) part of your fridge for 24-72 hours before cooking. First, remove it from the packaging. Pat it dry. Put it onto a roasting rack in a pan, lightly lay a couple paper towels/couple layers of cheesecloth over it, and then put it in the fridge. Turn it, drain any juice, and replace the towels every 12 hours. This process will make it much more tender and enhance/intensify the flavor. Make sure your refrigerator is below 40 degrees (between 33-38, preferably), otherwise bad thigns could happen.

For a gentler cooking method, use a large terracotta bowl-type planter and water-catching dish for cooking. Place the water-catching dish on the oven rack, put the roasting pan and rack on that, then cover it all with the bowl-shaped planter. The terra cotta piece should be preheated in the oven for 30 minutes prior to this. Cook as normal. This will ameliorate the temperature changes due to your oven cycling on and off and on and off and on and off, acting as a thermal buffer. The terracotta is unnecessary for the crusting stage of cooking, but could still be used if you don't mind playing with 500 degree terracotta pieces. Think of this as shaped pizza stones.

Ok, that's all for now. Happy cooking!

Brownies from Scratch

Well, I have passed another milestone. I recently made my first batch of brownies from scratch. That's right, will all the things I've cooked, all the items I've refused to buy premade and instead made myself, I'd always relied upon a box for brownies. No More, I say! This recipe is easy and Very tasty. It's also rather robust, since it took to my alterations with gusto.

First, the original recipe:

1 stick (4 oz) butter
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup sugar (all white sugar, or half white/half brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350.
Melt butter and chocolate together.
Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt.
Beat in the pre-mixed eggs.
Add the flour and cocoa powder.
Put into a 8x8ish greased pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the top is shiny and dry-looking.

And this is what I actually baked:

1 Stick Butter
1 Mashed Banana
8 Oz. Bittersweet chocolate
2 cup sugar (all white sugar, or half white/half brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Vanilla bean
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder

The procedure is the same as above, just put the mashed banana in after the sugar's mixed in. This went into a 9x13 greased pan for ~30 minutes at 350. I used both the knife-method and the look of the top to check done-ness. I used giradelli cocoa powder and chocolate for this. The chocolate was 60% cacao.

So, how do they taste? Wonderful. They are literally Great. The banana worked out particularly well, complimenting the rich chocolate flavor and cutting the butter in half, all in one fell swoop. The texture of these brownies is damn near perfect. They're moderately chewy with a slightly cruchy crust on top. The edges are chewier, but not much crunchier. These have kept well for all of 3 days so far, and I don't think the last one will make it much longer.

What other variations am I going to try?
I'll put in creamy peanut butter instead of some of the normal butter. I might go half and half, or figure something else out, since peanut butter is very fatty also.

I'm going to try and find some sort of way to fit some Khalua into the recipe, which might be challenging with the lack of liquids. Perhaps remove a bit of the sugar.

I may try and come up with a method to put some mint flavor in also. Either staight up julienned mint leaves, or melt some peppermint patties into the chocolate, or something.

Speaking of chocolate, I want to try some other kinds of chocolate, after I use up the rest of the bag of giradelli chips. I think I'll go with a 72% dark next time, or maybe 77%. This may be more chocolately goodness than any one man can handle.

Until next time, happy cooking.