First up with the banana pudding was making microwave banana bread. This sparked a new model for microwave cakes and breads. In Maximum Flavor we make Lemon Fairy Cakes with microwave lemon curd as the base. Lemon curd is similar to pudding in texture and I figured I could swap one pudding for another. We blended the banana pudding with eggs, powdered egg white, melted butter and our gluten free flour blend. (What IiF Flour works splendidly in this recipe.) Powdered egg whites are our go to addition to microwave cakes because they add body and texture without diluting flavors with extra water. We pureed the mixture, put it into an whipped cream canister, and charged it with nitrous oxide. Then we dispensed the batter into paper cups and microwaved them for 30 seconds. The result was a light, airy, moist, and tender, a flavorful banana bread. In final execution this was a very quick bread. And being able to look at flavoring microwave and conventional cake batters with pudding bases opens up new doors to discovery both savory and sweet.
The banana was not a puree and not a gel. It was a super-rich, thick pudding. It was thickened by its own natural pectins and starch. We combined bananas, milk, cream, sugar and salt and cooked them in a Thermomix for an hour. When they were done cooking we increased the speed of the Thermomix and pureed the mixture until it became smooth. Then we poured it into a glass baking dish to cool. The resulting banana pudding was thick. It had an elastic pull. Its texture had a light graininess. The next step is to see if we can smooth things out by reprocessing in a blender. From here we have a solid platform to take the flavor of banana and integrate it into dishes from dehydrated chips to banana mousse to microwave cakes. First on my list is microwave banana bread.
We took our cultured sunflower seed yogurt and drained it for several days. It is now dense and firm enough to hold its shape. At this point we are looking to add flavor and help it form a crust. We have some powdered wakame in the pantry and decided that a earth and sea combination would be interesting. We coated the disk heavily with the dark green powder. Now we are air drying it in the refrigerator to see if it will develop a rind.
And that got us thinking about dusting. And flavored powders, and seasoning from the outside, which led to the idea of creating seasoned layers, whether they are on the outside, inside or winding through the interior. The light application of intense flavor allows us to the deliver new tastes in concentrated bursts.
There is a demand for recipes. And an even greater demand for substitutions for everything within the recipes, from ingredients to techniques. Recipes are guidelines. Recipes show the way. How and why you make changes will determine the outcome. Is it motivated by a need to be creative? Is it an allergy? Is it a lack of ingredients? Is it a shortage of time? And before you start ripping apart a recipe, you may look for an alternative. The recipe you want may already exist, it just takes a little more time to find it.
We have been working with Max Moore to develop and release Kitchen Scratchpad, the very first Ideas in Food app. Kitchen Scratchpad is designed for the kitchen and beyond. We've tested it with chefs, home cooks, food writers, and mixologists. It is the notebook that is always with you. Even if you lose or crash your phone, computer, or tablet, your information is stored securely in the cloud, ready for you to access it. Kitchen Scratchpad allows cooks, chefs, writers, food fanatics and dreamers to easily record and share their creations.
Kitchen Scratchpad allows you to create, capture and collaborate. It is a digital notebook for the kitchen. One key feature is being able to photograph a piece of paper or a notebook and then add it to a recipe. Your chicken scratch can then be transcribed into a proper recipe when you have more time. That recipe may then be shared with your entire team. You can also take step by step photographs of techniques and snapshots of finished dishes that can be attached to recipes to show exactly how a dish or ingredient is to be prepared and plated.
On the personal side of things, Kitchen Scratchpad has a place for prep lists, notes, private recipes, and other ideas. Grab screen shots and add them to a notebook of ideas for the future. Travel to markets and photograph ingredients. Add them to a notebook with thoughts on ways to use them.
You can e-mail recipes, notes, and ideas to colleagues or even to yourself. Start a recipe and send it to your sous chef to get things started in the kitchen. With Kitchen Scratchpad your work can be shared or kept private.
The built in calculators allow you to convert measurements and temperatures in addition to completing your calculations. You can pull it up in the app and use it as you're creating recipes.
What about all the recipes you already have? Import the documents into Kitchen Scratchpad and then they will be available to everyone on your team. There's no excuses for forgetting a garnish if they can access the recipes on their phones. We prefer to use the web App on our computer for large imports. It's easier to work with a larger screen and be able to access your archives in order to organize your recipes in their new home.
Forgot which notebook that recipe was in? If you've put it into Kitchen Scratchpad you can always find it with a quick search. And as you tweak and adjust dishes, you can update the recipe and the changes appear universally to everyone who has access to the file.
Concerned about the wrong people tweaking your recipes? Allow read only options. That way you maintain control of your dishes.
There is one huge disclaimer. Kitchen Scratchpad does not create recipes for you. It's a tool to help you organize and share your recipes. You have to create the material. When you do, Kitchen Scratchpad is there to help to help you capture the details, organize the collection, and share it with your team.
This was the Harbison by Jasper Hill Farm. It wasn't quite ready when we bought it so we let it temper under a glass dome at a cool room temperature for 24 hours before we lifted off the top. The cheese was elastic and smooth. It had a haunting smokiness to it, perhaps from the bark that was wrapped around it. It was creamy and earthy, with the complex flavor of springtime sunshine in the meadow beside the the barn. We made a meal out of it and savored every bite. This is the kind of cheese that exemplifies what great cheese is all about.
We continue our culturing explorations. This time we went in a different direction. We pureed our honey roasted sunflower seeds with water and added fresh yogurt. We cultured the mixture in the CVap at 44°C for 5 hours. Then we chilled it. The sun-yogurt gave off a surprising amount of whey. The flavor of the yogurt was sweet, nutty and rich. The whey tangy and honeyed. Since the whey wanted to separate we opted to follow its lead. We have the yogurt hanging in cheese cloth, concentrating even more. We shall see if they are better apart or together.
March 15, 2011
With panna no-cotta under our belts, custard was next. We put sugar, salt and egg yolks in a blender. We put milk and cream into a pot. We turned the blender on low as we brought the dairy to a boil. Then we drizzled the hot cream mixture into the running blender with the yolks. We increased the speed to medium high to fully blend the ingredients. We turned off the blender and checked the temperature of the custard base, it was 75°C. We poured the mixture back into the pot and cooked it over medium low heat until it reached 82.5°C. Then we cooled it down to 44°C and stirred in some yogurt to culture the custard.
We decanted the base into a variety of bowls and placed them into a CVap Pod set at 44°C for 5 hours. The custard firmed and gelled. It still had some wiggle. We put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight. When we tasted them this morning the custards had a delicious tang and a nicely balanced flavor. The lactic notes kept the richness of the yolks and sweetness of the sugar in check. Unfortunately, the texture is still not quite right. Perhaps with the addition of cream, sugar and egg yolks we need more time to culture the custard so it thickens a bit more. I forgot to add the non fat milk powder in this version, which also would have increased the culture's ability to thicken the custard. We put several back into the CVap this morning to culture further. We shall see what the additional time does for the texture and flavor.
With pistachio yogurt under our belt the next step was making a cultured panna cotta. Panna cotta is a dessert that has made an indelible impression on us. At its best it is smooth and luscious, delicate, rich, and softly sweet. Funny that it was the first thing that popped into our heads because we were never planning to cook this cream.
We combined milk, cream, sugar, non-fat milk powder, salt, vanilla and yogurt in the blender and pureed it until smooth. This generated a frothy head of tiny air bubbles. I hastily poured the mixture into a shallow baking pan. I opted not to decant the base from the air bubbles. This ended up being a controversial decision. We put the mixture into the CVap set at 44°C. (110°F.) and cultured the mixture for 4.5 hours. When I pulled it from the CVap it had a light wiggle and the air bubbles had set into a honeycomb layer. We chilled the panna no-cotta overnight. When we spooned into it it had a layer of firm bubbles with a smooth tangy base beneath. It was a beautiful panna cotta. The bubbles were not my favorite, though Aki liked the texture. Next time I'm going to decant the bubbles so we can compare. And I think another hour in the CVap will give us a slightly firmer texture that will mimic our favorite panna cottas.
March 13, 2009
We started with the base yogurt recipe from our book Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. Then we modified it. We didn't bother to heat the milk. We put the milk, salt, roasted pistachios, yogurt, and non fat milk powder in the blender. We pureed the mixture until the nuts appeared to be obliterated. Then we strained the mixture into a shallow pan and put it into a CVap set at 44°C, (110°F.)
The yogurt set in 3 hours and 15 minutes. This was a much shorter time than we had previously experienced with plain yogurt. The shallower pan and the nuts may have expedited the process. When we scooped into the yogurt we saw that it had layers. The nuts had risen and formed a slightly darker layer on top although the flavors of both the nut and yogurt permeated the entire mixture.
So why did we use milk and yogurt instead of just nut milk and a starter culture? We like the way they balance out the intense flavor of the nuts. Too often I end up trying to do things the most difficult way just to see if it works, instead of searching for the most delicious results. We may work on a pure nut-milk or coconut-milk yogurt. We had great success with cultured coconut in Maximum Flavor. This time we thought we'd rather eat a blend, letting the creamy dairy flavors round out the deep, nutty pistachios. It's opened up a world of possibilities.
1200 grams whole milk
315 grams roasted, salted pistachios
150 grams whole milk yogurt
40 grams non fat milk powder
Put the milk, pistachios, yogurt, and non fat milk powder in a blender. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to high. Puree the mixture until it looks and sounds smooth, about 1 minute. Turn the blender off and strain the pistachio milk into a shallow pan. Put the pan in a CVap set at 44°C. (110°F.) Culture the yogurt for 3 hours and 15 minutes, until it appears to have thickened and set. Remove the pan from the CVap and cool the yogurt. Think of some cool and delicious way to enjoy it.
March 12, 2011
It's funny how certain food memories stay with you. I've been an avid pizza lover my whole life but I couldn't tell you when I had my first slice. What I can tell you is about the first time I ever really tasted cheese and crackers. I was young, not yet in school so maybe 4-5 years old and the neighbors across the street were having some sort of small afternoon party. They had three kids one of whom was my age so I spent a lot of time over there playing with them. That particular afternoon they must have had nibbles out for their friends because I remember being offered a plate of cheese and crackers.
It was sliced sharp cheddar cheese (I found this out later) and every slice was laid out on a cracker, probably Ritz or Stoned Wheat Crackers. You weren't supposed to take one without the other and I was hungry so I tried the combination. I remember the slightly nutty flavor of the cheese, salty and creamy against the crunch of the cracker. It was crumbly and sweet, crunchy and savory and I immediately knew I was going to want more. Being a practical child, even then, I asked what we were eating and the mom showed me the square log of Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar cheese. I noted it and afterwards when I went home I asked my Aunt Marie to buy me some. We went to the supermarket together, okay we almost always went together, but it was especially important that time because I was able to pick out the cheese myself and make sure it was the right one. I went home and recreated the perfect cheese and crackers and never looked back.
This spawned a lifelong love affair with cheese. I never did manage to develop a taste for mild cheddars, they are too bland and buttery for me. That said, my fascination with the rich tang of sharp cheddar is still with me, happily supplemented by a desire to taste and experience every new cheese I come across. From the rich triple cremes to the dry Parmigianos there is always something wonderful about a carefully made cheese, wrapped and stored with love and expertise. Even now Alex and I occasionally make a meal out of cheese and crackers, with salad on the side. It's a perfectly satisfying meal that hits all the high points in my mouth and takes me down memory lane. Of course now there are usually a few more choices on the cheese plate and we each cut and spread our own but the heart of the meal is the same.
March 11, 2006
215 grams radish greens, from 2 bunches of radishes
150 grams olive brine, from a jar of olives
75 grams olive oil
0.66 grams xanthan gum (0.15% by weight)
Remove the green, leafy tops from a bunch of radishes. Wash the radishes and their greens. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch the radish tops in the boiling water for 2 minutes, until tender. Transfer to the ice bath and cool completely. Do not leave them in there too long or they will get waterlogged. Squeeze the water out of the radish tops and put them in a blender with the olive brine and olive oil. Turn the blender on low and increase the speed to medium high. When the radish top puree is smooth, turn the speed down to low and sprinkle in the xanthan gum. Increase the speed to high for 5-10 seconds to fully disperse and hydrate the xanthan gum. Transfer to a bowl and use immediately, dipping radishes in their own sauce.
March 10, 2005
We combined eggs, ricotta, pesto and spaghetti squash. We poured the mixture into a pan and slid it into a CVap set to 75°C with no additional browning. The frittata took longer than we estimated to cook. We ended up leaving it in the Cvap for 1hour and 45 minutes. When it was done we let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it. The texture was soft and smooth, silky as a custard. The spaghetti squash was nutty, with a hint of roasted bananas. There was a slight crunch from the almonds in the pesto and a rich earthy flavor from the herbs. The slow, gentle cooking allowed the essence of all the ingredients to come forward, while leaving us with a juicy, just set frittata unlike any we've tasted before..
March 9, 2009
We put equal parts sugar and honey into a pan set over medium high heat. We added raw hulled sunflower seeds and salt. We cooked the seeds in the sugars, stirring constantly. The honey and sugar started to color first. The seeds followed closely behind. When the seeds were golden brown we removed them from the pan and put them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. When the seeds were cool they were crunchy and slightly sandy, nutty and totally addictive.
March 8, 2012
March 8, 2005
I love ramen, it's one of my favorite things. Pete Wells wrote about it this week for the NY Times and with all this cold weather it's been on my mind. I grew up eating ramen and udon. As a kid, I would always order noodles at Japanese restaurants. Dumplings, negimaki, and noodles were the only things I ordered for years. Instant ramen was always in the cupboard at home. It was one of the first things I learned how to cook. My mom and I loved going out to little hole in the wall places for ramen and gyoza. Years later, decades later if I'm honest, ramen has passed through being a fad to being a staple, especially in my hometown of NYC. The only thing I don't like is how few people cook it at home.
I'm not talking about instant ramen, though that can be dolled up into a substantial meal. I'm talking about a fresh bowl of ramen noodles, cooked in a pot of boiling water and added to soup with various vegetables, proteins, and spices. There are some wonderful books on noodles but they don't do much to dispel the Tampopo myth that great ramen cannot be had without perfect long simmered broth. Here's the truth, that broth is why you eat ramen in restaurants. At home any rich, tasty broth will work. In essence it's noodles and soup with a few garnishes. Chicken broth pressure cooked from leftover bones from that roast chicken dinner and reinforced with leftover spare rib bones from the freezer will be delicious. Seaweed dashi soaked overnight in the refrigerator and then simmered with shrimp and vegetables will make a light delicious bowl of ramen. Leftover chicken soup with fresh vegetables, a simmered egg, and hot noodles will be one of the most comforting meals you'll ever have. Let's make real ramen at home. Nobody says it has to be authentic, it just has to be delicious.
The ramen above evolved after Alex stumbled on some beautiful beef ribs. We salted them and left them on a rack in the fridge. A few days later we ended up braising them, just to save them. Sometimes our schedules don't allow us to cook as much as we'd like. Yesterday afternoon he carved out some time and made me and Amaya some homemade ramen noodles. Lacking a pasta extruder you can buy fresh ones in any Asian market and dried noodles in most supermarkets. Then he warmed up the ribs in their braising liquid, leaving it brothy instead of reducing to a glaze. We shaved some leftover cabbage, sliced some green onions, and added some kimchi from the ever present jar in the fridge. The final touch was a few sliced jalapenos and dinner was done. Ramen, our way.
March 6, 2005
We combined Parmigiano Reggiano, cream, milk, sugar and sodium citrate in a Thermomix. We brought the mixture to 80°C and cooked it for 45 minutes. Then we sheared in 0.1% guar gum by weight. Finally we tempered in buttermilk for an additional lactic punch. We strained the base and quickly chilled it down and froze it.
When the gelato blocks were solid we popped them out of the molds and shaved the Parmigiano Reggiano gelato as we would the cheese. We piled the shavings on a chilled plate. We added a spoonful of sherry reduction and a sprinkling of Murray River pink salt. The gelato looks like a simple plate of cheese. Upon tasting diners discover a surprise in temperature and texture, cool and silky, melting on the tongue, with the intense flavor of the cheese.
The idea of covering an ice cream with a foam stems from Sam Mason's work at wd-50, grapefruit in grapefruit. His initial exploration of the idea has stayed with us. Reflecting years later, Sam just replaced one foam with another: whipped cream for grapefruit, or beer. It was that simple substitution which opened the flood gates of possibilities. Most recently we took blood orange sherbet and covered it with a lemongrass tonic foam. The cold infusion of lemongrass balanced the bitterness of the quinine. The lightness of the foam allowed the flavor to coat and then dissipate on the palate letting the buttermilk and blood orange linger. We have all topped ice cream with whipped cream. We have not all seen the possibilities of changing what we already know and do. Seeing opportunity in the everyday is a skill worth polishing. What can we rework with that is right in front of us?
We often reach for confectioners sugar to add sweetness to a dish. What we overlook is how easy it is to add flavor. You can grind powdered sugar with other ingredients, from nuts to freeze dried fruits to whole spices, in the food processor to create something powdery and flavorful. The cornstarch in the sugar helps absorb any moisture from the other ingredients and keep everything soft and light. Savory blend-ins like Szechuan peppercorns or chile powders actually benefit from a touch of sweetness to balance their spice. Once we make some seasoned sugars we look at what dishes can benefit from a dusting of flavor, and a whole new world opens up.
March 2, 2005
Changing form changes function. Often we eat sauteed apples on steaming bowls of oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar. Here we made a toasted oat flour cake studded with apples. We added a crackling sugar crust. The same base ingredients create remarkably different products. Both are sweet and satisfying breakfast options with various applications. Looking at what we use and how we use it opens up the possibilities to new ideas.
March 1, 2011
March 1, 2009
March 1, 2007
March 1, 2005
Michael Recchiuti made burnt caramel famous. By following his passion he has mastered caramels. From the packaging to the flavors these caramels deliver. The clean lines of the box lure you into the decadent trifecta of caramel inside. The salted butterscotch was our favorite. The fleur de sel caramel and dark chocolate enrobed caramels are close seconds. These caramels demonstrate that simplicity and complexity are best when balanced.
Young Thai coconuts are delicious and pretty easy to deal with once you get the hang of them. Wen you see them in the stores they are rounded with slightly pointed tops. The point tells you where to open them. You want to cut into them 2-3 inches from the tip. You're basically paring away the outer hull to get to the shell over the center. Once you've exposed the rounded shell use the base (heel) of your knife to flick it open. Voila. You'll never have to drink canned coconut water again.
I crave ice cream toppings. Today we started with concord grape caramel sauce. It is delicious, but not as universal as our bourbon caramel sauce. The bright clarity of the ginger and grape is too bracing for every day and will overpower many ice creams. The concord caramel was losing its window of opportunity, until I revisited my notes. I had scribblings about a caramel sauce blended with peanut butter. I opened the door and said hello to opportunity. As a kid I often scoffed at the peanut butter and jelly swirled in one jar. The ratio of peanut butter and jelly needed to be controlled by me, not by some company. Apparently not much has changed. I took 3 parts concord caramel sauce and stirred in one part peanut butter. The peanut butter added richness and mouth-feel. The combination of all three: caramel, concord grapes and peanut butter is amazing. I had planned on parting ways with the rest of our concord caramel. Instead I'm off to the store for more peanut butter. And while I'm at it perhaps a few other nut butters too.
February 26, 2009
February 26, 2005
Patience lasted less than 2 weeks. We strained the blood orange bourbon. It has a rich orange hue. The blood orange and its syrup fully flavored the bourbon with citrus and bitter notes. We added frozen cherries to the bourbon. The frozen cherries have several benefits. They are pitted. They are frozen. The freezing process has already partially broken down the fruit. Ice crystals have cut microscopic holes in the cherries flesh. Thawing the frozen cherries in the bourbon will allow the juices to flow out of the cut fruit and into the bourbon. It will flavor the bourbon. Some of it will then be pulled back into the cherries. The bourbon is now back in the forgotten cabinet. Until we remember it again.
February 25, 2010
February 25, 2007
February 25, 2005
We seasoned these short ribs with salt and let them air dry in the refrigerator for 3 days. Then we cooked them in the pressure cooker for 45 minutes at high pressure. Finally we assessed the finished beef. It had the appearance and aroma of nicely browned and then braised meat. But we skipped a step. The broth did not have the rich Maillard flavors we get from using seared meat. It was lighter than we expected. Previously we had observed that salted and air-dried meat browned more evenly and quickly. This time we were looking at a braise, not chops. So now we begin to explore the new possibilities and variations. I look forward to braising air-dried, deep fried meat in the pressure cooker. And then air-drying, freezing, deep frying, and slow cooking loin-like cuts to see if we can create something even more delicious.
February 23, 2007
February 23, 2006
February 23, 2005
Occasionally we stumble across black garlic at good prices at our local Asian markets. When we have it in reasonable quantities we like to make these dehydrated crisps. They are earthy and sweet and seem to crunch and then dissolve on your tongue as you eat them. It's a great use for an unusual ingredient that highlights the flavor and color of this fermented garlic product.
Black Garlic Chips
6 heads/ 200 grams black Garlic cloves peeled
2 bunches/ Blackened/ grilled scallion (7 grams charred weight)
4 sheets/ 12 grams Nori
85 grams egg whites
80 grams glucose
1 tablespoon/ 15 grams maple vinegar
5 grams fish sauce
Light the grill and when it is hot lay the scallions on the grate. Close the lid of the grill and cook for 10 minutes until the scallions are carbonized. Remove the scallions from the grill and put them in a blender with the black garlic, nori, egg whites, glucose, maple vinegar and fish sauce. Turn the speed on low and increase the speed to medium high. Occasionally turn the blender off and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides. Continue to puree the mixture until it is smooth. Use a small ladle to press the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Discard any solids left in the strainer.
Cut 12 sheets of acetate 12x3-inches long. Spray the acetate with pan release and then use a paper towel to wipe off the excess leaving a fine film on the acetate. Use a large offset spatula to spread the garlic mixture over the acetate in an even layer, 1-mm thick. Use the tip of a pairing knife to lift the acetate off of the counter and lay it on a dehydrator rack. Repeat with the remaining acetate sheets. Put the racks into the dehydrator set on high for 1 hour. Peel the black garlic sheets off of the acetate and lay them back onto the dehydrator racks. Continue to dry the black garlic sheets for another hour or until they are firm and brittle. Remove the black garlic sheets from the dehydrator and let them cool on wire racks. Once they are completely cool, use immediately or store them in zip top bags for up to 3 days, being sure to keep the bags sealed so they stay dry and crisp.
February 21, 2005
Sampling and remixing is an art form. This version of Brian Williams rapping "Rapper's Delight" from The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is brilliant and inspirational. Watch it just because we guarantee it will put a smile on your face.
February 20, 2011
February 20, 2005
When we try to take multiple steps towards refinement and evolution in a dish, things often get muddled. Figuring out what that one step is, that will elevate an experience, makes all the difference. Whether it's smoking roasted chicken bones or adding browned pepperoni bits to ramen broth, it's usually easy to identify that step in hindsight. We can always tell when we miss our mark. Sometimes in the thick of creation, we keep adding layer upon layer of innovation in order to increase flavor, without realizing that excess can have the opposite effect. It is one step to the top of the peak and one step more to begin the downward slide.
Looking at the world through the eyes of child opens up your imagination. Getting down and seeing the world for the first time again. Every time we make noodles Amaya finds new things to wonder about. She asks questions, not to challenge, but to learn, and in the process of finding answers we learn something too.
February 18, 2005
There are contractors here at the house all week. Oddly when you know disruption is coming it is almost harder to deal with. You examine all the options. As long as they're doing X maybe we should change Y. What can be done? What should be done? What can we afford to do? What are the smartest choices? When disruption is unexpected our responses become instinctual. We must make immediate decisions. There is less analysis and more action.
Disruption allows us to disconnect. We are forced to change our path and new paths suddenly appear before us. It forces us to take off our blinders and see the big picture. It's an opportunity as long as we find a way to make it work for us.
February 17, 2005
"The digressions are more important than the topic."
"Everything that stops you, that arrests you, that captures your attention needs to be noted."
"Everything is interesting."
Maira Kalman demonstrates curiousity is the catalyst for creativity.
*thanks to Brain Pickings for sharing the video
By the time I got to the sign up sheet for the classroom Valentine's party there were only a few items left. I ended up with sliced cucumbers. Alex was charged with picking up the cucumbers for the party. While he was out I ended up at H-Mart because we were out of my favorite rice. While I was wandering the produce section I noticed some perfect pickling cucumbers. Half sour pickles had been on my mind so impulsively I grabbed 4 packages. Oddly enough, because I would have expected him to get English cucumbers, Alex came home with 2 packages of the same kind.
The next morning Amaya wanted to help slice the cucumbers. After some discussion we decided to peel them because she thought that more of her friends would eat them that way. Then I got out the mandoline and we worked together to slide them back and forth over the blade. I was left with several large ends when we were done because safety is always a good thing when working with a five year old. After she left for school I sliced the ends on the mandoline, salted them and set them aside.
Alex ended up hitting the local sausage shop that day so I was inspired to make cucumber salad. There was a great German delicatessen in our neighborhood when I was growing up and my Aunt would often come home with their cucumber salad. It was peeled, thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in a sweet, tangy dressing. I drained the liquid off my cucumbers and added a pinch of sugar and rice wine vinegar. Marinated cucumbers are wonderful. First they soften and then they bloom. Their sweet flavor is accentuated by a touch of sugar and the sharp edge of the vinegar. They were just thick enough to maintain a little bit of chew and a little bit of crunch, the perfect foil for the rich salty sausages. You could easily add any multitude of flavors and it would work beautifully. Last night we loved it for its simplicity. Cucumbers, salt, sugar and vinegar. Four ingredients for a refreshing winter salad.
February 15, 2005
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Dehydrating the raisins." I shot back. There was a brief silence.
"All of them?" she responded.
"Uh, no, just a few to try something out." I said
I tend to go all in. I was about to start coating all of the rye soaked raisins in maple sugar before putting them in the dehydrator. Aki caught me in the act. Now we have a nice sized batch of maple-rye raisins in the dehydrator. And we still have a relatively large jar of rye raisins to explore other ideas.
Too often I get caught up in the idea of the moment. I forget about the other possibilities. And by the time my large batch of whatever it is, is done, I have missed out on exploring other ideas. (So has Aki because usually there's nothing left to work with.) For better or for worse I end up with an extremely large amount of whatever it is I was making. I am working on taking the time to slow down and step back. To test ideas in smaller amounts. My sense of urgency is a great motivator but it should never be the deciding factor in what happens in our kitchen.
February 14, 2009
February 14, 2005
We started with blood orange zest infused in sugar syrup. We added an equal amount of Bulleit bourbon. We poured the mixture over a sliced blood orange. The syrup will sit in the forgotten cupboard until cherry season. When the cherries peak we will pit them and strain the blood orange bourbon over them. Then we will tuck them away for a few more months.
That is my plan. Aki rather likes the idea of sipping sunshine in a glass as she looks out at piles of snow. Her plan is to do this all a little more quickly. We shall see if patience prevails. Otherwise we may speed up the infusion process using an ISI canister. Perhaps we will vacuum seal the bourbon and oranges and circulate them at 48°C for an hour. Cherry season is still several months away. I may have to run out and get some stunning frozen cherries to expedite the second part of this project. Patience and results walk a fine line when modern technology so easily lends a helping hand.
February 13, 2007
We started with Rittenhouse Rye and raisins. We put them in an old applesauce jar and buried them in the pantry. Every once in a while we would find them and shake the contents. After a long 6 months we tasted the marriage. The sweet, concentrated raisins filled in the Rye and rounded out the edges. The result is delicious and full bodied, with a little sweetness and spice, and a lingering finish. The raisins have blossomed into something special as well. They have a snap to them that wasn't there before. They are extremely boozy, candy-sweet with a little fire on the tongue. We have not found a home for them yet. Ice cream and bread are quick answers. Rye-Baba came to mind. Adding them to caramel sauce would be delightful. Braise them with lamb or fold them into chutney. Re-soaking them in fish sauce for another six months could leave us with something even more interesting but a lot of patience would be required. A quick flambe with brown sugar and lemon spooned over vanilla ice cream could be the simplest solution of them all.
February 12, 2006
February 12, 2005
The right blend will elevate any platform.
Here we began with Cataluña N.22 and then added maple sugar and fine sea salt
to make Amaya's *favorite* ribs.
*Every great version of a dish is her favorite until she tastes one that is better.
A marinade, first and foremost, adds flavor. If you mix it properly it can add a little tenderness. A marinade forces you to think about what you want to cook with, the ingredients and aromatics that you want to combine. It can tell a story about who you are as a cook. Far fetched? We don't think so. Imagine chicken thighs, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and green onions. Broiled or fried, roasted or braised. Every dish has a story and if you're lucky you can taste where the cook was coming from.
At first glance it seemed clear that this cake was a disaster, slightly sunken and pulling in on the sides. You would expect it to be undercooked and wet in the center. We worked it out of the pan and peeled away the paper. A serrated knife revealed a tender interior with a surprisingly fine crumb. It was definitely sponge cake, light and soft, tender and slightly chewy. Happily the flavor was spot on. The three of us tasted and discussed and before we knew it half the cake was gone. Definitely a work in progress but not a total disaster after all.
February 9, 2005
It was only a matter of time before we integrated pepperoni into our meatballs. The model comes from Marco's veal-ricotta meatball recipe. We have made them often. This time we broke the model. We used three raw meats and the cured pepperoni. We still used a ton of ricotta and parmesan. We omitted the egg. These meatballs were seasoned from the inside out. As they cooked the pepperoni fat melted, flavoring the whole. Leaving out the egg produced a denser, firmer meatball. We liked it a lot. They were not delicate. They could be man-handled and really simmered in sauce. And yet when we cut into them, they were soft, delicate, and flavorful. According to Amaya we now need to write a book about her and her daddy making the most delicious meatballs ever. Perhaps we can see if our favorite illustrator is available.
We revisited emmer noodles today. We cut back the amount of emmer used in the dough to 30%. Originally we tried 100% and then 50% emmer but we needed to take it down another notch. It seems counter-intuitive to use less of something to better appreciate the flavor. But then again, sometimes you need a little distance to appreciate the nuances. The reduced percentage of emmer highlights the intense wheat flavor without overpowering the texture of the noodles and the flavor of the sauce.
We made a simple cheese dip blending cheddar and monterey jack cheese, milk, sodium citrate, Mrs. Renfro's salsa and Gran Luchito chili paste. The problem with cheese sauce designed for hours of dipping is keeping it hot, fluid and eatable. A classic crock pot solves the problem. Our Superbowl cheese and salsa dip was a big success and stayed smooth and liquid for the whole game. It reminds me that crock pot can be a great place to heat and hold fondue too.
February 4, 2005
We often think of dough as a product. It can be rolled, stretched, shaped, baked, fried, steamed, the list goes on. Dough can be made from seemingly finished products. We took an interesting look at dough using cooked masa to make a masa cavatilli dough. There is the petite beurre, a buttery rich cookie made with buttery rich cookies. There is rice bread and potato bread. After eating the incredible bone marrow and oxtail dumpling at Sepia thoughts of dough and dumplings were reeling through my mind. I wanted to make a dessert borrowing the idea of a dumpling dough wrapped around a filling.
Like Andrew, I was going to use bread as the base for the dumpling. I made an uncooked bread pudding and then kneaded it into a uniform dough. We rolled the dough into disks and wrapped them around a caramelized apple filling. We steamed the dumplings, and then chilled them. This cooked the bread pudding and set the structure of the stuffed apple dumpling. Then we warmed the apple dumplings in the CVap and topped them with brown butter apple cider sauce. The bread pudding base became the dough. Could we then explore pizza pot stickers and chocolate cake cavatelli?
February 3, 2005
We got a box of blood oranges and kiwis from Frog Hollow Farm. Sadly that particular box is no longer available in the store because they are two of Amaya's favorite fruits. Ordering fruit from California is not a quick decision for me, the shipping alone is daunting. But sometimes we really need that extra bit of inspiration in the kitchen. When the fruit arrives I do my best to make the most of it. To be honest Amaya eats all of the kiwis herself because they are her favorites. I will only buy her organic ones so she doesn't get them very often. Then we share the oranges. I zest each one before peeling and use the fragrant skin to make syrup. After the first batch I just keep adding fresh zest to the syrup so it can infuse. Then when I add the syrup to sodas or drinks it gets muddled in and strained out. Here we've topped off sparkling water with a generous splash of syrup and freshly squeezed blood orange juice. It's my home made version of Aranciata Rossa and it made a gray afternoon feel bright and full of sunshine.
This time last year we were over at Food and Wine talking about How To Be a Better Cook. One of the ideas we talked about was salting meat in advance. This is a technique that came up again recently as Leite's Culinaria and Food52 were talking about the Korean Chicken Wings from Maximum Flavor. It's safe to say that we're fans of advance seasoning. If I happen to stumble across beautiful pork chops or chicken or steak I bring them home, open them up, season them and lay them out on a rack in the fridge. If I'm inspired I may layer spices over the salt. This habit of leaving them front and center forces me to remember they are there. It's comforting to know that whenever I'm ready there is a beautifully seasoned piece of meat ready to go. A little prep work goes a long way towards a delicious dinner.
"Do you think you could adapt your pumpkin pie recipe to make chocolate pie?"
"Um, sure? Why not."
This pie is rich and deep with a smooth, creamy chocolate filling. It's not mousse, it's not pudding, it's just chocolate pie.
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 unbaked Pie Crust (we recommend the one from Maximum Flavor)
¾ cup / 150 grams light brown sugar
¼ cup / 36 grams cocoa powder
2 tablespoons / 14 grams cornstarch
1 tablespoon / 6 grams tapioca starch
1 teaspoon / 6 grams fine sea salt
12 ounce / 340 grams can organic coconut milk
13 ¼ ounces / 375 grams milk chocolate, chopped or callets
2 ¾ ounces / 75 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped or callets
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400°F. (200°C.)
Put the brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and salt in a medium pot and whisk to blend well. Add the coconut milk and set over medium heat, whisking until everything dissolves. Switch to a silicone spatula and cook, stirring until the mixture reaches 175 °F. (80°C.) Remove from heat, add the chocolate and whisk to melt the chocolate. Once the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth whisk in the eggs, it will be cool enough to do this without tempering. Pour the chocolate mixture into the unbaked pie shell and bake for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven temperature down to 325°F. (165°C.) without opening the oven door. Bake for 20-25 minutes more. The pie will rise and crack slightly around the edges. When you gently shake the pan it will be set with a slight jiggle in the center. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set, before serving. We like this with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
We have stored freshly churned butter in buttermilk to develop and marry flavors. I'm not sure why it took us so long to serve them both together. Butter dressed in buttermilk is extraordinary. The fattiness and nuttiness is in the butter. The lactic fermented tang is in the buttermilk. The two work together delivering incredible flavors and textures.
January 29, 2006
January 29, 2005