Sunday, August 31, 2008
Jessica and I went to a wonderful local foods market in Palo Alto with a list of ingredients for the menu I had planned. The produce was in such abundance that we abandoned the menu and just picked what looked good. The resulting meal was a celebration of the ripest fruits and vegetables and based on a couple very exciting ingredients. First were the fava beans which I lightly steamed then added garlic, olive oil, and salt. The resulting butteriness was satisfying and comforting while light enough for the day's heat. We also bought some golden beats. Golden beets are my favorite thing from my grandpa's garden. This year they were too much for him, so the golden beats were a special treat that we roasted and sliced on a platter with red beets. The color contrast was beautiful.
Rhubarb is the last of our special ingredients. When I was little my dad used to make great rhubarb upside down cake for picnics. It's the only things I remember him making besides rice and peas, and is also something I've been craving since spring time in Italy. This was the first time I've come across it. This time I simply roasted it in the oven with some honey and raw sugar. It was wonderfully sweet and bitter, much like my dad's cake. Except without the cake there was nothing to temper the bitterness and round out the flavor. A butter or shortbread cookie would've done so nicely while adding textural intrigue, unfortunately we didn't have any. Though this morning we added it to our cereal and it was wonderful: a slight rhubarb obsession has begun.
And as for Jessica, she's an oldie, but a goodie.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
As an adult mincemeat retains it mystery, though it has gained intrigue. As my interest in food has developed my desire to uncover cultural food traditions has become insatiable, I set out to discover mincemeat.
My research began, as any lazy researcher begins, with Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia mincemeat is what we Americans more commonly call ground meat. This is definitely not the definition I was looking for. My mincemeat is Pennsylvania Dutch in origin. And so I went to the mattresses: Grandma.
Grandma keeps everything in pristine condition. Luckily for me, this includes her cookbooks. She has a treasure trove of old Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks all of which include recipes. One of my favorites, aptly titled Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook, calls mincemeat “a Christmas and Thanksgiving necessity.” Maybe my dad wasn’t so far off after all. Having sorted through my grandmother’s various recipes in her —along with my dad’s own recipe—we set out to begin.
We started by boiling a four pound mixture of ground beef, buffalo, pork, and turkey, my former vegetarian self’s stomach turned. All the meat was purchased at a gem of a nearby country store in
I myself could wax poetic for awhile about Dietrich’s, but I’ll spare you and get back to the task at hand: the mincemeat. When the meat was cooked we drained all but one cup of the liquid, and set that aside. Next the apples needed to be peeled, cored, and chopped. The recipe’s endearing resourcefulness lies in this next step: boiling apple peels and cores in water and simmering for ten minutes, then straining and reserving the liquid. This apple “broth,” if you will, is combined with the meat broth for our four and a half pounds of dried fruit in a large stainless steel stock pot. We picked the dried food that was available and sounded good, ending up with a motley combination of raisins, currants, apricots, dates, cherries, and cranberries.
To the dried fruit and broth mixture we added orange and lemon juice and peal, a little salt, and brown sugar. While the fruit soaked, the meat and suet—here again the former vegetarian’s stomach did flips—were chopped together until well incorporated and added to the dried fruit. Next came a couple pounds chopped apples and spices: mace, pepper, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The entire mixture brought to a boil and simmered for an hour. When cool ¼ cup Jim Beam was added, and taken down to a cool and dark basement closet. Once a week for six weeks a quarter to half of a cup of bourbon was added along with a good stir. Now that the first six weeks are over the flavors are left to themselves, and by Thanksgiving and Christmas (after three to four months of aging) the mincemeat should be just right.
Now if only it was Christmas...
Friday, August 15, 2008
In any case, Grace and I had a great time. I julienned carrots, cucumber and avocado and Grace helped me roll. The first time I made sushi it took me several rolls to get them tight enough. Not Grace. (You see her in action in the picture to the left.) Her rolls were perfectly tight, even at those tricky ends, the first time around. A natural born sushi chef. Maybe in another life she was Japanese. As we were rolling we started to talk about what different things we could put in the rolls. Grace had so many great ideas involving all sorts of things. I think my favorite was candy sushi made with fruit roll up, coconut as rice and various candies as fish (Swedish fish perhaps?). Personally I'm still trying to work through ideas for peanut butter and jelly sushi and breakfast sushi using pancake in place of nori. I guess in a way we already have that, and call it pigs in a blanket. What a perfect way to start off a day of sushi we have in the works. That way we can make our different ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We are accepting suggestions.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A Shoofly is made with two separate batters, the crumbs and the syrup. The recipe Grammy uses says to layer half the syrup, half the crumbs, and then repeat. She never does it this way though, she simply put all the liquid topped with all the crumbs. We did an experiment and did one pie according to the recipe and one her way. To the right is a comparison of the two methods. The left is Grammy's method and the right is the layering method. I didn't tell her this, but I think layered method is preferable because the pie rises a little more, is more airy and not quite so dense. Also the slight curve of the layered one is more pleasing visually.
The best part, though was baking with my grandma. She's 80 now, as she reminded me several times, and so she mostly sat and supervised me. Well, actually, she sat, got up to clean, talked about how she needed to sit down, sat down, got up again to do something else, complained about needing to sit down, sat down, and well, you get the picture. One thing she insisted on standing for was the addition of the "slop." This is her word for molasses. Grammy doesn't like baking Shooflies because of the slop, it's the hardest part she says. So difficult she wouldn't let me do it, I could only watch. Actually, she didn't want me to do it because molasses, in all its thick, sticky glory makes a mess, and she hates messes. Now, there's a Pennsylvania Dutch woman for you.
But also thanks to her "Dutchness" she has numerous old cookbooks in immaculate condition, so I'm sure I'll be writing about more recipes soon. In the meantime, here's a picture of Grammy's deliberate "slop" measuring.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The food in Burgundy was classic and beautiful, much like Sarajane. So as an appetizer I made aioli with fresh herbs and served it on a plate with fresh cut vegetables. For dinner I made bread from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. It was dense but really very delicious. I also made lentil salad using A.O.C. Puy lentils that I bought while in France, along with salad, a tomato tart, and mustard grilled chicken. The chicken was brined for about four hours before hand and made with dijon mustard, of course. I have to say that I have become completely convinced that brining is the way to go with meat, it makes such a difference in terms of moisture. For dessert I made fromage blanc from raw milk that I bought at the farmer's market. I served it with cream, blackberries and sugar.
I am thankful for such beautiful memories.
Friday, August 8, 2008
These cupcakes, are a version of a birthday cake we made for a dear friend while in Italy. I call them lemon risotto cupcakes. I used Acquerello rice because the overly chatty owner gave us three cans for free on our visit. I used it to make a lemon risotto which allowed me to cut down on the amount of flour (also made of rice) used. I think the rice also allows for more moisture while having to use less oil, always a plus. The first time I made them I made a lavender icing. This time I couldn't find lavender buds so I made a kind of glaze with Amarene cherries. They are so overly sweet. I tried to cut the sweetness with lemon juice and a sprinkle of purple basil. It was especially important that these cupcakes were good because I took them to the bakery where I'll be interning. They weren't mind-blowing as I had hoped, though decent enough to still give. The picture doesn't quite do them justice.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
As someone who loves food as well as its nutritive properties. I found Arnold fascinating. He touts that in terms of illnesses "you name it and he's dealt with it" meaning you can cure anything with such a diet. But really, is it possible we don't need protein or grains? What about bread as the staff of life?
I'm not convinced, and the mostly unforgettable combinations left nothing to convince me. The Polynesian salad, however was noteworthy; an interesting and pleasing combination of mango, pineapple, coconut, almonds, zucchini, and tomato. This salad can easily be made at home, it was simply all mixed together, chopped I believe with a grater feature on a food processor. The sweet potato pie was pretty good as well. Though it still boggles my mind how the sweet potato is soft without being cooked. One of life's little mysteries I guess.