Friday, May 30, 2008


Okay, so I was going to start filling you in on old recipes or perhaps fill you in on the ones that I was going to make today. That was until I looked over at the window- "Holy Hell, that's a lot of basil"- and decided pesto was in order. I've never made it before and didn't bother to follow a set recipe. Actually, I don't think I've even had it before. All I needed was my good olive oil, sea salt, home grown basil, garlic, pepper, and the dregs of my parmesan cheese. If this is what pesto is supposed to be, then I am so all about this shit.

What's better, I slathered it on homemade bread. I was going to make the infamous no-knead bread from NYTimes, but couldn't find my yeast. Maybe I threw it out because I wasn't using it. No bother. I switched to a nice soda bread. Not enough kneading and too much flour later, a slice of heaven that tastes suspiciously like a Triscuit. I love the smell of cooked flour though. Plus, my butter glaze mixed with flour to look like frosting.

You have to know how European this makes me feel. I am thoroughly convinced that Europeans are just these accomplished yet sophistocated people who do nothing but enjoy fresh food and sumptuous apartments. If you are European, do not correct me on this. I need something more than faith to live on. Otherwise, oogle my food.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


As of this afternoon, my new man is officially gone. This is incredibly bittersweet. On one hand, less distractions. On the other, Wyoming is WAY too far away.

I have a lot to catch you up on though. I don't think I blogged about my bread pudding, did I? Or the baked mac and cheese recipe? Gah! I can't even remember half of the stuff I wanted to blog about because I've been so distracted. Pleasantly so, but still. The next few days will be full of that, plus a new cookie recipe that I plan to make soon for Texas Ranger's mom and grandma. Expect something tomorrow if not later today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dazed and Confused

Man. The days are starting to slip by so quickly that I'm forgetting what I've wanted to post and the things I've actually made as opposed to what I planned to make. I've got a friend leaving in less than two weeks who I'm trying to spend as much time as possible around, plus regular chores and special summer projects. However, know that he is taking care of me. Remember the Heartattack Sandwhich? Well, how does BBQ chicken with bacon and pineapple kabobs sound?

Thought you'd like that.

Look forward to more posts on a regular basis after he leaves. I've got a frige-full of stuff that needs to be cooked.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Simple Sushi

A late night craving hauled my ass into Walmart near midnight. One thing led to another and suddenly I had all the fixings for a month of sushi. Plus, I've had a bamboo mat made for rolling sushi that I haven't gotten to use. For foolproof rice, hit up my man Alton.

The set-up.

The roll-up.

The end.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Art of Coffee Cupping

Remember way back when I signed up for this class? Yeah, I almost forgot too. However, I did manage to remember in time to actually go. It was a lovely little session with 7 students including me and the "teacher", one half of The Beanery- a small coffee roasting shop downtown. They also have the most beautiful hardwood ceilings.

We tried three different coffees: a Brazilian, the Columbian Popayan, and a Papua New Guinea. You can look these up on their website.

The exercise in cupping started with a hard look and a good whiff of the ground beans. What did they smell like? Look like? Then a bit of hot water on top, and three minutes later it's brewed. You crack the "skin" on top with a spoon and take a deep inhale of the puff of steam that escapes. How has the scent changed? What else can you detect? After, you skim as much of the grounds off the top as you can. The best part was the slurping. In order to fully experience the taste of coffee, you must slurp with the intent to hit your entire palate with a fine spray of coffee. Trust me, more skill than I realized and a hell of a lot more fun. Take at least three sips to really get used to it. The professional coffee cuppers spit, but please. Saturday morning? Not a wet spit cup in the house.

Did you know there are only two kinds of coffee beans? Or really, two kinds of plants. Many coffee companies want to distinguish themselves so they put the Arabica label on the bags. If it's not labeled- thinks Folgers- it's called Robusta. These are the lower grade, clumsily roasted beans that are the cheapest. However, the Arabica can have a million different flavor combinations influenced by where it's grown, the conditions it's kept in, and how it's roasted. Even more, coffee plants grow in the wild. Since it's such a big commodity, many people have coffee plantations, so those that allow the plants to live in their natural environments can add the "shade-grown" label as well. These shade-grown plants generally have more flavor and cost more. Oh! Oh! Did you know that the coffee beans itself is the pit? The fruit they're grown in is called a coffee cherry. These are the unroasted beans. Hard as rocks.

Many companies harvest with machinery, but this leads to lower quality coffee. The cherries ripen at different times on the same tree. To hand harvest is to choose only the beans that are at their peak. In addition to all this, to get the best cup you must also know how deep to roast the beans. This takes time, effort, and experience. That's also why so many people have complained about Starbuck's coffee. Starbuck's deep roasts by default because it's easier and more cost effective, but it sacrifices the flavors of the beans to where many can't tell the different types apart. Generally, the lighter the roast, the more balanced the flavor. AND you're only supposed to leave it on the burner while it's brewing. Much longer than that and you've burnt out much of the flavor (Starbuck's, I'm looking at you again). We also went into all kinds of other stuff like how the crema on espresso makes the first few sips sweeter, how the bean drying methods influence taste (like Sumatra's earthy flavor comes from drying on dirt), and which countries make the best beans (or how Columbia coffee is generic unless otherwise stated). Way too much to go into right here, but if you're interested I might do a bit more digging later on. It's really a facinating history these little beans have.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Homemade Stock

I'm one of those people who is very careful to bag up my kitchen scraps and shove them in the freezer. However, I'm not very careful to remember they're in there and need to be used. I just had to trash two gallon sized bags of freezer-burnt scraps that would have made lovely stock. Of course, the only reason I thought about this was that on the same day that I was actually making stock, I cleaned out the freezer so I could have room for the finished product. It's funny how that works.

It's also funny how I have time to jack with freezing individual cubes and properly storing them but insist I don't have enough time for other things. Like washing those dishes in my sink. Life's priorities are a little screwed at times, I think.

Stock is one of those great things though that makes me feel like an actual cook and not just some mangey college kid. It's the ultimate kitchen recycling ritual. The only thing that could make it better would be a compost pile out back to throw the cooked vegetables into. I had a nearly full bag of baby carrots and half a package of celery, neither of which I eat. I buy both those things for the rabbit and nothing else. The only reason I used that celery in the chicken salad was because I felt bad and I was trying to get over my celery issue. Of course, the rotisserie chicken was for me and so was every bit of that carcass. Throw in an old red onion and a few onion tops from these gorgeous locally grown sweet onions and it's on its way to stockdom.

It's also very helpful in keeping my spice drawer in order. I don't realize I'm out or running low in anything until I need to use it. This batch was on the bland side- I added too much water- so I definitely added quite a few different kinds of spices. I also picked off a few leaves from my window herb garden. That's right. Fresh herbs at my fingertips. I bought a cilantro and basil plant and am trying to sprout Italian parsley, sage, and chives. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chicken Salad Version 1.0

I don't know what it is, but the siren's song of perfect chicken salad will not let me be. I did this a year ago when I made a different version of it almost every night. This may be the first of many. My panel (okay, me and one friend) gave it a 7 out of 10, with me being more critical. Lots of good flavors here, didn't dissapoint at all. However, I think the sweet to chicken ratio was a little too in the chicken's favor. I'm going for balance here and it was just a bit wobbly for me. A little sweet relish on top fixed most of that. Not the perfect recipe yet.

V 1.0

3 C rotisserie chicken, chopped

1/2 C diced radish

1/2 C diced grapes

1/4 C diced celery

1/4 C diced red onion

1/4 C plus up to 2 T mayo

black pepper
Mix well. I wanted a more "cohesive" salad, so I threw half of it in the food processer. I think it added to the overall flavor blend and made it creamier so I could do without a ton of mayo.

Monday, May 5, 2008

White Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic

I've got a few posts coming up here in the near future as I get into the swing of cooking and blogging again. However, this was something I whipped up right after the cookies and has led to many days of good eating. I've been dying to try out my "Mediterranean Harvest" cookbook by Martha Rose Shulman since it first arrived months ago. It's essentially a vegetarian cookbook, but most of the dishes are classically made with meat and can easily be altered. This quick dish satisfied a rather odd craving for beans.

Easy White Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic
From "Mediterranean Harvest"

Origin: Italy
Serves 4

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
2 to 4 fresh sage leaves (to taste), chopped (I substituted a few pinches of dried sage)
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped; or 1 can (14 oz) tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper
1 T wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (optional)

Heat oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat and add garlic. Cook for 30 seconds while stirring, until fragrant. Add sage and tomatoes (I added the juice for flavor) and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add beans, salt, and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes (or until juice cooks off). Taste and adjust seasoning. Add vinegar.

I served mine up with a few slices of toasted Italian bread. Quick, filling, and very flavorful.

Friday, May 2, 2008

International Cookies

So it's that time again. The time when I bribe all my teachers with baked goods. This time I even hit up the school library and found an international cookie book. My original plan for four types of cookies wilted when I realized that I should probably study for some of those finals. Meh. Anyways, I baked two different types that both turned out well, so I'm happy enough.

From "The International Cookie Jar Cookbook" Anita Borghese

Almond Macaroons or Amaretti
From Italy

1 cup almond paste (8 oz package or can)
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 300F. Line baking sheets with foil.

Put almond paste in a mixing bowl and soften with hands until smooth.

Seperate eggs in another bowl- beat egg whites until just foamy. Add egg whites to almond paste and blend well. Gradually add the sugar and mix well. Sift in flour with salt a little at a time.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets, making small mounds about 1 inch in diameter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake about 20 mins. Remove and cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Cheese Cookies or Tapabocas
From Mexico

2 c flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup coarsely grated muenster or monterey jack cheese
1 egg
3 T sherry wine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease baking sheets.

In mixing bowl, sift together flour and sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour mix. Grate cheese and pack loosely into the measuring cup. Add to flour mix. With fingers, mix ingredients well until crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg lightly. Add sherry. Add to flour mix and mix with spoon or fingers until well blended.

Take small pieces of dough, about a teaspoon at a time, and roll into balls. Arrange on sheet and press lightly with palm to flatten slightly. Bake 12-13 mins until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Unfortunately, I was in a rush to get them delivered so I don't have any pictures of the packages. They were much like last semester's, but I added a print out of the kinds of cookies and the ingredients in them, just in case of food allergies. It looked very nice for that little package and I'll probably do that again. The almond cookies were crisp on the outside with a strong marzipan chewiness on the inside. Much more strongly flavored than I anticipated, but really good. The cheese cookies were good too. I couldn't put my finger on what they remind me of, but I think it's a mix of shortbread and a cheese biscuit. Unusual, but lovely. Overall, I'd say it was a success.