Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creamy Stovetop Corn with Poblano Chiles

Creamy Stovetop Corn With Poblano Chiles

We meant to make David Tanis's "Creamy Stovetop Corn With Poblano Chiles" at the beach (in addition to the gazpacho) but Irene intervened, so we made it at home with some fresh Massachusetts corn instead. It doesn't look particularly "creamy" because we couldn't locate any crème fraiche in the store and I didn't feel like making any... so I planned just to substitute in some sour cream... but didn't use enough. For some reason I had it in my head that crème fraiche is runnier than sour cream, but that's not really the case... it was crema I was thinking of, so the thinned out sour cream didn't really coat as it should have. It was still delicious though, with the sauce coming out almost like a spicy corn bisque... and it made Anna think it would be outstanding as is, but served on a bed of grits or polenta. Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Food Lab's Gazpacho

Food Lab Gazpacho

This was one of the recipes we took down to the beach to make while we were on vacation. Gazpacho is of course the dictionary definition of "perfect summer dish", as it both takes advantage of the plentiful summer produce, and is also served cold to beat the heat. In addition, it gives you a great excuse to check out the local markets wherever you are vacationing( for example: Lewes Farmers' Market).

Perfectly Ripe Tomatoes

The special technique that separates this gazpacho from others is the concept of "cryo-blanching", which, while it just means "freezing", is a pretty cutting edge culinary technique pioneered by Ideas In Food. I'll let Kenji explain:
The idea is that as ice forms inside the vegetables' cells, the sharp, jagged crystals end up rupturing and weakening the walls of the cells. What you end up with is a vegetable that's soft as if it's been cooked, but still retains its fresh, raw flavor.
So in his recipe, Kenji uses a combo of salting and cryo-blanching to extract as much liquid from the vegetables as possible and then blends everything together to produce his gazpacho. One advantage of this approach is that this is a pretty easy dish to prepare compared to gazpachos with lots of fine dicing. On the other hand you definitely do need to strain it. To many this may seem overly fussy, but we tried it both ways... and even though I had to use the tiniest fine mesh strainer in the universe and thus had to strain the soup by the ladle-full... the strained version was infinitely better. The non-strained version isn't more "rustic"... it just tastes like a weird vegetable salsa, not a soup. Though as someone who does generally prefer rustic soups to purees, I advise reserving a little extra tomato and cucumber so that you can dice up a garnish to get a texture contrast.

Anyway, recipe is here. Definitely worth making.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jam Bistro in Rehoboth Delaware

I've mentioned before that while I like taking pictures of food and also like eating in nice restaurants, I'm not really into whipping out the DSLR every time I'm eating out. Unlike some, I don't have a problem with people taking pictures of their food, but I don't generally approve of using a flash without explicit permission from the people around you and the lighting is generally too terrible to get a decent picture otherwise. So unless I get one of those cool spotlight things (unlikely), you'll probably only see me post "I ate this" pictures when I happen across the rare instance of great natural light in a restaurant.... which, as it so happens, occurred last week at a great lunch we had at Jam in Rehoboth. Jam has a fancy big sister restaurant next door called Eden, but from what I can tell Jam is the casual laid back sister who is most comfortable in jeans.

This is mainly a food pr0n post, not a serious review... as I don't consider myself a serious reviewer. How could I hope to give an honest review after sampling only three dishes on a single afternoon? I only really post about dinning experiences I enjoy and keep things firmly in the impressions area. So with that in mind...

Buffalo Smashed Fingerlings

This dish was fantastic... one of those sadly rare experiences that instantly makes you think about how to recreate it at home. From what I could gather, they were simply fingerling potates that were smashed up a bit and then presumably pan fried... though I suppose you could get a similar effect roasting in the oven. Then they were topped with blue cheese and doused in a buffalo sauce vinaigrette. Obviously a little on the decadent side, but hey, we were on vacation.

Butter Lettuce Wedge

Anna ordered this, and I didn't even taste it, but she loved it. It was a salad of candied walnuts, pretzel croutons, and pears... all under a maple/dijon dressing. I totally dig the presentation and wonder why we don't see wedge salads very often. I guess it's horrendously out of fashion... being made with butter lettuce and not mesclun, but I've seen a lot of talk lately about how iceberg lettuce is suddenly hip again, so the wedge salad is clearly seems primed for a comeback (if it isn't back already).

Lamb Gyro

Pretty simple... just a lamb gyro, but the meat was quite tender and the Tzatziki sauce was excellent. Though I might go as far to call the pita the star of the dish since it seemed clearly house made and brushed ever so slightly upon flatbread territory in a really pleasant way.

All in all a great lunch and restaurant I heartily recommend.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lewes Farmers' Market

We're back from out vacation a little early... as we fled the beach late Friday night as the governor of Delaware called for a mandatory evacuation in the face of approaching Irene, so I thought I'd put up a slideshow of the wonderful Lewes (pronounced Lewis) farmers' market we visited the weekend previous. As you can see on their website, the market is located in the center of Lewes' fairly historic downtown ("first city of the first state") and it's open from 8 am to noon through the summer. The number of vendors and high quality of the produce was quite impressive... honestly better than anything I've seen up here in Cambridge/Somerville... definitely worth a look if you're in the Rehoboth area. While we were on vacation, we still like to cook a meal or two even so... it saves some money and summer produce is just so fantastic it's hard to pass up.

And here's hoping everybody stays safe and the area comes through with minimal damage.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To the Beach!

Rehoboth Beach - 1
Leaving tomorrow for ten or so days in the Rehoboth/Lewes area, so probably not a lot of posting. I will have an internet connection, but no promises. While I enjoy blogging, I still want to have a real vacation... though admittedly I will be taking my camera down to check out things like the Historic Lewes Farmers Market and photograph whatever we cook from the bounty we acquire there (some preliminary thoughts: gazpacho and creamy corn with poblano chiles). We'll see how it goes. Everybody have a good week and pray for my pasty white skin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opal Basil Pesto and Substitutes for Pine Nuts

Pesto Tortellini

Last night I made a simple pesto with the leftover opal basil (i.e. the purple kind) from the farmers' market. The only problem I had was that I couldn't find any pine nuts at the local market... not to mention that the last time we made a dish with pine nuts Anna got pine mouth (nuts were from Trader Joes and imported from various countries in Asia)... so instead of running all over town and getting more pine nuts of dubious provenance, I decided to try a substitute. I could have just made pistou, which is essentially pesto without nuts, but I decided I wanted to see what the alternatives are like. A perusal of the internet suggests (like this Serious Eats thread) that basically any nut can be substituted, but walnuts, almonds, and pistachios seem the most favored. According to Saveur's latest issue walnuts are the most traditional choice (since there is a Northern Italian variation using them), but that you should either lightly toast or soak them in water (for at least an hour)... to remove the bitter qualities of the raw nuts. Unfortunately I did not see that issue of Saveur on my coffee table (with a big "Why we love pesto!" headline)  until after I made mine sans toasting or soaking... whoops!

Well I definitely recommend doing one or the other if you are substituting for any reason... the bitterness was noticeable, if not overwhelming... so I'd definitely do it in the future. Oh, and the recipe I used was Simply Recipes... not that I'm sure you really need a recipe for pesto, but I like the security blanket.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Palate Determined in Womb?

From NPR (via Bittman):
Mennella says this had already been observed in rabbits, so she decided to test it in human babies — with carrots. Pregnant women were divided into three groups. One group was asked to drink carrot juice every day during their pregnancy, another during breastfeeding and a third to avoid carrots completely. Then when the children began to eat solid food, researchers fed them cereal made either with water, or carrot juice and videotaped their responses.

"And just like the European rabbit, the babies who had experienced carrot in amniotic fluid or mother's milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal," says Mennella. "And when we analyzed the video tapes they made less negative faces while eating it."
I'll have to ask my mom to be sure, but I'm think they were vegetarian when my mother was pregnant with my bother but not with me... and he loved veggies as a kid and I hated them. So there you go, Q.E.D. Pretty interesting, but I guess it won't be long before we have maternity classes that involve tasting menus.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mediterranean Tomato Sandwich

Tomato Sandwich Ingredients

Apropos of my Tuesday post, I made it down to the City Hall farmers' market yesterday afternoon and picked up over a pound of heirloom tomatoes, a large bunch of purple basil (purple pesto time?), and a baguette from When Pigs Fly bakery. I had been jonesing to get my hands on some farm fresh tomatoes for David Tanis's tomato sandwich recipe since I first saw it, and while I've also been waiting for ages to use said summer tomatoes in dishes like panzanella and gazpacho...  on this particular day, the Mediterranean take on a simple tomato sandwich just called to me more. As a bonus, even when you're buying heirloom tomatoes at $4.50 a pound and $3 bunches of basil, it's still a cheap meal that takes 20 minutes to put together (though admittedly you'll still have to wait an hour to eat the sandwiches).

Tomato Sandwich Close-up

So besides the fresh tomatoes and basil (from the market or your garden) and a loaf of great bread, all you need are pantry staples: garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar (I want to make it), capers, and red pepper flakes. Anchovies are also called for, and would certainly boost the ever popular umami, but since I was serving this to a vegetarian they were omitted.

Tanis calls for slicing the tomatoes thickly or cutting them into wedges, but I thought very thin slices would melt in your mouth and meld all the flavors a little more. But, on the other hand, if you see more value in texture contrast you'll want the thicker slices.

One great thing about this sandwich is the hour wait while all that tomato goodness penetrates deep into the bread which... while it doesn't seem that great when you're staring at it on the counter wanting to eat it... makes it a perfect sandwich to make for a picnic or hike. Obviously there is an upper limit here, but it will get better as it sits.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zombie Squid!

This video is not safe for people who fear cephalopods and/or reanimated corpses.

On the other hand, it's also kind of cool:
From the Daily Mail:
The high salt content in the sauce reacts with ions in cells of the squids' tentacles creating voltage differences, and making the squid move.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tomato Ideas

I nice interactive feature in the Times Magazine from Bittman. Simple and quick recipes that highlight the tomato... which is exactly what everybody tells you to do at the height of tomato season.

We got rained out of the farmer's market this weekend, but I think I will try to stop by the City Hall one tomorrow. What to make though? One of Bittman's ideas? Or perhaps David Tanis's non-whitebread and mayo tomato sandwich

Monday, August 8, 2011

Espagueti Verde

Espagueti Verde

A fairly odd dish, it must be said... who knew they ate pasta in Mexico? I certainly didn't. The spaghetti is served with a kind of chile pepper "pesto" whose heat is tempered by a fair bit of crema. I got the recipe from Serious Eats, but it's originally from Zarela's Veracruz.

The dish pictured above doesn't look especially "verde" because I tried to substitute random medium heat large peppers, but really used an insufficient number to match the fleshiness of the poblanos. I was worried about making it too spicy but ended up making it a bit too mild, so next time I won't be so shy with the heat but I might stick to mixing different peppers for the added complexity.

Even though I didn't execute it quite to perfection, I still thought it was quite good... an easy (and cheap) dish to prepare with a lot of potential.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice with broth

Many consider Hainanese chicken rice to be Singapore's national dish, but to an outsider it's hard to imagine a blander looking meal. I mean, boiled chicken served on white rice? What's that even about? If you're a "No Reservations" fan you know that Bourdain absolutely raved about the stuff in an episode on Singapore, but even so, it's a little hard to get excited about something so... monochromatic.

I don't really recall what led me down the path making this dish, but make it I did, following a recipe from Steamy Kitchen. One nice thing about this recipe is that the ingredient list is certainly not too intimidating, requiring little beyond the chicken itself and pantry staples... in addition, it takes about an hour to get the final dish on the table so it's perfectly doable on a weeknight. Everything went off without a hitch, so I can't really think of anything you should be especially cognizant of if you decide to make it yourself... other than to spend a little extra on a good quality chicken since it is basically the star, director, and executive producer of the meal.

So what did I think of Singapore's national dish? The chicken itself was moist and delicate and the rice was fantastic (I had never washed rice before, but I guess maybe I should from now on?). The chili ginger lime sauce was also great, but I'm a big fan of Sriracha even though it is no longer cool to be so. However I have to say the broth was pretty disappointing... I'd go so far as to call it insipid. Though I don't know why you'd expect anything different after only 30 minutes of simmering. Conceivably you could cut up the chicken before the simmering and make a stock from the back and wings to poach the rest in and get much better results, but it's not my national dish is it? The skin, with the ice bath, comes out a little bit gelatinous and weird... but I think that's the intention. Not entirely sure how I feel about it, but some recipes call for discarding the skin, and I probably lean that way.

Still, even with the lackluster broth I think this is pretty nice dish.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Apricot Fruit Leather

Apricot Fruit Leather Spreading
"Fruit leather" isn't, I think, the most appetizing name for a snack. You wouldn't, for example, say that something "tastes like shoe leather" and mean it as a compliment. But... regardless of how bad fruit leather's marketing department is, it's really a pretty tasty snack that doesn't require any special equipment to make. Yeah, a dehydrator would make the process much quicker and not heat up the kitchen... but if you're like us and have no general need to suck the water out of various food products, then this is a pretty good way to use up super ripe fruit in your fridge that might go bad before you can eat it.

Anna made this Serious Eats recipe (spice of choice = allspice) a couple of weeks ago, and we've really enjoyed the finished product. Once it's dried you can just take some scissors to the parchment paper (leaving the fruit leather attached) and you can make some fruit roll up-esque strips that are easy to take with you.

Really easy and definitely worth trying.

Apricot Fruit Leather Dried

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another Mansell Mountain Hike

Mansell Mountain: Long Pond to Mansell Peak to Perpendicular Trail

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Acadia National Park

I feel like I'll be able to hike this mountain blindfolded soon(probably not a good idea), but we did another trip to the top of this under trafficked peak with some friends this past weekend. However the path we took this time is not quite as strenuous as the hike we did a few weeks ago, though it is significantly longer (5 miles vs. 3.2). The fact that the ascent is gradual and the descent is down carved stone steps meant that it wasn't too hard on one of our friend's bum knee. Mansell doesn't have the 360 degree panoramic views of many mountains in Acadia, but it does have some beautiful ones and the walk around Long Pond was lovely. A nice choice for a more peaceful hike (ignoring the motor boats) in Acadia during the hectic summer months.

An Argument For Boxed Wine

Box o' wine's official cup
Eric Asimov, writing for the New York Times, points out that no matter how maligned, boxed wine is actually a fantastic idea:
Despite the almost reflexive elevation of noses at the mention of boxed wines, one significant detail undermines these smug dismissals: the idea of putting wine in a box, or more accurately, in a bag within a box, is brilliant. The packaging solves significant problems that have dogged wine for millennia, whether it was stored in urn, amphora, barrel, stone crock or bottle.

No matter how elegant or handy those containers may be, their fixed volumes permit air to enter when wine is removed. Air attacks and degrades wine, making it imperative to drink up what remains, usually within no more than a few days.

The bag-in-a-box, to use the unlovely industry term, resolves this problem of oxidation by eliminating space for air to occupy. Wine can stay fresh for weeks once it has been opened. But while the packaging may be ingenious, what’s inside has been a problem.
They go on to taste test some fancy pants boxed wines (click the link for rankings), and while the typical price point for these paragons of boxed wine quality appear to be around $40 for 3 liters, that's still a pretty decent deal since the volume works out to be 4 standard bottles of wine. Since I live with a wine drinker who seldom finishes a bottle before it tastes of vinegar (even with a "wine saver" gadget), the idea of quality boxed wine is somewhat intriguing...  but the volume is probably too high, even if it lasts for weeks. Still, pretty interesting, and possibly valuable info to the more high volume wine drinkers out there.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Poach an Egg

Part of a continuing "How To..." series? Nope, it's just a weird coincidence that my last two posts were instructional (I swear!), and actually more evidence that I was in Maine this weekend than anything else. Anyway, here's a video from the Kitchn on how to poach an egg:

I found the video interesting mainly because I... ahem... have never poached an egg before. In part this is due to the fact that I'm a reformed picky eater who has been somewhat slow in embracing all forms of egg-i-ness... but it's also because I didn't know how to do it and had always heard it was hard (doesn't seem that hard in the video). But Sam Sifton told me I need to know how to do it, and who am I to argue with Sam Sifton? Next up? Fried eggs maybe?

How to Roast a Suckling Pig

Pretty awesome (and very detailed) guest post over on Ruhlman's blog about roasting a suckling pig. It's all great, but I liked this nugget:
We plowed through about 150 pounds of charcoal over 8 hours for each pig, keeping a couple of chimneys full of fuel the entire day.
Talk about a cooking project! Making cassoulet over the course of a couple of days suddenly doesn't feel so heroic.