Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food (Spring 2012)

Here is the promised second food post!

But of course without pictures to guide me, I now have to rack my brain about what I've actually cooked in the last month or so.

For one thing, I made Carla a cake for her birthday (the six-layer chocolate fudge cake Aunt Carolyn always made for my birthday!). That particular cake is a pretty epic undertaking; the frosting alone is a several hour project. Most of that time is waiting for it to cool, but you do have to boil the cream and sugar in the microwave for ten minutes without it boiling over and ruining everything (I did not succeed at this - although I did the first time I made this  cake last year for Alex's birthday, so, confusing). And the recipe specifically says microwave - but I think that's just because Aunt C is a master of adapting recipes for the microwave so you don't have to stand over the stove for ages. Which I really appreciate, but next time I'll probably just make this icing on the stove, because it is less work than cleaning boiled icing off of every surface of the microwave.

We also had a seder here, for which Alex and Jamie and I (with the gradually accumulating help of many guests) cooked a legit feast! 60 deviled eggs, roasted asparagus, charoses (we thought it was a lot but it disappeared it seconds!), matzo ball soup (courtesy of Hannah), scalloped potatoes, a veritable mountain of salmon cakes (who knew 2 pounds of salmon could make 50 salmon cakes? we've been eating them for two weeks!) with horseradish sauce, 80 macaroons (well, I wanted to use up the coconut! but now we still have a few macaroons sitting in the Madeline lunchbox. probably should have frozen them), fresh mint ice cream (sooooooo good and I never make it because a large enough amount of fresh mint to make the ice cream is prohibitively expensive. I wish I could keep plants, because then I could grow mint and have it all the time!) and cinnamon ice cream (made from steeping cinnamon sticks! of which I got a whole container cheap at Foodtown not too long ago). Everyone had a great time reading from shared haggadas, reclining on our couches (actually the only way we can fit 15 people sitting and eating in our apartment), and feasting!

I also made avocado ice cream a month or so ago. This received very mixed reviews. I myself have mixed feelings about it. I think it would be better with a little less lemon juice - but Jamie thinks it needs more! Carla, Bobby, and Hannah loved it - but everyone else took one bite, made a funny face, and sent it back. It's just a very subjective one, I guess!

But there are so many weird ice creams I want to make! Creme fresh ice cream - egg nog ice cream - goat cheese ice cream - lavender honey ice cream (actually I just bought the ingredients for this yesterday - lavender is available at the Union Square farmers' market!) - olive oil ice cream - parsley ice cream - basil pine nut ice cream - coconut saffron ice cream - earl grey ice cream - polenta ice cream - buttermint ice cream (you can buy concentrated butter flavor!) - black pepper ice cream - ricotta ice cream! Plus of course more regular flavors, like butterscotch pecan, espresso, peanut butter, and rum raisin. Plus I really want to get ahold of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which is a great looking ice cream cookbook that my library doesn't carry. She uses a little cream cheese and a couple other techniques for thickening the ice cream and making it smooth, custardy, and scoopable, instead of making an egg custard base. Not that I've ever had problems with egg bases - whether the eggs are cooked or not (and yes, I'm very careful about salmonella; if I'm using raw eggs, I buy local farmer's market eggs from safely raised chickens, and wash the shells with soap before cracking) - but I'm intrigued to try her technique. She has a recipe for "the darkest chocolate ice cream in the world," which I want to try even though I have been disappointed by every chocolate ice cream recipe ever.

Anyway, enough ice cream (BUT CAN THERE EVER BE ENOUGH?!?!?). I was sick for a week, and then voiceless, and then busy, so I basically hadn't cooked in two weeks (peanut butter sandwiches! whole wheat pasta with cheese! grilled cheese! box mac and cheese! leftover potatoes and salmon cakes! lots of cereal!)... until yesterday! Yesterday Jamie and I went shopping and I got back on my game! We made hazelnut butter (I brought home a bunch of hazelnuts from my visit to Google with Alex's brother's friend Aaron, who works there and was here on a business trip. Google lets you eat all you want AND bring home all you want in a box, and has four cafes and unlimited hazelnuts for snacking! I still think Google is a little creepy, but eating lunch there was a cool experience!), chocolate hazelnut butter (way better than Nutella), maple butter (it turns out that if you heat maple syrup to 233 degrees F, cool it to 40, heat it to 60, take it off the heat, let it sit, then stir vigorously, it turns into maple butter! Chemistry is weird. Also hard, because no one had remembered to make ice in the last week, so we had about 15 star of David ice cubes [smaller than rectangle ice cubes], which made an insufficient ice bath for cooling to almost freezing. We eventually packed the pot with random stuff out of the freezer, then for the last few degrees stuck it itself in the freezer! Next time, I'll have ice.), pulla (Finnish sweet coffee-time bread. Flavored with cardamom. Jamie and Hannah like it ok; I think it's a little weird. Tossed the recipe), and crepes (sweet ones from Jamie's memory of Alf's recipe, not the plain ones from the blintz recipe. Taste pretty much the same, so next time I would make the plain ones because they don't have half a cup of sugar and also I have an easier time getting them out of the pan). I love to cook!

And today... I made cheese! I have only made a little so far, from two cups of milk, but it only took about ten minutes so I will totally make more (this time I'll try stirring in a little cream, maybe, and using lemon or buttermilk instead of vinegar to coagulate, because despite one blogger's taste test determining vinegar to be the least obtrusive,  I can still taste it a little). This is so exciting! I put milk on the stove for five minutes and then a few minutes of curdling and draining later, I have real cheese! I've read mixed things about whether you can make more cheese with the whey (it's possible that it's only possible with rennet-curdled cheese and not acid-curdled cheese, in which case I want to try with rennet, except I don't know where to buy it or what it costs), but everyone seems to agree that the whey can be used for many things and is full of nutrients, so I'll keep it on hand and do a little research this afternoon.

Also this afternoon, I will make the cheese into blintzes! It seems to be about the right consistency - along the lines of ricotta or farmer cheese - so why not? I also want to make these. You know, even when I get through all the recipes I have printed out in binders, photocopied in folders, and copy pasted or typed up in files on my computer, I still have over a hundred recipes bookmarked to try also! THE EXPERIMENT IS NEVERENDING. Which is both intimidating and great.

Anyway, here are the links regarding cheese, if you're curious:

I'll keep you updated on the blintz, lavender-honey ice cream, and hopefully soon halvah situation! (Have I mentioned that I want to try my hand at halvah? Because it is delicious, and I do.) Happy cooking!

I don't remember what this was, but it looks chocolate.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Food (Winter 2012)

This is a post about food. It will probably be extensive, to make up for all the posts I haven't posted about food in the last three months! Here goes. (Let me pull up my folder of pictures for reference.)

Oh jeez, some of these are old (haha, January seems so long ago!).

For one thing, when I was home, I made pecan tassies, because I had been wanting to for ages, but didn't have the right pan, but didn't want the right pan because what do I need with a one-use pan? Anyway, they came out fun:

They are adorable, and would be popular among my friends in New York, but really they're not good enough to be worth the pain in the ass of shaping all those tiny individual pie shells. Next time I will just make pecan pie!

Shortly after I got back, I made peanut butter truffles, aka buckeyes:

Also individual and time consuming, but not as irritatingly tedious as the tassies. A little too sweet (how to get the right consistency in the center using less powdered sugar? maybe processed peanut butter instead of natural? because the natural is so wet and sticky, it really needed the sugar to smooth it out into a good filling) but still totally addictive. These warrant making again and playing with the recipe.

Next I made rumballs! I totally did not love these at all, but every single other person who tried them raved nonstop (even the people who are used to my baking and therefore have acquired some discrimination), so I'm keeping the recipe. They'll be great party favors/thank-you or birthday gifts/spoil-coworkers dessert. And they're attractive!

In a brief digression from baking, I am still making excellent use of the fondue pot. Usually, this involves Faye, Emily, and sometimes others coming over with ingredients, which is a great way to get me to bring this darling out of the cupboard for a new fondue recipe.

Here is the beautiful feta walnut fondue we tried in February:

It was thoroughly enjoyed by all!

The first one I ever made (which was a pretty straightfoward cheddar, I think) is still my favorite, though. I guess at heart I'm a basic-flavors kinda woman!

I also threw a chocolate fondue party a few weeks ago to welcome Faye's friend Katie to town, and it was a smashing success! All 10 or so of us couldn't finish the (double recipe) of chocolate fondue with fruit, pound cake, and (just to try it) avocado. (Avocado in chocolate, it turns out, really just tastes like avocado and chocolate. No blending or complementing - but not terrible.)

I also brought back from California a souffle dish, which allowed me to make the souffle recipe I'd had sitting around for some time!

 How pretty is this prep picture?
I love the stiff egg whites
and the creamy yellow yolks.

Folding away!

I am always afraid that things that are supposed to puff in the oven,

But they always do!

I also made mushroom piroshkes one day when Alex was out rehearsing Rainbow Fish.

The batter for the dough looked so cool before I mixed it!

It was another of those have-to-make-a-bunch-of-individually-put-together-things recipes...

But they came out so beautiful - and so delicious - that it was totally worth it!

I would make them again. They are basically stuffed with mushrooms, cream cheese, and not a whole lot else that I can remember!

Anyway, back to baking! (I can never stay away from dessert for long.) I made these (I think they're firecracker fudge) cookies with peppermint icing a couple months ago. I think next time I would leave off the powdered sugar on the outside, which is a little too sweet. There's something a little funny or that I don't totally love about these cookies in general, but I'm not sure what it is - and I did keep eating them! Also, they're beautiful.

Here also are some pastries I made. They tasted fine. Like pastries. Tossed the recipe.

I also tried a whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe that everybody on the internet swears by. It was pretty interesting - a whole different thing from white flour chocolate chip cookies - with a more complicated taste and a more hearty feel. Jamie loved them, but Alex and I only thought they were ok. I don't remember if I kept the recipe (if I did, it's because Jamie pressured me!).

I also made some kind of layered thing with caramel (homemade - I'll get to that soon!), which I don't remember being any better than any of the other layered things I make, and which I think I tossed the recipe for.

But speaking of caramel (it is soon already!), I have been a little obsessed with ice cream sauces recently. The first time I tried to make caramel, it seized all around my whisk as soon as I poured in the cream. I was flipping out a little - I may have shouted at Alex to help me while also shoving him out of my way - but after some vain reconstruction efforts, I decompressed for ten minutes and then tried again, with much better results. In the two or three days after that, I made many sauces!

Clockwise from top left:
creamy caramel sauce (the one that went wrong the first time);
butterscotch sauce;
salted butter caramel;
classic hot fudge (PERFECT).

They were all delicious. I liked the plain caramel the best; Jamie loved the salted butter caramel; and butterscotch has a permanent place in Alex's heart. I also made a pecan praline sauce (with whiskey) that was delicious, a lean chocolate sauce that was fine but no competitor for the classic hot fudge, and several batches of vanilla ice cream to eat it all with! I still have a bunch of sauce recipes to try, too: dulce de leche; semisweet hot fudge; marshmallow hot fudge; marshmallow sauce; mocha sauce; and white chocolate sauce. Let's get on it!

And here ends the pictures I've taken of food recently, because after the sauces happened, Alex went on tour and I let him take the camera, since he would be doing more interesting things than I would. I do miss it for food pics, though! I'll draw this post to a close, though, since it's so long, and start another post on more recent cooking projects ASAP!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


But now here I am again! Hooray.

Here are the brief updates:

Hannah is subletting from us and she is great! She took Carla and me to see Vintage Trouble, her friend's band, on Tuesday night, and they were totally awesome blues-funk-soul sexiness. They usually play in LA, I think, and if you live in LA or they are ever in your area, you should go see them! They have an album out next week, I believe.

Carla and Alex and I also saw Of Montreal play at Webster Hall last week. It was the second time I'd seen them and they were also totally awesome! Their new album is very dissimilar to their old albums but equally wonderful - less bouncy and whimsical, more trippy - but their show either way has the same blend nutty intensity, attractive androgyny, and performance art.

They had two openers. The second opener, a duo from Sweden (I think) was super boring. But the first opener, a guy named Kishi Bashi, was - wait for it - totally awesome. He plays violin, sings, chants, and beatboxes, and it's all fed into pedals so it can be looped. When he's live, you can watch him build these complex layers of music until it grows beyond anything you expect. We bought his (first!) album after the show!

I love this song.

Hm, what else is up? Poor Alex is sick and has been for a couple days, but (cross fingers) no one else has gotten it, and hopefully he'll be feeling better tomorrow!

Y'all probably mostly know that I'm working at a cool theatre in New Jersey called Porch Light Productions; if you don't, well, now you do!

Faye turned me on to Avatar recently, and I watched all three (COMPLETELY AMAZING) seasons in about three weeks. I highly recommend it to all. Each episode is only about 23 minutes, so it's a quick watch, and the world, politics, and character development are so great. Zuko/Katara forever! I'm also excited that Mad Men is back on, although I haven't watched any of the new episodes yet.

I'm currently reading Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith, which (like most of her books) is in the same world as the Inda quartet, although 400 years later (and another 400 years before A Stranger to Command and Crown Duel). If you aren't reading her, you should! If you want something fun, quick, and classic, start with Crown Duel; if you want total fantasy immersion in a completely original, pro-feminist semi-medieval world and story, go with Inda. They are all worth your time. The only equally exciting book I've read this year is Middlemarch.

And that's all for now, although expect a followup post very soon about exciting things I've been cooking! Plus, we're hosting a seder tomorrow and expecting 12-15 people; it should be really fun, and I'll keep you updated after on how it went :)

P.S. I got a Pinterest account! I haven't done that much with it yet, but what I have done is pretty nerdy and (I happen to think) very fun. Here's the link: And on that note, if you know any fantasy worlds with really cool maps, send them to me, because as you can see, I'm collecting!