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.


  1. "Halvah Situation" would make an excellent band name. :)

  2. That is exactly how many people make cheese for blintzes. I've heard of using buttermilk, not vinegar or lemon juice. Make halvah and espresso ice cream when I'm there!