Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Perfect Scoop

I recently purchased an ice cream book called The Perfect Scoop (Lebovitz, Hata), a fantastic tome largely containing a large selection, primarily of unusual and unique flavors, such as apricot and pistachio, black pepper, pear and pecorino ... along with some basic staples.  So far, I've made two batches from this book:  a blueberry frozen yogurt and ginger ice cream.

The blueberry frozen yogurt was excellent, great depth of flavor - but more icy and less yogurt-y than I would have expected.  The ginger ice cream was too subtle for my tastes - I would either steep it longer or use more ginger.  Both batches, however, were a bit stingy for my ice cream maker, so I would increase the quantity of my next attempt from this book.

More later ...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scottish Cooking

I didn't take a break between dessert and dinner last night because I had a gig in the evening and wanted to make sure I was finished and had eaten before I needed to leave.  Afterwards, went out with a small group, grabbed dessert, chattered - was tired, but had a lot of fun.

Back to the cooking, I started with the pavlova.  Now, we don't got no caster sugar here in the States (that I know of), so I do what I usually do:  use the Oskar (mini food processor) to process the sugar, but not as far as powdered sugar.  I used my electric whisk to beat the eggs, which made the process much faster but nearly got egg all over the kitchen.  Why does the whisk only have one speed, which is "hyper-acceleration?"  The mysteries of kitchen appliances ...

I folded in the cinnamon and cornflour, then mounded the pavlova on a silpat.  You're supposed to hollow it out - I did the best I could.  Despite following the directions to the letter, however, it "crisped" too much for the hollow to sink when I inverted it, so I will definitely be looking into hints, tips and other pavlova recipes.

I let this sit while I started on the next part ...

Mise en place - chopping, cutting, making sure that I had ingredients at hand.  Again, I could tell I had an Idaho potato because half of Idaho was on it.  The prep for the soup and the cheese tart were totally co-mingled - I had it planned so the tart wouldn't go into the oven until the soup was well underway.  It was perfectly timed - triumph!

The cheese tart really was as easy as advertised:  whizzing up ingredients in the food processor and then dumping them into the partially cooked tart shell.  Probably the worst part was getting the white off the brie.  Amusingly, both recipes required a sprinkle of parsley to finish ... but the parsley isn't really necessary and serves as garnish and color.  So I suppose I could have used my cilantro ...

I did make one fairly major substitute with the soup:  I managed to miss that it wanted coriander seeds (whole), not ground coriander, and I didn't have the former on hand.  So I didn't need to strain the end result, merely blend it.  It was just a bit too much soup for one pass through the blender, so I ended up having to run it in two batches.

Meanwhile!  Whipped up the cream ... spun it all over the kitchen again ... this whisk, why does it not have a slow speed?  Added sugar, raspberries, and plopped gleefully all over the pavlova.  Done.  Bliss.

Final verdict (pavlova):  Despite issues of physical construct, this was wonderful - crisp, light but intense, sweet fruit ... simple but worth it.

Final verdict (soup):  A very good, flavorful soup.  Simple enough I would make again.

Final verdict (cheese tart):  This was advertised as very rich, and it certainly trends to the heavy, but I didn't find it overwhelming, and it has some subtle kick to it.  Quite enjoyable.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Menu Plan: Weekend of 4/14

All of the recipes for this weekend are from Seasonal Cooking by Claire MacDonald of MacDonald.  I went through it while I was feeling under the weather the past few days.  Not even my cookbook, actually, though I purchased it:  it was a gift for my mother that ended up staying here, instead.  Of course, she is welcome to have it back ...

Carrot & Coriander Soup
Mixed Cheese Tart
Cinnamon Pavlova with Raspberries & Cream

Yes, I am going to attempt a pavlova.  Clearly, I am inviting disaster.  Disaster need not RSVP.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Spice Must Flow

How big of a geek does it make me that this was the first title that occurred to me when I decided I needed to reference the spiciness of my meal somehow?

I started with the Smore Pizza.  I used two Pillsbury pizza crusts, which come in the thin tubes - and of course, with both, I was so ginger unraveling it that I had to pop the seam with the spoon.  I am so paranoid about these things blowing up in my hand.  This turned out to be the perfect amount of dough, though it's square rather than round.  If I made this recipe again, I wouldn't attempt to round it off (which I did here) - though it did make a convenient rim to hold all the ingredients on the pizza.

The cornmeal isn't necessary, or at least I didn't use it:  it's just an element to aid getting the pizza on the stone.  There seems to be a tremendous amount of graham in proportion to the melted butter, but when tossed into the pan, it seems to be just right.  Don't let the pan sit on the stove - it starts to burn almost immediately if not stirred through the three minute coking time.

I used a Ghiradelli chocolate bar and expected it to be too bitter, considering there's no other intrinsic sweetness added, but it seemed to be just right.  Broke it up into pieces over each pizza before slotting it into the oven.

The main difficulty with this recipe was getting the cooked pizza off the stone so I could prepare the second one ...

Final verdict (pizza):  This is amazingly good:  sweet, satisfying, and distinctly spicy with the cayenne and chili powder.  My only complaint is the graham topping rips up the roof of your mouth something terrible.  I recommend this as a group / party dish, as it's not quite as good warmed up.

Next, and a couple hours later, I started the mise en place for the two Indian dishes.  This involved a lot of peeling, chopping and boiling potatoes.  Had some trouble with the potatoes:  I boiled them, and they still didn't soften them all way!  Unfortunately, the skins came off when I handled them, and I was afraid they'd just disintegrate if I put them back in water, so I microwaved them for a bit.  Success! ... mostly.

The bean curry required asafoetida, which after it completely stunk up my pantry, I had wrapped in multiple plastic bags, in a plastic bottle, in the freezer.  This meant getting to it was an exercise in itself.  I was sort of terrified of the stuff.  When I was done, it went right back into the freezer.

(As an aside - used green cardamom rather than brown, seeing as I didn't want to spend eight bucks to get more spices to somehow find a place to keep ... and the grammar in that sentence needs to be taken out and shot.)

I did make one mistake in preparing the shepherd's pie:  I missed the line about when to add the spices, and they got in late, so they might not have melded quite as much.  Also, I found that the mixture didn't boil off as much as I had anticipated, and I wished I had used a slightly larger dish (9x9 glass was what I chose).  It ended up somewhat soupy and nearly over the edge.

While the pie baked, I entered the bean curry preparation in earnest.  I used the same pan and burner, which meant the mustard seeds had a blast bouncing all over the place while I frantically introduced the curry leaves.  (Curry leaves, this is mustard seeds.  Mustard seeds, this is curry leaves.  You all have fun now.)  Curry leaves really are interesting little critters.  They have a smoky smell I still haven't figured out how it can originate from an organic plant.

The curry simmers with the coconut milk and then with the beans and tomatoes.  I possibly should have mashed more of the beans to make a thicker curry, but I was quite satisfied with the results, regardless.  I got a bit over-enthusiastic with the tamarind paste, but the tartness is really to my taste.  I wouldn't mind more recipes using it.  Great stuff.

For once, everything went precisely as timed and was ready at exactly the same time.  Perfect planning.

Final verdict (shepherd's pie):  Thick, hearty - maybe a bit too soupy, but definitely worth trying again.  It's spicy enough, though not as deep as I had anticipated ... but I suspect that might have something to do with my introducing the spices a bit too late.

Final verdict (bean curry):  Absolutely addictive - subtly sweet, rich, subtle, the tang of coconut ... I wish I had made twice as much.  I could live on this.  Truly good.  I even enjoyed the tomatoes, and I'm not a tomato person.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Menu Plan: Weekend of 4/7

No gigs this weekend, much less a long evening, so I can cook again!  This week is Indian plus ... hey, I have a pizza stone:

Indian Shepherd's Pie - Anjum's New Indian (Anjum Anand)
Cannellini Bean Curry - Anjum's New Indian (Anjum Anand)
Smore Pizza

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Treat for 3/31

I didn't have time to cook this weekend, but I did make a batch of ice cream which I thoroughly enjoyed and is highly recommended:  

Eyeballing the quantities, I decided to cut it down by a third - making this Six Twos Ice Cream, I suppose.  This turned out to be just a little too much for my ice cream maker, leaving a little splash left over.

The only comment I would have is to mash the bananas very thoroughly:  mine stayed a little chunky, which was exacerbated by the freezing process.  This is not unpleasant, but it does change the consistency of the ice cream.

This is a very good ice cream, nebulously citrus in taste without being overwhelmingly acidic.  The bananas add additional creaminess.