Archive | November, 2010

So I failed…

29 Nov

At making pierogies last week. Sorry guys. I’ll try to get those made this week (or I’ll bake something instead). I guess this project is off to a rockier start than expected.

But to make up for it, I have pictures from my FIRST trip to VEGAS! Yes, that’s how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend! I’ll be posting the pictures later today after I sort through all of them.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

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Day of nomtastic turkey is TOMORROW!

25 Nov

 

flickr/WishUponACupcake

That’s right folks, Thanksgiving is TOMORROW!

While most food blogs devote time to answering time-old questions–such as: What’s the best way to cook a turkey? What are the best sides to serve? What makes for the flakiest crust?—I’m not. (Don’t worry. I’ll include some links to posts that answer these questions and more.) Instead, I thought it would be nice to return the focus to WHY we do this every year.

So why do it every year? Thanksgiving dinner (or lunch for you early birds) is quite a daunting task to take on. For me, the reason is quite simple: it’s worth it because with the Thanksgiving feast come great company—whether it is friends, acquaintances, or family—and that’s what makes everything worth it in the end.

Now, although the reason is simple, it probably isn’t the first that pops to mind. (Don’t worry. It took me four years of celebrating Thanksgiving away from home to realize it.) For most of us the main draw is the food, and only the food. The turkey; the sweet and savory side dishes; the endless assortment of desserts; and of course, the leftovers are probably are the only things on our mind on Thanksgiving. But you have to remember that what make the food spectacular are the people who join you for the feast.

Growing up, we always made it a point to have the full Thanksgiving spread: turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and dare I mention it, my Grandma’s AMAZING turkey soup. But after attending other Thanksgiving dinners, I realized that the food wasn’t as great as I thought it was. Comparatively, my Grandma’s turkey was a bit on the dry side; the gravy was, for lack of better words, different; and even our mashed potatoes (which I thought were THE BESTEST MASHED POTATOES EVER) definitely fell short. But despite all this, I still, without fail, sit at my desk in Los Angeles wishing that I was back at home in Hawaii eating the feast my Grandma had fastidiously prepared.

Why?

It’s because Thanksgiving dinner represents a special time for our family. Typical family dinners always have their hiccups that leave a sour note to perpetuate through the evening, but Thanksgiving is the one day when we’re immune from this. It’s also one of the few times when I can spend quality time with my Grandma in the kitchen—a rare, but greatly satisfying treat.

I’m not sure how it is for other people, but I can only imagine that upon further thought, everyone reaches a similar conclusion. Because regardless of what festivities you partake in, you will always remember the day for the memories you made with those that are special to you.

But for those of you who are still holding your breath in fear of how tomorrow will unfold, here are some links to helpful tips to make your Thanksgiving feast. Just remember to keep in mind the other, more important reason, for celebrating Thanksgiving—it’ll do more to calm your nerves than that carefully picked glass of wine.

For all the basics

Just in case you didn’t like the first link…

In case you lost that stuffing recipe…

For those who still need that glass of wine

I don’t blog surf enough

23 Nov

flickr/stu_spivack

I realized today that I really don’t blog surf as much as I used to. When I started following food blogs I would visit about 20-40 sites daily–a bit extreme, I know, but it brought a lot of joy (and much needed) inspiration into my life. Now, with undergrad drawing to a close I’ve realized that now I only visit about 5 sites every few day– if I’m lucky.

I think it’s about time I start up the old routine again: blog surf one day, cook the next day. Yes, believe it or not, that’s how it used to be. I would cook new dishes I found online almost every other day. It didn’t really help me deal with my ring of love (think love handles but more…like a donut), but it definitely kept me sane.

So here we go. First up on the list: pierogies.

Last month, Momofukufor2 featured a post on these delicious European dumplings (check it out here) and now I can’t stop thinking about pierogies.

The first time I encountered these European dumplings was two years ago. It was love at first bite. My pierogies contained a cheese, potato, and bacon filling and were pan-fried in browned butter, (more) bacon, and green onions. Delicious, right? But I’m definitely interested in trying out Momofukufor2’s version that uses a green onion oil and mashed potato mixture for the filling. If I have time to, maybe I’ll also try putting some shredded rafute in the mix as well for a bit of Okinawan fusion.

But first I need to go grocery shopping (something I haven’t done for the last two weeks). So the picture commentary on the results will have to wait until later. Check back in about two days–they should be up by then! But if you have some time to make those pierogies NOW, don’t let me stop you. Here, you can even have the recipe:

Pierogi Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine April 2004 as found on epicurious.com

yield: 48-50 pierogi

For dough
3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1 cup water
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt

For potato filling
1 1/2 pound russet potatoes
6 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar or 4 tablespoons green onion oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter

Make dough:
Put flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in centre. Add water, egg, oil, and salt to well and carefully beat together with a fork without incorporating flour. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (dough will be very soft). Invert a bowl over dough and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Make filling while dough stands:
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes, then equally divide in two bowls. In one bowl add the cheese, salt, and pepper, in the other bowl, add the green onion oil. Mash the potatoes until smooth and mix thoroughly.
When mashed potatoes are cool enough to handle, use a small cookie scoop to scoop out the filling. Cover and keep the filling in the fridge until you are ready to fill your pierogi.

Form and cook pierogi:
Halve dough and roll out 1 half (keep remaining half under inverted bowl) on lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round (1/8 inch thick), then cut out 24 rounds with lightly floured cutter. Holding 1 round in palm of your hand, put 1 potato ball in centre of round and close your hand to fold round in half, enclosing filling. Pinch edges together to seal completely.

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pierogi, stirring once or twice to keep them from sticking together, and cook 5 minutes from time pierogi float to surface. Drain and pan fry in butter or oil over medium heat until crisp.

 

 

For the scrap hoarders out there…

22 Nov

Photograph: Cakespy

No, not scrap as in trash. But scrap as in those delicious leftover bits of food you find yourself mindlessly nomming on throughout the day.

One of the biggest predicaments I face after carefully laying a made-from-scratch pie crust into a pie tin and trimming the excess is: what to do with the leftover crust? For those of you who have ever attempted to make a pie crust, you understand just how serious of a situation this is. After carefully cutting the butter (or whatever fat you choose to use) into the dry mixture to make a flaky ball of dough the last thing you want to do is toss the bits that just don’t make it into the final product. (And for those of you who have never tried, try it. You’ll understand after the first attempt–guaranteed.)

Jessie Oleson over at Cakespy has a solution–a simple solution that will leave you feeling like an idiot for not thinking of it before. Make pie fries. Not only is the name catchy, the idea will leave you salivating.

Just brush with some butter, sprinkle with some sugar and cinnamon, bake until crisp, and WAH-LAH you have pie fries!

Oleson cutes it up by adding cute packaging:

Photograph: Cakespy

For the scrapbook-baker fanatic out there, this is heaven. For those who want to take it one step further I would suggest using cookie cutters to cut out some cute shapes in addition to the fries. (If I have time I’ll try it out and post it here!)

What I especially love about this idea is its versatility. You can flavor it any way you please and pair it with a variety of dipping sauces. Did I mention it makes for a super cute (and easy) holiday gift?

Here’s the link to the post on seriouseats.com. I’ve also included the recipe down below for your convenience:

Pie Fries (courtesy of Cakespy)

Serves 2 to 3 – active time 5 minutes – total time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Pie dough scraps from cutting a 10-inch pie

Melted butter, to taste

Granulated sugar

Cinnamon

Nutmeg or other spices of your choice

Jam or preserves, for dipping

Procedures

1. Collect your pie dough scraps. They may already be in slivers; if not, put them together into one clump, and roll out. It’s OK if the dough looks slightly lumpy when rolled out.

2. Slice the dough into “fries”, approximately the size of fast food restaurant-style fries.

3. Place the cut “fries” on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Brush with as little or as much butter as you’d like using a pastry brush.

5. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, and any other spices you’d like (I used nutmeg).

6. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 10 minutes, or until crispy around the edges.

 

 

Which pumpkin-spice latte should I choose?

21 Nov

Just in case you were wondering:

Whole Foods

Whole Foods’ version was a little modest on the coffee flavor and lacked anything remotely pumpkiny, but was very nutmeg-forward and had a sweet, caramel-like coating on the tongue. The aftertaste was superlong and somewhat cloying, but the flavor overall was really aided by the nutmeg. A little more cinnamon would probably balance out the cup pretty nicely, though the drink overall was pretty enjoyable and very autumnal.

In the meantime, am I the only person who always forgets that most Whole Foods have a cafe in the bulk-coffee section? All this time I could be warming my paws on an Americano while perusing the frozen vegetables. Sigh.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Surprisingly, Dunkin’ Donuts’ offering had a much more recognizably “coffee” taste to it, though whatever else in there that’s supposedly making it a pumpkin-flavored drink is hard to discern. Sweet like butterscotch, it has more of a vanilla or hazelnut sort of warmth to it, and almost no detectable spice at all—it almost tastes like the kind of push-button “French vanilla cappuccino” I grew up on haunting the aisles of Wawa as a New Jersey teenager.

Starbucks

“It’s seriously awesome,” the barista at Starbucks assured me. “It’s totally the thing that turned me on to espresso.” Well, that’s really nice and everything, but it’s hard to see how that’s possible, as the Green Mermaid’s pumpkin-spice latte has the least coffee flavor of any coffee drink I’ve ever had in my entire life. (Including the Wawa special mentioned above.)

know there’s espresso in there, because I saw our man put it in the cup. But underneath a cap of (actually pretty decently textured and generously “spiced” from a handy shaker from the baristas’ arsenal) white foam, there lurked an orange (yes, actually orange) drink that tasted almost exactly like taking a sip of Libby’s canned pumpkin mixed with sweetened-condensed milk and not much else. Basically it’s a drinkable version of not-yet-cooked pumpkin pie filling.

So who won this battle? Find out here.

Spiked coffee on the mind

21 Nov

Yes, here we go again. Spiked coffee. Found this article today and got really excited when I saw that it included a recipe for a non-creamy coffee-liquor concoction at the end. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to try it out once I’m feeling better (I’m almost over my cold but now I have no voice).

For your convenience I’ve included the recipe down below:

  • 2 ounces Demerara rum: Lemon Hart and El Dorado 12 are good choices
  • 4 whole cloves (or 1/4 tsp. ground cloves)
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh-brewed coffee, to taste
  • 1/4 ounce allspice liqueur (or 1/4 tsp. ground allspice)
  • 2 teaspoon honey or brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 ounce Jamaican rum: Appleton Estate Extra is a good choice
  • long strip of orange zest, for garnish
  1. In a tall, heatproof glass or mug, dissolve the sugar or honey in a little hot coffee, then add the remaining ingredients. Stir with the cinnamon stick; garnish.

(recipe courtesy of Paul Clarke at Seriouseats.com)

Food on the World Heritage List

20 Nov

flickr/sophiecarnay

For a historical first, UNESCO added cuisine to its World Heritage List. French gastronomy is one of two cuisines to be added for its social and cultural significance:

“The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments.

“The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes… the pairing of food with wine, the setting of a beautiful table.”

The other cuisine added to the list is the traditional Mexican meal:

“Traditional Mexican cuisine is a comprehensive cultural model comprising farming, ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques and ancestral community customs and manners. It is made possible by collective participation in the entire traditional food chain: from planting and harvesting to cooking and eating.”

To a foodie, this is exciting news. With protection from UNESCO, we can (hopefully) ensure that food traditions will continue to exist even if our culinary eye is focused on reinvention and reinterpretation.

But this may create problems for the future.

The addition of these two cuisines to the World Heritage list creates a precedence for other countries to do the same. If every other cuisine with social, cultural, and historical significance get added to the list the value of this recognition will diminish. What then? We’ll just have to wait and see.