022: Citrus

You may be asking, “hey, where did Persimmon go?” If you actually asked that, thank you for following this blog! The answer, though, is that I waited too long to write the post and so lost most of the details. I might do a quick post with my vague impressions of the dishes, and show you how they turned out.
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Right now, it’s citrus time!
From the back left: Mandarin, Red navel orange (Cara cara), Juice orange, Ruby grapefruit, Lime, Buddha’s hand, Another, larger lime.
Pretty pedestrian, aside from the Buddha’s hand. Buddha’s hand is a crazy citron. It’s almost entirely rind, and that’s the part you eat. It has a very quiet flavor. It tastes like what it is, but when the volume is turned down enough, that’s a really nice flavor!
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Menu (Serves 3)
Grapefruit-Glazed Chicken Wings with Orange Juice Mashed Potatoes
Spicy Coconut Mandarin Soup with Wood Ear Mushrooms
Lemon and Black Pepper Risotto
Cara Cara, Buddha’s hand, and Arugula Salad in Lime Vinaigrette
Orange Custard with Crushed Cookie Base

Grapefruit-Glazed Chicken Wings with Orange Juice Mashed Potatoes
-3 whole chicken wings
-1 ruby grapefruit
-2T honey
-1/2t salt
-1/4t pepper
-flour
-1.5lb russet potatoes
-2T butter
-1c diced onion
-1/4c sour cream
-1/3c orange juice
-white pepper
-salt

Zest the grapefruit. Cut it into quarters, and juice three of them into a bowl or measuring cup. Add the honey, some salt and pepper, and whisk it up.
Separate the wings into the pieces you would have them in when you go to a wings place. The little tiny drumstick and the weird bar thing. Cut off the pointy bit. Pat them dry. Put a bit of flour in a bowl with some salt and pepper, and roll the chicken in it. Make sure they’re all powdery and dry.
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Start some oil heating in a pan. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove it to a bowl as it cooks; I did two batches cause I had a small pan. When the chicken is done, pour the oil out of the pan into some safe container, wipe it out a little, and refresh with a little more oil. Put all the chicken into the pan, and pour in about half the grapefruit glaze. I also added a little cornstarch slurry to be safe. Toss the pan to coat the chicken. The liquid will start cooking down. You can see in the second photo that the glaze has kind of cooked on and made the chicken shiny. When the liquid’s reduced, add the rest of the glaze and repeat the process. Remove the chicken when the liquid has become a thick sauce.
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Zest a couple oranges and juice them to get the 1/3 cup. Skin the potatoes and cut them up. Boil them in some water until a fork pierces easily. While they boil, saute the onions in some butter until they’re soft. When the potatoes are ready, drain them, and mash. Add sour cream, enough juice that the potatoes still hold together. Stir in the onions, zest, and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve two pieces of chicken with a scoop of potatoes, and some of the grapefruit sauce.
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BLAM

Spicy Coconut Mandarin Soup with Wood Ear Mushrooms

-1 can coconut milk
-1c chicken stock
-1/2c mandarin juice
-mandarin zest
-1T fish sauce
-1t chili bean sauce
-2 thai peppers
-1/2c wood ear mushrooms
-1/2c basil

Zest two or three of your mandarins, and run them through a juicer. They’ve really got a lot of juice in them! I was surprised 3 was enough. Cut and seed the peppers, and mince them. Chop up the mushrooms.
Open up the coconut milk, and pour it in a pot with the stock, juice and zest, fish sauce, chili sauce, and peppers. Heat the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When the soup is done and ready to serve, chop up some basil and garnish the soup.

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Lemon and Black Pepper Risotto

-6c chicken stock
-2c arborio rice
-1c grated parmesan
-1/4c chopped onion
-1/4c white wine
-3.5T butter
-2T lemon juice
-4t lemon zest
-2T parsley
-1.5T olive oil
-salt and pepper

Zest and juice the lemons, grate a huge amount of parmesan, and chop up some parsley.
Melt about half the butter in a large pan, and saute the onion in it with a bit of salt. When they’re soft, add the rice, and stir it while it goes a little white. Pour in the wine, stirring it in until it evaporates. Add 1.5c of stock, stir constantly while the rice absorbs it. When the liquid evaporates to leave the rice porridgey, add another half cup or so of liquid. Keep this up until the stock is gone and the risotto is still kind of puddly. Add the cheese, lemon juice and zest, a TON of black pepper, the rest of the butter, and the parsley. Cook it to risotto consistency.
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Cara Cara, Buddha’s Hand, and Arugula Salad in Lime Vinaigrette

-3 cara cara oranges
-Buddha’s hand
-1/4c dried cranberries
-1/4c chopped walnuts
-how do you decide on the amount of greens in a salad (some arugula)
-1/4c lime juice
-2T honey
-1t dijon mustard
-1/4c olive oil

Zest the limes, and juice them. Three should be enough.
Halve the Buddha’s hand, and slice it as thinly as possible. The oranges I got were very pithy, so I cut the skin off with a knife. Pull them into sections. Chop up the walnuts. Pour all that stuff in a salad bowl with the cranberries.
Whisk together the lime juice, honey, mustard, and oil. Dress the salad.

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Orange Custard with Crushed Cookie Base

-2T butter
-2/3c sugar
-2 eggs
-2T flour
-1/4c orange juice
-1.5t orange zest
-1t lemon juice
-1/4t salt
-1c milk
-lime zest
-3/4c crushed cookies
-1/6c sugar
-3T butter

Preheat the oven to 375. Put a bunch of cookies in a ziploc and crush them up with a mallet or something. Melt the 3T butter in the microwave, and mix it with the crumbs and 1/6c sugar. This isn’t a big recipe, and I only squeezed four crusts out of it. I spread the crust into the bottom of four ramekins. When the oven is up to heat, put the ramekins into the oven and bake for about seven minutes. Pull them out when they’ve hardened.
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Soften the butter, then use an electric mixer to beat it together with the sugar. Break up and whisk the eggs, then add them to the bowl along with the flour and salt. Beat for 2 minutes until it thickens. Add the juices and zest, then the milk.
Pour the custard into the baked ramekins. Once again I ended up with a very small recipe, and couldn’t even fill the four dishes.
Dial the oven down to 325. Put the ramekins into a metal baking pan with an inch of water. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. When the custards are finished and a little cooled off, top them with a pinch of lime zest, cover them in plastic, and put them in the fridge to chill.

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Report

Awesome! Only one big problem in the whole menu. Everything else was great. Super great. I had been looking forward to this menu for a while, and I’m really pleased with how it came out. P1070435 Standard e-mail view
Chicken and Mash: My idea for this was to make an appetizer out of a main course. The honey-grapefruit glaze is this magic trick I learned from a fried rice recipe. It’s really excellent. Use honey! I’ve actually only used this on honey-soy and honey-grapefruit glazes, but it seems like this would work with most types of sauce. The caramelization turns the glaze all crispy and sticky and makes it feel like it came out of a restaurant or something. The flavor was EXCELLENT. Slightly bitter, but sweet from the honey and with a nice tartness. It was really unique, and tasted great.
The potatoes were good as well. Very subtle orange flavor, pretty nice texture. I didn’t mash them as smoothly as I wish I had, and they were colder than I wanted when I ended up serving them. I wasn’t sure how to reheat them. However, these were nice, and they went well with the chicken. I also love the presentation. One of the best dishes I’ve done for the blog, definitely.
Soup: I adored this soup. It has a strange (not bad strange) smell to it that I couldn’t quite place, but kept making me think of cheese for some reason. It tasted like mandarin! The mushrooms added a really strange (again, good strange) texture to it; I really enjoyed the feel of the soup in my mouth. The chilis, with a scoop of chili bean sauce, gave the soup a powerful spice level, but one that was completely manageable and was just very pleasant overall. This is a small recipe. There was barely enough for three servings. The juice and paste gave it a neat color, and the mushrooms look really crazy in there.
Risotto: Good. I’m not crazy about it, because I’m starting to think of risotto as kind of lazy and boring. It was good though, communicated its flavors well, particularly the tartness of the lemon, and was nice and rich despite the acid. I used four cups of chicken stock and about two of turkey stock we had in the fridge.
Salad: I like the salad a lot. Buddha’s hand is really interesting. It puts a nice texture into a salad, and a hint of citrus. The cara caras were excellent. Also called “red navels,” these were REALLY red. Most I’ve seen are red-orange or pinkish, but these were red, despite the photo of the salad making it look otherwise. Walnuts and dried cranberries can go in any salad, in my opinion. They add meat and little patches of sweetness. They do tend to gather at the bottom of the bowl, though. The dressing was good. Originally, I wanted to put skinned lime segments in the salad, but I tasted them and they were not an okay thing to put in salad. There were sweet limes at the grocery, but I didn’t know anything about them so I didn’t get any.
Custard: This is the dish that I was most dissatisfied with. It tasted really good, is the good thing. On the downsides, it got extremely thick and heavy. The crust was kind of just a layer at the bottom that you had to scrape off. This also tasted good, but that’s lame. What I wanted in the first place, before using this recipe, was just an orange pudding, but almost everything involved either jell-o packets or baking the pudding into something like this. So, this was nice, but really not what I wanted and I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it’s supposed to come out.

Overall, this menu was great. I’m really happy with it. Everything looked great, everything tasted great, the ingredient was expressed well. My main complaint (to myself) is that every course involved oranges or orange-y fruits. I think a lime mousse might have been a better choice for the dessert. Knock out an orange dish, and feel better about lime kind of getting short shrift. But, it all came out good anyway. Good job, me!

Next Week: Winter Squash

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November is National Novel Writing Month

And it’s got me really preoccupied. 1667 words a day really leaves me in no mood to write up posts for this blog, so until December, Butternut is on hiatus. Just in case anyone was getting real anxious or something!
Persimmon went pretty well; I’m excited to show you but not excited enough to spend creative juices I could be using on my dumb spy novel!

021: Cauliflower

Cauliflower’s scientific name is Brassica oleracea, the same as cabbage, brussels sprouts (little baby cabbage), kale, sprouts, and of course broccoli. They’re all different cultivars in the same species! Whilst learning about cauliflower, brassica, and mustard, I kind of freaked out realizing how obviously these plants are all related and how I never think about the biology of it. Cauliflower is a cultivar of the plant that’s been bred for a huge packed flower (Wikipedia says “inflorescence meristem” which is close enough to “flower” for me). Like broccoli, and most of the plants within the species, actually, it’s one of the vegetables that prototypical kids won’t touch, and it’s not super hard to see why. It looks like a broccoli’s ghost and has a very healthy, vegetable-y taste, even moreso than broccoli.  So it’s like twice as scary as broccoli and tastes even worse.
I like it, though! When it’s done right, it has a nice tenderness and a delicate flavor. I’ve also only had it in a couple different dishes, so I was excited to try to squeeze a menu out of it. It’s also a model example for fractals in nature, which is especially seen in Romanesco, a spiraled variant. And on top of all that, the plant is cultivated in several vibrant and gorgeous colors! I got one each of white, orange, green, and purple for this meal.

Menu (serves 3)
Marinated Cauliflower Salad
Twin Cauliflower Soups
Cauliflower Steak with Dubliner Cauliflower Mac and Mushroom Ragout

Marinated Cauliflower Salad
-4c cauliflower (white and orange)
-handful of fresh basil
-1 small bell pepper
-1/4c lemon juice
-1/4c olive oil
-1T mustard
-2 cloves garlic
-1/2t salt
-dash cayenne
-red wine vinegar

Cut the orange cauliflower in half, and cut an inch-thick slice from one half. Set aside.

Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, half white, half orange. Zest the lemons before you squeeze them for juice. Put the zest aside. Mince the garlic. Mix the juice, oil, mustard, garlic, salt, and cayenne til it emulsifies. Use the red wine vinegar to balance out flavors. I found it a little bland at first, but the vinegar fixed it. Pour the marinade over the cauliflower in a bowl. Cover and put it in the fridge for 4-6 hours.
An hour before you serve, dice the bell pepper and chiffonade the basil and toss with the cauliflower.

Twin Cauliflower Soups [Purple Cauliflower Soup and Curried Green Cauliflower Soup]
-1 purple cauliflower
-1 green cauliflower
-1 onion
-2 shallots
-2 cloves garlic
-2t curry powder
-2t cumin
-2t fresh ginger
-1qt chicken stock

Repeat the halve-then-slice process with the purple and green cauliflower. Set the slices aside.

Chop the rest of each cauliflower up into small pieces. Mince the garlic, ginger, and shallots; keep them in separate bowls or areas. Dice the onion.
Put two heavy pots on medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil in each. Saute half the onion with some salt in each one, then add half the garlic to each, and the ginger and shallots to the green soup pot. Add the cauliflower to their respective pots. Again, green goes with the ginger and shallots. Season the green cauliflower with the cumin and curry powder. You may also want to add turmeric; both for the flavor and a more intense yellow if the soup turns out a little brownish.
Pour 2c of the chicken stock into each pot, then 1-2c of water to fill it out. I only had one container of chicken stock; you could use all stock if you want. Lower the heat on both pots to low, and simmer for half an hour or so.

When the cauliflower is soft, pour each soup into the blender and puree. Strain it through a seive to make sure it’s smooth. Rinse the blender between batches to avoid tainting the colors of the soups. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder.
When you’re ready to serve, fold a piece of paper so that it fits into the bottom of the bowl and makes a dividing wall. Pour purple soup in one side and green on the other. When the levels are right, gently pull the paper out. Drizzle with olive oil to garnish.

Cauliflower Steak with Dubliner Cauliflower Mac and Mushroom Ragout
-Remaining white and orange cauliflower
-1/2lb fontina cheese
-1/4lb dubliner cheese
-parmesan cheese
-1/2c milk
-3T panko breadcrumbs
-6oz Guinness
-2T butter
-2T flour
-salt

-3 caulifower slices
-2 shallots
-parsley
-1/2lb mushrooms
-ancho chili powder
-cayenne
-salt
-pepper
-lemon zest
-white wine
-1/2T tomato paste

Take the three cauliflower slices from before, and dust them with ancho, cayenne, salt, pepper, and other spices for a dry rub. Put them in a ziploc together and let them sit for a while.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Start a pot of salted water boiling. Chop up the white and orange cauliflower into small chunks, keeping them separate by color. Simmer them until tender. Remove the first batch to a 9×9 baking pan, spreading it into an (un)even layer. Save the other batch in a bowl.

Grate the fontina and dubliner. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. When it’s melted, pour the flour in and mix them into a roux. Add some milk and beer, and stir until it thickens. Add about half the cheese. Keep stirring, pour the rest of the liquids in and let it thicken. When it’s looking nice and thick, pour about half of it over the cauliflower in the baking dish. Try to be even about it, cause it’s pretty hard to fix. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese on top. Pour the other cauliflower on top, then the rest of the cheese sauce and cheese. Grate a bunch of parmesan on top, cover with panko, then put it in the oven for 35 minutes until browned.

Adjust the oven temperature up to 375.
Slice the mushrooms up. Mince the shallot, parsley, and garlic. Heat some butter in a pan, and saute the shallot mixture. When the shallots are starting to soften, add the mushrooms and lemon zest and cook until the mushrooms are softened. Add the tomato paste. Splash in some white wine. Cook until the mushrooms are done. Set the pan aside.

Heat oil in a large pan on high. Sear the outsides of the cauliflower steaks. If there’s not enough room in the pan for all three steaks, just set them aside when their color is right. When they’re all seared, put them on a metal baking tray and into the oven. After 15 minutes, check doneness with a fork. If it goes in with little effort, they’re ready.
To serve, place a steak near the top of the plate. Spoon out some of the mac on the bottom of the plate. Pour a third of the mushroom ragout (heated up if necessary) over the steak and mac.

Report

Mixed results. The main problem I have with this menu is that only one dish really went anywhere special with the ingredient. Everything else was essentially a traditional preparation.

Salad: I enjoyed the salad. I was also the only one who didn’t finish my serving. The texture of raw cauliflower really turns me off. It was okay, here. The flavor was decent, but kind of boring. My parents said it needed something sweet. I think that adding the vinegar was appropriate, but I got comments that the salad was too acidic. I could have used apples or something in this. Very basic, pretty boring, taste was passable but nothing special.

Soups: One soup was great, the other soup was knocked way down for a thin texture. The purple soup was nice and thick, with a hearty flavor. Really nice. The curry soup was way too thin. I’m not sure what happened, since the soups were essentially the same. The recipe I used called for potatoes, which would definitely have helped. I had leftover roast potatoes in the fridge, which I would have used had I known about them. I like the presentation, and the soups generally stayed on their own sides. I stirred them together near the end, which was a mistake. It just made the purple soup all watery.
The green soup tasted pretty good, but the consistency really ruined it.

Mac: I tried too  many new things, here. I’d never made mac n cheese with beer before, I’d never made it with a mornay, and I’d never made it with cauliflower. This dish tasted pretty good, but didn’t turn out at all how I wanted. It was basically a big dish of cauliflower with cheese sauce, which is a pretty common serving. Usually, I make macaroni and cheese with bechamel and grated cheese. This yields a really stringy, gooey casserole, which is what I wanted out of this dish. So, I’m not sure why I didn’t just use that process.
The cauliflower was pretty soft, and overly watery because of the boiling. Roasting would have kept it much drier. I’m convinced the sauce was the key to this failure, but drier cauliflower wouldn’t have hurt. I should have just done it the way I usually do.

Steak: The steak was surprisingly good for how simple it was. The spices added a lot. I baked them for a bit longer than I should have, so they came out a little soft. I also burned them a bit in the pan, so they don’t look so good. It didn’t affect the flavor, though. The mushroom thing was fine. It was just good mushroom stuff.

Dessert: First menu with no dessert. Not proud of that. I found some cauliflower desserts, but for the most part they were all just baked goods like brownies and stuff, with cauliflower replacing some portion of the flour. I found this cauliflower cheesecake thing but it looked pretty lame so I didn’t even want to try it. I considered doing a plum or persimmon dessert, but I still hadn’t really thought of anything by the time we were buying groceries so it didn’t happen.

So, in the end, only one dish (green soup) was actually bad. Everything else was fine, generally tasted good, etc. The cauliflower was inescapable, though. I fell into the same trap I have several times before, where I focused in too hard on the ingredient and it got way too much of the food’s attention. Everything I ate, aside from the soup, was obviously cauliflower, and not in the good way, where I pass the Iron Chef test and all the food represents the ingredient well. Most of the meal was like eating plain cauliflower, dressed up a bit. And that’s basically what it was. Not cool. Also everything looked pretty lame, aside from the soup, which I liked a lot.

Next Time: Persimmon

020: Pumpkin

Pumpkins aren’t really for eating. Like pretty much the only time you’ll eat pumpkin is in a pie. And that’s too bad! It’s really a good vegetable. While I was looking up how to choose a good pumpkin, it listed like every other winter squash as well? So maybe “pumpkin” is just a blanket term for winter squash or something, in which case I guess we eat pumpkin a lot more than I thought.
Semantics aside, orange Halloween-y pumpkins aren’t really for eating. They also have a weird size perception thing going on, where you’ll pick one up and it’ll be pretty heavy (in fact, the way you pick one is, as with basically any melon-like fruit, to get one that feels heavy for its size) but you’ll still have the feeling that it’s not big enough. I bought three sugar pie pumpkins, and only used one and a half.

Menu (serves 3)
Hogwarts Pumpkin Juice
Kaddo Bourani
Pear and Pumpkin Slaw
Pumpkin Risotto
Hoshaf ‘ar’ ‘asali (Egyptian Pumpkin Pudding)

The juice and pudding both use cooked, pureed pumpkin, so I set about 4 cups of diced pumpkin to simmer in a pot on low with a cup or so of apple juice. Let it go until the pumpkin is mushy.

Hogwarts Pumpkin Juice
-2c soft simmered pumpkin
-2c apple juice
-1/2c pineapple juice (I didn’t have this)
-1t honey
-cloves
-cinnamon

Basically just put all the ingredients in a blender, blend, adjust the flavors. Pour the puree into a strainer over a big pitcher or measuring cup. Use a wooden spoon to press it all through. It’ll be way too thick, but this will get the texture smoother. Pour it back through the strainer into the blender cup. Just let it strain; don’t push the puree at all. I ended up with about 3 cups of liquid. Return the juice to the pitcher or whatever, and put it in the fridge to cool. Put the “solids” in the blender.

Kaddo Bourani
-1/2 pumpkin (about 1.5lb)
-1/2c sugar
-1c yogurt
-2 cloves garlic
-1T fresh mint
-1/2lb ground lamb
-2T tomato sauce
-1/4c cream
-salt

Preheat the oven to 300. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, at least three. Skin the wedges with a vegetable peeler. Put the pumpkin into a glass baking dish, and drizzle with oil. Use your hands to get the pumpkin coated. Starting with the half cup of sugar, heavily dust the pumpkin. Get an amount of sugar on the pumpkin that seems like too much. Use more sugar if necessary.
Put the dish into the oven for two and a half hours. Baste the pumpkin with any juices that accumulate, then put it back in for another 45 minutes. Remove. You can warm it up later if necessary by heating the oven to 200 and putting it in for 10 minutes or so.

Put the yogurt, garlic, and mint in a food processor. Grind it together, and adjust the ratios and salt.
Heat some oil in a pan. Cook the lamb and break it up into little pieces. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cream and tomato sauce, and stir it together into a thick creamy sauce.
Serve each pumpkin wedge with a few spoonfuls of yogurt sauce, and some of the lamb sauce.

Pear and Pumpkin Slaw
-1/4 pumpkin
-1 large pear or 2 small pears
-juice of 1 lemon
-1/2t red wine vinegar
-1t dijon mustard
-salt
-pepper
-olive oil
-fresh mint

You’re going to be grating the pumpkin, so cut it into manageable chunks and skin it with the vegetable peeler. Grate it on a cheese grater. Alternately, just cut the pumpkin into very thin sticks. I used a mix of cut and grated. Cut the pear into thin sticks. Chiffonade the mint. Toss the pumpkin and pear together with the lemon juice, mint, vinegar, mustard. Add enough olive oil to make the salad smooth; really not a large amount. Just a little drizzle. Season with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Risotto
-1.5c arborio rice
-1/4 pumpkin
-4c chicken stock
-1 onion
-4 cloves garlic
-6-8 button or crimini mushrooms
-1t curry powder
-1/2t rosemary
-1c grated parmesan
-3T butter
-cream
-salt
-pepper

Heat the oven to 300 again. Skin the pumpkin, and cut it to a small dice. Toss it with some oil, then put it in the oven for half an hour, until the pumpkin is softened. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, dice the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a heavy pot, or a large heavy pan, over medium heat. When it’s melted, saute the onion and garlic with the rosemary, and some salt and pepper. When the onion is starting to brown, add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have a nice sear. Add the pumpkin. Add the rice. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn’t burn. You’re just toasting it.
Add about a cup of stock. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir the risotto frequently. It doesn’t have to be constant, but definitely make sure it’s not sticking to the pan.

Add the curry powder. Keep stirring, and adding stock as it’s absorbed. This stir-and-replenish process should take about half an hour. If the risotto doesn’t look creamy and delicious by the time the stock is gone, add some more! You can also add a bit of cream to get it even creamier. Just a little splash. When the risotto is just about done, add the cheese. Fold it into the risotto. And you’re done!

Hoshaf ‘ar’ ‘asali
-2 cups soft simmered pumpkin
-cinnamon
-1/2c sugar

This is super simple. Blend together the pumpkin, the pumpkin solids from the juice, the sugar, and the cinnamon. Taste test to adjust the sugar and spices. I don’t remember how much sugar I used, so just do some testing. The end!

Report

I was very excited for this menu, mainly for the bourani. I’d made it about three times before, and even though I only got it right once, it was incredibly good the first time. I was confident I’d get it right again this time. Here we go–

Pumpkin Juice: This was okay. It was definitely hurting for the pineapple juice. It also definitely tasted like its components. Apple juice with pumpkin puree, cloves and cinnamon. Which was good! It tastes nice. And it’s worth making if you want an interesting drink. A major problem I had with it was that the pumpkin kind of settled at the bottom over time. It wasn’t a visual distraction, but it was kind of unpleasant to finish a glass. I enjoyed it. I want to fix the sediment problem. I don’t know how the kitchen elves dealt with it. Probably magic!

Bourani: Dang it! I used way too much garlic again. Literally the only problem, but completely fatal. The yogurt sauce even tasted good, but like the beet-garlic salad, the garlic’s chemical properties overpowered everything. Underneath all that, the dish was SO GOOD. I am pretty bummed over here. The pumpkin had a great texture, kind of tough on the outside but creamy and custardy on the inside. The yogurt sauce, if it didn’t burn one’s mouth, would be nice and fresh, with a pleasant saltiness. This yogurt sauce is great when you do it right. It tastes like it’s INCREDIBLY BAD FOR YOU, but it’s basically just savory yogurt! So you can eat huge heaping spoonfuls of it if you really want. The meat sauce is something I’d never done for this dish, and that came out well, too. Make this dish exactly how I wrote, and keep an eye on the garlic, and you’ll totally love it.

Slaw: Pretty nice. Crunchy, tart and fresh. Raw pumpkin has kind of a weird flavor that I wouldn’t want to eat, but in this salad, the mouth-drying weirdness of pumpkin disappears. It’s good, but a little too light. It really is a slaw. A good slaw, though! It’d be good with a sandwich or something, or maybe INSIDE a sandwich. I originally meant to serve it with the risotto, but realized how stupid it would look. It doesn’t stand on its own. A suggestion was gorgonzola cheese, which I think would be good.  It needed more “meat” to it.

Risotto: OOOH. OH DAMN. Extreme aroma. It was so extreme that lifting a fork of it to my face and smelling it filled the inside of my face with a cloud of richness so thick that my brain got confused and I put the risotto in my mouth just to actually have something there and not just a puff of air that seemed to weigh several pounds and then it was in my mouth and it was pretty tasty. Just kidding it was delicious! The aroma was definitely remarkable, though. This was really, really good. The pumpkin was sweet, but still added a savory touch. The mushrooms did just what I wanted, added their texture and acted kind of as flavor hot spots. I put in enough parmesan that loose clumps of risotto would, instead of falling, bungee-cord off the fork on a string of cheese. Definitely one of the best dishes of the blog. I couldn’t stop eating it, and I mean that pretty much literally; I didn’t try too hard to stop, but I have serious questions about what would have happened to me if I had. The aroma really added so much. Smelling it basically dragged it into your mouth.

Pudding: Well, this was basically just the juice, except thicker and more pumpkin-y. And like the juice, it tasted exactly like what it was, which whereas with the juice I think it kind of added to it, for the pudding it just exposes it as a very simple dish.
It tastes good. It’s softly sweet, with the flavor of whatever spices you put in there. It has the texture of baby food. Smooth and fluid and vaguely grainy.
I wanted to avoid using canned pumpkin, and I definitely could have managed without, but I was worried about not having ratios right if i substituted fresh for canned in the various other recipes I found. Another thing is that while I found a lot of desserts that looked delicious, most of them didn’t fit into my perception of what a dessert on this blog should be. I think I made the recipe right, and it wasn’t bad, but I definitely messed myself up here and ended up with an underwhelming dessert.

I was hoping this menu would redeem the past couple weeks and be totally perfect, but I guess I’ll settle for a good one. I’m satisfied with the concepts, for the most part. I should have done a different dessert, but the rest of the dishes were interesting, unusual, and overall, good. The risotto was obviously a standout dish. I was able to recreate the bourani the way I like it, minus the crazy garlic, so I’m looking forward to making that some more, before pumpkins get too ripe.

Next Week: Cauliflower

019: Mushrooms


My favorite “vegetable.” I’ve liked mushrooms since I was a little kid. Chicken cacciatore, carbonara, and mushroom pork chops were somewhat frequent dinners in my family, and I think it’s these dishes that solidified my fondness for the weird mold-meat that is mushrooms. What’s that? “Mold-meat” is unnecessarily gross and not very accurate? Too bad, cause mushrooms are just kind of gross!

Menu (serves 3)
Mushroom, Roasted Pepper, and Green Bean Salad
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Swiss Tart
Cream of Chanterelle Soup
Wild Mushroom Carbonara
Mango Rice Pudding

Mushroom, Roasted Pepper, and Green Bean Salad
-1/4lb green beans
-1/4lb button mushrooms
-2 small bell peppers
-2T cream cheese
-salt
-red wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 400. Put the peppers on a sheet and brush them with olive oil. Put the tray in the oven and roast it until the peppers are soft and the skin is scorched and puffy. Remove the peppers to a paper bag, and crush it closed. The steam from the peppers will loosen the skin further. I used purple peppers! They’re just yellow inside, though.

Cut the ends off the beans, and cut them into 2-inch sticks. Boil them in salted water until tender and crisp. Quarter the mushrooms, or halve them if they’re small. Heat a little oil in a pan, and saute them until cooked through.
Remove the skin from the peppers. Cut them open, and into small strips. Toss the peppers, beans and mushrooms together, then chill in the fridge. When it’s cooled, add the cream cheese, salt and red wine vinegar to taste. It should be somewhat creamy, and a little sour.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Swiss Tart
-1 onion
-1/2lb button mushrooms
-1 clove garlic
-puff pastry
-1/2 cup swiss or gruyere cheese
-1 egg
-splash white wine or chicken stock
-salt

Shell the onion, cut it in half lengthwise, then slice each half thinly. Heat some oil in a pan, and throw the onions in. Sprinkle with salt. After a while, reduce the heat. Stir them occasionally. Continue cooking until they’re brown, sticky, and sweet.

Slice the mushrooms. Mince the garlic. Heat another bit of oil in the pan, and add the mushrooms and garlic. Saute til the mushrooms are soft and wet looking. Add the wine or stock, and let it cook off.

Preheat the oven to 400.
Grate the cheese. Roll out the puff pastry (or in my case, the phyllo dough). Use something round as a guide for your knife, and cut 5 rounds. Make four cuts every 90 degrees on the dough, about half an inch in. Spoon some of the onion and mushroom into the center of the dough. Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the mushrooms. Beat the egg, and add a little water to make a wash. With a pastry brush, coat the dough as thoroughly as possible.

Put the tarts onto parchment paper on a baking sheet, and slide them into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Cream of Chanterelle Soup
-4 cups chicken stock
-5T butter
-2T flour
-1 pound chanterelle mushrooms
-2 shallots
-1/2c cream
-1 shot brandy
-1/4t saffron
-salt
-3 egg yolks

Chop up the chanterelles and mince the shallots. Since chanterelles are hecka expensive, I padded out a half pound with oyster mushrooms.

Heat the stock in a pot. In another, heavy pot (this is the soup pot), melt 2T of butter. Add the flour and stir it together to make a roux. Cook it for a few minutes, without letting it brown. Pour the stock in, and stir. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
While that’s going on, saute the mushrooms and shallots in a pan with some butter or oil, and salt. When the mushrooms are soft, mix the saffron into the brandy, and add it to the pan. Let the alcohol cook off, then pour all of it into a food processor. Puree. Put a strainer over the pot with the stock, and strain the mushroom puree into the pot, pressing liquid through with a spoon.

I used the leftover solids as a little spread for the base of the tarts, but you can use it for whatever. It still tastes pretty great, even with the liquid squeezed out! Cook the soup for another 15 minutes.
This next part is weird and French, and it really messed my soup up. Mix the egg yolks with the cream, and slowly add ladlefuls of soup to the mixture. Basically you’re trying to incorporate the yolks without cooking them, to add body to the soup. When you’ve mixed in three or four ladlefuls, add the mixture back to the pot. Add the rest of the butter. Simmer at incredibly low heat.

Wild Mushroom Carbonara
-1/2lb king oyster mushroom
-1/2lb lobster mushroom
-3T butter
-1 onion
-1lb spaghetti
-1 cup grated parmesan
-pepper
-salt
-2 eggs

Start boiling water for the pasta. Cut the king oyster mushroom into small cubes. Take a look at some pictures of carbonara; this mushroom is supposed to take the place of the bacon (or whatever cured ham), so try for pieces about that big. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan. Saute the mushroom until it’s browned. Sprinkle with salt and splash some white wine into the pan. When it’s mostly dry, pour it into a large bowl. Dry out the pan. Dice the onion. Clean off the lobster mushrooms as best you can, then cut them into thin, prawn-sized pieces. Melt the other 2T of butter in the pan, and sweat the onions. Add the mushrooms. Salt, wine if you want. Cook until the mushroom is tender. then add it to the bowl.

Cook the pasta. When it’s al dente, pull it out of the water and let it cool down a little.
Mix the eggs and parmesan in a bowl. When the pasta is hot, but not TOO hot, add it to the bowl. Pour the egg and cheese mixture in, and toss the pasta to coat, and distribute the mushrooms. Pepper it heavily, and toss again.

Mango Rice Pudding
-1T butter
-1/3 cup arborio rice
-1/4 cup white sugar
-pinch of salt
-4 cups milk
-1t vanilla extract
-fresh mango

This is the first official repeat dish. I wanted to make truffle rice pudding, but truffles weren’t available, and this extra unripe mango from mango night was finally ripe, so I figured I’d try it again.
Heat up the milk, on low heat so it doesn’t scald.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Pour the rice in, and cook it briefly in the butter (about 45 seconds). Ladle in some of the milk. You’re gonna be stirring a whole lot, so get ready! Stir the rice as it absorbs the milk. When it’s time for more milk, you’ll be able to tell. The mixture will get kind of tight and “dry” in a particular way. Watch the video in the linked recipe for a visual aid. Keep adding milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. At a certain point, you can add milk in larger quantities. Again, you’ll be able to tell. It’s hard to define, but you will.

When you reach the end of the milk, stir in the sugar, and vanilla. Distribute the pudding into dishes. Chop up the mango, and put a little handful on top.

Report

Well, looks like I wasted a good amount of money after all.  Fancy mushrooms are real expensive! Absolutely every dish came out wrong in some way, again. Here we go-
Salad: The salad was okay, but it wasn’t really a dinner dish. My salads lately have foregone greens and it seems like they suffer for it. It was plain. The cream cheese tasted decent, but it was weird to have in the salad. I used a mixture of several recipes, none of which I think I really missed critical components of.
Tart: For some reason I thought phyllo dough and puff pastry were the same thing. I think this happened last time, too, where I tried to make that pepper tart with phyllo? Anyway, the phyllo didn’t look very good, but the tarts came out really nice. They tasted good, they were buttery and crispy, and the mushroom had that spongy mushroom texture we all love. Aside from the dough mix-up, this dish was really good.
Soup: So if you look at the photos of the soup, you’ll see that it’s like completely sludgy with egg flakes. I did the egg yolk thing like they asked, and kept the soup on low heat, but the eggs cooked anyway and gave the soup a really unpleasant look and texture. The taste was okay, but not great, and not worth the money I paid for special mushrooms. If the eggs hadn’t gotten messed up, this would still be a 4 or 5 out of 10. Tasted pretty much exactly how you’d expect. Earthy, a little salty. It definitely tasted like mushrooms, but that’s about it.
Pasta: This one is the most embarrassing. I didn’t cook the lobster mushroom enough. That was basically the only problem with this dish, but it’s a big one. It was sort of crunchy. Didn’t have the slick texture I was hoping for. The king oyster mushroom was good, but I should have cooked it more so it dried out a bit. Otherwise, the pasta was right. It had the carbonara aroma, the eggs didn’t curdle, it had a good level of pepper. It needed a little salt, could have used more cheese.
Dessert: I served this warm, mostly because I didn’t get around to making it before dinner, and I didn’t want people to have to wait for it to cool off. But, it’s probably good I didn’t get to chill it because I have the feeling it would have gotten all gluey like last time. What happened this time was there wasn’t enough milk. It turned out a little bitey. It tasted good, maybe short on the sugar. The mango was still not totally ripe, after two weeks! It was good enough, though, definitely still better than mangoes I normally get.
Before I wanted to do truffle rice pudding, I spent a lot of time looking for mushroom desserts, and found that basically every recipe in that vein called for candy cap mushrooms, which sound really great. When dried, they have an incredibly strong aroma of maple syrup. But, they’re 26 dollars an ounce, so I tried to make do without.

This was pretty disappointing. Before I started cooking, I was pretty sure I’d be able to pull all of these off without any trouble. I had two friends over for dinner, and probably should have relegated tasks, but I never felt like I would have saved time by doing so. Probably woulda, though!

The lobster mushroom was really cool. “Lobster mushroom” is actually another type of fungi, in the phylum ascomycete, the same as morels, truffles, and yeast. It grows parasitically on various types of mushrooms, covering the host, turning it cooked-lobster orange. Not only does the affected mushroom look like a lobster, it smells really strongly of seafood. Like a warm bag of shrimp shells or something. It has a much milder taste, so don’t be put off by the smell. I cooked a bit of one before I really started cooking, and it came out SO MUCH better than it did for dinner, and it was totally delicious and I feel like a real jerk for not getting them right when it counted. Anyway, the thought with the carbonara would be that the lobster mushroom would stand in for shrimp, the king oyster would be the bacon, and both would be, uh, mushrooms.
People go kind of nuts over carbonara. It’s guanciale or pancetta, egg, pepper, cheese, and spaghetti, AND NOTHING ELSE. I’ve never actually had authentic carbonara, but this way produces a nice dish.

This was a lame menu. The one creative dish was the pasta, and it didn’t come out right. Everything else was just sort of wheel-spinning with the week’s ingredient. I was really looking forward to this one, so it sucks I didn’t try anything more with it.

Next Week: Pumpkin

018: Beets

I’ve used beets a couple times now, and so far the results have been pretty disappointing. I like beets. They have a really interesting texture, both firm and tender. They’ve also got a unique flavor. I want to learn how to use them, but they never come out quite right. Hopefully, this batch of recipes turns up something nice.

Menu (Serves 3)
Beet Hummus with Roasted Beet Chips
Gold and Chioggia Beet Salad
Fettuccine in Beet Ragu
Beet Ice Cream with Chocolate Beet Trio

Before you start cooking, roast the beets. Four red beets, and one each of chioggia and gold beets. Cut the tops off, retain the taproot, and wrap them in foil. Cook them at 425 in the oven for about an hour. A fork should pierce easily. When they’ve cooled a little, rinse them in cold water and rub the skin vigorously. It’ll peel away without much trouble, but you can use a vegetable peeler or just your fingers to get it off.

Gold and Chioggia Beet Salad
1 roasted gold beet
-1 roasted chioggia beet
-2T garlic chives
-salt
-red wine vinegar

Dice the beets small. Mince the garlic chives. Mix the beets and chives in a bowl, and toss with salt and vinegar to taste.

Beet Hummus

-1 roasted red beet
-1 can garbanzo beans
-4 cloves garlic
-1 lemon
-1.5T tahini
-1t tabasco
-1T parsley
-1/4c olive oil
-salt

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse it together. Adjust the proportions; I needed a little more olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and salt.

Roasted Beet Chips
-1 chioggia beet
-1 gold beet
-olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.
Peel the beets. Cut off the stems, cut the beets in half lengthwise if you wish, then slice them as thinly as possible. Get a mandoline slicer. Somebody get me a mandoline slicer!

These are chioggia beets. You can see the same ringed structure in any given beet, but it’s usually hidden for the most part by their uniform color.
Toss the beet chips in a bowl with some olive oil. Get them covered, then spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. Pull them off the tray and remove them to a drying rack as they lighten and crisp up.

Fettuccine in Beet Ragu
-olive oil
-2 beets (I used one roasted, one raw; this leaves 2 roasted for the ice cream)
-1 carrot
-1 onion
-3 cloves garlic
-1 rib of celery
-2c stock
-1.5T tomato paste
-1 lb stew beef
-1 lb fettuccine
-3T red wine
-2T heavy cream
-1/2t dried red pepper
-1/2t dill
-salt
-pepper
-parsley
-parmesan

Skin the beets and carrot. Dice the carrot, onion, beet, celery. Cut the stew meat into small pieces. Dice the garlic. Heat some oil in a large pan. Throw in all the ingredients mentioned. Saute until the meat is browned and the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and dill, coat the ingredients, then add the wine. Let it cook into the saute, then add stock to cover. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cover.

After half an hour, uncover the pan. Stir the sauce, refresh the stock to cover again. Continue with this process over 3 hours, stirring and keeping the meat covered in liquid to braise. When it’s the last half hour, add the cream, red pepper, salt and pepper, and stir. Let it reduce down to a thick sauce. Cook the fettuccine, and serve with the sauce, minced parsley, and some grated parmesan.

Beet Ice Cream and Chocolate Beet Trio
2 roasted red beets
-1 red beet
-1 gold beet
-1 chioggia beet
-1 dark chocolate bar
-3T candied ginger, diced small
-2c milk
-1 1/4c heavy cream
-4t cornstarch
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/2t salt
-zest and juice of 1 orange
-3T cream cheese

Puree the beets in a blender. Pour it into a strainer over a bowl, and squish it through. There’s nothing to strain out, but this’ll get it smoother. Return them to the blender. Make a slurry from the cornstarch and 1/4c of milk. Whisk together the cream, remaining milk, sugar, and salt. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan. Add the zest and juice, cook for a few minutes, then add the slurry. Stir it together, still at a boil, until it begins to thicken.
Put the cream cheese in a bowl, and whisk 1/4c of the hot milk into it until it’s smooth. Add this, and the remaining milk to the pureed beets. Blend it together. Chill in the fridge. When it’s cold, add it to the ice cream maker. As the ice cream begins to thicken, sprinkle the ginger in. When the ice cream is thick and semi-solid, pour it into a container and put it in the freezer to set.

Skin the beets. Dice them into cubes about the size of fancy chocolates. Put the beets in a heavy pot with 2c water, 1c sugar. Cook them at a low simmer until tender. Cook the red beets in a second batch, in the same pot, so the other beets won’t turn red.
Make a double boiler with a pot filled with 2 inches or so of water, and a heat-safe bowl resting in the mouth of the pot, with the bottom of the bowl not touching the water. Heat to a boil, and break the chocolate bar into the bowl. Drizzle with a teaspoon of vegetable oil for a glossy sheen. Melt the chocolate, stirring to break it up faster and just to really make sure it doesn’t scorch.
Prepare a baking sheet with some wax or parchment paper, with lines dividing it into three sections: gold, chioggia, red. When the chocolate is fully melted, dip the beet cubes into it, leaving some space on one side. This is the side you rest the cube on, so as to keep a tidy chocolate coating that’s not stuck to the sheet. Place the cubes in their corresponding section.


Serve a small scoop of ice cream with one of each beet chocolate.

Report

Blech. So, basically, only two dishes or parts of dishes worked. The pasta and the hummus. Everything else was terribly wrong in one way or another. Let’s run through.

Hummus and Chips: As I said, the hummus was good. I’ve been eating leftovers with pitas for the past couple days. It’s an interesting color, the parsley adds black flecks to it that look earthy and appealing. The flavor is good, with the beet flavor subtly there. It’s kind of sour, which is nice. The texture is a little thick; maybe a bit stiff, but it’s not a pain to eat, and feels nice in the mouth. The chips, on the other hand, were mostly crummy. Some of them crisped nicely, most of them were just shriveled and floppy. I blame my lack of a mandoline. I think if they had all been a uniform thickness, I could have made them work. As it was, they all cooked at different rates and I got a little impatient, worried that giving them too much time to sit would mess them up somehow. Some baked onto the sheet, some were kind of juicy and slimy, and only about 10% of them were the way I wanted. I ended up making an emergency batch of pita chips to go with the hummus, which was much better.

Salad: The idea here was that I would try to make the failed garlic and beet salad from Garlic. I substituted garlic chives, because I’d been seeing them at Berkeley Bowl and wanted to see what they were like. They’re kind of cool! But, they don’t really impart garlic flavor at all. They just taste like it if you happen to eat a piece. I also dressed the salad pretty lightly. This resulted in basically a bowl of cold beets with very little flavoring. I wanted to use gold and chioggia only so as to avoid an entire menu of pink food. I think it looked okay, if nothing else, and pretty much there was nothing else. A failure in both taste and concept.

Pasta: I really liked the pasta. So did everyone else. It was genuinely good. The meat cooked down well, so that it fell apart in the mouth, the sauce was creamy, sweet and savory, with a perfect spiciness. The fettuccine, which was from a package, was less impressive than homemade, but given the disaster that was everything else, it’s probably better I didn’t try making my own. The beets added their texture, a balanced beet flavor, a nice rich color. I would definitely make this again. What this was supposed to be was a kind of borscht-like pasta sauce. I actually don’t know if I’ve ever had borscht, so I really have no idea if this is anything like it, flavor-wise.

Ice Cream and Chocolates: The ice cream didn’t set, at all. I put it in the mixer, and it ran for about an hour, and it was still liquid, so I put the whole thing in the freezer and hoped it would solidify. Obviously, by dessert time, it hadn’t. The next day, it had solidified, but into a rock instead of into a bowl of ice cream. I didn’t use the cream cheese, both because I didn’t have any, and because I didn’t think it was necessary. I still don’t think it was, but something clearly went wrong. The ice cream mixture itself was DELICIOUS. I was really disappointed that it didn’t come out right. The flavor was really, really great. Nice and sweet, with mild beet flavor, orange tartness, and if it had come together, the crystallized ginger would have gone well with it. Paired with the melty liquid, the ginger was really overpowering, but I think if it was embedded in ice cream it would work.

As for the beet chocolates, I still think they could work. They definitely didn’t when I made them, but I have faith in the concept. The liquid I boiled them in didn’t have enough sugar, and I should have cooked them much lower than I did, to allow for a longer steep in the syrup. I had a couple test ones when I was cooking, and I thought they were okay, but they matured in the fridge and began tasting a lot more like watery beets. This happened with the salad, as well. Originally, the salad tasted nice and balanced, but when I served it it was bland.
The beets were, at best, an interesting thing to eat with the chocolate. They never became part of the chocolate, never imparted anything positive. It was just weird and somewhat acceptable, and “oh well this is unusual.” We now have a tupperware in the fridge with like twenty leftover ones, and nobody is going to eat them. They’re gross.

So, beets knocked me down yet again. I just really don’t know what to do with them, for the most part. They’re a tough vegetable, especially when you’re like me and want to do something creative with every dish. There’s several proven beet dishes I would have gotten much better results with, but I guess that’s not really the point of the blog. It always sucks when the experiments fail so thoroughly, though. And that’s what tends to happen when I use beets. We’ll see how I handle them next year. This coming week I’m praying for a victory, partly to recover from this menu, but mostly so I don’t waste a bunch of money!

Next Week: Mushrooms

017: Mango

I never have a lot of luck with mangoes. Sometimes I’ll end up with a good one, but most of the time they’re hard, fibrous, sour, or just flavorless. And I still don’t really know how to pick them! I know what to look for, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me. And then, a few weeks ago, my friend Ari started telling me about the mangoes she’d been eating, how they were the greatest ever, telling me about mango wishes and how her mom just picked the best mangoes. She also told me her mom had asked her to get me to cook dinner for them. So, with a source of great mangoes secured, week 17 will be the first away meal.

Menu (serves 4)
Mango Coconut Curry Soup
Green Mango Larb with Mango and Kiwi Fresh Rolls
Shrimp and Mango Puff Taco
Mango and Bananas Foster

Mango Coconut Curry Soup
-2 large mangoes (ripe optional)
-1 can coconut milk
-1 onion
-2 cloves garlic
-1 carrot
-1 jalapeno
-1t curry powder
-salt and pepper to taste
-cilantro
-lime

Dice the onion, mince the garlic. Skin and dice the mangoes and carrot. Cut the seeds out of the jalapeno and mince it.
Heat some oil in a big pot. Throw in the onion, garlic, and carrot. When the onion goes a little soft, add the jalapeno. While it cooks, open up the coconut milk, then pour it in with the curry. Let everything get softer. Add the mango. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then puree. When it’s at the right consistency, adjust the flavor with lime, salt, pepper, and more curry powder, and mix it in again. Garnish with cilantro.

Green Mango Larb with Mango and Kiwi Fresh Rolls
-1 green mango
-1/2lb ground pork
-3T fish sauce
-1 carrot
-cilantro
-1 large shallot
-1T uncooked rice
-1 jalapeno
-2 limes
-2 green onions
-1/4T dried red chili

-1 brick rice vermicelli
-8 rice-paper wrappers
-1 mango
-4 kiwis
-2 limes
-3T soy sauce
–mint

For the larb: first, toast the rice. Put a skillet on medium heat, and pour the rice in. Shake it around so that it doesn’t burn. Cook until browned. Pour the rice into a mortar and pestle, or some other thing that can pulverize it. Grind it into a rough powder. In the same skillet, heat a little oil, and cook the pork. Smash it thin with a wooden or other nonpliable spatula, cook it through, then use the spatula to chop the meat into very small chunks.

Remove the meat to a bowl to cool off. Seed and mince the jalapeno, chop the shallot, peel and julienne the carrot. Cut the skin off the green mango. Slice off big chunks from the sides. Cut it into long, thin sticks. Chop up a couple stems of cilantro. Mix all ingredients in the first block together in a container. Let it sit for a couple hours to get itself together.

For the rolls, cut the mango into thin, but thicker than the green mango, sticks. Skin the kiwis, slice them in half, then slice the halves into 5 or 6 pieces. Boil some water and cook the rice noodles. Pull a bunch of leaves off the mint stems.
Pour some warm water into a wide, shallow dish. Put a rice wrap in the water, and move it around a little, and let it sit until it’s soft and skin-like. You’ll know when that is. It’ll start out as a hard, brittle disk, then get a little more pliable, then get REALLY soft. Pull the wrap out, and lay it on a plate as flat as you can. Let it dry a little bit, so that it’s kind of tacky. Otherwise, it’ll be really slippery and hard to roll.
Fill the roll with a couple mango spears, some kiwi, mint leaves, and noodles. Roll it by folding the sides up, then grabbing the bottom, pulling it up and over the filling, and then folding the sides over that, and rolling it shut.
Squeeze the limes into a bowl and mix with the soy sauce for a dipping sauce. Serve with a couple scoops of larb, and garnish with mint.

Mango and Shrimp Puff Taco

-1 mango
-2 avocados
-1/2lb shrimp
-1 lime’s worth of juice
-1 package Trader Joe’s Middle Eastern Flatbread
-2T banana sauce
-cilantro


Shell the shrimp. Skin the mango and cut it down into bite-sized pieces. Put the two in a bowl together, and mix with the lime juice and banana sauce. When you’re about ready to serve the tacos, heat a large skillet with some oil, and pour it all in.

Cook it until the shrimp is done, then turn it off. You don’t want the shrimp getting tough. In a different skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil. When it’s hot, put a flatbread into the pan. It’ll start getting brown, puffing up, maybe like way too much. Just punch it down a little with the spatula; it doesn’t need to be puffy when it’s served. Flip and cook both sides.

Halve the avocados, cut them up, and spread them out on the bread. Spoon the shrimp and mango out, top with a wad of cilantro.

Mango and Bananas Foster
1 mango
-2 bananas
-1/4c butter
-4T brown sugar
-1/2t cinnamon
-3T dark rum
-vanilla ice cream

Skin the mango, and cut it into a small wedge dice. Cut the bananas into disks. In a skillet, melt the butter, and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Add the fruit. When it’s cooked a bit, add the rum. Touch a lit match or a long lighter to the surface. It’s kind of scary but it’s not gonna explode! Just go for it. When the flames go out, it’s ready. Spoon the dessert over a scoop or two of ice cream.

Report

Excellent. Everything came out well. I had quibbles with every dish, and saw things to improve, but all of them were delicious.

Soup: A touch thick for my liking. I also wanted it smoother. The soup overall wasn’t what I had imagined when I was planning the menu; I switched recipes because of a few missing ingredients I wasn’t sure on. But, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great, or even better than what I’d planned.
The soup was sweet, a little tangy, spicy, and creamy. It was definitely, definitely mango. Kind of like the cantaloupe soup, but it was completely there, one of the main flavors.
I also winged the recipe, so that’s a plus, too.
Larb and Fresh Roll: The larb was pretty awesome. I haven’t had much larb, but Ari’s dad said it was perfect! It was nice and fresh-tasting, crunchy, sour, just spicy enough. The green mango added a good sourness, and a subtle mango flavor. I wanted a bit more color in it, but I don’t know what I would add without messing up the flavor.
I thought the fresh roll was interesting, but I didn’t really see the point of it in the state it was in. It just tasted like the fruit plus rice stuff. I felt like I might as well have just eaten the fruit by itself. If I made it again, I’d add something, maybe pickled carrots/radish, for more contrast of flavors. Ari rolled these, since I had a lot of trouble with it. It took her a while, too, but she got a lot better as she went.  The dipping sauce was stupid easy but it was good.
Shrimp and Mango Puff Taco: Very tasty. I’d never used banana ketchup before, but I liked it a lot, and it naturally went really well with the shrimp and mango. The Trader Joe’s Middle Eastern Flatbread isn’t a corporate sponsorship thing, it’s just that I don’t know of another pita-like product that fries up like this does. If I looked, I could probably find one, but these have worked well for me in my gyro and unhealthy wrap pursuits.

As you can see, it’s a little chewy, a little crispy. The filling was sweet, mostly. It was good, but it was missing some things. First, it needed crunchy greens. Lettuce ribs, cabbage, something like that. Second, I think it should have been spicier. It tasted good, but a little simple. The greens thing is the more important point, though. The avocado didn’t add much, if anything. The filling’s flavor was too strong for the avocado to be very noticeable. I also overcooked the shrimp a bit. It may have been right when I finished cooking, but I didn’t cook it at the right time and so reheated it when I served. It was still totally fine when we ate, too, but when I ate the leftovers, the shrimp were definitely overdone.
Mango and Bananas Foster: Alright, you can’t really go wrong with butter and rum and brown sugar. This definitely didn’t go wrong. But, I don’t know how much the mangoes added. They made it a little tangier, but that’s about it. I overcooked this a little, too. The mango sort of dissolved. If it had stayed more together, it may have been more distinct. I think it would have worked without bananas. I probably should have tried that. Beyond that, I think it could have used some crunch. A graham cracker, or some granola or something, maybe a homemade granola bar with dried mango. It was totally great, but I didn’t think it was a good addition to the menu.
So, this menu was really good. Like I said, all the food was delicious. The concepts were decent, it all looked pretty nice. In regards to the use of the ingredient, I think I did alright. Most of the uses were unorthodox, and they totally worked. I regret not having the mango on its own somewhere. The fresh roll came close, but it got a little lost. The mango was incredibly good, so I wish I’d given people the chance to just taste that. It could have been a garnish, maybe?
It was really fun cooking in a different kitchen and having a sous chef. I’ll probably have another menu over there, too. I like this moving-around business. Cooking for new people is always nice, and cooking with people is even nicer, even though I tend to hog tasks.


Assistant Ari enjoying dessert

Next Week: Beets

016: Basil

Basil is one of the basic herbs of no offense to anybody. At least I would dang hope so! It’s really versatile, goes with most ingredients, and people who don’t like it are missing the hell out. For this meal, I picked up Thai basil, “field basil,” which is just normal-style basil, and opal basil, a nicely purple cultivar.

Menu (serves 3)
Strawberry, Basil, and Dragonfruit Salad
Zucchini-Basil Soup
Drunken Noodles
Basil Tiramisu

Basil Tiramisu
The longer you let this sit in the fridge, the better. You could make this the day before, or just the morning of.
-1 package lady fingers
-1 cup strong cold coffee
-8 oz mascarpone
-3 egg yolks
-3 egg whites
-1 cup Thai basil
-4T rum
-5T sugar
-1t lemon juice
-cocoa powder

Put the basil, 1T sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor. Chop it as finely as possible, adding a little liquid if necessary. Separate the eggs. Just crack them all in a bowl and pull the yolks out with your hand, they’re stronger than you think.

Beast it
Mix the yolks, 2T sugar, 2T rum, mascarpone, and basil puree to a smooth custard. Beat the whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer. When it reaches soft peaks, sprinkle a bit of sugar in and continue beating. When you can turn the bowl upside down without dumping it all over the table, scrape the whites into the cheese mixture. Fold the liquid over the whites. Don’t just mush the whites in, or you may flatten them out. Keep spooning the liquid over, gently turning the whites and getting them incorporated. Eventually it’ll all be the same thick custard.

Mix the coffee, 2T sugar, and 2T rum. Get a baking dish ready. I used an 8×8 glass pan.
Dunk the ladyfingers, turning them over to get both sides. You don’t need to do it for very long; while the cookies will start out really hard, they absorb liquid quickly. Lay them down in the pan in a layer. When you’ve got a full layer, spread about half of the custard on top. Repeat, setting the next layer of ladyfingers down softly so as to not crush the custard down.
Chill for at least 4 hours. Dust each serving with cocoa powder, and garnish with a basil leaf.

Zucchini-Basil Soup
-2 lb zucchini
-1 onion
-3 cloves garlic
-1/4c olive oil
-3c water
-2c loosely packed basil


Skin and chop the zucchini. Chop the onion, mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Saute the garlic and onion. When it’s soft, add the zucchini. Get a little color on it, then add the 3 cups of water. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, along with the basil. Season with salt and pepper to bring the basil’s flavor out.

Strawberry, Basil, and Dragonfruit Salad
-1 basket strawberries
-1c Thai basil
-1/2c basil
-1 dragonfruit
-1 lime
-balsamic vinegar
-olive oil

Very simple: Hull and quarter the strawberries. Peel the dragonfruit by cutting the sides off to make a rectangle. Halve the fruit lengthwise, and cut thinly. Pull the basil off the stem. Make a simple salad dressing with lime, balsamic, and olive oil. 2 parts oil to 1 part acid, but you don’t have to be precise about it. Dress the salad, and that’s it.

Drunken Noodles
-8-10 oz rice noodles
-1/2lb chicken
-1T fish sauce
-3T soy sauce
-2T Chinese chili paste
-1/2c Thai basil
-2T peanuts
-2 serrano chilis
-1 tomato
-1 medium eggplant
-3 cloves garlic
-2 eggs
-2 limes

Cut the eggplant and chicken into bite-sized pieces. Mince the garlic, slice the peppers thin. Cut the tomato into eighths. Crack the eggs into a bowl and scramble them.
Start a pot of water boiling. Cook the noodles in 2 batches, stirring frequently, until the noodles are al dente. Remove the finished noodles to a strainer, and toss with sesame oil to keep them from sticking.

Heat 2T canola oil in a large pan or wok. Throw the garlic and chilis in, let them cook for a moment, then add the chicken and eggplant. When the eggplant is browned, add the sauces. Toss to coat, then add the egg, peanuts, and noodles. Stir it all up, add the chili paste and basil, squeeze a lime in, and stir again. Serve with a lime slice.

Report

Mostly good. Let’s run through the menu –

Salad: Pretty nice! The dressing was an obvious pairing with the basil and strawberries, but it worked perfectly. The dragonfruit was a last-minute addition. I picked one up with some other ingredients cause I wanted to eat it, but I really have no idea how to choose a good one. It was mostly flavorless, just a little sour. I decided that at worst, it would be dead weight in the salad. But, it was actually good! Dragonfruit has a fun texture, and it basically just absorbed the dressing. I think that if I’d gotten a good one, it would have worked as well. It’s a lot like kiwi, which pairs with strawberry, obviously, and in my mind at least, works with the dressing. The basil was distinct, but pleasant. You could taste the difference between the two types. I kind of forgot about the opal basil until it came time to garnish dishes — I would have liked to have it in the salad. Overall, it was good, but felt a little harsh in some respects. Less dressing probably would have helped. I enjoyed the plating, which, as you might be able to tell from the photo, was a rough bar striping across the plate.
Soup: Excellent. The zucchini gave a lot of body to the soup. It was creamy, and a little thick, and the basil was right there. It tasted like an overly-creamy pesto, which is totally fine with me. This soup is perfectly healthy, incredibly cheap, easy, and delicious. Make this one as soon as possible! The opal basil also was a perfect garnish. The soup looked really, really great.
Noodles: I’ve never had much luck with stir-frying noodles. I do it sometimes, and I often like the result, but it’s always sticky and not at all like noodles from a restaurant. The rice noodles were hard to gauge, necessitating a second boil. That wasn’t a big deal. Neither was the fact that it all kind of stuck together and wasn’t noodly. The main problem was the lack of basil. I knew from the beginning that it would be a problem, and I just had a vague idea in my head that I would throw more basil in? It didn’t work. It just tasted like badly-done drunken noodles. On the upside, they were nicely spiced, and the eggplant was well-cooked. I don’t know what I should have done to make this more basil-y; probably just make a different dish. I always try to avoid doing the obvious heritage dish for the ingredients I choose, but maybe I should have made a pesto and just put some thought into how I would make it more unique.
Also, the plating was terrible.
Tiramisu: Also excellent. Basil is, although unique, not a crazy assertive ingredient. Putting it into the custard for the tiramisu gave the dish a greener flavor, somewhat fresher and lighter. It made the dessert taste healthier, though it wasn’t. I enjoyed it a lot. However, the leftovers, which are usually much better than “fresh”, had more of an herbal note to them that I didn’t enjoy so much. I think a solid concept, well-executed, and pretty tasty. I would’ve liked the cookies to be more soaked. The bottom was a little dry; I guess my cookie layer was too tight. I don’t like that I used opal basil to garnish two different dishes, but it did look good on both.

So, the low point of the menu was the noodles. I wasn’t crazy about the salad, but it was alright and it at least looked interesting. I think I liked the soup best. I enjoy things that taste like they have to be really bad for you but are actually good/neutral. Like YaYa’s herb popcorn! It’s just dusted with herbs and spices and some salt but it tastes like it’s covered in ramen soup base.
In the end, three out of four isn’t bad. I’ve done much worse. And maybe next week, I will!

Next Week: Mango

015: Melon


Melooooon!! I kind of wasted my summer, melon-wise. I feel like this meal was one of the only times I ate cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew this year, not to mention all the heirloom melons I’ve been missing out on. It could be that I’m just regretting not eating them more often, though. Cantaloupe is a food my mom ate a lot while she was pregnant with me, but I’m not too crazy about it. And honeydew is even more iffy; I’ve described it before as “the worst melon.”
On the grocery run, I picked up halves/wedges of melon. Honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, plus hami and Tuscan. Tuscan is essentially cantaloupe, but more likely to be tasty. Hami melon is crisp, a little dry, and tastes kind of like a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew, with less of that spicy muskmelon mouth film.

Menu (Serves 6)
Cantaloupe Curry Soup with Melon Skewer
Salmon-Melon Ceviche with Homemade Pita Chips
Watermelon Fried Rice
Honeydew-Hami Melon Ice Cream

Before you start cooking, use a melon baller to scoop 12 balls each from the honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Separate the balls into three bowls. Sprinkle the watermelon with salt and chili powder, Squeeze lime juice over the cantaloupe, and roll the honeydew balls in granulated sugar. Put the melon balls in the fridge and let the flavors sink in. 

Honeydew-Hami Melon Ice Cream (adapted from here)

-2c honeydew
-2c heavy cream
-2t lemon juice
-1/2c sugar
-1/4c honey
-1/4c cubed hami melon
-1/2t vanilla


You should have enough honeydew to take 12 scoops, get the 2 cups, and still have a little left over. Throw all the ingredients except the cream and hami melon into a blender, and puree. When it’s as smooth as it’s gonna get, add the cream, and blend briefly to combine.
This recipe doesn’t ask you to chill the mixture before churning it, but I did it anyway just to be safe. A few hours later, Pour the cream mixture into your ice cream machine. Let it run, adding the hami melon cubes when the cream starts getting real thick. Chill for a few hours. I had some trouble getting it firm in time, but I just stirred up the ice cream a couple times to get the fluid to the top and it turned out fine.

If you look closely, you can see a chunk of hami melon buried in the ice cream, there.

Salmon-Melon Ceviche with Homemade Pita Chips
-3 pita rounds
-1 clove garlic
-1 pound salmon, sushi-grade if possible
-1 avocado
-2 shallots
-1/4c jalapeno
-1/4c lime juice (about 3 limes)
-1/2 cup hami melon
-1/2 cup honeydew (or however much you have left over)
-1/2 cup watermelon
-6T olive oil
-salt
-pepper
-olive oil for brushing pitas

Cut the salmon into half-inch-thick strips, then lay the strips flat and cut them into half-inch-square sticks, then into cubes. You don’t have to be too precise, just try for a fairly uniform size.
Cut the melon out of the shell, and cube them to a similar size. Peel the avocado, and cube that as well. Cut the jalapeno apart so you can remove the seeds, then mince. Mince the shallot.
In a large bowl, mix the fish, melon, avocado, jalapeno, shallot, lime juice, and olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the pitas into eight triangles each, for 24 chips. Mince the garlic, and mix it with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a little dish. Lay the chips out on a baking sheet, and brush both sides with the garlic oil. Salt lightly. Put the chips in for 10-15 minutes. Watch the color — The chips are great crunchy, but they’re better just a little chewy, which is in kind of a sweet spot. Keep an eye on them. These should stay crunchy for a while after they’re cooked, but nothing else on the menu needs baking, so you may as well make them fresh right before dinner.
Serve a big scoop of ceviche on a small plate, with 4 pita chips.

These chips are a little overdone, by the way. Pure crunch.

Cantaloupe Curry Soup with Melon Skewer
-The remaining hami, tuscan, and cantaloupe
-1 onion
-1 large rib celery
-1 large carrot
-2 cloves garlic
-1 lime
-fresh thyme
-salt
-vegetable oil
-cumin
-curry powder
-prepared melon balls

Cut up the onion, celery, and carrot to make a mirepoix. Saute it in a heavy pot until softened. Mince the garlic, and add. Roughly chop the melon, and add it. Juice the lime into the pot. Bring it to a boil, then down to a simmer for 20 minutes. When everything’s soft, pour it into a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree it. Taste the soup. Adjust the consistency with water, vegetable or chicken broth, or apple juice, depending on how you want the flavor. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and curry powder. Strip the thyme leaves off the stems and sprinkle on top.

Skewer the melon balls, two of each type on a skewer. Set up a grill or grill pan, and when it’s ready, sear the melon. At least get the melon warmed up. I used a real grill, and it didn’t really put any color on the fruit, but it added to it to be not-cold.

Ladle the soup out, and serve with a skewer. I had a very small amount, so I used little coffee cups.

Watermelon Fried Rice
-2 cups firm, leftover rice
-1/2 white onion
-2 cloves garlic
-1 inch ginger
-1 carrot
-1 cup watermelon and rind
-1-2T soy sauce
-1/4 cup frozen peas
-2 eggs
-4 scallions
-oil

Make sure you use well-made leftover rice, not mushy, not fresh. Being in the fridge will dry out the rice grains and make them the right consistency for fried rice.
Mince the ginger and garlic, dice the carrot and onion. Cut the watermelon from the rind, leaving some pink. Cut the meat of the fruit into bite-sized pieces, about the size you’d want chicken in fried rice. Then, cut the white from the rind, and dice. Prepare the frozen peas. Just throwing them in will leave them kind of mealy and gross, so boil them in water for a couple minutes.

In a large pan or wok, heat about a tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the onion and carrot. In a smaller pan, heat a smaller amount of oil. Throw in the diced rind, and cook until it’s a little browned. Add the meat, and a splash of soy sauce. Toss the fruit to coat, and cook the liquid off. Keep tossing so it doesn’t scorch. Both batches of stuff should be done around the same time. Turn off the watermelon.
Add the garlic and peas to the large pan. Break up the cold rice with a spatula and spoon it into the pan. Toss everything together, and add soy sauce, a little at a time, tossing everything to get a good color. Add the watermelon. I ended up with more than I thought would be a good ratio, so I saved it to garnish the rice later. Scramble the two eggs, and fold them into the rice. Chop the scallions, and do the same.

Report

Love it! Almost everything came out great. Almost everything was an experiment. A couple really well-plated dishes, and good flavor on absolutely everything.
The soup was wonderful. Excellent flavor, it tasted a bit like a squash soup, but with a cantaloupe tinge when you looked for it. I liked the skewer a lot. Chili and salt is a great combination with watermelon, and the other two seemed to benefit from my guesswork with what to marinate them in. The grilling didn’t add much, as I said. I wanted some sear on the fruit, but it just got warmed. I had hoped the sugar on the honeydew would caramelize on the grill, or even deeper into fantasy, I hoped it would form a crunchy glaze, but it was good how it was.
Speaking of which, all the fruit I got ended up being really, really good. The honeydew, the worst melon, was super nice. I’d never had hami melon, which I enjoyed a lot, the honeydew was totally acceptable, as was the watermelon. Tuscan melon, which I fell in love with a couple years ago, and have only had twice since, fell between the tender perfection of the first time and the kind of hard and lame one I got afterward. Which is to say it was half-way to perfect. That’s pretty good! Their color also added a huge amount to the food. Every dish looked pretty, even if it lacked in plating.
The ceviche was aaaooouuugh good. It was so delicious. If you make one thing from this menu, make the ceviche. It’s super easy, and worth however much you spend on ingredients. I’m sure it’d be great with run-of-the-mill salmon, too. Just make it. Pita chips were dangerously easy. I ate three and a half pitas’ worth of chips on my own. Two test runs, my portion for dinner, and a final batch because I forgot to photograph the ceviche plating. Could not stop eating the chips or the ceviche. If I’d made enough chips for all of it, I probably would have eaten all of the leftovers in one sitting.

My nail has been black for pretty much a full month now, after closing it in a car door.
I didn’t have any leftover rice, so I tried to make some early in the day, and it turned out really mushy. I think I used too much water. So then, I made another, smaller pot (which was just the right amount), and refrigerated the rice, but it was still a little soft, and not refrigerated long enough to really dry it. So, the fried rice came out badly. It tasted good, and I was super pleased with the stir-fried watermelon, but the texture was really wrong, almost like a pilaf. I should have known better and made the rice properly a day or two ahead of time.
The ice cream was tangy and luscious. Perfect flavor. I used that farmer’s market honey. I really have no idea if honeys taste different when you cook with them, but it made me feel fancy, I guess. There were a couple dissatisfactions I had with the ice cream. It’s a bit too icy. It crumbles. The hami melon turned into basically just ice. I can count one time I really got flavor out of it. I wish I knew how it is that ice cream makers (the people who make it) get fruit to stay kind of soft and flavorful, cause I think that pairing would work really nicely. But, it’s seriously so good. Even with an imperfect texture, it’s my favorite ice dessert that I’ve made. The honeydew is distilled down to that nice subtle flavor, with none of the downsides.
This was a great menu. With proper rice prep, I would have been completely satisfied with how it came out. I feel the ingredient was used to its fullest, in creative and delicious dishes that felt genuinely innovative. I’m really proud of this one. It also marked the first blog meal I’ve served to friends, so it’s even cooler that this wasn’t a disaster and was actually awesome.

Next Week: Basil

014: Carrot


Hey guys what’s up! I kind of thought about eating a whole carrot and doing the Bugs Bunny routine while I was cooking but that didn’t happen. Mostly I just listened to podcasts, and made mashed potatoes at 11 AM.

Menu (Serves 4)
Thai Carrot and Chicken Salad
Carrot-Peanut Butter Soup
Carrot Gnocchi in Carrot-top Pesto
Ginger Pound Cake with Butter-Rum Carrots and Raisins

Carrot Gnocchi (adapted from Greene on Greens)
-1 1/2 lb yukon gold potatoes
-2T butter
-1/4c cream
-1 large carrot
-1 small white onion
-2 eggs
-1/8t nutmeg
-1/4t white pepper
-1 1/2c flour


Quarter the potatoes. Put them in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, and let it cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. After that time the potatoes should be real soft and a fork should just go right in. Run them through a ricer or use a masher to pulverize em up. Season with salt and pepper, throw in the butter, and use enough cream to get them to a good texture. Try to do this around 11 AM so you can have mashed potatoes for brunch. Scoop out 1 1/4 cups and put them in the fridge, and eat the rest!
When the potatoes have chilled, you can make the gnocchi. Peel the carrot, and grate it on a cheese grater. Cut and shell the onion, and grate that as well. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, starting with just 1 cup of the flour. Add more to get the dough right. You’ll probably end up needing more than a cup and a half.

Soft dough it. Cover the dough and put it in the fridge for an hour.

Carrot-top Pesto
-1 bunch’s worth of carrot tops
-1c olive oil
-1/2 cup toasted almonds
-1 cup grated parmesan
-2 cloves garlic
-1T honey
-juice of 1 lemon
-salt

Cut the stems of the tops off, and chop the leaves roughly. Mince the garlic. Throw everything but the honey in the food processor. Blend it very thoroughly, cause carrot tops are seriously tough and difficult, and generally not pleasant to eat in their whole form.

This pesto tastes weird — adjust the flavor how you like.

Start a pasta pot boiling. Pull out the dough, and cut it into four or so pieces. Cover them in flour, and squeeze/roll them into 1/2 inch logs. Slice the logs into gnocchi. They’ll end up about an inch long. Roll them in flour and lay them out so that they don’t stick together.

When the water boils, drop 10-15 gnocchi in and leave them in until they start floating, at which point, pull them out and move them to a bowl. Add some pesto, and coat the gnocchi to ensure they won’t stick together.

Ginger Pound Cake with Butter-Rum Carrots and Raisins

-3T chopped ginger
-3/4c and 2T sugar
-1c flour
-1t baking powder
-1/4t ground ginger
-1/4t salt
-1/4c milk
-1/2t vanilla
-1 stick butter
-2T lemon zest
-2 eggs
-2T lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325.
Put the fresh ginger and 1/4 cup of the sugar into the food processor and grind them together.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix the milk and vanilla.
With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, remaining sugar, and zest in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat them in. Add the flour and milk mixtures in turns, about a quarter of each at a time, mixing the batter between additions. At the end of it, add the ginger/sugar mixture and the lemon juice and mix that as well.
Pour the batter into a smallish loaf pan, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until you like the color of it.

-2 large carrots
-2T rum
-2T butter
-2T raisins
-2T brown sugar

Skin the carrots and cut them pretty thick. Parboil them in a pot of water, just until they’re tender. Melt the butter in a pot, add the carrots, and the sugar. Let it cook onto the carrots so that they’re nicely coated. Add raisins and rum, and cook it until the alcohol evaporates, a couple minutes.
Cut a thick slice of the cake, and spoon carrots and sauce over it.

Thai Carrot and Chicken Salad
-1 bunch small red carrots
-1 bunch small white carrots
-1 bunch small orange carrots
-3 green onions
-2 skinless or un-skinned chicken thighs
-heart of romaine lettuce
-1 lime
-1T soy sauce
-1T fish sauce
-2T sugar
-2T salt
-2T white vinegar

Cut the tops off the carrots, and peel them. Cut all of them into thin slices at an extreme angle, that will get them long.
Quick-pickle the orange carrots by putting them in a little ziploc with the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Leave them for at least 15 minutes.
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs. Cook them through, then cut them off the bone. Slice the chicken up into small-bite-sized pieces and put them into the fridge to cool.
Press the lettuce together, and chop it very thin, about half way down. Chop the green onions. Pull the carrots out of the pickling fluid, and mix them in a bowl with the other carrots, green onion, lettuce, and cooled chicken. Juice the lime into a little bowl, and mix with the soy and fish sauce. Toss the salad with this dressing.

Carrot-Peanut Butter Soup
-1T oil
-1 onion
-1 pound carrots
-1 clove garlic
-1 stalk celery
-1/2t salt
-1/4t white pepper
-4 cups water
-2T peanut butter
-1T soy sauce
-1 lime
-peanuts or cashews
-sriracha

Start a pot boiling with the water. Skin the carrots, and chop them up. Throw in the carrot tops and skins, and simmer for half an hour or so. Carrot broth! Remove it to a vessel, preferably a 4-cup measuring cup, but if not, use a measuring cup to figure out how much you have. Fill out the rest with water.
Dice the onion, mince the garlic, chop the celery. Heat the oil in a pot, and saute the onion. When it’s softened, add the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, add the celery, carrot, salt, pepper, and 3 cups of carrot broth.

Bring to a boil, then turn it down and simmer until the carrots are very soft. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, and the juice of the lime. Pour the soup into a blender, or use an immersion blender, and puree it. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper, and use the remaining broth to get the consistency how you like it.
Bowl the soup, top with some sriracha, and peanuts or cashews.

The worst-plated bowl got photographed.

Report

Another mixed menu. All the dishes were pretty easy, but despite that I ended up coming down to the wire and messing up a couple things.
Most significant is the disappearance of those cute squat “Thumbelina” carrots in the prologue image up there. I roasted them with some brussels sprouts, and served them with the gnocchi. The carrots actually came out pretty good, but the brussels sprouts were everything they shouldn’t be. Scorched on the outside, mushy and mealy on the inside, and basically flavorless. So, I didn’t serve them. This led to the gnocchi having an even sadder plating than the soup:


The carrots also just look gross.
The pesto was an interesting idea, but the texture of the tops kind of persisted and made it a little unpleasant, and the sweetness of it was off-putting and made me wish I had just done a regular pesto. The gnocchi turned out so well! Most times I make gnocchi it’s mushy and comes apart and clouds the water with flour clumps, but these were tender and pretty much perfect. So it’s a lot worse that the pesto didn’t work how I wanted.
I liked the soup a lot. I think I’d like it better with more lime juice. There was a bit too much soy sauce, enough to color the flavor too far to that side. Salt would have been better.
The only thing wrong with the salad is that I had planned to put pea sprouts in it, and bought some for this purpose. I just forgot to do it. It was really, really good, though. Nice and crispy, salty, and sweet. I would totally make this for a potluck or something. An interesting twist on Thai chicken salad. The pickled carrots were a good addition, but my sister suggested rinsing them a bit, as they kind of stood out. I considered doing this, and rinsed one to test the flavor, but decided it wasn’t necessary. If you happen to be worried about them drowning out the rest, though, a quick rinse is safe and won’t erase the pickled flavor.
The cake was great. It was a perfect consistency, nice and light (not actually, but that’s how it tasted), and fresh-gingery. The carrots, on the other hand, were kind of a disaster. They didn’t taste bad, but I boiled them while we ate dinner and so ended up cooking them until they were a little mushy. In addition, I boiled them in plain water, when I should have done it in simple syrup (or perhaps the modified recipe in this post). I could tell that the sauce would be totally delicious if I had thought it through better, and, again, my heart is broken.

So, in terms of creativity, I think this menu is okay. Obviously, execution was lacking. The carrot top pesto was a fun notion, and I liked being able to do it and have it turn out edible, but it was absolutely inferior to a basil pesto. I think the carrot tops’ sorta nasty flavor forced the recipe into being sweeter than pesto should be. I also sauteed a carrot top stem in salt and oil, and I kind of liked it. I considered putting it into the salad, but as I mentioned, they just have a difficult texture and a tendency to catch in the throat. I probably should have made a carrot-tomato sauce or something, instead. I just learned I could use the tops and had to do it!

Next Week: Melon