Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pilaf and Risotto

You have probably seen it and tasted the Pilaf and Risotto.  I've seen it and heard it and never paid attention or have the desire to taste it until just recently.  A bit of exposure in my culinary adventure have exposed me to many - I mean many possibilities that I can add to my diet and health.   I've watched some food challenger's shows and heard judges commenting on the challenger's Risotto, for example, and complaining how terrible it is, etc.  I was wondering what in the world is that? soupy sticky or fluffy rice with grated cheese?...... Now, they are part of my take-to-work OBENTO.  No more plain carbohydrate - white rice.  They are prepared with varieties of grains.  To start with these two are my results.  I hope you have fun trying something new with grains in your diet, too.
Barley Pilaf  - a bit soupy, maybe, but  I love the bite-in texture of barley with flavorful taste added from the homemade chicken stock I used.
Arborio Milanese.  While I added very little of grated Parmesano, it tasted plenty with a tablespoon of it.  & I will use white pepper the next time.

Chicken Caciattori - the Flop

I enjoyed the chicken caciattori the other day that I wanted to try this myself at home.  I wanted to impress my mother and sister who were coming to visit.  Everything went well, ...naaaa.... Flop! murphy's law - I burnt the chicken skin that it left 'burnt' taste to the sauce and all.  In trying to save this dish, after 3 hours of cooking it,  it turned into a skinless chicken caciattori.   Lesson learned - use your instinct and sear the chicken with regular cooking oil.

Green Beans with Balsalmic Vinaigrette

Fresh Green Beans were just beckoning me to buy, and I couldn't pass it by.  But what am I going to make this time?  Stir fry again?  what about the combination of stir fry and turn it into salad?
Wash, deveined, and cut into equal pieces, and blanch the green beans.
 Saute the green beans quickly in virgin olive oil with minced garlics and onions to heat through and sweat.
Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.    Prepare vinaigrette - mix extra light virgin oil and balsalmic vinegar, salt and freshly grounded pepper to taste.  Toss.  Serve - warm or cold.
 I made Pomme Duchesse and enjoyed another new method of potato cooking.

Vegetarian Curry with Potatoes and Apple

When I don't even the time to defrost the meat, I come up with something 'vegetarian' like dish.  And here is my photo journal of Vegetarian Curry with Potatoes and Apple.   When you bite into the diced Apple in the curry, it gives a burst of surprising experience.  If I am not mistaken, most of the people who has tasted "Japanese" style curry expect this 'apple' surprise in the curry.  It adds faint bouquet aroma to the curry.  Your tongue will delightfully appreciate the tartness and sweetness that mellows the taste of spicy hot curry.  And you want more of it.   If you have never tried it before, add some diced golden delicious or red delicious to your curry. 

Potato Salad with Vinaigrette

By the way, all these recipe testings I posted in June were not completed in the weeks of June.  They were completed in May.   I just did not have the time to post them due to my crazy final exam and oral surgery (I could not taste well).  It was a very stressful months, and I almost gave up on sharing them over the blog.  But I still cooked every night, testing the recipes and cooking methods, ....    So here is my adaptation of Mustard Vinaigrette (from Ad Hoc cookbook, p 179) with my Potato Salad with Beets served with hard boil egg wedges.  I am quite impressed with the function of Dijon mustard in vinaigrette and in other dressings.  It seems to provide that secret molecular combination to bring the mixture of vinegar and olive oil as in 'emulsification' together.  A tiny mustard seed indeed have a great power.   I like the smooth texture of this vinaigrette and less acidic taste from the champagne vinegar used.  Boil large diced potatoes and medium diced carrots till fork tender.  Mince 1 Tb of onions.  Mix in vinaigrette to chopped red beets and carrots first, then fold into potatoes.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Toss in some chopped cilantro leaves from the garden.  Slice one hard boiled egg into wedges and serve.

Black Bean Soup

Black Beans is not one of the common beans in my kitchen.  And using it to make the soup is just not done.  Most of my friends have made many different types of dishes with black beans.  But as for me, my first encounter with black beans is inside some healthy burrito somewhere, then, inside Adobe Cob Salad served at Dos Coyotes, which I like very much.  It taste nutty and firmer in texture than the pinto beans that I use almost exclusively to make my family famous chili during the cold winter.  What kind of culinary adventurer am I if I don't try black bean soup, I thought.  We've done this in the class, and it did not turn out to my liking.  The cooking time is too short that beans were not tender enough to release its flavor.  Mindfully remembering this, I soaked the beans and patiently boiled the beans till they are just right.  What a difference in the final serving.  Love that heart warming and nutty taste going down my throat.
Soaking beans overnight.  Soaked black beans look almost like red beans from natural discoloration during hydration.
 It resembles the sweet Chinese sesame soup.

Boeuf Bourguignon - Bouchon

I have been waiting for a quiet day to try this Boeuf Bourguignon for quite a long time.  I have my personal recipe to make beef stew, but when I heard about the boeuf bourguuignon in the culinary world, I wanted to try their recipe.  But the list of ingredients and long procedures have been quite intimidating.  Luckily with the instructional cooking broadcasting of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin by local KQED or KVIE2 channel, my courage is boosted slowly to try it.   Why not try and eat something new?  Just for the sake in trying my hands on pouring the mysterious liquid (as I am not a wine drinker)  - a whole bottle of it - into the seared beef is a wonder that I want to try.  I wanted to experience the happy face that Julia express every time she pours some of that magic liquid into most of her dish.  This particular recipe is from BOUCHON cookbook by Chef Thomas Keller.  It was two days in the preparation and served on the 4th day.   I wished I had the short ribs to prepare it, but I only had the stew beef.  The result of taste really rested on the cuts of the beef used.   The next time for 'this' type of involved recipe, and as I am an inexperienced with this particular recipe, it's best to use the exact cuts of beef, I told myself. 

Ingredients & preparing for the red win reduction.       And making my own stock.
 Adding an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon and reduce to 'a sec'.
 Searing Stew Beef--should use more fattier cut  'my mother commented.'

 Great technique to enable braise beef to tender and keep impurities from attaching to the beef when done - envelope them in cheesecloth.

 Make the Parchment Lid with steam hole and cover with lid.
 Ready for braising in the oven - mine took 4 hours.
 After 4 hours.
 Lift and transfer the beef out - check out all the impurities that are stuck to the cheesecloth.
 Fork Tender!
 Strain and discard the vegetables.  Strain the braising liquid twice through a fine strainer. 
 Skim the fat off.  "Strain the liquid over the beef.  Let it cool, then, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day or up to 3 days." (Ref: Bouchon cookboon, p 215)

And of course, there is Garnish cooked individually for Potatoes, Carrots, Bacon and Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions. 
Unfortunately my taste buds got so messed up from the oral surgery I had on the 4th day of the making, I could not officially taste the final product.  I know that the beef is fork tender, but what about the final taste?  My guests says, "Good".  My mother says, "It should have more fat and ..."  As she is an excellent cook, and I respect her judgement.  I will try it the next time with beef cut with bit more fat - the short ribs as stated in the Bouchon cookbook.  Let's see how it will turn out when I try Julia's Boeuf Bourguinon.  I hope I can say, "Bon Appetite!", then, myself.

Beets with Vinaigrette

When it comes to eating healthy salad, fresh red beets come to my mind.   Down to earth unique flavor of fresh beets is much appreciated when they are julienned or sliced very thin.   Thinly julienned beets can be served right away with freshly prepared basic vinaigrette with a dash of sesame oil and cayenne pepper or saved in a clean mason jar as pickled beets.  Either way, the crispy beets are my favorite over the boiled soft beets usually served at the smorgasbord.

Corn Pudding Souffle and Creamy Polenta

Corn Pudding Souffle is light and delicious accompaniment as side dish to vegetable course or main dish.   For my first time testing with this recipe in my kitchen, I served it with Creamy Polenta.   Airy light texture of the corn pudding souffle with slight crispy crust added an interesting dimension when served together.   As for the polenta's creamy texture, I compare it to something like the creamy hot malt-O-meal cereal, except with more larger coarse grains and creamy corn taste.   I think I need to acquire the taste bud for it, yet.   Will see how I will like it with few more testings.

Banana Bundt Cake with Tasty 5 Grain Cereals

There are so many new ingredients out there in the markets that I don't know where to begin testing with.  I have my favorite banana bread recipe that I have been baking with for the past thirty-years.  Then, there is new healthy ingredients to try with.  For the health conscious bakers who maybe concerned with consuming too much white flour, here is Banana Bundt Cake with Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain Cereals photo journal.

The top and bottom cake are the same.  It was taken under slightly different lighting.
The result of adding 5 Grain Cereals added the nutty flavor.   Some friends thought I had walnuts in it.  Instead of full amount of white flour, substitute at least 2/3 C with white whole wheat flour and the rest with regular flour.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Chocolate Banana Chiffon Cake

I finally made this 'Chocolate' Banana Chiffon Cake as a stress relief.  Chocolate is known for its mysterious power it posses to give energy,.... but most of all for its smooth creamy satisfying taste.   (I believe this is one of the recipe from one of my favorite blogger's site.  I will have to dig out my print out to give the proper credit later.)  The cake's texture is light, banana did not overpower the taste.  I think it will go very well with some kind of dessert wine.  I enjoyed my slice with a glass of cold milk.

Fried Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are preferred over regular potatoes in the diabetic recipes.  At the Elephant Bar Restaurants, there are two types of French Fries.  One made from Russet potatoes and the other from sweet potatoes.  I used the "sweet potatoes".  Caution:  watch the peanut oil temperature.  I think I would prefer to cook them in an electric fryer with auto temperature control to keep it at 325'F when blanching and 375'F when frying to avoid sugar burn.  I also would like to learn how to get those thin crispy crusty outer shell on those fries.  The thought of the process and clean-up opted me to just 'go and enjoy' it at the restaurant. 

Polly's Lentil Salad Adventure

"In your lifetime, how many different nuts have you tasted?  or how many different types of beans or grains have you tasted?"  I thought to myself.  And here it is, another nutrients that I have never tasted before, and when it is prepared 'this' way, watch out, I can eat the whole thing like a bowl of rice.  Lentil salad made with garlic, olive oil, minced onion, Italian parsley, bacon, red wine vinegar, and Tabasco has been added to one of my favorite health food.  My refrigerator has never seen fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, etc.  but now, it has been added to my garden this year, so I have freshly cut herbs to cook with.   I have tasted so far with two different types of Lentils - Organic Lentil, common and Lentils - French Green.  I prefer the later because it keeps firmer and prettier.