Tuesday, July 27

Homemade Whipped Cream

My mother doesn't cook much. She can broil a steak, but she will mess up your birthday cake every couple of years (that's right, it's possible to mess up boxed cake mix). But the one thing I remember her making with me and my brothers was homemade whipped cream. She'd pour the heavy cream into a glass bowl, generously add sugar and vanilla extract and turn on the electric hand mixer, and in a matter of minutes we had whipped cream. My brothers and I would stick our fingers into the bowl, usually before she had enough time to grab it from us, and use the cream to top one treat or another for us. It's one of my fondest cooking memories, and one of the few that I have with my mother, or either of my brothers.

What I'm providing is not so much a recipe as it is a guideline for preparation. I generally made whipped cream in about a 1 cup yield, so it is enough to use within a few days, and relatively liberally. The sweetness can be adjusted accordingly.


1/2 C heavy cream
3 T agave nectar or white sugar (I use agave because it's much easier to blend than granulated sugar)
1 t vanilla extract (sometimes I use almond to switch it up)

Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract and whip, either by hand with a whisk (my method) or with an electric mixer. When the cream has nearly doubled (within a few minutes) add the agave/sugar (by adding the sugar later, you allow the cream to rise to its full potential). Whip until soft peaks are formed. Stop at this point or the cream will lose the softness of this texture and begin to look grainy.

Friday, July 23

Salvaging Your Kitchen Disasters: Frugal Foodie via Mint Blog

Yesterday I came across an article on the Mint blog about saving kitchen disasters. Given that most young adults have a relatively inelastic grocery budget, over-salting a pot of soup or burning a chicken that was supposed to be lunch for a whole week is as disheartening for your wallet as it is for your inner chef. And so this post came at impeccable timing. Rather than showing off deals, this Friday you'll learn how to maximize what you already have in the fridge or pantry through cooking-resuscitation. 

Don't know if any of those tips will save these lemons.

Cooking 911: Salvaging Cooking Disasters
by Frugal Foodie at MintLife

Spend enough time in the kitchen and you’re bound to have an “Oh, #$&@!” moment.

You know: Burned food, over-salted sauces, a cake that comes out of the pan in six pieces — the kind of food emergency that leaves you in despair of wasted time and ingredients.
Don’t reach for the garbage can just yet. Many apparent disasters are fixable, while others turn out OK with a little recipe creativity, says Mark Alan Mollentine, the chef behind the Chef Mark’s Kitchen product line. “It depends on how much CPR — cooked product repair — it’s going to take,” he says.
We talked to Mollentine and other chefs about how to salvage common kitchen disasters. Here’s what they suggest:

Over-salted foods

* For vegetables and large pieces of meat, “strain it and drain it,” says Ivan Flowers, the chef and owner of Fournos in Sedona, Ariz. Salt lingers in nooks and crannies, but a quick rinse should get things back to a reasonable level.
* “The old potato fix works pretty good,” says Leanne Ely, author of the“Saving Dinner” cookbook series. Add a potato to the dish to absorb the salt. Keep it as part of the dish if you want, or remove once it’s cooked.
* Puree cooked, unsalted rice and add to the soup or sauce a tablespoon at a time, says Angela McKeller, the host of the “Kick Back and Kook!” podcast http://www.kickbackkook.com/. It both thickens and de-salts the liquid.
* “The balance for salt is sugar,” says Alan Segal, the president of kitchenware distributor Real Chef. Add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, to taste. ‘It will bring down the salt flavor.”
* Balance out the salt with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar, says Bibby Gignilliat, the founder ofParties That Cook.

Over-dressed salad

* Transfer the salad to a clean bowl. Dressing tends to run to the bottom, so you’ll leave much of it behind in the old bowl, Ely says.
* Add more salad.
* Put it in a salad spinner. “Some of the dressing will come off that way,” Gignilliat says.

Overcooked vegetables

* Puree into a soup base with a little milk, cream or chicken stock, advises Segal.
* Use in quiche, or as a complement to scrambled eggs, suggests Mike Ciardi, the chef at prepared-food shop Radish in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Stuck-together pasta

* Put it back in water with a splash of olive oil, and use your fingers to separate the pieces, Ely says.

Dried-out meat

* “Sauce it down,” Mollentine says. Even a simple gravy helps reintroduce moisture and improve the texture.

Burnt meat

* Frugal Foodie’s dad likes to refer to his kitchen mishaps as “blackened,” rather than “burned.” Turns out, he’s on to something. Adding a rub of Cajun spices can salvage meat that’s a little too well done on the outside, Ely says.
* Spice combinations like cinnamon and cumin, chipotle and adobo or even liquid smoke can reduce the burned notes and add a complementary smoky, spicy flavor, Gignilliat says.

Lumpy sauce

* Place in a blender with a pat of butter. “It makes the sauce come to a beautiful froth,” Flowers says.
* Strain gravy through a sieve, but resist the urge to push it through, Mollentine says. That leaves lumps (although smaller ones) in the sauce.

Broken (i.e. separated) sauces

* For butter sauce, bring a little cream near to boiling in a separate pot and then add in the sauce. “Bang! It’s back and beautiful,” says Flowers.
* For mayonnaise, break an egg yolk into a separate bowl. Slowly whisk in the broken mayonnaise in a slow stream to bring it back together.
* For whipped cream that’s a little over-whipped, add a little more heavy cream. “It’ll loosen back up,” Gignilliat says.

Cracked/crumbled cakes

* Reassemble and freeze the cake so that it will hold together, says Mollentine. Then ice it.
* Reinvent the cake as a trifle by cubing it and layering with fresh fruit and pudding, whipped cream or ice cream. ‘Even if it doesn’t look good, it can still taste good,” McKeller says.

Burnt pie crust

* Remove the burned edges and add a light coating of powdered sugar. “It’s pretty, and no one will be the wiser,” Ely says.

Burnt cake

* Use a serrated knife to slice off the burned portion, Gignilliat says. Flip the cake so the shorn side is on the bottom, and then ice to cover the damage.

Deflated muffins

* Chop them up and use them to make bread pudding, McKeller says.

You can follow her on twitter at @MintFoodie and see more of her articles here.

Thursday, July 22

No, Not Better Than the Risotto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjzmuhb4kDA (Link to Seinfeld clip, since Linda Edelstein doesn't believe in embedding videos)
Given the ubiquity of this line from Seinfeld, you'd think that I'd have enjoyed risotto more often in my life. Hell, Seinfeld was enough to prompt arguably the world's most famous soupmaker back into business, with his draconian business practices and "no soup for you!" declarations. And yet risotto is not a territory that I had traversed often. Perhaps it was me thinking back to me at the tender age of 13, serving a rather toothsome risotto to my family. I guess the over-stimulation from having to stand over the pot for the entire cooking length of time stirring and stirring and stirring made me serve it early and exasperated.

But last night I decide to give it a second try, as the arborio rice in the bulk bin at Whole Foods and my freshly made vegetable stock were crying out to me to be made into something delectable. It really isn't a difficult dish to make. It requires a decent amount of attention, but in about 30 minutes you have a dish that warms the heart as much as the palate. Not to mention it would have cost a lot more and taken much more time if you had decided just to go out for dinner. Besides, we aren't little kids, we can focus for 30 minutes straight, right? Right?

 The result was a risotto that 13-year-old me would be proud of.

Luscious, creamy, supple, sexy, as Angelo (Top Chef) would describe.

Basic Risotto Recipe

Yields 4, 1/2 cup servings

1 T butter
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 T olive oil
1 cup wine (I used white; Nobilo Cabernet Sauvignon - fruity, citrusy, peppery, zesty)
3 cups stock (I used vegetable; you could use chicken, fish, beef depending on other ingredients)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup of any vegetable and/or meat you'd like to add (peas, asparagus, mushroom, scallop are tried and true flavors)

Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, allowing the onions to sweat but not to brown. When the onions are translucent add the rice and olive oil, coating every grain of rice.

Add the wine, allowing the alcohol to cook off for about 10 minutes. Then add the stock. Bring the heat up to medium.

Stand over the pot and stir for 20-25, allowing for the starch in the rice to be released, resulting in a creamy texture (or what Italians would call "wavy"). At this point add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, give it another stir then serve.

I'm not really sure at what point I would add the vegetables, it depends. Mushroom and asparagus I would add toward the beginning so that they can cook and brown only slightly with the onions. I added frozen peas to mine at the very end, really only because I forgot, but I thought it was fine as they kept their sweetness and were defrosted thoroughly with the residual heat of the dish.

Scallops would most likely become rubbery if you add them to the dish, particularly too early. What I would suggest is searing them (heat up a pan with olive oil until it is quite hot then brown the scallops for about 3 mins on each side), then line them on the side of the plate. Mmm scallops.

My next experiments will be 1) making risotto with short grain brown rice (need to check how starching it is/if it will release a sufficient amount of starch and absorb the liquid) and 2) making it with a red wine, beef stock some high quality mushrooms and serving it with a steak that's so good it'll make PETA slap their mama.

Anyways, enjoy.

Oh and for cost:
1 cup arborio rice = ~1/2 lb arborio rice = $0.65 (Whole Foods)
3 cups vegetable stock = $0 (Homemade, using the scraps from vegetables and left over vegetables, but if I had to put a price ~$1.75, of which I used half, so $0.88)
1 T butter = $0.08 (Trader Joe's)
1 T olive oil = $0.09 (Trader Joe's)
1 cup white wine = $2.84 (Safeway)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese = $0.59 (splurged on a bit of the expensive kind, but it has lasted a while and I enjoy it more, hence, buy smaller quantities of higher quality) (Trader Joe's)

1/2 cup petite peas = $0.19 (Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup baby bella mushrooms (Trader Joe's) = $0.50

Total = $5.82 --> ~$1.46/serving (of course that means eating the proper portion size of 1/2 cup, which is not only good for your waistline, but apparently good for your wallet as well).

Homemade Yogurt: More Ways to Save for Less Effort

My plan for this summer was to hone my cooking skills and develop some techniques, as well as compile a formidable cookbook that would be a guide throughout a long semester of LSATs and thesis writing and interning. The summer is naturally the best time for students to develop these skills as we don't have the convenience of a dining hall to dissolve our motivation toward homecooking. There are the few who wholly believe that it is cheaper to eat out for every single meal. Now I love to go out to eat, but we, grounded people with perspective, know that our wallets and stomachs are much fuller from $50 of groceries than from $50 of subpar takeout.

An even better way to maximize those $50 of groceries is to learn to make from scratch those items that you spend the most on. One such item for me is yogurt. After seeing how successful people were in making their own yogurt at home, I decided to retry that experiment myself. And the results have been thick, and tangy, and delicious. And effort is minimal, just enough to provide a light study break without an intense time commitment.

Homemade Yogurt

4 Cups Milk
1 1/2 Cup Powdered Milk (optional, lends to a thicker texture)
4 T Yogurt with live active cultures
1 T Sugar (optional, might help the cultures develop)


Heat the 4 cups milk (I like whole, I've used 2%) to 185 degrees, then cool to 110 degrees. Mix in 4 T yogurt with live active cultures and 1 1/2 cups powdered milk and 1 T sugar, then sit in the oven on warm overnight (or anywhere that will maintain a 105-115 degree temperature).

Strain it for 20 minutes or so thicker yogurt, or for 12 hours for yogurt cheese.

4 cups of yogurt, made for about $1.75. Beats $5 for 2 cups if fage total, or even $2.50-$3.00 for 2 cups of Trader Joe's Greek-style yogurt.

Tuesday, July 20

Technique Tuesdays - Knife skills: Slicing and Dicing

My knife technique is one skill that I constantly wish to improve upon. Given that using a knife is one of the most fundamental aspects of cooking, it is a good idea to have at the minimum a general idea of how to hold one. It's better to have a good idea of how to use one to cut vegetables. I decided to start with slicing and dicing, particularly on the elusive onion.

I've been using larger, chefs knives since I was a child, probably to the behest of my mother. And despite having at least 10 years of knife-using experience, I still felt as though I hadn't develop the most effective way of serving my cutting needs. I wanted some video tutorials, and so I searched in the iTunes store and found a bunch of podcasts and video tutorials, many of which I will be utilizing in this blog in the future (with the proper attributions of course). The videos I most enjoy are Basics of Culinary by the Art Institutes, under iTunes U. 

The videos I've provided below are from kitchendaily.com, featuring chefs from the Culinary Institute of America, one of the foremost culinary institutions in the world. I've also provided a YouTube video featuring Chef and Owner of Lento restaurant. Hopefully, after a weekend in the kitchen (or in front of the TV as I like to do) with a 10 lb bag of onions, you'll be slicing and dicing like a boss.

How to Dice an Onion.
Note: this video leaves out a step that I always do, which is after slicing vertically, I make 2-3 horizontal cuts in the onion (like in this video, though this person makes about 10), then proceed to the slicing cut, which I believe produces a finer dice (a brunoise, if you would)

How to Slice an Onion

Research Other Knife Cuts and feel free to search for more videos on youtube, as there are tons of resources available.

A Picture Guide of My Attempts:
vertical cut
horizonal cut
final slice

Resetting the Table: Blog Content Reorganizing

After using my vacation at the beginning of this month to rethink and reorganize the purpose and direction of this blog, as well as come up with some resourceful and meaningful content, Iv'e decided to schedule a couple days a week for specific topics. Of course, you could end up seeing multiple posts on one day that don't all have to do with that topic. But my goal is to develop a little more consistent and purposeful blogging

image from sophiescartoons.com

So the schedule for the remainder of this summer:

Tuesday: Technique Tuesdays
Friday:  Money-Saving Fridays
Saturday: Farmers Market-Menu Planning Saturdays
Sunday: Prep Work Sundays

Friday, July 16

How Could I Forget to Mention the Other Culinary Fails of the Night

Firstly, after sharpening my knives for the first time in about 2 years, I cut partly through the nail on my thumb. This seems to confirm the phenomenon of always messing up my nails once I have resolved to get a manicure.

Secondly, the roasted figs stuffed with gorgonzola cheese that were to be the main highlight of the cheese course took an unfortunate fall onto my kitchen floor. Needless to the say, the five second rule does not apply in that void of a dungeon.

Anyways, hope you had a Happy Bastille Day. Look for a post on maximizing food warehouse memberships in the near future.

Thursday, July 15

Happy Bastille Day: Dinner (And the 150th Post!)

Yesterday's night's multi-course affair was the conclusion of a day inspired by the foods and flavors of France. I spent about 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen, preparing and cooking and plating. Mike and I also shared the meal with Jacob and Kari, increasing our table from two to four. The extra mouths were welcome as I was positive that Mike wouldn't be entirely appreciative of the haughtiness and flavors of some of the foods, but he was a good sport throughout the meal.

The meal began with an entree of parmesan and parsley gougeres. Gougeres are made with a pate a choux dough. For those of you that didn't study French (including myself), "choux" means cabbage and is meant to describe the way that the dough puffs up into little balls that are airy and light and more pop-able than pringles.

The next course was a soup course. I made leek and artichoke soup for Jacob, Kari and myself, while Mike had a tomato soup, made with ample amounts of butter and campari tomatoes.

For the palate cleanser before the main course, I juiced some limes and removed the inside, blended it with ice and a bit of agave nectar, then refilled the lime and froze them. The result was somewhat like an icier lime limonata. Everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation.

Next came the plat principal. I was originally planning on doing the pasta course followed by the main course, but I decided to combine the two. This course consisted of a lemon capellini with lemon zest and parmesan cheese, poulet saute aux herbes de provence (herbes de provence traditionally consists of savory, fennel, thyme and basil, among other herbs) atop a dijon-y, hollandaise-y sauce made from homemade yogurt, egg yolk, lemon juice, butter and the pan sauces from roasting the chicken. The side dish was a braised endive

The course is sadly missing the lemon slices that had been roasting in the toaster oven as we were enjoying our palate cleansers. My first culinary fail of the night.

But we persisted on with the salad course. I made a salad of mesclun greens with dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and gorgonzola cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette of 3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard and salt and pepper. I think the salad was Kari's favorite part of the meal. The cheese course was combined with this course. We had brie cheese and butter and slices of homemade wheat bread.

The dessert course I was planning on making was crepes with chocolate and whipped cream. Unfortunately, last night our tiny kitchen was the setting for 3 separate dinner parties. So we had a simple dessert of chocolate squares and Trader Joe's gummy tummies.

Coffee was also left out because of the kitchen and it was just too hot.

All in all it was a success, and I'm looking forward to more national holidays so I can plan a day of menus.

Shoutouts to Kari and Jacob for sitting through my experiments in flavor and texture, disguised as classically-influenced courses. And a big thanks to Mike for being the most disinterestedly interested sous chef

Wednesday, July 14

Happy Bastille Day: Lunch, and Presenting, the Dinner Menu

I'm happy to say that today my blog shot past 500 views, all since May 29th, shortly after a reevaluation of theme and direction. And on that note, I continue with my Bastille Day posts.

Lunch was simple, partly because I wanted to begin compensating for what will be a lavish dinner, but also because I was forced to cut my lunch short due to work responsibilities. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the asparagus-pea soup that I made earlier in the week, along with some toasted, homemade bread and butter. All savored at the table, rather than eaten mindlessly in front of the TV.

But for the finale, the dinner menu, as of 4:11 pm.

Entrée: Parmesan Cheese and Leek Gougeres
Soup Course: Leek and Artichoke Soup, Tomato Soup
Palate Cleanser: Limonata
Pasta Course: Lemon Capellini
Plat Principal: Poulet Sauté aux Herbs de Provence (or a modified Poulet Provençal) with Braised Endive
Salad Course: Mesclun Greens with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and a Red Wine Vinaigrette
Cheese Course: Roasted Figs stuffed with Gorgonzola Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Brie Tart
Dessert Course: Chocolate Crepes with Whipped Cream and Roasted Coconut
Finale: Coffee

Happy Bastille Day: Breakfast

Happy Bastille Day, everyone. I'm not one to celebrate national holidays that belong to other countries, but given that this is a food blog and France is the culinary mecca of our world, I thought it only appropriate to honor the storming of the Bastille and the excessive use of the guillotine by planning a French Cuisine-themed menu. That is a menu to cover the entire day.

Let's start with breakfast:

I finally bought My dad bought me a cast iron set (like a dutch oven, with a deeper pot on the bottom and a lid that is also a larger, shallower pot) on the drive back home from Chesapeake, at a Cracker Barrel of all places. But it was real cast iron for an unreal price and it was too good not to buy. (My dad gave himself some cast iron gifts, as well, so I didn't feel too guilty). For some reasons why you need cast iron, read here.

The first thing  I cooked was a loaf of bread, followed by calzones. Then I thought to myself, this shallow pan would be perfect for making crepes. so I woke up early, mixed together a batter, washed some fruit, and made sure Mike woke up in time for his first Bastille Day meal of the day.

Needless to say, he made it.

Basic Crepe Batter
As you know, the foundation of many of my basic recipes are based on the ratios found in Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio. This way I don't have to search for a recipe every time I want to cook something. Rather, the basic ratio is memorized and I can add flavor and seasoning as I see fit. 

The ratio for a crepe batter is 2:2:1, liquid:egg:flour. (This is where a kitchen scale comes in handy, but it's not essential, just more accurate and is better than having measuring cups and bowls dispersed in a tiny kitchen, or any kitchen for that matter.) If you want 3 medium size crepes, I suggest 2 eggs (an egg is ~2 oz, 1 oz yolk, 1 oz white), 4 oz liquid (I used water, you can use milk as well), and 2 oz flour (I used all purpose, whole wheat flour would be nice, too). It is a very thin batter, thinner than pancake batter. To give it more flavor, add a teaspoon of vanilla, as well as a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

I then let it soak for 30 minutes to saturate the flour with the liquid, give it one more stir, heat up the cast iron pan over medium heat, melt some butter, then make some crepes. 

I used a measuring spoon to pour the batter over the hot griddle, starting in the center and then slowing moving out in a circle. Let the crepes firm up before flipping over, that way you don't have to worry about batter dripping everywhere and you get a nice brown color on the crepe.

We filled our crepes with fresh blackberries and blueberries and kiwi, topped with homemade whipped cream and blueberry preserves that I made last night. Next time the plan is sliced strawberries and chocolate. Hopefully I'll remember to make a pot of French Roast coffee and then it will really be on.

The third crepe was wrapped up for Mike to take to work, along with some cheese and blueberries. Whether or not he wraps the cheese or the blueberries in the crepe is beyond my power, but that is about as French as he is going to get during lunch.

Looking forward to dinner, though. I'm planning a multi-course affair. And for a little teaser, some of the prep work I did for dinner this morning.


Tuesday, July 13

Springtime Favorites: Pea and Asparagus Soup

While we are hardly in spring anymore, particularly in DC, this soup shines most brightly at Springtime, when crops are delivering the season's high of sweet peas and tender asparagus. I had some asparagus in my freezer that I'd been planning on roasting. But given that I've been in a soup making kick, I yielded myself to inspiration upon seeing a package of petite peas from Trader Joe's next to the asparagus. And the ad hoc addition of a rind of Parmesan cheese that was bound for the trash added a creamy, yet subtle flavor that invoked a bit of Fall (my favorite season), in my opinion. I made enough soup to yield about 1 serving (maybe 1 1/2 or 2 if you're really trying to cut back, but it's vegetable soup so it's good for you). Feel free to double or triple these ingredients to yield enough for a dinner for two, or a couple of mid week lunches.

Asparagus and Pea Soup
Serves 1-2

1 T unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely sliced or diced
2 t rice vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 C chicken stock
6 oz (petite) peas
6 oz asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
rind of Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/4 C heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is translucent.

Turn up the heat to high to brown the onion and garlic. When browned, add the vinegar, lower the heat to medium then add the olive oil and chicken stock.

Add the peas, asparagus and Parmesan cheese rind and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the rind. Add the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender and puree. If you are planning on freezing the soup for later, do not add the heavy cream until before eating. Otherwise, add the cream and blend for another 30 seconds.

For a thinner, silkier soup, pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer. (You don't have to reserve the mash that is left behind, but I figured the 1/2 cup that was left over plus the 1/2 cup of artichoke-mushroom soup that I still had and some homemade bread would make for a good lunch today.)

Serve, garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche (literally fresh cream) or greek yogurt or your homemade yogurt (more on that later), topped with grated Parmesan cheese or maybe some basil chiffonade (thin slices of basil). Anything to make it pretty, because as we know, appetizing food and satisfaction are about presentation as much they are about flavor.

Monday, July 12

National Public Toilet Map - Trip Planning 2.0

National Public Toilet Map (of Australia) - Provided by the Department of Health and Ageing of the Australian Government.

Now this isn't necessarily related to food (at least not in a disgusting sense), but what I want to know is why there has been no national public toilet map implemented in the states.

My family recently took a road trip to Chesapeake, VA. They picked me up in DC and then drove me all the way back to NJ. Usually my dad is the one who is making us stop at every rest stop, but on this trip I had the bladder of a pregnant woman.

Perhaps now wasn't the time for me to make a conscious effort to increase the amount of water I drink during the course of a day. But, on the other hand, wouldn't my family have been a little less annoyed if the government allowed us a means to build in these bathroom trips into our trip planner? Then again, I'm pretty sure there is an (iPhone) app for that.

Saturday, July 10

Artichoke-Mushroom Soup: Comfort, Even In The Summer Heat

After several days of record-breaking heat, it is finally rainy and cool down here in DC, and the perfect weather for soup. I've had some sliced baby bella mushrooms sitting in my fridge begging me not to let them go bad. The artichoke hearts I picked up from Trader Joe's the weekend before seemed to be the best pairing, and with a dollop of heavy cream right before I finished cooking, I had a great comfort meal, to get me through the dreary weather that pops up every so often during the summer. I imagine it could even been good at room temperature.

This meal took about 40 minutes of cook time, including prep work, so it's quick and comforting, and the smell that permeates throughout the house is wonderful and homey.

Artichoke-Mushrooms Soup

1 T unsalted butter
1 small white onion, brunoise (finely diced)
1 shallot, diced
1 T fruity olive oil (Trader Joe's President Olive Oil/California Estate Bottled or Whole Foods 365 are great value olive oils and not watered down with peanut or canola oils)
1 T rice vinegar
2-3 C chicken stock (adjust to whether you want a thinner or a thicker soup; use your own chicken stock (2 lb chicken bones + vegetables + water to cover bones) for a more robust and homestyle flavor)
6 oz artichoke hearts (if frozen, boil in water), coarsely chopped (~1 1/4 cup)
6 oz mushroom, coarsely chopped (~1 cup)
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t ground nutmeg
1 t thyme
1/4 C heavy cream
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium, then add the onion and shallot. Let it sweat in the buter for 5-10 minutes, add the olive oil and raise the heat to medium-high. When the onion and shallot begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, scrape off with a spatula, deglaze with the rice vinegar, then add the chicken stock.

2. Lower the temperature to medium, then add the artichoke hearts and mushroom. Bring to a boil then let it simmer for 25 minutes.

3. Add the cayenne pepper, nutmeg and thyme and let the soup rest for a minute. Then add it to a blender or use an immersion blender and puree it to your desired thickness.

4. Ad the heavy cream and blend for another 30 seconds. Pour into a bowl and enjoy it however you like.

I topped mine with chopped walnuts, adding texture and more nutty flavor, and parmesan cheese, which melted beautifully in the middle of the bowl. Remember, you want your food to look as good as it tastes, because presentation is almost as important to the taste of the food as the actual flavor.


P.S. The soup also has a natural parter in a mesclun green salad with a bit of tomato (sweetness and
acidity) and a rice vinegar vinaigrette (3:1 olive oil:rice vinegar + 1 t dijon mustard + salt and pepper).

Thursday, July 8

Let Them Have Soul, Ben L'oncle Soul

I've been reading French Women Don't Get Fat, deceptively titled to make you think it's a diet book. Rather it's a relatively transparent attempt to awaken the francophile hidden deep within all Americans. It's actually quite refreshing, given the bastardizing of bouef a la bourguignonne, a traditional french beef dish, by Julie and Julia, quite similar to the bastardizing of argyle sweaters during Fall 2009 (I'm taking to you Tar-jay!), but I digress.

Needless to say the francophile has been awakened in me, to the point that I've searched beyond the deep history of provencal food and haute cuisine that has put France in the center of the culinary map. That lead me to Ben L'oncle Soul. When I first read the name I thought it was some kind of French copyright infringement on Uncle Ben's rice, with the "Soul" added for good measure. But instead, it turned out to be a soulful Frenchman churning out covers of "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes and "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley like no one's business. And on top of all of that, dude doesn't even speak English, at the very least, not very well.

I can speak to his talent only to a limited extent. But here is Ben L'oncle Soul, performing a cover of Seven Nation Army. In this case, hearing is believing.

Wednesday, July 7

10 Reasons to Get a Cast Iron Pot, as told by Macheesmo

This has been the longest gap in my posts since March and this one will not even be, entirely, in my own words. I've been gathering content to do a list of essential kitchen-ware for college students and young adults. One item that I think is particularly important is a cast iron pan. Ironically enough, I don't own one myself. I think that finding one, and then subsequently seasoning it, is a rather intimate process and so I've been taking my time with it. But these 10 reasons may be enough to convince myself, and all of you, to get a move on it. (That is if you don't own one already.

from Macheesmo

Ten Reasons for Cast Iron

"Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about kitchen equipment.  This is based on some emails I’ve been getting asking for recommendations on cookware and also on my huge influx of quality kitchen gear I’ve received via wedding presents.
Over the years I’ve amassed a pretty fair collection of pots, pans, gizmos, and gadgetsand to be completely honest, I use almost all of them fairly regularly.  But there’s one piece of kitchen equipment that I use more than any other.
It’s one of the very first things I recommend people spend their hard earned money on if they’re trying to get a kitchen started.
The piece of equipment, of course, is a cast iron skillet.
10 Reasons to Own a Cast Iron Skillet
1) Made of Iron. This thing is sturdy.  You can drop it and it won’t be damaged.  You don’t have to worry about scratching it or discoloring it (it’s black already you see).  It’s possible that it can rust, but you can easily clean it.  Cast iron skillets will take any and all abuse and still last forever.  In fact, your skillet will probably outlast even you.
2) It Can Take The Heat. Most cookware comes with heat warnings.  Even most stainless steel cookware isn’t supposed to go over 450/500 degrees in an oven.  Cast iron?  I mean… yea… eventually it’ll melt.  But seriously you can cook on an open campfire with this thing.  Try that with a nonstick pan.  Oh wait.  Don’t.  I don’t want any lawsuits."

To read more, go to Macheesmo

Friday, July 2

Shrimp, Chicken and (Soy) Chorizo Paella

I tear up in the kitchen, leaving a ton of dishes in my wake. So tonight, I figured the solution would be a one pot meal. I just purchased some soy chorizo from Trader Joe's, not necessarily for the nutritional benefits, but because a package of D'Artagnan chorizo would run me $11, as opposed to the $2 I spent on the healthier, meatless version. From there, paella was on my mind. Despite the lack of saffron, I figured I could (somewhat) make up for this with some cayenne pepper and paprika. I can not understate the amazingness that is saffron threads, though, and s, if you have the means and accessibility to saffron, then use it.

My paella still came out well. I can provide an approximation of the recipe (one that really just exists in my mind). But the pictures are the best part.

Shrimp, Chicken and (Soy) Chorizo Paella

3 chicken thighs
handful of frozen shrimp, tail removed
1/2 package of soy chorizo
2 cups cooked rice, or 1 cup uncooked rice (preferably arborio or another short grain rice, but I used long grain white rice this time)
1/2 cup chicken broth, or 2 cups if using uncooked rice
2 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
1 anchovy fillet, diced
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 spanish onion, brunoised (small dice)
1 T olive oil/bacon grease/animal fat
2 bay leaves
Cayenne Pepper


Add the olive oil/bacon grease/animal fat to a large pot/dutch oven/cast iron pan and sear the chicken thighs, then remove. Add the garlic to the pot. When fragrant, add the diced anchovy and onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Crush the grape tomatoes and add them to the pot. Lower the heat and allow to stew and caramelize.

If using uncooked rice, add 2 cups of the rice and 4 cups of chicken broth to the pot. If using cooked rice, add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 2 bay leaves and saffron to the pot and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cut the chicken meat off the bone, dice up and add to the pot, along with the soy chorizo (removed from the casing). After 10 minutes of simmering, add the cooked rice and mix well. Add cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Top with shrimp and parsley, cover and let the heat from the paella warm the shrimp.

Thursday, July 1

Dessert for Snack: Panna Cotta with Nectarine Puree and Cherries

I finally got my new phone in the mail yesterday. This means that I have a much improved camera to share my creations with. My most recent one is a snack I finished not even 5 minutes ago.

If you look back you will see a post that I made on a lower fat panna cotta (using 2% milk and butter, as opposed to heavy cream). While I tend to be one who prefers eating (a smaller portion of) full fat foods, I had a gallon of 2% milk and lots of butter and no heavy cream, so this creation was one born out of necessity than any nutritional motives.

Here, my panna cotta is featured with a nectarine puree (3 nectarines and a spoon ful of greek yogurt which will be featured in a pastry tonight or tomorrow morning. I also used up the rest of the cherries and a bit of whipped cream to dress up the plate even more. My plating could use some work, but that is something that I'll work on.

For now, enjoy!


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