23 August 2011

Puff Pastries (Wasabi Chevre + Crystallized Ginger)

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, they were delicious. The ball of wasabi chevre I mentioned last post has gradually been getting smaller. It goes well on my (current) cracker of choice, ak-mak, so that made a dent. E and I put it to good use on sandwiches - toasted hippie bread, tomato, avocado, frisee, pear, wasabi chevre - that were delicious in every way. But, still, it hasn't been quick enough. I run away to Seattle shortly and my fridge has a few too many perishables. Coworkers give me a great outlet for eating my food, but I wasn't going to show up in the morning with a block of cheese and crackers and beg them to eat it. So, pastries seemed the obvious choice.
These are moderately recognizable - I've made something similar before, though with jam. I had learned some lessons last time; 1) they needed to be stuffed with filling rather than merely spread and 2) powdered sugar gives a flavor, but not quite what one expects on these. I solved (1) in the obvious way, and (2) was done in by muscovado sugar. I also knew the chevre, by itself, would be good but not quite enough. Sushi tells me that ginger and soy sauce go well with wasabi. One of those is an obvious choice; I toyed with the idea of topping them with fresh ground black pepper instead of muscovado but quickly abandoned it when I tested a bite containing all three of those powerful flavors (wasabi, ginger, pepper). I made the dough at night, rolled it out and cut it, then in the morning filled, folded, and baked them. Fresh from the oven was the best; the chevre loses a lot as it cools. If you are going to make these, consider it as an appetizer to be served immediately.
Puff Pastries (Wasabi Chevre + Crystallized Ginger)
1 stick of butter worth of rough puff pastry
~3 oz wasabi chevre
~10 pieces crystallized ginger, chopped finely
muscovado sugar (for garnish)
ground ginger (for garnish)

The directions for construction are fairly obvious - make squares a few inches on each side. I think I put, roughly, 1/2 tbsp chevre and 1/2 tsp ginger in each pocket. Enough so that, when sealed, they were mostly full. Using a spoon, I put a little muscovado on each and spread it in with a finger tip, then sprinkled powdered ginger over the whole thing.

Bake for ~18 minutes at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined sheet; I might suggest 425 degrees for less time, to get a bit more browning, but I didn't try this.

19 August 2011

Raw "Pasta", Al Dente

I finally got around to cooking a meal now that I'm back; there was a bit of eating out and lazy nights to get the beans and rice diet out of my system. But now I'm back in the kitchen and my non-existent slave-driving domestic partner couldn't be happier. And, actually, my coworkers are happy too - bread has resumed. The bread won't get much space; it was roughly this recipe without the potato or walnuts, and 10% of the flour weight replaced with polenta. Very chewy, very runny dough, with a bit of a crunch and sweetness from the polenta.
For my first cooked dinner, I wanted to take advantage of the bounty of fresh, delicious vegetables one gets in the Bay Area. I also didn't want to cook. So I compromised - I would prep something, but it would be raw. I've had (and made) raw "pasta" consisting of shredded carrots and zucchini a few times. The prep time is minimal, unless you are an idiot like me and decided to slice the veggies with a knife instead of using a cheese grater. Don't do that, unless you have a lot of patience, a very sharp knife, and like things crunchy. Just, you know, use a cheese greater. Hell of a lot easier to eat, as well. You also want to make sure you use a very flavorful tomato - something big and heirloomy; the tomato is a lot of the flavor in this dish and a weak-ass roma really won't cut it. I also want to draw special attention to the cheese I used - wasabi chevre. With real wasabi, not a horse radish base. This stuff is divine and you should go buy some and put it on everything you could imagine putting chevre on.
Raw "Pasta" Al Dente
Serves 1 (not all by itself, mind you)

1 good sized carrot, grated or sliced very thinly
1 good sized zucchini, grated or sliced very thinly
1 giant (or 2 normal) heirloom tomatoes, the more flavor the better
wasabi chevre (or really any very soft cheese)
grated parmesan
~1 tbsp olive oil
~2 tsp rice vinegar
freshly ground salt and pepper

In a bowl, combine the carrot and zucchini. Slice the tomato into wedges and squeeze them very lightly over the bowl, then throw them in as well. Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss to coat everything evenly. Add more of ingredients if needed for taste. Serve on plate, sprinkled with parmesan and topped with a dollop of chevre.

14 August 2011

Posts to resume soon

And here is a quick computer drawing of a notebook sketch I did about why I haven't been posting.
Some things about Belizean food: unless you go to the South (we didn't), you should really like rice and beans with stewed meat. Potentially also beans and rice (which, it turns out, we enjoyed more than rice and beans). You won't be getting much else. Even though it is the only cheap beer, Belikin isn't half bad. Go for the stout, and don't be surprised when you find your beer empty way earlier than expected. The bottles are very heavy and not very large. Drink lots of Panty Rippers just to see if they live up to their name; if you want something manlier just go for some One Barrel with lime. If you find yourself on Caye Caulker you should try eating at Fran's - more for the atmosphere (picnic tables force conversations with strangers) than for the food (standard-fare barbecued things). Eat some Johnny Cakes for breakfast - we didn't until the last day and Great Scott were we ever missing out. And, as always, be wary of cheap sea food specials so you don't end up sick like me.

01 August 2011

Shortbread + Irish Cream

It has been quite some time since the last round of shortbread, but they are not forgotten. To the contrary, I made biscotti regina a bit ago from this recipe, but didn't honor it with a post. I would recommend adding some anise (or anise-like flavor, like absinthe) to that recipe and otherwise no changes. But! Shortbread! With Irish Cream! The goal of this experiment was to make the shortbread still look like shortbread, but have a creamy boozy flavor to them. It almost worked; the final texture is very nice and they taste good, but the cream doesn't really come through. More booze, maybe? I used 2 tbsp Irish Cream and 1 tbsp olive oil; I've changed that (without trying it) to 3tbsp Irish Cream and no olive oil in the recipe below. Otherwise: A++ would bake again.
Irish Cream Shortbread
Makes 1 dozen cookies
1/2 cup pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp Irish Cream
large crystal sugar for garnish

Cream the butter; if using a blender this is easy. If using your muscles, I like chopping it finely and then stirring with a fork. It may not cream; no worries, the Irish Cream will save you. Once the butter is creamed, add in the sugar and cream again. Add in the flour and mix until it begins clumping; it may not form a ball; that is fine Irish Cream will save this as well. Add in the Irish Cream 1 tbsp at a time; the dough should now definitely form a ball. Using your hands, divide the dough into about 12 pieces and shape each like your thumb (by rolling it into a ball, then rolling the ball between your hands to elongate it). Put the shaped cookies on a baking sheet, sprinkle the sugar over the tops and lightly press it in, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 and cook for 25-30 minutes, until they have browned slightly around the bottom. Rotate the pan at some point if you want to be anal about these things or your oven has a vendetta against even baking.

You must must must let them cool; unlike cookies, shortbread fresh from the oven is not good as it will still be soft.

Buckwheat Scallion Pancake and Miso Stir Fry

I've, roughly, made this exact meal before, but that won't stop me from making it again. I changed up some ratios a bit, and swapped out many of the ingredients in the stir fry. Still, a quick meal with a sauce that doesn't quite come together, ever. One of these days I may need to make a sauce all proper-like, with a boil and reduce with cornstarch by itself before tossing it onto the stir fry proper. However, due to the liquid nature of the sauce I made I did get a very nice texture to my tofu. I used high-protein firm tofu, browned on all sides in oil. It then sat it liquid and, roughly, steamed. The outside was very firm and tough, but the inside was almost spongy; I think there is promise in the fry-->steam/boil method.
Miso Tofu Stir Fry
Serves 2
12 oz high-protein firm tofu, cubed
enough bok choi for two
1 large heirloom tomato
1 red pepper, diced
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp red miso paste
1 tsp oil
6 tbsp hot water
1 sprig green onion, chopped
spicy seasoning of your choice

In a large frying pan over medium high, heat some oil. Toss in the cubed tofu and brown it on all sides. While browning, combine the oil, soy sauce, miso paste, hot water, green onion, and spicy thing in a bowl and mix until the miso has dissolved. Once the tofu has browned on all sides, add the pepper and bok choi to the pan, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for a minute or two before adding the sauce and the tomato, chopped into a few pieces. Cook for ten more minutes, stirring intermittently. The tomato should disintegrate somewhat in the sauce; you can try adding flour or corn starch to thicken it up.
Buckwheat Scallion Cakes
Serves 2
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup hot water (boiling if you want)
2 tsp ground ginger
3 springs green onion, diced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon for a few minutes. Knead gently a few times, then let rest, covered, for thirty minutes. After letting it rest, form into 2-3 cakes and cook each in a bit of oil over medium-high.