28 November 2011

Raspberry/Apple Tart

I have no Thanksgiving food to post; my only contribution was bread and non-adventurous versions at that. E provided green bean casserole with every ingredient from a can (the way it should be). There was a lot of other cooking this weekend, however. For starters, E proved she could cook things that don't come from cans and then some using my new tart pan with this:
A delicious raspberry/apple tart with a hint of cinnamon and a dash of sugar, but not much else. As much as I doubted her filling would work, I was much impressed by the final result. She added no liquid to the filling, simply cooking half the berries and the apple over medium until it transmogrified into a sauce. Magic, I know. It made a great dessert to the simple pasta I had prepared as well as breakfast and dessert over the next few days. I guess for revenge E didn't believe me that my pasta would work; fresh pappardelle noodles with heirloom beans, tomato, and kale. No sauce apart from what the beans cooked in, finished with some cheese. The cheese should probably have gone in the bean sauce, but otherwise wonderful
You'll also note another thing of note in the photo above - wine glasses. I caved and purchased some, which we promptly used with white wine despite the shape tending toward red (or so my casual wikipedia browsing has informed me, making me an expert in the subject of course).
Apple Raspberry Tarted
Makes a 6-inch tart with leftover crust for cookies

1 batch "pâte sucrée" pie crust (that is, one with an egg, no water,  and about half as much sugar as flour)
1 small carton raspberries
1 red apple
1 tbsp granulated sugar (+more to taste)
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon (+more to taste)

E decided to not pre-bake the curst; different recipes seemed to disagree on what one should do. Julia Child recommended we cook it all the way; the internet couldn't decided if we should not cook it, cook it half way, or cook it fully before adding the ingredients. Given that we were using apple (long cook time) and a sugar crust (prone to burning), I think the decision was a great one.

So, yes, prepare your pie crust as instructed by whatever recipe and put it in a 6-inch mold. Preheat oven to 350. Chop up about 1/2 the apple into berry-sized chunks and put in a sacuepan with half of the berries, sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Stir over medium heat until it is a sauce. Taste and see if you want it sweeter or with more of a cinnamon kick; the provided amounts are a bare-minimum.

Fill the crust with the chunky sauce and place the remaining berries evenly on top of the tart. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the crust has browned, the berries on top have gotten juicy, and the apples have softened. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing and eat the remainders cold for breakfast.

20 November 2011

Simple Stir-Fry, Simple Soup, Simple Quiche

For this somewhat rainy, mostly dreary weekend, E and I crossed something off our list - cooking from Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking in particular). We couldn't decide on a meat dish. Well, we could, but it was Coq au Vin and I didn't have a heavy dish too cook it in. We decided on quiche, which it also turns out I didn't have a dish for. With that purchased, we prepared our dairies. Cream, butter, Swiss cheese, don't go this was if you don't eat those things. A few things went wrong when making this- the tart pan I purchased had short sides; on top of that, the crust itself got too thick on the bottom. This meant bites were at least a quarter dough, and with a slightly undercooked dough (that is, not crispy), it was an issue. When fresh from the oven and piping hot, the dish was delicious. Cold the next day, it tasted like a chunk of dairy fat which, honestly, it was.
To accompany it, I took Child's Brussels sprouts cooking method but not the ingredients. Roughly what I have always done, with an extra oven step at the end, viz. put an x in the base, blanch or steam quickly, fry in pan until sizzling, and, with the extra step, cook in the oven for 20 minutes. I wouldn't recommend the oven step unless the Brussels are bathing in butter; only a small amount of each was crispy.

There was also a stir fry with miso; I measured everything, but the dish wasn't a standout. The ingredients were a nice mix, aptly labeled "Mikey Food" by the illustrious E. Tofu lightly fried then sauteed with broccolini and a miso-based sauce, with oven-roasted yams added at the end. Yams in stir fry are quite good, it turns out
The soup was another dish that, while pretty good, was nothing to write home about. Onion "stock", canned diced tomatoes, wild rice, a smattering of carrots and zucchini. Seasoned with Herbes de Provence, I burned my mouth on it too quickly to tell if it was delicious or merely good. It shouldn't be too hard to create a similar dish at home; ours was light on water and hence stew-like.

08 November 2011

Sweet Potato Bean Soup and a Cereal Update

With the changing of the clocks comes the changing of seasons in San Francisco - from just warm enough to warrant a short sleeve (on occasion, that is) to just cold enough to warrant a jacket (also, again, on occasion). For those not familiar, there are roughly two seasons in San Francisco, and those seasons come twice a year. Jacket, no jacket, jacket, no jacket (though the jacket season that the rest of the country calls Summer is a local effect and not, necessarily, felt in all parts of the city). But, yes, it is now the end/beginning of the year jacket season, and the necessitates some warm things. To start, Irish Coffee is now acceptable to order at bars where it is not their specialty. Also, you can make things like soup for dinner and not feel bad.

Which brings us to today's dish, of which I have no photos. It was an off brown color, under harsh indoor lighting, and the photographs were unappealing. The taste, though, was spot-on. While cooking it, I was worried it would be bland and flavorless; initial tastings supported this notion. It turns out that few things remain bland when a quarter pound of cheddar-like cheese is added, though. This was the dishes saving grace, without which it merely would have been bland mushrooms, zucchini, and kidney beans served in hot water. Before the recipe, a quick update on cereal experiments.
Bowl number two was much better; I did as I suggested I might last time and procured oat flour for the recipe and replaced molasses by honey. The results were superior, though slightly undercooked - 325 degrees for 35 minutes was not sufficient to turn the pieces crispy, though it also was not sufficient to burn them. Overall, a win in the taste category. A few pieces even had a proper air pocket in the middle! I think I know how to reproduce this effect, so I will try the next time. But, yes, the recipe I promised:
Creamy Sweet Potato and Bean Soup
Serves 2
1 yellow onion
2 zucchinis
1 large sweet potato
1 cup white mushrooms
1 cup stock (veggie or animal)
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
1/4 lb white cheddar or other flavorful, melty cheese
1 tbsp butter
olive oil
herbs de provence
salt + pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Chop the onion into strands. In a cast-iron (or other oven safe) pan, melt the butter over medium then add the onion, stirring occasionally. While this cooks, dice the sweet potato. Once the onions are soft and have begun to sweeten, put half of them in a large pot with a dash of olive oil over low. Add the sweet potato into the cast-iron with the remaining half onion, add a dash of herbs de provence, and place in the oven.

Chop the zucchini and mushrooms into whatever shape you fancy for soup and add them to the pot. Increase heat to medium and add the stock and can of beans (with liquid). Add pepper, a dash of salt, and herbs de provence. Keep stirring and let simmer for 20 minutes, after which time the sweet potato and onion should be close to carmelized. Grate or dice the cheese and add it along with the carmelized veggies to the soup, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted and incorporated. Serve immediately, though it will be hot.

04 November 2011

Principia Cerealis

In my infinite wisdom, I decided it was time again to derive a recipe by first principles. This time: breakfast cereal. I thought this would be a non-trivial undertaking, and my first experiment has reinforced that notion. Though, the non-trivial bit is not what I expected. My first desire was to make, roughly, Captain Crunch (or one of its more natural cousins: Panda Puffs and Peanut Butter Puffins). That seemed difficult as I would be playing around not only with flour ratios, but also with peanut butter ratios. Better to stick to something even simpler - Barbara's Shredded Oats (Cinnamon). Here is what I ended up with; it looks atrocious and tastes edible.
My process was to start with the ingredients on the box - this reduced down to, roughly, five parts: flour, liquid sweetener, flavoring, leavening, and processed food stuff (preservatives, coloring, etc). I didn't need the last one, as I don't intend on putting this stuff in boxes and shipping it across the country. To begin with, I measured out 50g of flour and added what I thought were good amounts of the other dry ingredients, giving me the following base:

Flour: 50g whole wheat flour
Flavor: 2g salt, 2g cinnamon
Leavening: 2g baking soda

You'll note an immediate disparity here between my base recipe and that on the box - I am using whole wheat flour, not oat flour. This was a rash decision, prompted by the grocer being closed and my desire to start the process that very night, and one I hope to rectify with the next batch. Ignoring that and moving forward, I separated this into two piles - one of ~23g and one of ~33g. I added several ingredients to these:

23g batch33g batch
Liquid sweetner5g molasses3g molasses
Liquid15g water15g water
Extra flour5g whole wheat flour

Note the extra flour - I poured in too much molasses and tried to recover. The consistency of the 23g batch (which ended up at about 0.8 liquid) was sticky and hard to work with, while the 33g batch (about 0.6 liquid) only came together after hand-kneading with wet hands, which most likely bumped the liquid ratio to around 0.7.

I pressed the two batches into rectangles a cm or less thick, coated them in cinnamon, and cut them into cereal-sized pieces. These were placed in a 350 degree oven for, roughly 35 minutes. The next morning, there was no obvious difference between the two different batches other than the shape.

My tasting notes are rough, but go something like:
  • wow this is bitter but hey it is edible.
  • oh, it looks nothing like cereal and has the consistency of a dog biscuit." (don't ask how I know what a dog biscuit feels like when chewed)
  • salty salty salty aftertaste
  • no notable sweetness; hard to tell if the bitterness has erased it or it simply isn't present
Based on those, the plan for next time is a multi-pronged attack with a roughly 1 : 0.7 flour to liquid ratio. Firstly, no molasses. Honey instead. Whole wheat flour + molasses + cinnamon is far too much bitter. Secondly, the switch to oat flour which seems most prevalent in cereal brands. Thirdly, instead of pressing it flat and cutting it, I think I will press it flat, lightly bake it, then cut it in half and layer it, as cutting it into squares when double-layered should add a bit of air inside and hopefully get me closer to cereal (or far away from dog biscuit).