16 April 2012

Spicy Rice Cake Soup, Others

An initial attempt at cooking Friday led to rotisserie chicken from the grocer and a Pixar movie. The next night, after a long day of climbing, scrambling, and exploring up the coast, nothing seemed like a better idea than cooking what we didn't the previous night. A recipe from Momofuku was picked, entailing blanching and peeling a pint of cherry tomatoes. Mayhaps a poor idea given the exhaustion from a long day, but the idea we went with. The salad was a take on caprese, with silken tofu providing a base. Served with rye soda bread, miso butter, and soft boiled eggs it made an interesting snack. You can find a photo lower in the post; below this, however, is the title of the post.
I decided, somewhat accidentally, on a new take of a previous dish. This time, the soup would be more of a soup and the cauliflower on the side. The idea was to take a tomato-basil soup, provide the creaminess with silken tofu instead of dairy, and throw in grilled rice cakes for the hell of it. I ate it with two quick side dishes - blanched snow pea with rice vinegar and quick sweet pickles - and the mentioned cauliflower. The sides were, frankly, somewhat conflicting with the soup and I wouldn't recommend them. But the soup itself - yes. To further confuse the reader is a photo of the previous night's dinner of salad and toast.
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Spicy Rice Cake Soup
Serves 2-ish
2/3 cup uncooked sushi rice + water
12 oz silken tofu
1 large heirloom tomato (or maybe 6-12 oz canned tomato)
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
spiciness to taste (sriracha, dried cayenne, fresh jalapeno, anything really)
several leaves basil

Cook the sushi rice per instructions - rinse thoroughly, heat to boil, cook covered until the water is gone, fluff the rice and let sit covered for 10 minutes. After the rest, put the rice in a bowl to cool. Do some prep-work on sides if you want. When the rice is cooled, use a wet spoon or your fist to mash it into a pulp. With a spoon, use the back to smear sections along the side of the bowl, doing this until you get something like a paste or get tired. With wet hands, form it into a log and set aside.
Prepare the soup. In a saucepan, add the water, mirin, and sesame oil. Heat to a boil and let reduce for a minute - consider adding onions or garlic before, but I didn't. Add the tomato, mushed, to the soup - try and avoid adding skin as it will add texture, but a little bit is fine. Simmer for another minute or so, then add tofu and spiciness. Reduce heat to low. Prepare a cast iron over medium heat with a bit of oil. Slice the rice cake into patties and grill until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Split soup between bowls, add the rice cakes to each, and top with torn basil (or basil chiffonade if you want to be fancy).

12 April 2012

Cinnamon Rolls, Mushroom and Fennel for Dinner

Things have calmed down a bit in Mikey-land; I even got a quick weekend trip to Seattle in. This means back to baking and cooking; I took this as an opportunity to handle a long-standing request from coworkers for cinnamon rolls. The recipe is straight from Artisan Breads Everyday, one that I have even used in the past (the dough, not the filling). And if I remember one thing from that, it was the amount of glaze called for by the recipe was preposterously excessive. I used a quarter of the called-for glaze and still had a bit left; I don't know why anyone would want to dump a full two cups of sugar on top of something already filled with it.
The filling was what I thought traditional, and the book as well, but my coworkers seem to have differing ideas w.r.t. the makeup. Cinnamon and sugar, plus equal parts chopped pecans and raisins. For a brief moment, I contemplated walnuts and went so far as a taste test. Walnuts taste like... walnuts. Dry things. Salads with apples in them. Pilafs. A single bite of the pecan brought back memories of cinnamon rolls as a child; the association is so strong that I think pecans taste like cinnamon rolls. The only tweak I did was a bit of lime juice in both the dough and the glaze; a hint and no more. They also puffed immensely in the oven - below is the just-sliced photo; a two hour rise later, they didn't look much different. 20 minutes in a hot oven, and they almost filled the pan.
I also quicked a cook dinner with E the other night, though she honestly did most of the work. I was in charge of a veggie side, knowing the main was garlic and lemon flavored. Asparagus is an obvious choice, but an overdose in the past week left me blasé on the matter. Mushrooms with fennel seemed a good idea. There wasn't anything remarkable in the dish - the mushrooms were cooked in a pan with salt, no oil, until they began to sweat then a bit more. At that point, you add the oil and a few minutes later the fennel, cooking it for just long enough to not. Something learned: however many cloves of garlic we used were too many, especially to deglaze with a splash of white wine and dump on the potatoes.

04 April 2012

Tweaks, Cooking From a Book, Small Projects

No culinary creations or anything really out of the ordinary; my project at work launched so I'm finding more time for cooking. But slowly, ever slowly, ramping back up. On non-culinary news, I decided to spend the weekend immediately after launch participating in a game jam and ended up finishing a game, solo. I didn't manage much else the entire weekend, except a bit of recipe iteration for lunch before the jam began - the rye soda bread. I toned down the almond milk from 1/4 cup to 3 tbsp and oiled the ramekins lightly. They came out better, especially after a light grilling after letting them cool and eating them as tiny PBJ sandwiches.
 I also did a quick recipe from Momofuku, trying to convince myself that not everything in it requires massive time/ingredient investments. So I took a recipe with five ingredients and cut it down to four, completely removing part of the dish. Go me. I cooked "Asparagus with Miso Butter and Poached Egg" minus the egg. The recipe name is the recipe itself - you cook the asparagus in butter so it browns, and you mix butter with miso, heat it with a pinch of sherry, and decorate the plate with it. That seems simple and, frankly, it is. Yet miso adds a ridiculous amount of depth to the dish, pairs with the asparagus, and elevates the dish to something refined. I ate it with sushi rice topped with furikake and pan seared yuba, which worked well.
 I'm also back into bread, given a somewhat more relaxed schedule. For my first loaf in two weeks, I did 30% whole wheat, 70% hydration, with a pinch of fennel seeds. I tried a half-rise the night of mixing, and a finish/proofing stage the morning of cooking - it still had too much pop in the oven - the scores were very wide instead of very deep. I'm at a loss to fixing this, though I will keep experimenting - options are using steam for once, less proofing, more proofing, and better shaping techniques - there may not be enough tension in the dough.