24 August 2012

Huckleberries, Heath, Cucumber

I've come back from a relaxing 5-day stay in Northern Idaho to visit E's family. The daily plan went something like this: lazily wake up. Eat some grub and decide where to go outside that day. After getting hot hiking/walking, jump in a lake/river. Eat some food, drink adult beverages, and go to bed. Also I didn't have cell phone service or easy internet access, so there was that. E delivered on one of her longstanding promises - to take me huckleberry picking in Idaho. We hiked up Schweitzer resort in 90 degree weather, eating huckleberries the whole way and emptying a Nalgene or two. We walked down, filling that empty Nalgene up with berries to use later. It was divine.
E put most those berries to use in a cobbler, though we couldn't find suitable sugar to use so it was more hot berries topped with something like a honey-oat streusel, served on ice cream. I put another chunk of the berries to use with pancakes topped with E's quick berry syrup, introducing yet more people to the wonder of Mikey's pancakes. And that was all the cooking we did. No bread, no experiments, nothing.
As an addendum to the previous post, it was brought to my attention that I mentioned, but did not picture, the bowls. So, below, you'll see one of the bowls filled with lightly-crusted indian-spiced tofu, blackened brussels, and grilled cucumbers. Peaking out of the corner is the fig/bacon dish. Oh, yes, right, grilled cucumbers. In the same way that pickling transforms a lukewarm, bland vegetable into a chilly, crunchy delight, cooking cucumbers in a cast iron elevates them to cuisine. An early dinner at Bar Tartine led to this discovery, quickly recreated at home. Cut cucumbers into quarters or so. Heat them, face down, over medium-ish in a cast iron with a brush of salt and cumin. Do this until they are soft and hot all the way through. Consume. Be enlightened.
Huckleberry Pancakes with Syrup
Recipe for 1, scales as necessary
for pancakes
1/4 cup spelt flour
1 thumb-length of banana (~1/4 banana)
2 tbsp huckleberries
~1/4 cup soy/almond/coconut/hemp/etc milk
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch salt

for syrup
handful huckleberries
handful strawberries, chopped
sugar to taste
possibly water

To make the pancakes, mush the banana until it almost passes as a liquid. Add everything but the milk-like liquid, then slowly pour in milk until you end up with a batter-like consistency. This is usually a quarter cup and a dash more, but it varies on the kind of milk and the amount of banana. Experiment a bit. On a griddle or non-stick pan over medium, add some butter. Cook pancake amounts of batter until bubbles form on the surface. Wait 15-30 seconds after that point, then flip and cook for a minute or two longer.

To make the syrup, in a sauce pan over medium-high, add the berries. You'll want to lightly mush them with a spoon, but also make sure you stir them so they don't stick or burn. After a few minutes, they will start to liquify. Add a dash of water and sugar, and continue stirring while it kinda-boils. Continue until you have something that looks like jam. Let cool for a few minutes and check the sweetness, adding sugar if necessary. Once removed from pan, you can boil some water in the pan to both clean it and make some pretty tasty tea (all credits to E on that one).

06 August 2012

Sesame-Glazed Edamame, (Attempted) French Macarons

The number of Heath Ceramics I own just tripled, from one to three. I guess I should be precise - I joint-own the two I just got. E moved in with me, and her wonderful former roommate got us a pair of large bowls. This adds to my happy cup, purchased for hot drinks at work. An aside on that - SFMOMA has a Blue Bottle on the top floor in a beautiful, well lit space next to the sculpture garden. They serve coffee in cocoa-colored Heath mugs and these mugs make me quite happy. After some investigation, I found to be custom-made just for that location but an almost-identical mug is sold at their store. It may seem stupid to spend that much for a single mug, but it does make me quite happy. End aside.

The most remarkable feature of the bowls is their size. My standby dinner bowls, pictured in many previous posts, aren't really big enough for single-dish dinners. Maybe chili is filling enough given the volume, but definitely not my more standard rice-and-tofu dishes. To inaugurate them, I cooked a rather  unremarkable udon and silken tofu soup. About halfway through making the soup, I knew it would not astound and hatched a plan to make at least something good. A few handfuls of edamame, pre-steamed and laboriously popped from pods, were intended for the soup. Instead, they met their fate in my cast iron with mirin, cayenne, and sesame seeds. I was a little influenced by that little chickpea dish I've made before. The end result was a slightly crispy sweet and spicy bite, perfect for adding some flavor to a meal. Not so good for finger food - much too sticky.
The same weekend, I also endeavored on a standard trial of bakers: French Macarons. In short, if you don't care about them looking perfect and you own something for beating eggs, you have no reason to not make these. The ingredient list is impressively small, ignoring the filling, and the result is that combination of soft and chewy and sweet and sticky that begs to be savored. Again, assuming you don't care how perfect they look. Case in point, the macarons I baked up:
I think my flaw was using the wrong recipe. I should have just used the one a friend of mine does; instead, I Googled for "Miete French Macron Recipe" and took the first hit. It gave me weights for all the ingredients but the egg whites. It said 6 for the double recipe, so I halved it down to 3. But, alas, my batter was runny. Before you ask, yes, I'm sure my whites were stiff enough. They clumped in the beater and looked like meringue; they held a point. I may have deflated them too much in the mixing, but I'm going to bet if I used a recipe with weights on the egg whites and scaled around that, they would have come out at least the generally correct shape. Not bad for the mess it created.
Sesame-Glazed Edamame
More an idea than a recipe
1/2 cup edamame beans, pre-steamed and removed from pods.
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (reduce if desired)
dash salt
dash chinese five spice

Make sure the beans are fairly dry. Toss them with spices and salt, and put them in a pre-heated cast iron over medium. Allow to cook for five minutes, stirring once. Pour in the mirin and the sesame seeds, and stir actively to make sure the edamame gets a nice coating. Once the mirin starts to gum-up, leave them alone in the pan for a few minutes so they can brown; repeat on the other side.