Friday, December 3, 2010

The Thanksgiving Chronicles, Part 2: The rest

I'm finally getting around to part 2! I have been busy growing cobaltous chloride hexahydrate crystals and such, but today is Friday. Fridays are good.

 This is the pumpkin pie after being assembled and before entering the oven. Admire the smooth custard: it was achieved through much effort filtering (and eating the filtrand, aka anything delicious that did not pass through the sieve).
 The onions and celery for the stuffing with parsley and other herbs.
The beautiful roasted turkey. We did in fact cook the stuffing inside the turkey because turkey juice is what makes stuffing taste so amazing.
 Mashed sweet potatoes! No, there is not a volcano inside the potatoes, I just happened to take the picture while my dad was mashing them.
 The marshmallow crust on top of the sweet potatoes.
 The carved turkey meat.
 My favorite: the chestnut stuffing! We made it with chestnuts, celery, onions, staled herb slab bread, 2 apples, turkey liver, and some of the turkey stock I had made the day before.
My plate. Noteworthy items are Virginie's garlic-sautéed green beans and cornbread, as well as my brother's orange-cranberry sauce.

Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of the desserts, but we had pumpkin pie, apple tart, and some pumpkin flan my dad made by adding milk to some pumpkin pie filling that didn't fit in the crust. All were delicious!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Chronicles: Part 1 Turkey Tail stock and Pumpkin pie filling

It's Thanksgiving (tomorrow)! The wonderful American celebration of eating one's weight in food!
Anyways, in my family, the cooking started today to maximize stove-top space efficiency.

Turkey Stock:
This is my first time making stock! Hopefully it will turn out well.
Originally, we were going to use turkey necks, but the store only had tails. Raw turkey tails look quite unappetizing, but flavor is flavor. I put the tails on a baking sheet with 4 peeled carrots, 3 not-peeled onions, and 3 stalks of celery.

I roasted all of it for 45 minutes at 450F.

And then flipped over the tails and vegetables to roast them 20 more minutes.

I put everything in a large stockpot half filled with water, making sure to scrape as much flavor as possible off of the baking sheet. I added another celery branch for my mom (she loves celery) as well as some fresh thyme and parsley and about a tablespoon of ground pepper. I only added a little salt because a lot water will evaporate, and so it is safer to add salt once the desired concentration of flavor is achieved.
At 6pm, the stock has been simmering for 5.5 hours. As I am at high altitude, the stock should cook longer because water boils at a lower temperature.

I also made the pumpkin pie filling and crust. The filling is according to Cook's Illustrated recipe, and the crust is my usual pâte brisée.

Pumpkin pie filling:
Cream, milk, eggs, and vanilla

Interestingly, this recipe uses a combination of canned pumpkin and canned "yams" (see my post on sweet potatoes vs. yams). It also cooks both vegetables on the stove with sugar and maple syrup to remove water and caramelize the naturally and unnaturally present sugars.

Then the pumpkin and cream mixtures are combined to form a delicious custard.

I will cook the pie crust tomorrow to save the bottom from sogginess.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve to all of you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Extra Pastry Dough

Do you ever make a tart and have extra dough left? What do you do with it?
I made an upside-down apple/pear tart, and then I went a little crazy with the extra dough :)

Pastry Dough Craziness:
  1. Make a ball of leftover raw pie crust.
  2. Roll it out.
  3. Mooch around the kitchen to find edible stuff (fridge, freezer, and pantry are good bets)
  4. Put edible stuff in the middle.
  5. Let your creativity guide your hand! Add random spices, salt, sugar, food coloring, etc... The sky is your limit! Unless, of course, you can fly a rocket, in which case your limit is bit farther than that.
  6. Bake until cooked (time depends on size).
  7. Eat.
A ball of leftover pastry dough sat in front of me. I looked through some cupboards and found a 3x4 MINI muffin pan and MINI muffin cups. MINI tartlettes it would be. I got some frozen blueberries and raspberries out of the freezer and made three tartlettes of each. I found some baby carrots in my fridge (there are always baby carrots in my fridge) and sliced them, microwaved them, and made three more tartlettes. Three slots left. Hazelnuts are tasty, so hazelnuts I would use (with a pat of butter of course). I decided to sprinkle a little curry and ginger on the carrot tarts at the last minutes, and then I put the pan in the oven.
I looked back at the counter.
A small ball of pastry dough sat in font of me. Well, I still have some baby carrots left, but no more mini muffin pans. Then, I remembered that bakc when I was little my cousins and I used to wrap pastry dough around mini sausages. Baby carrots and mini sausages aren't that different, right? I microwaved five baby carrots to soften them, sprinkled them with salt and curry powder, and wraped them in the last of my pastry dough.

Everything was quite tasty. My family was at first sceptic of the "carrots in a blanket," but, even though the spices were not really perceptible, the sweetness of the carrot was well-complemented by the buttery crispness of the crust to form a yummy little appetizer.

For dinner we had Costco's famous duck confit (quite good, actually), roasted tomatoes from my aunt's backyard, garlic-sautéed chanterelles, and packaged fries. Yum!

The tart and tartlettes were served for dessert (though the carrot tartlettes were not very popular, they would be better as part of a savory meal)

Conclusion: Extra pastry dough is an excellent source of yumminess.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

San Mateo Farmer's Market

Last Saturday I went to the San Mateo farmer's market to show my French cousins what United-Statsian markets are like. Ironically, I had never been to the San Mateo market. In fact, my family and I almost never go to any farmer's markets (even though there are a bunch in my area) because by the time we think about grocery shopping, the markets are closed :(
But now that I have my license (YAY I FINALLY GOT MY LICENSE!!!), if I wanted to, I could go to a farmer's market on my own. Of course, I am only saying this because I FINALLY GOT MY LICENSE!!!

Anyways, I was supposed to talk (write) about visiting the San Mateo market. As expected, the sky was rather gray. About half the stalls were for produce and half were for processed goods, such as bread, candy, jam, etc...

Red and Golden Beets

Green and purple beans and peppers

Swiss Chard


Rotisserie Chicken :)

Rainbow peppers

Daikon and Bok choy

"Italian Bitter melon" according to the label, but I think it may actually be Indian Bitter melon

There was a lot more of course :) We ended up buying some pluots, some chicken, some tomatoes, some fudge, and some beets. I also tried a delicious sample of a middle-eastern stuffed bread thing with sauce.

I roasted the beets and tossed them with a very garlicky vinaigrette to make a salad. We found that the red beets and white/pink beets were similar in taste, but that the yellow beets were different and much less sweet.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Carotenoids, Sweet Potatoes, Davis.

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. Well, you know how the end of school is... First we have all the end of year activities, then we have to study for finals, and then summer vacation is so busy that it seems to not even really be a vacation.
This summer I participated in a summer program to do research at Davis. It was a wonderful experience; I made great friends and I got to see what life in a lab really is. I was assigned to a lab working with carotenoids (think: beta-carotene) and vitamin A in food. My parents thought this was perfect for me :)
I expected to just be a lab helper for other researchers, but my lab professor actually gave me a project of my own to work on. My project was to develop a method to determine the effect of the pH of digestive juices on the bioaccessibility of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes using in vitro digestion. Sounds cool, eh?
In normal-speak this means: try to find a way, using a simulated digestion, to see whether making saliva or gastric juice more acid or basic would affect the amount of beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor) that comes out of the sweet potato during the digestion. I hope that makes more sense.

Anyways, this project was cool. I got to take sweet potatoes and boil them and mash them (and stick 'em in a stew?) Then I pretty much much spent my days doing in vitro digestion, which is digestion in a glass vial that simulates human conditions. My data at the end was rather terrible, but I did find one thing: beta-carotene degrades REALLY fast when it is in a water based solution.

And when I say sweet potatoes, I mean both orange- and white-fleshed sweet potatoes. Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are generally referred to as "yams" in the US, but they are not yams. Yams are a completely different type of plant.

Above is a yam. Below is an orange sweet potato. They are different.

And here are some pictures of my lab:

The electronic balance


Some of my samples

Digestive solutions

Friday, May 14, 2010

Soupe de Légumes au Pistou (Vegetable and Pesto Soup)

Hi ya'll!

I know it is a bit strange to be making soup just as the sun is finally deciding to go into summer mode (kind of), but this is actually a very spring-y soup (not in the rebounding sense.) The ingredient list seems long and random, but, believe it or not, it is actually from a real, published recipe. Yes, bok choy and arugula in a Provence-style soup may sound strange, but it is delicious.

This recipe uses a bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herds tied together. The point of tying them together is to make it easy to remove the herbs before serving, but it fell apart in my pot from the stirring.
So, I think you should decide for yourself whether you want to tie up the herbs or not. One solution would be to wrap the thyme branches and bay leaf in some cheese cloth (because they are unpleasant to eat) and just leave the parsley in the soup.
a bouquet garni

Soupe de Légumes au Pistou (from Envie de... Cuisine Végétarienne)

Ingredients (serves 3-4 as a main course)
  • 1 Litre water
  • bouquet garni: fresh parsley, thyme, and 1 bay leaf
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 2-3 branches of celery, chopped
  • a small handful of baby potatoes, halved
  • 1/2 can of large white beans
  • 1/2 cup of peas or lima beans
  • 3 heads of bok choy, rib separated from leaves
  • 150g arugula (1 box) <- this seems like a lot, but it actually shrinks dramatically when cooked
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • pepper

  • 2 large handfuls of basil
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (no ribs or seeds), chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3-4 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan (I strongly recommend you buy a hunck of parmeggiano and grate it yourself, then you can use the parmesan rind to flavor the broth)

Method of Preparation:
  1. Make the pesto: Blend the first 4 ingredients together, stir in the parmesan.
  2. For the soup: In a large pot, combine the water, herbs, carrots, leeks, celeri, potatoes, and the white part of the bok choy. (And a parmesan rind, if you want to)
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans, peas, and let simmer another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the bok choy leaves and the arugula, as well as the salt and pepper.
  6. Let simmer another 3-5 minutes
  7. Add 3/4 of the pesto to the soup and mix it in.
  8. Serve with a spoonful of pesto in each bowl.
You can easily make garlic croutons by toasting some bread and rubbing garlic onto it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pumpkin (Bourbon) Cheesecake

Hi everyone! It's been a while since my last post... Well, I've been busy ok? I had summer program applications, AP class applications, tests, homework, and the list just goes on and on. But today is Friday, and Friday is no homework day :) So I will blog.

A few weeks ago, my brother came home from college for his spring break with a couple of friends, and I realized it would be the perfect occasion for the ultimate indulgence: cheesecake. To add a bit of fun, my mom and I decided on Pumpkin Cheesecake because canned pumpkin is always in season.
To make it, I used the delicious "Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust recipe" from Cook's Illustrated. To make the cheesecake a little less "bourraga" (as my family says,) I removed a stick (8oz) of cream cheese from the filling. To compensate for the loss tanginess, I replaced the heavy cream with sour cream. I am glad I did because even this reduced filling barely fit in my 9in springform pan.

And yes, I did dry the pumpkin with paper towels as specified in the recipe. I have never tried this cheesecake without drying the pumpkin, and I don't want to risk spending all the effort of making cheesecake only to get a soggy filling.

I completely omitted the bourbon, but you are welcome to include it.

Here is the Recipe:

Cook's Illustrated's "Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust"

"Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, the cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is therefore best to check the cake 1 1/4 hours into baking. Although the cheesecake can be made up to three days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only one day. To make slicing the cheesecake easy and neat, use a knife with a narrow blade, such as a carving knife; between cuts, dip the blade into a pitcher of hot water and wipe it clean with paper towels."

Crust :
  • 3 ounces graham crackers (5 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces pecans ,chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese , cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature, about 30 minutes [I used 1 lb]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs , left at room temperature, about 30 minutes
  • 1 cup heavy cream [I used 1 cup sour cream]
  • 1/4 cup bourbon [I did not include bourbon]

1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, nuts, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

2. FOR THE FILLING: Bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside. To dry pumpkin (see illustrations below): Line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in roughly even layer. Cover pumpkin with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Grasp bottom towels and fold pumpkin in half; peel back towels. Repeat and flip pumpkin onto baking sheet; discard towel.

3. In standing mixer [You could easily use and hand-held electric beater] fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula. Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and bourbon and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.

4. Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan. Pour filling into springform pan [The filling was almost too much to fit, but it turned out well] and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours (see note). Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

5. TO SERVE: Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes [Personally, I like cold cheesecake], then cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lemon-Garlic Roasted Broccoli

Ok, just putting it out there, broccoli is definitely my favorite vegetable, and I bet I can make you love it too. Calm down, I'm not talking about the limp boiled broccoli served at some restaurants to take up space. I'm talking about tender, garlicky broccoli; browned at the edges and simply irresistible.

I think I could live on this. No really, when I make roasted broccoli at home, I make 2-2.5 lbs for 3 people, and there are no leftovers.

And the recipe is easy, too!
(Adapted from the back of the frozen broccoli package) Lemon-Garlic Roasted Broccoli

  • 2 lbs fresh or frozen broccoli (cut into equal 1-2 in pieces if not using pre-cut frozen yummies)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ~1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press or minced
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F, position 2 racks in middle-ish of oven
  2. Combine all ingredients except broccoli and let sit 2 minutes. (can be done ahead of time)
  3. Divide oil mixture between 2 cookie sheets. Make sure to get all the garlic onto the pans.
  4. Divide broccoli between 2 cookie sheets and "toss" them with oil mixture.
  5. Roast/bake for 20-25 minutes, switching the pans' positions halfway through, until the broccoli is browned at the edges and tender.
  6. Enjoy your healthy comfort food with grilled meat, baked fish, or cheesy pasta!

Note: I'm sure you can use this to roast many other veggies, such as cauliflower or green beans.