Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I love autumn, and I love where I live. In eastern Washington it's farm country, and while we celebrate every harvest here (we even have a National Lentil Festival) it's apple harvest that's my favorite. Why? I get to wear sweaters, autumn leaves are beautiful and fresh pressed cider is amazing.
A few weeks ago I went with some friends to Bishops' Orchard to press cider. They have old fashioned apple presses, so it's all done with your own sweat and toil. You wash the apples, chop them up, and then press them to make juice. One bucket is ~ 1 gallon, more or less. From these gallons I am making hard cider. Hard cider is so easy. Fill your carboy with 5 gallons apple juice. Crush up 1 campden tablet for each gallon, add those to neutralize the local yeasts and bacteria. Boil a little honey in water, add that. Wait a few minutes, add a white wine yeast. Done. Really, that's it. After brewing beer for so many years it's a welcome change. So... easy!
Well, I had one extra gallon that I knew what I wanted to do with: I made apple syrup. All you do is boil down 1 gallon of apple juice to about 1 quart of syrup. Just leave it on the stove, cooking away. The sweetness all comes from the natural flavor of the apples. I then added 1 jigger of whiskey for preservative. So simple.
It's still harvest time out there! We haven't had a deep enough freeze to kill the apples, so everyone go out and get your fresh pressed juice!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
I am not one to shy away from a challenge, so when I saw Cupcake Project/Scoopalicious's 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake challenge I started fantasizing, nay, dreaming about the best possible ice cream cupcake I could make.
(For the original announcement please see http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2011/05/announcing-2011-ice-cream-cupcake.html and
The only problem with this: I'm not a huge fan of cupcakes.
I know I know! Why would I enter a cupcake contest if I didn't really love cupcakes? Well, it's not that I dislike them, I'm just picky. First off, I don't like regular frosting. However, in my humble opinion I have the best cream cheese frosting recipe ever. So check one to the frosting. Second, I love pie. Obsessively. I love pie. But pie with cream cheese frosting? Weird. I do have a killer spice cake recipe, but spice cake a la mode with frosting, boring. I needed something with more... spice. :)
I heard about this competition while I was visiting my beautiful grandmother in St. Louis, MO. Maybe the familial nostalgia started overtaking me, but I came up with the best idea ever (I personally think):
Blackberry pie a la mode cupcakes. My mother's blackberry pie recipe married to cream cheese frosting, with a blackberry vanilla ice cream, butter based flakey and savory pie crust and the moistest spice cake known to man.
So, this recipe took some time. I had to decide what stratigraphy to put everything in. I didn't want to just dig out a hole in the middle of the spicecake. As an archaeologist this offended my perfectly square unit sensibilities. I wanted in tact stratigraphy, not some ice cream scoop krotovina tarnishing the former beautify of the levels. So here's what I came up with:
Pie crust "wrappers" (I've done this before for hand-held pies)
Blackberry pie filling
A layer of ice cream
"muffin tops" of cake
First things first. We need to make the spice cake muffin tops. Here's what you need:
Preheat oven to 350*. Sift first 7 ingredients into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in egg yolk. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg white in medium bowl until stiff but not dry; fold into batter in 2 additions. Pour this into 12 well greased muffin tins (the same tins you will use for making the final cupcakes). Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove and let cool.
Meanwhile, make some pie dough. I mix 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt with one stick of COLD butter until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add tablespoons of ice water until the mixture is sticky but not too sticky and forms a cohesive dough. The trick to good pie crust: wrap in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for 1-3 hours. It helps the gluten rest. I made the crust into 12 identical size balls (I think of them as grape shot) and leave them in the fridge. See the picture.
Then mix together 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup sugar and some cinnamon and nutmeg. Place aside.
Get one of those small containers of blackberries. Reserve 12 blackberries (the prettiest ones). Smoosh the rest of them in a bowl and reserve.
Roll out your 12 identical sized pie crusts into rounds and place into well-greased cupcake tin. Sprinkle a 1/2 tsp of flour/sugar mixture in the bottom, then add a tbsp or so of blackberry moosh into each of the floured pie crust rounds. Then sprinkle the rest of the flour/sugar mixture evenly over the smooshed blackberry mixture. The flour mixture will help the blackberries to not weep everywhere.
Anyways, melt a little butter, wash the pie crusts in butter and bake at 350* for 15 minutes or so, until the crusts are a little golden.
Pick your favorite icecream. I got Tillamook's "marion berry pie" ice cream. Keep it out of the fridge while the crusts are baking so it can soften. When the crusts/pies are cooked place them into the fridge ASAP so they can cool. Then spoon in semi-melty ice cream and add the "muffin tops" of cake. Place in freezer.
While these are freezing, make the frosting, which is as follows:
- 1/3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/3 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cups powdered sugar (about 1 1/4 pounds)
- 1 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
When the frosting is cool decorate your cupcakes; I used a "lattice-work" design to mimic a blackberry pie. Add a berry on top.
I brought these cupcakes to a few friends, my advisor and some colleagues. Everyone texted/emailed/called me to say "Oh my god! These are so good!" And despite the fact that they have so many steps they are so easy to make... you just have to do all the steps and put them together.
And check out the final product. Look at that stratigraphy! Amazing, eh?
Tell me if you make them!
Friday, May 13, 2011
Like I said, this year has been a traveling year for me. It all started back in August when I went to Los Alamos for some archaeological site revisitation. It was a fantastic archaeological adventure. A few months later I found myself in New Orleans for the American Anthropological Association meetings. This was quite the culinary adventure! I'm pretty sure I gained 10 lbs in 4 days.
Over Christmas break my boyfriend and I flew to Puerto Vallarta where we stayed for two weeks and ate fresh amazing Mexican food. This was only my second trip to Mexico and I loved it. We returned and three weeks later we took off to Paris for a 10 day sojourn (I had a conference to attend with some amazing French archaeologists). Two weeks from returning from that I went to Washington DC where I ate amazing Ethiopian food, and then 3 weeks later I took off to Crescent City to visit my boyfriend who was working in the area. The tsunami struck there 3 or 4 days before, so there was a strange surreal vibe to the place. After that, down to Sacramento for some more meetings! Now I'm on my way to Chicago to visit an archaeology friend and then St. Louis to visit my grandmother. *phew*
All this traveling can really wear on a girl, you know? And this bad bad airplane/airport food can suck away at ones soul. But thankfully everywhere I have been this year has been a delicious adventure! My favorite meals this year were:
Los Alamos: New Mexico green chile stew! Amazing, delicious, and boy I miss living somewhere where I can get these things! This summer I'm planning on heading to Pie Town, NM to check out their New Mexico green apple pie, made with green chiles and pine nuts! My lovely friend Natalie made one for me in December. It was incredible! Check out the pie-o-neer cafe for some of their amazing pies. http://www.pie-o-neer.com/pies-at-pioneer.html
New Orleans: Wow, this is a hard one! Oysters at the Acme oyster company were amazing, as were the BBQ shrimp (ingredients: butter and worcestershire sauce) at Mr B's. However, my favorite meal was actually at a mexican/NOLA fusion restaurant (sacrilege, I know!) You see, I had been to NOLA for the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and my father and I cook NOLA food quite a bit, so this burrito took me by surprise! Roasted garlic, sweet potatoes and so much else. It was a masterpiece of epic proportions and goes to show that NOLA chefs are ready to push the boundaries of all kinds of food! I also took a cooking course when I was there my last morning and learned to make so many things correctly. We ate here: http://www.juansflyingburrito.com
Puerto Vallarta: The pie in Yalapa was amazing! The "market food" of carne asada and milkshakes. Oh my, how delicious!
|Me sipping a cocktail at one of my favorite haunts in Paris|
DC: The Ethiopian food! My friend lives at the border of the old Ethiopian town in DC so there was no paucity of amazing food. We can't get this kind of food in Pullman, so I gobbled it up with gusto.
Crescent City: really, I don't remember too much. We cooked in mostly. We rented a beach house for a few days.
Sacramento: WOW this town has revived itself! I used to drive through and try to find *anything* that was open. It's really much better now! Our favorite was a British pub where I tried Scotch Eggs for the first time. Yum!
Now I'm off to Chi-town and St. Louis! Adventures to be had by all!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
|A picture of long pepper, one of the spices|
traded by the seaport of Broach from
India to the Roman Empire. It looks
like odd pine cones, but smells and
tastes better. Trust me.
When people think of the spice trade they think of colonialism and more specifically the British Empire. However, the spice trade has much deeper roots than that. For thousands of years people have wanted tasty food. Do you blame them? Why have bland mutton stew when you can have tasty mutton stew? To be completely self serving and insert a bit of academe into here, I'm currently working on an article talking about the interactions of hunter-gatherers with agriculturalists. But the following bit talks about the spice trade.
"The ancient seaport of Broach linked India to the outside world starting from the 1st century A.D. Despite its relative inaccessibility, the preponderance of material wealth from this port shows that merchants braved the shoals and difficult currents to have access to the Indian interior and the lucrative position of supplying material wealth to distant states. Many products, such as spices (e.g. nard, spikenard, costus, longpepper) were supplied to Broach during the first to fifth centuries A.D and were probably gathered by Indian hunter-gatherers (see Stiles, 1993 for more info)." (from as of yet unpublished Crabtree, Stefani publication).
So, from this we gather that Rome was venturing to India to get things to make tasty food! Spices were so valued from then on that in the French court in the middle ages you could seduce someone with pepper; indeed pepper weighed more ounce per ounce than gold. People killed and died for spices. And of course, let's not forget our buddy Christopher Columbus who was trying to find a passage to India not for gold and silver but for spices. (If you want to read a good novelization of the spice industry, The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie will do well).
So, we have at least 2,000 years of history (there are many many more years of history, dating back back back to Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese etc) here riding on our shoulders of our ancestors going to all lengths for tasty food. So why then do so many people own three "spices:" iodized salt, lawrey's season salt and some lemon pepper (and if they're being adventurous some dried parsley)?
I think they just don't know about spices and are afraid to experiment. Also, how intimidating is a grocery store spice aisle? First of all, it's put right next to the canned frosting. I avoid this aisle like the plague. I have a weakness for rainbow chip frosting and I try to not buy it. Also, the aisle smells like canned frosting. This is a very odd smell. It's a blend of high fructose corn syrup, red dye #40 and failure. So while you're trying to imagine what will really bring out the flavors of that juicy rib eye you just bought you're smelling a nightmare. No wonder you can't quite picture it! Finally, spices in the supermarket are expensive. I almost choked once when I popped over to the supermarket because I ran out of something and found that the store brand of it was $12. I'm sorry, TWELVE freaking DOLLARS?!?! It's ridiculous.
Thankfully I lived in Boulder the last few years so I got to learn about the glory of Savory Spice Shop. I remember the day it opened and how excited I was! This place is a friendly, inviting space. When it first opened I was broke; my then-roommate (amazing chef Susanna Minichiello) and I would go smell (and taste!) the spices and we wouldn't get kicked out! It smells like the best restaurant you've ever been to. They get fresh ingredients, grind their spices daily and blend things by hand. The proprietor in the Boulder shop looked exactly like Judge Reinhold (I find that comforting) and is the nicest, chillest man alive. I'm pretty sure he is the chillest man in Boulder who does not run one of the now-ubiquitous "Medical" marijuana stores.
So, best of all, the spices there are less expensive than at the supermarket. By a lot in many cases. Sure, some things are more expensive (fancy cinnamon at Savory versus a giant plastic canister of cinnamon that was ground by child labor in 1972 that you can buy at your local supermarket) but by and large you're going to save money. Why? The spices you buy there are fresh so you don't need to use as much--a little can go a looooong way in flavoring food. Also, that's all they sell (well, and a few spice related gadgets). Specializing can be an optimal way of doing things, minimizing costs by increasing efficiency (yes, for you anthro geeks, I definitely just wrote about Optimal Foraging Theory here).
True, when I go in I spend $50 on spices, but that's because I write a list and buy everything at once. Also true, you are more likely to notice spending $50 on spices when you go there because that's all you buy. When you go to the supermarket and are buying $150 of groceries and $50 worth of crappy spices you won't notice because it's in the rest of your gargantuan bill.
Moral of the story: buy good spices. Your ancestors will thank you.
So where to buy them? Well, like I said, I love Savory Spice Shop, but there are others that I frequent as well. I recently began a love affair with Penzeys; I don't like their Boulder store layout as much as Savory (and their sales clerks don't look like 1980's heart-throbs), but their spices are absolutely top-notch, they are a tried and true company and I buy their spices frequently (as is evidenced by the package I just got from them). I will have links to all of these at the bottom. I also recently discovered the Milford Spice Company. I am very impressed with their blends! And when I go to Seattle I go to the World Spice Merchants (I don't like how they package their spices though, and transfer them as soon as possible to glass jars). I'm picky.
Readers: do you have some favorite spice shops I should try out?
Also, I just figured out how to see the "stats" of who has viewed my blog. 300 views yesterday (and that's not counting me)! I hope you are enjoying it. I just fixed the "comment" box so that anyone can comment (including anonymous readers) so feel free to post.
So, the spice shops:
I hope this brings a little spice into your life! Hahaha! Pun definitely intended!
Monday, May 9, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Quail Egg Ravioli aka Inverted Carbonara
For the pasta:
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme leaves, chopped
1 tbsp dried tarragon
¼ c white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb whole milk ricotta
1 c grated parmigiano reggiano
1 c grated gouda
Your favorite semolina-based pasta dough recipe to make 8 sheets 25” long by 5.5” wide
24 quail eggs
1 egg white whisked with 1 tbsp cold water for egg wash
For the sauce:
Four pieces of bacon, diced
1 tsp Meyer lemon zest
2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
½ c white wine
2 c heavy cream
2 tbsp butter cut into four pieces
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1” pieces and very lightly steamed
1 bag organic frozen peas
1. To make the filling, sautee the garlic and thyme in the butter for 30 seconds, just long enough for them to release their flavor. Add the white wine, and reduce by half over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the salt and pepper, and mix with the parmigiano and the ricotta in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until needed to keep firm.
2. Working with two sheets at a time, place four dollops about 1.5 tbsp each of ricotta mixture in equal distances along one sheet of pasta. Make a depression in each dollop large enough to contain one quail egg, though it’s ok if a bit of white spills over as it will help with cohesion. Crack one quail egg into each depression. Wash the edges and between the dollops/eggs with egg white. Carefully set the second equally-shaped pasta sheet over the first, and pinch together on the edges and between the quail egg dollops. Cut each sheet into four circles using a 5” cookie cutter or glass. Place each raviolo on a floured baking sheet and continue process with remaining sheets until you have 24 ravioli. Let them air dry for an hour or up to three while you’re making the sauce. Right before you put them in the oven, paint with melted butter.
3. For the sauce, fry the bacon in a large skillet until fat has rendered and it’s crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, but keep as much grease in the pan as possible. Add the zest, juice and white wine to the pan. Reduce the wine by half over medium low heat. Add the cream and bring almost to the point of simmer, stirring constantly. Add the butter one piece at a time, stirring to fully incorporate. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and keep warm over very low heat. Add the peas and asparagus 5 minutes before you plan to drizzle the sauce over the ravioli.
To cook the ravioli bake at 350* for 10 minutes. YUM!