Sunday, November 30, 2008

Birthday Dim Sum - 11.29.08

For my birthday, Mom and Moe took me to a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant in Pinellas Park that serves dim sum. Dim sum is a plethora of small dishes that most restaurants only serve for a limited time during the week. This restaurant, however, serves it all the time. I will apologize for the quality of the pictures as I used my phone to take them.

Chicken Feet

We started with a peculiar oddity that seemed to be a favorite of the Asians in the restaurant: chicken feet. They were marinated and cooked in a sweet-spicy sauce. They had good flavor, though the edible portion of the feet is mostly skin and softer tissues, not so much muscle meat. They were nicely tasty once I got over the weirdness of eating them.

Spare Ribs

Next off of the cart was some spare ribs. They are pork ribs (I think) that are chopped through the bone into small pieces, then slow cooked until tender and exuding savory flavor.

Sticky Rice Wrapped Sticky Rice Unwrapped

In order to get some carbohydrates going, we ordered some sticky rice. It came wrapped in lotus leaves, which gave it an earthy tone. The rice was very sticky (glutenous) and was made more delicious by the addition of mushrooms, pork and Chinese sausage slices (not too much but just enough). Other carby dishes that I did not photograph were some rice noodles wrapped around shrimp and drizzled with sweet soy sauce, shrimp tempura sandwiched between slices of Japanese eggplant, and steamed shrimp-chive dumplings.

BBQ Pork Bun

On the slightly sweeter side, we had some buns filled with chopped, barbecued pork. The pork was mostly sweet, but not overwhelming as a filling in the bun.

Fried Taro

Lastly, we had deep fried taro. I have no idea how this was made or how taro was used in the dish, but the end result were some football shapes with a crispy, delicate exterior, a soft, taro-flavored interior, and a shrimp-mushroom stuffing. Even after all of this food (and a bubble tea for dessert), I was not overly full, but I was definitely very content.

Thanksgiving - 11.27.08

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'm sorry to say I did not do a lot of cooking while I was back home (then again, it was very restful). My only real contribution was a zucchini salad.

Zucchini Truffle Salad

This is a salad we had in Italy. Use a carrot peeler to thinly slice some zucchini. Top it with broken up parmesan, toasted pine nuts and a healthy drizzle of truffle oil. Truffle oil is a little pricey, but, used sparingly, it is a delicious addition to the salad.

Blue Velvet Cake

My mom surprised me with a birthday dessert on Thanksgiving. She would not tell me what kind of cake it was. To my surprise, while cutting the cake the knife started showing a blue-green tinge. After I cut a few slices, I figured it out: she had made a blue velvet cake. She took a red velvet cake recipe and substituted blue food coloring for red. She did it in honor of my new school colors. Even given the difference in color, the flavor of the cake was the same (delicious) with the classic cream cheese frosting to boot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fakesgiving - 11.23.08

The other students in my program decided to follow through with my Fakesgiving idea (the one that my friends and I have been doing for the past 4 years). We had a great get-together with all sorts of classic and non-typical Thanksgiving fare. Here are my contributions:

Tomato Bread Pudding

I found this idea in Gourmet Magazine (where they also tend to take pictures of food in its more natural state, hence my half-eaten photo). It is for a savory tomato bread pudding. You start by roasting some halved plum tomatoes that have been coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence for about 45 minutes until they are cooked down and the flavors are concentrated (tomato confit). Next, cube one loaf of French or Italian bread, coat with some olive oil and cook on a cookie sheet until they are golden brown on the edges, like underdone croutons. Let everything cool once it comes out of the oven. Place the bread into a buttered baking dish. Mix together 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 cups of whole milk, 8 eggs, a head of roasted garlic, 2 cups of grated Fontina cheese, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Pour this mixture over the bread. Top it all with the tomatoes, inserting some of the tomatoes in between the bread. Bake this for about an hour, let cool slightly and enjoy. Warning: though delicious, almost no bread pudding is by any means healthy. They usually involve lots of cream and, in the case of the sweet ones, lots of sugar. One of the best bread puddings I've had was one made with chocolate and croissants instead of normal bread. If you don't care about calories, cooking is a simple equation: delicious = fat + sugar.

Mocha Marble Cake

We had a birthday at Fakesgiving, so I took it upon myself to make a cake. I was going to be very fancy, but decided to go more straightforward with it. I made a marble cake (vanilla batter + chocolate batter + butter knife swirling) with mocha frosting (confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, coffee, vanilla, butter, and a little half-and-half). Marble cake is not one of my favorites, but this one came out moist and the frosting's deep chocolate and coffee flavors made it all the more delectable.

Fall Flavors and Mock Falafel - 11.23.08

I've been cooking so much that I haven't had the energy to update the blog in the past couple of weeks. So here is my pre-Thanksgiving update:

Chicken Curry in Squash

I have wanted to cook with squash and I decided to go through with it. First is chicken curry in a roasted acorn squash. While baking two halves of an acorn squash in a 450 degree oven, you saute chicken, red bell pepper, and onion with curry powder, some milk and golden raisins (those with good eyesight will notice in the picture that I could not find golden raisins so I used regular raisins). As always with any milk-based sauce, you want to make sure not to overcook it and "break" it. After everything is done, serve the chicken inside the squash halves and garnish with chopped cilantro. I found this recipe in Men's Health Magazine, so it is reasonably healthy, very filling if you can finish an entire half of an acorn squash (I may quarter it next time) and has decent flavors.

Pumpkin Ravioli

The second dish is one you could make year-round since it does not rely on fresh squash. I combined pumpkin puree with toasted pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, asiago cheese, a lot of arugula, peppercorns, and salt in a food processor and blended until smooth. If you, like me, does not always want to make fresh pasta dough for ravioli, you can use wonton wrappers. The recipe I used called for cornstarch dissolved in water to seal up the ravioli. This worked very well and the ravioli did not burst when I boiled them (only for a few minutes until they float). For a sauce, I combined 6 tablespoons each of butter and chopped sage. I may have cooked the sauce a little too long, but the end result was a nice butter sauce with crispy sage in it. I used some shaved asiago cheese at the end as a final touch.

Steak with Olives

As an accompaniment to the ravioli, I made a very quick and easy steak dish. Start by patting the steaks dry and seasoning them with salt and pepper. Cook them in a pan with oil until they reach the desired doneness. Remove the steaks from the pan and add 4 sliced garlic cloves and about a cup and a half of coarsely chopped olives. This time around I used a combination of black and pitted kalamata olives. Cook this until the garlic is browned and everything is heated through. Top the steaks with the olives and garnish with chopped parsley. I've discovered I like my steak medium rare to give it a nice juiciness and flavor. The olives add a simple, rustic flavor that matches the steak well.

Mock Falafel

The last dish I've made is a little out of left field. It's a non-traditional version of falafel using pinto beans instead of favas. Combine mashed pintos with monterey jack cheese, tortilla chips or breadcrumbs, green onion, cilantro, cumin, and egg whites. Form this odd mixture into patties and cook in a pan with olive oil until the patties have a nice, crispy outside. I wanted to make an avocado spread for this, but my avocado went bad prematurely, so I combined sour cream with lime juice, onion, and tomato for a cool topping. I served these inside of pita with shredded iceberg lettuce. These falafel may not be as crispy as the usual ones are, but they turned out to be quite enjoyable anyways.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Turkey Cutlets with Caper Sauce - 10/28/08

A little more entertaining this week, so I thought I would give a new recipe a try since I had a guinea pig who was reading, willing and able.

Turkey Cutlets with Caper Sauce

You may notice some similarities in the preparation of this dish with chicken parmigiana (parmesan). Start by finding some turkey breast cut into slices between one quarter to one half of an inch thick. Wrap each slice with a thin piece of prosciutto. Coat each piece with seasoned breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you can cover each with flour, dip into an egg wash, then the breadcrumbs. I chose the simpler route because a) it was easier, and b) I was out of eggs. Cook these up in a pan until they are golden brown. While they are cooking, chop 3 cloves of garlic with 1 small bottle of capers, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, and a few tsp of olive oil. Once the meat is done (be sure it cooks all the way through), plate it and top it with the caper sauce (mixed well). I served it with some colorful pasta I bought in Italy as well as some garlicy bread. This sauce was very good, nicely salty and the vinegar gave it some depth of flavor, though I'm sure the prosciutto helped too.