Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grapefruit and Coconut Angel Pie (Page 771)

RECIPE #1005

  • Date: Monday, June 22, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Mike M and Teresa
  • Recipe Rating: B


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. I started by beating egg whites and salt, then adding cream of tartar and sugar and beating until it held stiff peaks. I folded in some shredded coconut, then spread the meringue in a buttered pie plate. I baked the shell in a low oven for several hours, then let it dry out in the oven with the heat off for several more hours. I made the filling by peeling some grapefruit and cutting out the segments. I drained the segments, reserving the juice. I softened gelatin in some grapefruit juice. I whisked together egg yolks, sugar, the gelatin mixture, salt, and the rest of the grapefruit juice. I cooked the mixture on the stove, then put it in a bowl of ice water. When it had thickened slightly, I beat in cream cheese (which had already been beaten separately), then I beat the mixture in a bowl that was set in a bowl of ice water. In a separate bowl I beat heavy cream to stiff peaks, then folded it into the cream cheese mixture. I folded in the grapefruit segments, then put the filling in the shell.

You know how there are some recipes that are marketed as "One bowl cookies!" or "One bowl chocolate cake!"? This recipe was the "Twelve bowl pie!" Ok, maybe not twelve. Let's see... One to make the meringue, one for the grapefruit juice, one for the portion of grapefruit juice that the gelatin was added to, one for the custard, one for the ice bath to cool the custard, one to beat the cream cheese before it was added to the custard, and one to beat the heavy cream. I guess that's a mere 7 mixing bowls! At some point while making this I looked over at the dirty dishes in the sink and thought, "You have got to be kidding me!" I actually thought that several times while making this recipe, and not just on account of the bowls. Seriously, who's crazy ass idea was this recipe anyway? I have eaten/made so many different things that very few things seem weird to me any more. But coconut meringue filled with gelatin-stabilized grapefruit custard with big chunks of grapefruit in it? Yeah, that seemed odd. I am pretty sure I had never in my life eaten grapefruit custard, more or less grapefruit custard sitting on top of a huge bed of meringue.

I made this to serve to Mike and Teresa when they came over for dinner, and at some point I thought, "Maybe I should call Teresa and suggest that she bring some ice cream just in case this is foul!" I didn't call, but Teresa must have read my mind because they showed up with not one, but two flavors of ice cream and a whole bunch of white chocolate covered strawberries. Mike took one look at this pie and said, "I think I'll just have some ice cream." Haha. Even my special gentleman had only cautious enthusiasm about this one. After the first bite he said, "Well... it's not terrible, but I wouldn't have seconds." Turns out it grew on him -- ten minutes later he was cutting himself another piece. That was thing about this dessert: it was odd, but kind of in a good way. The meringue "crust" was lovely -- crunchy on the outside, a little chewy on the inside, and nice and sweet. That sweetness was important because the grapefruit custard had a serious tart kick to it. But the texture was nice and graprefruit flavored custard was an interesting change of pace. I think I would have liked this pie a lot actually had it not been for the chunks of grapefruit. The custard was already made with grapefruit juice, so there would have been plenty of grapefruit flavor without the chunks. And the chunks were just so intense that they detracted from my enjoyment.

All that said, it was an interesting experience, and if you have a lot of bowls and are looking for something really different, you might give it a try!

The recipe is here.

This post is coming to you from lovely Cambridge, England! My special gentleman and I have had a nice week here so far -- working during the day and eating fish and chips and drinking beer at the pubs in the evenings. In a few more days we are headed to Norway for part two of our European adventure! What a crazy summer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Claritha's Fried Chicken (Page 368)

RECIPE #1004

  • Date: Monday, June 22, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike M, and Teresa
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I wanted to make something from the Poultry section of The Book, and I have been eying this recipe for years. So I thought it was about time to fry some chicken! I took a whole chicken, cut it into 8 serving pieces, then halved the breasts. I put all the chicken in a bowl with a half a cup of kosher salt. I put the salted chicken in the refrigerator for an hour. Then I rinsed the chicken well and put it in a mixture of buttermilk and onions. I let it soak in the buttermilk for 8 hours. Then I coated each piece of chicken with a mixture of four, cayenne, pepper, and salt, then let them air-dry for half an hour. I fried the chicken, covered, in a cast-iron pan full of a mixture of shortening and butter (healthy!). This fried chicken was pretty tasty. The first batch I under-fried a bit (that's the picture above) and the second batch I over-fried a bit (user error!), but both batches were still tasty. The breading had a good flavor and the meat was extremely moist. My one complaint is that the chicken was pretty salty. I am a salt lover, so it didn't bother me, but I could certainly imagine some people objecting to it due to the saltiness. I recommend rinsing the chicken very thoroughly after it marinates in the salt. I thought I did a good job rinsing it off, but perhaps I did not.

The recipe in The Book is almost the same as this one, but the one online is only for fried wings, whereas the one in The Book is for all different chicken pieces.

This morning I hiked some cliffs, and this afternoon I ran 16 miles, so now I am very, very tired! We are still in Ohio (until tomorrow, when my special gentleman and I are flying to England). The last couple days we were down in Hocking Hills State Park with my special gentleman's parents. They rented a really nice cabin down there and we spent a couple days hiking through caves and cliffs, grilling out, sitting in the hot tub, and huddling around a big campfire. It was a fun getaway!

Now we are getting ready for my second European Adventure of the summer. We fly to England tomorrow, where we will spend a week, and then we are headed to Norway for a week. I am looking forward to the trip, but not so much to the traveling. Along those lines, I should start packing...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Warm Pasta Salad with Roasted Corn and Poblanos (Page 150)

RECIPE #1003

  • Date: Monday, June 22, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Mike M, Teresa, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

We had Mike and Teresa over for fried chicken a few weeks back, and pasta salad seemed like an appropriate accompaniment. I started by roasting poblano and jalapeno chiles in the broiler, then peeling, seeding, and chopping them. I then toasted pumpkin seeds on the stove. I dry-roasted corn, then onion, then I cooked garlic and cumin in oil. I stirred together the chiles, corn, onions, and garlic oil along with chopped tomatoes, oregano, and cilantro. To this I added some cooked rotini and seasoned with salt and pepper. I topped the salad with the pumpkin seeds and some ricotta salata. This pasta salad was pretty tasty. It was a little too spicy for my wimpy taste buds, but no one else seemed to mind that too much. The flavors went together nicely -- it had a bit of a Mexican feel to it. The dry roasting of the corn and onion gave this dish a nice charred note, and the cheese helped to mellow out the spice. In addition to having a good array of flavors, this dish also had a diversity of textures. Having the pumpkin seeds, in particular, gave good textural contrast. This was a tasty pasta salad -- a little fussy to make, but enjoyable to eat.

The recipe is here.

Hello from Ohio! On Wednesday and Thursday of last week my special gentleman and I moved from one apartment in Bloomington to another. I am not going to lie and say that it was a fun way to pass the time -- it certainly wasn't -- but it's over now! On Friday we finished up a few errands and then headed to Ohio, where my special gentleman's family lives. Because we had such a small wedding, we didn't invite extended family, so my special gentleman's parents wanted to throw us a reception to celebrate with the whole extended family. The party was yesterday, and it was great to see everyone! More than 60 people came (so the party was actually bigger than our wedding!) -- family and friends of the family. Afterwards my special gentleman and I went for a walk through the neighborhood he grew up in and laughed about how many times that day someone asked us, "So, where are you living now?" I'm not sure people were prepared for how complicated the answer to that seemingly simple question is. "Well, right now we both live in Indiana. In the fall one of us will be in Indiana and the other in Michigan. In the spring one will be in Indiana and the other in California. We have an apartment we rent in Indiana and an offer on a house in Michigan, but since there is a delay with the house, we are also renting a house in Michigan...." We explained this many, many times, in varying levels of detail. Only one person was bold enough to say, "It doesn't really sound like a good way to start a marriage." I didn't appreciate that so much. Most people more or less understood the logic behind all this though, and wished us luck!

Today I had a mellow day. I got some work done, then tonight we had a family dinner at my special gentleman's grandma's house, which was rowdy and fun. We are in Ohio all week, then Saturday we are headed to England. What a summer!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pissaladiere (Page 70)

RECIPE #1002

  • Date: Sunday, June 21, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I have flipped by this recipe in The Book more than a few times, but it has a long, long list of ingredients, so I have often kept flipping. Finally I decided to give it a try! I started by making the puff pastry dough (see post below). I rolled it out into a big rectangle, and put it on a damp baking sheet and refrigerated for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I cooked onions, basil, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper until the onion were golden, then added chopped canned tomatoes and cooked a bit longer. Finally I stirred in a head of roasted garlic and some chopped parsley and set it aside. While that filling was cooking, I folded over the edge of the puff pastry to make a border, then pricked it all over with a fork. I baked the pastry shell until lightly golden. I sprinkled some grated parmesan in the warm shell, then spread the filling evenly onto it. I topped the filling with overlapping slices of fresh tomato, then brushed the tomatoes with some oil. I sprinkled the whole top with pieces of Kalamata olive and thinly sliced strips of anchovy fillet. I baked the tart until it was crispy and golden, sprinkled it with some more parmesan, and served! This tart was quite tasty. I am not an anchovy fan, so I left part of the tart anchovy-free and I preferred that part, but my special gentleman (who likes anchovies) happily chowed down on the rest. The combination of canned tomatoes and fresh sliced tomatoes was quite nice, and the roasted garlic lended the dish a lovely garlic flavor. The puff pastry crust was completely delicious and made the tart seem refined yet rustic. This tart was beautiful and tasty -- I would certainly recommend it to any anchovy lovers out there!

This recipe isn't online.

When I was young my mother used to say my bedroom looked like a tornado went through. She is a much, much neater person than me, so her tornado always seemed more like a light breeze to me. Today, though, sitting in my apartment, it really does look like a tornado went through. We are moving today and tomorrow, and it's a mess. The place we are moving out of is a mess. The place I am moving into is already cluttered with boxes. And I just feel... bad.

It's not the mess that is bothering me, or even the undeniable horribleness of packing up all my belongings, moving them three blocks, and then unpacking them. It's just hard to leave my current apartment. I have no choice, so I'll go, but I am sad. I have lived in this place for two years, and although most of that time my special gentleman was technically living in Boston, this apartment is one of the places where we built our life together. Moreover, we got married in this apartment, standing only a few feet from where I am sitting now as we said our vows. And mostly, this move reminds me that we will be living apart again. For the last 7 months my special gentleman and I have been living together, and it has been absolutely wonderful. But about a month from now he will move to Michigan, and I will be in my new apartment, just down the street from my current place in Indiana. This, of course, was my choice. I decided to defer my job in Michigan and finish my job in Indiana. And, for a lot of reasons, I believe it was a good choice. But the living apart is going to be hard. We lived much further apart for much longer in the past, but now I have become so accustomed to living together... I just feel sad thinking about being apart so much.

And so, as I pack boxes and say goodbye to the apartment that has brought me a lot of good memories in the last two years, I just feel down. But I am sure that in time I will like the new place, and in less than a year I will be packing again, to move to Michigan for a whole lifetime of living with my special gentleman!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick Rich Puff Pastry (Page 71)

RECIPE #1001

  • Date: Sunday, June 21, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This recipe was a component recipe for the tart you see above (which will be my next post). I forgot to take a picture of the puff pastry dough by itself! To make this dough I combined flour and salt, then used my fingers to work in butter. Then I stirred in some icy water. I refrigerated the dough for an hour, then rolled it out into a rectangle. I folded the rectangle in thirds, rolled it out again, and folded in thirds once again. This process is called doing turns. I refrigerated the dough for 20 minutes, then did another turn. I refrigerated for 20 minutes more, then did one last turn. Finally I refrigerated the dough for another 30 minutes before using it. This dough wasn't a true puff pastry, where the butter would be layered between the dough before doing turns, rather than worked in, but it was a darn good imitation. This method of making quick puff pastry (sometimes called semi-puff) produced a pastry that was buttery and flaky, just like the original. True, it probably didn't puff quite as much as a true puff pastry would, and there weren't quite as many flaky layers of dough, but only an expert would notice the difference! This recipe was very nice. The dough was tasty, it cooked beautifully, and the end result was flaky, buttery, and crisp. Yum!

This recipe isn't online.

I went running recently with someone I consider a friend. What started as a nice, casual run took an ugly turn when somehow our conversation evolved into all sorts of criticism of me. I think most of it was meant either to be joking in nature, or to be helpful, but it was overwhelming. I got an earful about my career, my personal life, my hobbies, etc... none of it positive. I tried to take whatever was constructive out of the conversation and let the rest of it go. I didn't, however, entirely succeed. One thing that was said, for instance, was that there was no way I would be ready to run a marathon this fall. Now, I have never run a marathon before, and the person who said this has, so I took it rather seriously. I found it very discouraging -- discouraging enough that I didn't run for a whole week.

When I explained this all to my special gentleman (also a marathon runner) he scoffed, and convinced me to lace up my shoes again. And I am proud to say that on Friday I ran 14 miles. My longest run ever! And you know what? It was pretty easy. At the end of the run I felt that I could have easily run another mile or two. Today, looking at my training schedule and a calendar, I have found some confidence again. I think I can do it, and in an endurance event believing you can finish is a big step towards actually finishing!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dry-Curried Green Beans (Page 522)

RECIPE #1000!

  • Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+



I put off making this recipe for so long not because it didn't sound delicious, but because it took a long time to gather the ingredients. Fortunately I had help! David sent me the black mustard seeds, Brad and Deniz sent me the urad dal and chana dal, and Brad and Deniz also helped me hunt down asafetida powder in Chicago. The last stumbling block: fresh curry leaves. I eventually found them at my local Asian market. After acquiring all the ingredients, the preparation was pretty simple. I soaked shredded unsweetened coconut (also not super easy to find -- all the stuff at the grocery store is usually sweetened!) in water for an hour. I cooked mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, chana dal, asafetida, a serrano chile, and curry leaves in vegetable oil for about a minute. Then I added chopped green beans, water, and salt, and cooked until the beans were tender. Finally, I stirred in the coconut. These beans were pretty good. The dish had a playful assortment both of flavors and textures, so it certainly wasn't dull! The sauce that the beans were in was rather watery though -- I would have preferred having something with a more substantial mouthfeel to support all the spices. It was a tasty and healthy dish though, and my special gentleman particularly enjoyed it.

This recipe isn't online.

When I started this project I figured that when (if?) I ever made it to 1000 recipes I would have a big party. As it turns out, my special gentleman and I ate the one-thousandth recipe at home by ourselves, without even realizing that I had hit a milestone at the time. Maybe it was appropriate that way, because although this project has often been about big parties, and cooking with friends, it has also been about eating new things for ordinary weeknight dinners. And my special gentleman has certainly been an AMAZING project supporter -- there is no one I would have rather eaten the one-thousandth recipe with!

And although I wasn't even aware I was making the one-thousandth recipe when I made this, it was an appropriate choice. A lot of people helped me gather the ingredients for this one. Throughout this project I have been touched by how generous both my friends and strangers have been in sending me ingredients and equipment. Once we get settled into post-wedding life, I am eager to cook with all the new equipment we got as wedding presents!

I would like to list everyone who has helped me cook, who has eaten these 1000 experimental recipes with me, who has sent me ingredients/equpiment, who has lent me his or her kitchen, and who has commented on this blog cheering me on. But after more than 3 years, the list is just too long! So I will only say: thank you to you all! You know who you are, and I appreciate you tremendously. I'm not sure I ever would have made it to 1000 without the incredible support I have received. You guys are awesome!

So there it is: 1000 recipes down! Although there are still 293 recipes to go, I can't help but feel that I am in the home stretch. Whoo hoo!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sopaipillas (Page 615)

RECIPE #999

  • Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. I started by proofing some yeast with water and sugar. Then I warmed some milk, shortening, salt, and sugar on the stove top. I added it to the yeast mixture, then added whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. I kneaded the dough by hand for about 5 minutes then I let it rise for an hour. Once it had risen I divided it into thirds, rolling out and cutting each third into about 12 pieces. (Note: my pieces were not terribly even, nor perfectly rectangular and it mattered not-at-all!) I then deep fried the pieces of dough two at a time in hot oil, turning as necessary, about a minute per batch. I served the sopaipillas with honey. These sopaipillas were very tasty. They were wonderfully doughy inside, with a slight crispness on the exterior. The whole wheat flour gave them a bit of heartiness. And although they were deep-fried, the sopaipillas weren't greasy. We ate many sopaipillas the day we made them, and froze the rest. They were still delicious reheated in the toaster oven!

This recipe isn't online.

Hello from Madison! We are having a lovely week here in my hometown. It has been busy though! On Monday my parents hosted a get-together in celebration of our marriage. It was very relaxed, at a brew pub. We drank beer and ate deep-fried cheese curds -- perfect! On Tuesday my special gentleman and I went to the Wisconsin Dells to go to a waterpark with our friends Melanie and Daniel. Mel and Daniel are getting married tomorrow, and the waterpark trip was one of their pre-wedding events. It was so fun! Mel and I went to the waterpark all the time when we were kids and it was great to be back there. We had an awesome day in the sun -- unfortunately, despite two layers of sunblock, I ended up with a nasty, nasty sunburn!

Yesterday Melanie had a ladies luncheon for some of her friends and family in town for the wedding. I was asked to cook for the luncheon, which was really fun. After the luncheon I spent the rest of the day just relaxing! This evening is Melanie's rehearsal dinner, then tomorrow is her wedding! I am so excited. I love weddings! So much fun!!

To add to our lovely week, the weather here has been amazing! Sunny but not too hot. This perfect summer weather makes me even more excited about the idea of moving to Michigan, where the weather is pretty comparable to Wisconsin. Yay for summer in the upper midwest!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Spice Paste (Page 933)

RECIPE #998

  • Date: Friday, June 19, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I picked this spice paste because it was quick and easy! My special gentleman actually did much of the work on his one. He started by mincing some garlic and mashing it to a paste with kosher salt. Then he stirred together paprika, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, then added the garlic and some olive oil. We needed to add significantly more olive oil than the recipe indicated to get a nice paste texture. In retrospect I think we should have added even more than we did. This spice paste was fine, although nothing special. We used it to marinate some tofu, which we then broiled. The flavor of the spice rub was unobjectionable enough, but not remarkable in any way. And the texture was pretty gritty. I didn't mind eating it, but there are much better spice rubs and marinades out there.

This recipe isn't online.

After a week in Germany, I flew back to the States yesterday evening. My trip was OK. It had its ups and downs, but I was certainly glad to come home. On the 9 hour plane ride back I sat next to this woman, probably in her late fifties or early sixties, who every hour or so would take the same card out of her bag and read it. Then she would get all teary-eyed, wipe her eyes with a tissue, and put the card away. The card was in Italian, so I have no idea what it said -- I couldn't even tell from her reaction if the card contained something emotional in a happy way or a sad way -- but it was very touching to watch her. I carry a card with me from my special gentleman whenever I travel, and in trying moments I pull it out and read it. It never fails to make me feel better. I admit, I read it almost every day during this Germany trip.

My special gentleman picked me up at the airport in Chicago last night and we drove straight to Madison, where we are spending the week at my parents' place. Melanie and Daniel are getting married on Friday, and we are super-excited to be here to celebrate with them. The week is full of festivities for their wedding, plus my parents are throwing my special gentleman and I a little party tomorrow to celebrate our marriage. Busy, busy! It's good to be home. I had a hot fudge sundae for dinner from Dairy Queen, and now I am completing the experience with a local beer for dessert. I can't complain!