Sunday, February 19, 2006

Molecular Gastronomy

I read in the February 2006 issue of Discover Magazine, an article called "Cooking for Eggheads", about a relatively new, cutting edge, science called molecular gastronomy. This science studies how the process of cooking changes the structure and taste of food, a kind of melding of the physics and chemistry of food and cookery with the mutual aspects of eating, the physiology and taste. I learned several things, one of them being that cooking an egg in boiling water is not ideal, as it is far higher than the temperature at which the egg whites and yolks coagulate. You end up with rubbery egg whites and grey yolks. Better to cook it at 158F/70C, or, if you prefer it firmer, 167F or 176F. This new science has spawned radical chefs, like Heston Blumenthal, owner of the Fat Duck in England, at one time named as the best restaurant in the world. Other things that are not necessarily true that have been found out, include whether it's better to salt a roast before or after cooking, it makes no difference as the salt is not absorbed in either case; and searing meat at high temperatures does not seal in the juices. But what to do with this knowledge? Cooking is a combination of knowledge, technique and art. Molecular gastronomy provides us with that knowledge, how food is altered by cooking, why things turn out the way they do, why one thing works and another doesn't. New foods are starting to appear, new gelling agents and combinations of foods. It's starting to be of interest in various magazines and blogs, so keep your eye out for it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tea Chocolate

I bought this once last year from this West Indies store near where I live, the package says it's from Jamaica, and I was in the store again looking for some spices, and decided to pick it up again and give it another try. Normally, I prefer chocolate to drink made with milk, but many areas use water to make it, especially in South and Central America. The chocolate tasted pretty good, though too watery for my tastes. The chocolate ball is kind of severely compacted cocoa nibs, quite heavy too. Definitely not for every one's tastes, but do try it if you are a chocoholic and foodie, like I am.

Tea Chocolate
3 cups water
1 chocolate ball
1/2 cinnamon leaf (optional)
1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)

Bring the ingredients to a boil and simmer for half an hour. Strain, add milk and dash of nutmeg. Sweeten to taste.

What to do with two overripe bananas?

Make banana muffins out them, that's what! Or banana bread. Or banana cake. Lots of choices, but I think this one is the best. These turn out deliciously moist, due to the extra ingredient of mayonnaise compared to other recipes I've seen. I always try to use real mayonnaise, it tastes better. This originally called for 1/2 tsp vanilla, but I think more is always better, and usually add more than called for in the recipe. This makes 12 large muffins. The tops will be darker brown when done.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
2 cups flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup mayonnaise
2 large bananas, mashed
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and add mayonnaise. Add mashed bananas and beat until smooth. Add chocolate chips and vanilla.

Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Friday Lunch

My boss and I normally go to this Italian restaurant, it's called Remezzo's, and is located at Sheppard and Warden in Toronto, they have fairly good Italian meals, much better fare than the fast food joints in the area, for sure. It's odd, too, as we normally get tired of the food at one restaurant, and so we have to find another. There isn't much choice in the area, unless you want to travel a fair distance. There's the standard menu items, I enjoy their Angel Hair Alli Oglio, which is angel hair pasta with chicken and sundried tomatoes and roasted garlic and olive oil (the Alli and Oglio of the name). Like all restaurants, they have the standard fares, lots of different pizzas, salads, and pasta dishes. Occasionally, I am intrigued by their specials, most of the time it's something with salmon, which I don't care for, there was one time that I really enjoyed the pasta special, it was an Asian angel hair with light soy sauce and chicken and curry and vegetables, it was quite tasty. Unfortunately, they haven't had it since. Perhaps I was the only one that liked it, and despite my best efforts to get it noticed by telling the waitress that it was delicious. Yesterday, the pasta special was Ravioli, and it looked intriguing, so I ordered it. When it came, there was these rather large meat ravioli, covered in melted mozzarella and a blush wine sauce with roasted red pepper and green onion and pancetta and wild mushrooms. Quite tasty, a little spicy too, which I like. Though, my idea of wild mushrooms must be different, I'll give them credit for not using button mushrooms, though it did sort of look like the kind of mushrooms one finds in cream of mushroom soup. Kind of disappointing, but the whole meal was overall great, and not bad for eleven bucks.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Chocolate Hazelnut Sandies

Chocolate and hazelnut, this recipe is bound to be good! I adapted this from a recipe I found in an issue of Martha Stewart Living. It originally had 2/3 cup of pecan halves, but I like hazelnuts much better, and I had no pecans. I also forgot to add the vanilla, but I'm sure they turned out fine, they certainly were fragrant. I think I'll keep this myself, rather than bring the majority in to work like I normally do.

Chocolate Hazelnut Sandies
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Process pecans, flour, cocoa, and salt in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium low; gradually add flour mixture until just combined.

Lightly flour palms, and roll dough into 1-inch balls. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until firm and fragrant, about 16 minutes.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Golden Blueberry Pancakes

I got this recipe from the yearly Milk Calendar given out free by the Canadian Milk Board, all its recipes have some sort of dairy product in it, usually milk or cream, though I use rice milk in baking and cooking, and that works most of the time, unless you need the fat, such as in puddings. I also substituted spelt flour for the whole wheat flour. The whole recipe makes over 20 pancakes, so I cut the ingredients by a third, being only one, and still had more pancakes that I can eat. They were tasty with real maple syrup. Blueberries are my favourite fruit, so these were a treat.

Golden Blueberry Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp. butter for cooking (approx.)

In large bowl, whisk together all-purpose and whole wheat flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, yogurt and melted butter; pour over dry ingredients and sprinkle with blueberries. Stir gently just until combined. A few lumps should remain.

In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt a thin layer of butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter per pancake into skillet. Cook for 2 min. or until bubbles break into batter but do not fill in; turn and cook for 1 to 2 min. longer or until golden and puffed. Repeat with remaining butter and batter, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

German Potato Pancakes

I recall coming home from Public school one lunchtime, to the smell of potato pancakes that my Grandmother visiting from Germany had cooked specially for lunch. They were delicious! And far the best potato pancakes I've ever had. I've realized since that I enjoyed them more for the experience of arriving home to freshly made and hot pancakes, than for the taste of them, and I shouldn't compare what I have since made to that day. I am of the opinion that they should be eaten with applesauce, rather than sour cream, like some do. Feel free to do so.

Potato Pancakes
1 lb. potatoes
1 small onion
1-2 eggs
20-30 g flour
salt and pepper to taste
100 g oil or fat (for frying)

Grate the onion using a fine grater. Wash, peel and grate the potatoes using a coarse grater. Add the eggs, the grated onion and flour to the potatoes and mix well. Heat the oil in a frying pan to medium heat; then lower the heat slightly. Drop a heaping tablespoonful of the potato mixture onto the hot oil, and press it flat with a spatula. Cook till it is golden brown, turning once. Serve with applesauce.

Kalte Schnauze

Kalte Schnauze or Kalter Hund, Cold Dog in English, is a favourite recipe of mine growing up, though we never got it very often. My aunt would make it for my Dad, he liked it too. Now, that I am older, I can make it whenever I want, one of the joys of growing up and being on your own, assuming I can find the Palmin, or coconut oil. I recently found a European Food store near where I work, I stopped by their last weekend, and bought a bunch of things, including some Palmin. Use rum flavouring if you don't like alcohol or if this is for children. I use the German Butterkeks from Bahlsen as the butter biscuits, you could use any kind of biscuit, I guess, these just work very well with the recipe.

Kalte Schnauze
Butter Biscuits
3 eggs
200 g icing sugar
4-5 Tbsp cocoa
250 g Palmin (coconut oil)
Tbsp Rum (or Rum Essence)

Beat the eggs, the icing sugar, the cocoa and the rum together. Heat the coconut oil on minimum; you want this to be subjected to as little heat as possible. Slowly add the melted coconut oil to the chocolate. This should end up being fairly thick. Line a loaf pan with clear cling wrap. Now, pour a thin layer of the chocolate, then a layer of the butter biscuits, another think layer of chocolate, alternating until you end with a final layer of chocolate. The biscuits will rise to the top, so push them down a little into the chocolate. Place the loaf pan in the fridge and let it cool for at least four hours. Take it out of the loaf pan and slice thinly to serve.

Lush's Brazened Honey Face Mask

I'm always up for trying new things, especially if they involve fresh, natural ingredients. I've recently come upon the chain store Lush, there being an outlet in the mall across the way from where I live, I use their Banana Moon soap in the shower every day. I love how it makes my skin feel and smell. Too, I am a sucker for Honey, and am always looking out for recipes and products that use it as an ingredient. So, I thought that I would try their detoxifying face mask product called Brazened Honey. Never having tried a face mask before, being a guy, but open to the experience, I bought a small container of it. According to the package, it also contains seven Ayurvedic herbs, that sounded good already, having read about the ancient Indian healing techniques, this would help to deep clean the skin, and fresh chlorophyll, also a good product that I have taken in the past, to help repair damage on the skin. Apparently, it will boost your circulation and restore some life to your skin. Spreading it over my face was an interesting experience, it smelled pretty good and was thick, but went all over my face easily. After 10 minutes, I washed it off, and my face looked clean and fresh and felt soft and smooth. Shaving always makes my skin rough, I usually don't shave on the weekend to give my cheeks and neck a rest. I might grow used to this.

How to cure a cold, Chinese style

The tried and true method of curing the common cold is rest and plenty of liquids, and my sister wrote me that she had read that chicken soup, especially that from female hens, increases circulation to the bronchial tubes and larynx, increases the secretion of mucus and relieves coughing. There's some scientific evidence to suggest that this old wives' tale has some substance to it. But she also sent me a link to a Chinese cure for the common cold, and it involves cola and ginger. Now, ginger brings heat to the body, especially in winter, it's good as a tea or added in soups. I, as a rule, don't like soft drinks, especially colas, but I'm always willing to try new things, especially when it comes to food. Now, all I have to do, is wait for my next cold. I haven't had one for over two years, and before that, I only got about two a year.

Coca-Cola Ginger Tonic
Pour 750ml of cola into a pot and heat on the stove.
Slice thin pieces of ginger, equaling a handful, into the cola and heat for 10 min.
Filter the heated concoction into a glass.
Drink the hot ginger cola and repeat once a day until well.