I am home!

I’ve been trying to think of something fun to post…

I should post the few food photos that I took while I was in Europe…

But in the meantime, I was thinking that I’d post something a little random but fun.

There’s a Japanese goth band in Tokyo called Auto-Mod. The vocalist, Genet, has a blog that he posts to very regularly. I’m not an Auto-Mod fan, but I’m definitely a fan of Genet’s blog!

Why?

He posts a lot of photos of whatever he’s eating. And I mean *a lot*. It makes me want to visit Japan again and soon because I want to stuff my face after seeing so many yummy pictures of ramen, curry, soba, and sushi!

http://genet.jugem.jp/

Have fun!

Rice with Green Peas and Almonds

See that photo? I took the photo, but I didn’t make the rice. My friend Dawn did for Tammy’s dinner party. Dawn dropped the rice at my house earlier that day because she knew she was going to be late for dinner. I really can’t complain though – this gave me time to whip out the heavy digital camera and a chance to smell the rice all afternoon.

And when I say this smells amazing, I mean it smells AMAZING.

The recipe for this dish comes from a Hari Krishna book (seriously!). No, Dawn is not a Hari Krishna. She is very, very Italian American. However, she is a “part-time vegetarian” (as I like to call it). Stealth_eater is also a part-time vegetarian but for very different reasons. Dawn loves fish and chicken, but doesn’t really care for the taste of red meat at all. Stealth_eater does it for “health” reasons… but seeing as her health hasn’t changed for the better , she is thinking about putting some red meat back into her diet (the omnivore and the cook in me rejoices). But anyway, since Dawn is a part-time vegetarian, she loves the recipes in her Hari Krishna book. And it didn’t hurt that the book only cost her a couple of bucks.

Rice with Green Peas and Almonds
source: The Higher Taste
serves 4-5

1 cup basmati rice
3/4 tsp salt
4 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
2 cups water
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ghee or oil
1 cinnamon stick, about 1 1/2″ long (but Dawn used a 3-4″ stick without problem)
6 whole cloves
1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
1 cup fresh or frozen peas

Bring the water, salt, and turmeric to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep the pan covered.

Heat the ghee/oil in another medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Fry the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, and almonds until the almonds turn a pale golden-brown. Add the rice and saute for about 2 minutes or until the grains turn translucent.

Pour in the boiling water, and if using fresh peas, add them now. Stir, increasing heat to high, and bring the water to a full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently simmer (no stirring) for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is all absorbed and the rice is tender. If using frozen peas, quickly sprinkle them over the rice halfway through the cooking time. Turn off the heat, and allow the rice to steam for another 5 minutes.

Serve while hot.

nutmeg cake with orange blossom syrup

I baked this weekend! Exciting, isn’t it? I even took pictures and edited said pictures.

 

nutmeg cake with orange blossom syrup

Anyway, my friend Tammy (whose lovely photos of some of my foods grace my food entries) was having her annual lamb dinner (with non-lamb options for people like me). Nearly all of her guests brought something to nibble on, including myself.

The newest cookbook that sits on my bookshelf is Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it!

Pros: It came together pretty easily.

Cons: My cake was half the height of the cake in the book photo! I was pretty sure that I had my eggs and butter at room temperature, and I tried really hard not to over-mix. On top of that, my syrup could have been bolder.

I think I might try cake flour next time and see if it gives a better result. However, please don’t think this means that this was a bad cake! For a total experiment, it still yielded pretty tasty results (and it was not too sweet, thankfully).

adapted from Warm Bread and Honey Cake

6 oz all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 loose tsp nutmeg (I used freshly grated)
1 stick of butter, softened
4 1/2 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp milk
6 Tbsp orange blossom syrup

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 1-lb loaf pan.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Sift this.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until creamed and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs loosely in a small bowl with the vanilla. Add the egg to the butter mixture bowl in two batches, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Then use a whisk to fold in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk.
(So, you’re adding 1/3 flour mixture, 2 Tbsp milk, 1/3 flour mixture, 2 Tbsp milk, and the final 1/3 flour mixture.)

Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes (or until a tester is inserted and comes out clean).

Remove the pan from the oven, and poke several small holes into the cake (making sure to poke all the way through to the bottom). Slowly pour the syrup over the cake. Let it cool about 5 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. After that, wrap the cake well in plastic wrap and let the flavors meld for a day before serving.

Orange Blossom Water Syrup
make about 1 1/2 cup

Put 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1 tsp lemon juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Take the pan off the  heat and let it cool about 5 minutes.

Add orange blossom water to your liking (I ended up using 1 1/2 Tbsp for the cake… but I now think that it should be 2-3 Tbsp).

Use the syrup on cake, in tea, and anything else that suits your fancy!

~Mikan

what my lunch is today

It’s icky and raining in the Greater Boston area today.

I’ve got a steaming bowl of green-tea soba noodles and kimchi dumplings in a duck broth. Yes, a duck broth. My mother gave my a quarter of a Chinese roasted duck. I saved the bones and boiled it in water for two hours – it smelled divine.

No pictures though. My camera batteries died. But it died only after I took a bunch of photos of ayurvedic rice, nutmeg cake, and nutmeg cookies.

When the batteries are recharged, I’ll post the photos here. ^_^

~Mikan

Harvard SEAS lecture, 12/6/10, David Chang

Yesterday was the last SEAS science and cooking lecture of the semester. The guest was David Chang (with his R&D chef in tow).

Walking into the lecture hall, the first things I noticed were 1) David had  pots and pans simmering with things at the front of the room, and 2) the room smelled like dashi.

Mike Brenner kicked things off with the usual sponsor spiel, but he also mentioned that the student final projects were in competition where the students had chances to win stuff. (Again, why didn’t I have such a cool class when I was a college student?!) Mike also showed up an 8-minute slide show presentation that summarized the semester in photos. There was a snafu with the presentation. The accompanying music was supposed to be David Bowie’s “Major Tom”, but we heard Alvin and the Chipmunks at first. Poor Mike! But it was a good way to start off the lecture, I think. It put the audience in humorous spirits.

David’s lecture was about making mistakes and working with the limitations of your environment. His first restaurant, ko, only has 12 bar seats. His second restaurant, ssam bar, started out as a large failure. It was originally supposed to be Korean-Mexican. In his words, “if you build it, they will come but nobody came.” He expected ssam bar would end up closing its doors, but with failure he found the freedom the create whatever he wanted and he didn’t have to worry about reviews anymore. In the end, ssam bar was reinvented. His dessert location, milk bar, started out with only 700 sq. ft. It has a new kitchen in Brooklyn which much, much larger. And with the new space, his pastry chef has to figure out how to utilize the space since cooking in a small kitchen feels drastically different from cooking in a large kitchen.

David emphasized documenting your failures (well, you should document your successes too but David claims that he’s bad at that) repeatedly. He believes that it’s the progression of failures that leads to success, and that it’s impossible to succeed on the first try.

He moved onto recipes first with his kombu dashi. Kombu (aka kelp) should be simmered at 60C for optimum flavor. His dashi at noodle bar takes 16 hours to make (simmered a long time with the kelp liquid, chicken, pork, and shiitake) but he’s trying to find ways to cut that time down. Right now, David and his R&D chef are developing a way to make the dashi with freeze-dried chicken and pork, and essence of vegetables/herbs (“Carrots are the only thing you need”). It’s “instant ramen soup on [his] own terms.” The recipe itself has been worked out and this cuts the cooking time to about 15 minutes, but freeze-dried meats is cost prohibitive. So, he’s now trying to figure out a way to obtain his own freeze drying equipment.

The next recipe was shiitake chips. David’s restaurants use a lot of dried shiitake. To save space, all of their shiitake is pulverized into a powder. The powder is rehydrated/steeped for use. After straining, the leftover shiitake sludge is thinly spread out, salted, and put into a dehydrator. The result is a delicate, think chip with shiitake overtones. David sent out three tubs of the chips into the audience, so I got to have a taste. It was really lovely and not overwhelming at all. (I’ll have to try it if and when I get a dehydrator of my own!)

David prepared a bowl of Momofuku ramen for us to watch. It’s got scallions, pulled pork shoulder, pork belly, fish cake, and an egg in it. Instant ramen it is not.

The third recipe was for “pork bushi.” There’s a lot of Japanese influence in David’s cooking, but he’s confined by the fact that he’s located in NYC and not in Japan. Katsuobushi is a Japanese product where skipjack tuna (aka bonito) is cooked, smoked, and then allowed to dry/ferment. The fish becomes petrified. To use, the final product is shaved thinly, and the shavings are used in cooking. Technically, you can get katsuobushi in the States, but it will always be an inferior product. This got David thinking.

In a moment of crazy experimentation, David took a piece of pork tenderloin, steamed it, smoked it, and (since you can’t purposely take the mold from katsuobushi) he shoved it into a box of rice to ferment. He put it away and forgot about it. Eventually, someone pointed out to him that it was doing something. To make sure that it was edible, he enlisted the help of two microbiologists, Rachel and Ben. Both microbiologists were in the audience, so we were entertained with slides about the fermentation on the pork-bushi. Ben called it a “microbial landscape” where he could play “CSI bushi.” Both the rice and the fungi around the pork carried familiar fungi, like fungi you can find in sake! Ben presented an evolutionary tree of the pork-bushi fungi, and called it the “highlight of [his] PhD.”

Meanwhile, Rachel and three microbiology students went about identifying the bacteria on the pork-bushi and mapped out a bacteria tree. A few of the pork bacteria are possibly new bacteria (to which David started cheering in the background and asked if the bacteria could be named the Momofuku bacteria).

The pork-bushi process is thus: use pork tenderloin and other pork scraps, must be less than 5% fat, and grind up the meat. Mix in 2% Activa RM (meat glue!), and shape into a loaf pan. Vacuum out the air a few times. Steam the pork log to 100C, and smoke the log for 5-6 hours (I think David said that he used hickory chips for smoking). Cover the logs with rice, and let it ferment. The final pork-bushi is very solid and hard. It is basically petrified. The smell is very earthy and smokey (when I got home last night, I swear that I could smell it on my clothes!), and very reminiscent of katsuobushi. Use it like katsuobushi. Shave thinly, bring shavings and water to a boil, and then let it steep like tea. Season it with soy sauce, sake, and mirin.

The final recipe was “kuzu noodles.” Kuzu is Japanese wild arrowroot. Originally, David imagined making a kuzu noodle by using a CO2 canister and shooting a kuzu dough into hot water, so that it would cook into shape. It didn’t work, and it still doesn’t work. Instead, David uses the CO2 canister to foam up a large ball like thing of the kuzu dough. He lets it steam for 30 seconds and then bastes it with the soup. It’s a weird, irregular blob, but he serves it that way, topping it with looked to me like seaweed and chives. And it works.

At the end of the lecture, there was a Le Creuset raffle. Alas, I didn’t win any of the pots (I was coveting the 4.5 qt dutch oven in all honesty), and I heard people trying to buy them off some of the winners on my way out of the lecture room. The audience pressured Mike Brennan to raffle off the chance to eat/taste everything that David was making during the lecture. lol! But I didn’t win that either.

At last, all the SEAS cooking lectures are done for the semester. I could have purchased a SEAS cooking apron (black with all of the semester’s formulas in white printed on) but I didn’t. I’m a little sad though. What food nerdy things can I look forward to now? Ah, I guess this means that I really do need to get off my butt and cook more so that I will have things to post.  (^_~)

More SEAS cooking and science lectures next year? I hope so.  (^_^)

~Mikan

On the road to better myself…

… As a home cook, anyway.

There are things that I feel that I should try to make, regardless of whether I am personally interested in eating/drinking it. I always have a running list of things to try in my head, but never get around to it.

I don’t cook as often as I would like to or as often as I think I should. And as winter begins to roll around, I think that I should spend more time in my kitchen.

Perhaps jotting down some of the things I’d like to do here will challenge me to go and do it:

1. Make cordial! (I would love a chance to make umeshu for my friends but ume season is early spring and I don’t know if my favorite Asian market will even carry ume.)
2. Butterfly a chicken.
3. Make jam.
4. Make candied ginger and candied orange peels.
5. Make bagels.
6. Learn to make my mother’s jook (Chinese rice porridge).
7. Learn to make my mother’s pasta and shiitake soup.

There’s more to this list, like find a beef chili recipe that makes me happy (I’ve got a decent bean chili but not a beef one) but I should start small, and check things off before I think of more things.**

~Mikan

** and I will end up thinking of more things too.