Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Operation Papaya - fail

Having never eaten fresh papaya before, Dave and I decided to get one over the weekend at the farmers market. I waited patiently until the skin had gone from Wicked Witch green to a mottled yellow, and then skinned and diced it.
Now, as previously stated, I have never before eaten fresh papaya, but I don't think this is what it is supposed to taste like. A friend of mine described papaya as "fucking delicious". I would describe this as being rather like what I would imagine Peter Griffin's ass tastes like.
I had a few bites, from various parts of the fruit, to make sure I hadn't simply gotten a bad bit - I didn't. I will save it until Dave gets back from work to be likewise revolted, and then straight into the bin it will go. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

Last night we ate out for dinner, so I decided to make my grandmother's peach cobbler for dessert. As we had a copious amount of blueberries in the fridge - the store had had a buy 1, get 2 free sale - I decided to make blueberry/peach cobbler. This may have been one of my best decisions ever, second only to getting a tattoo while on antibiotics. Wait, that was a bad decision. OK, this was my best ever.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cobbler (the fruit part)
2/3 Cup Sugar
1 T corn starch
1 Cup boiling water
3 Cups sliced peaches (or in this case, 2 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of peaches)
½ T butter
½ t cinnamon

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, gradually adding the boiling water. Transfer to the already hot burner and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Add fruit with their juices, stir. Pour into 10x6x2"* baking dish. Dot with the butter, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Shortcake (the topping)
1 C flour
1 C sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 T vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 C milk

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the oil and milk. Drop by spoonfuls on top of fruit.

Bake 30 min in 400-degree oven

Normally when my grandmother makes this recipe (a family favorite), the shortcake topping is white and fluffy. *I used a larger baking dish (13x9x2") and as a result the shortcake was submerged in the sugar water, rather than sitting on top of the fruit. The final product had a crispier top, but if anything, was an improvement. The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to use 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of sliced peaches, rather than just 3 cups of fruit. Try both, see which you like better.

In the end, the entire affair disappeared in less than 12 hours, eaten for dessert, a midnight-while-watching-True-Blood-snack, and for breakfast. Dave, attempting to embrace the Maine lifestyle as much as possible, insists on referring to it as "cobblah". I am more of a fan of the food than his accent.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Banana bread

What does one do, when one is too lazy to make a chocolate banana smoothie for breakfast every morning?

This is, by the way, a delicious and nutritious way to begin the morning, and it is pretty easy:

1 banana
1 cup of chocolate soy milk
3 ice cubes

Just blend until smooth and enjoy.

But anyway, what happens when you are too lazy to do that? You end up with a bunch of really nasty looking bananas sitting in your fridge, every day getting closer to the stage where they sprout legs, hold a mutiny, and turn you into a smoothie. Not a pleasant experience. Your only solution, therefor, is to do something that takes slightly more time than a daily smoothie, and is, admittedly, less healthy.

Banana Bread
6 over-ripe bananas (and by over-ripe, I mean black as pitch and squishy, eww!)
3/4 c. sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 cup of egg beaters
3 c. flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix all ingredients. Put into two 5 x 9 inch loaf pans that have been sprayed with pam. Bake at 325°F degrees for 1 hour.

The bread this creates is heavy and moist, and quite delicious. We ate one loaf in about a day, and the other is in the fridge for later consumption. If it is left there until it sprouts legs, I don't think there is anything else that can be done with it other than putting a steak through it's heart and throwing it away.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crepe Night!

Having finished reading Julie and Julia, I had a very strong desire to make something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My dad had occasionally made crepes when I was younger, and my mouth practically watered when I read about them. I read and reread the recipe before attempting them, hoping to avoid the difficulties Julie Powell ran into.

I shouldn't have worried.

Crepe Batter
1 Cup cold water
1 Cup cold milk (fat free works as well as any other)
4 eggs (I used 1 Cup of eggbeaters)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Cups flour
4 Tb melted butter (I used 4 Tb vegetable oil)

Put the liquids, eggbeaters and salt into a blender jar. Add the flour, then the oil. Cover and blend at top speed for one minute. If clumps of flour stick to the sides of the blender, scrape off with a spatula and blend for a few more seconds. Keep covered and refrigerate for at least two hours.

* DO make sure to warn anyone else living with you that what is in the blender is crepe batter, not a delicious smoothie. This can lead to disaster. *

Julia calls for bacon rind* to grease your pan. Julie Powell stated that she had a devil of a time keeping her crepes from sticking.

Repeat after me: "All I need is a non-stick pan."

If you have a Teflon pan or something like it, you will have no trouble at all. The crepe will un-stick itself perfectly.

Set the burner for medium heat and wait until the pan is hot. Hold the pan in your left hand and the blender jar in your right (or whatever feels comfortable), and pour in just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Crepes should be thin - Julia suggests 1/16 of an inch thick, but lets be reasonable. 1/4 cup is good to start with.

Swirl the pan around until the bottom is entirely covered in batter, and return the pan to the burner for about a minute. The edges of the crepe should begin to curl upwards, allowing you to slide a spatula under the crepe. If you are not afraid of lightly burning your fingers, it is much easier to simply grasp the crepe by the edges and flip it, rather than using a spatula. The crepe will already have cook through enough that no batter will spill. This second side will be spotted - this is the inside of the crepe, not the display side.

After about 30 seconds on the second side, you can remove the crepe from the pan. Once you get the hang of flipping and removing, you can have two pans going at once. I know this sounds scary, but you really can. They really aren't that difficult to make.

Within 30-45 minutes, depending on how experienced you are, you will have a nice stack of 20-30 crepes.

I wanted to make the entire meal based around crepes, so I had to think of three different things to do with them. For an appetizer, I decided to use a variation of a filling Julia used for her Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine.

Cream Cheese filling
4 oz cream cheese (fat free for a slightly healthier dinner)
1/3 Cup chopped white mushrooms
1/4 Cup chopped green onions
2 Tb olive or vegetable oil

Put the cream cheese in a bowl, mash with a fork.

Saute the green onions in the oil over medium heat for a minute or two, until they smell strongly on onion. Add the mushrooms, saute for one minute more.

Add the oil, onions and mushrooms to the cream cheese, mix together.

That's all you have to do - this also goes well on veggie burgers and bagels.

For the main course filling, I decided to use spinach and chicken. Dave had the idea to marinate the chicken in a salad dressing we had (Newman's Own low fat sesame ginger), and the result was quite delicious.

Spinach and Chicken filling
three chicken breasts, cubed
two large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1/2 Cup salad dressing

Marinate the chicken in the salad dressing for 1/2 hour. Cook in pan over medium heat until chicken has browned (around 5-6 minutes usually). Add the spinach. Spinach shrinks considerably when cooked, so you may want to add more.

Very simple to make, and quite flavorful.

For dessert, I used blueberries and chopped strawberries and peaches. No sugar, just fresh, juicy fruit. Delicious.

What are your suggestions for more crepe fillings, savory or sweet? They are simple to make, and not terribly fattening. They also freeze well, so you can make a lot and simply reheat them later.

*That packet of bacon I bought and ended up not using will probably sit in our fridge until we move next year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Purpose... It's that little flame

That lights a candle under your ass. Ahh, the wisdom of Avenue Q.

Seriously though. I graduated about a month ago, and have very little to show for it at the moment. I just finished reading Julie and Julia, the book that was the inspiration for the Meryl Streep Oscar nom last year. It was an enjoyable read (although some of her accounts of treating her husband like dirt made me cringe and cuddle with my fiance), but more than simply liking the story, I got inspiration. Or at least a desire for inspiration.

Cooking ones way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking has now been done (I did, incidentally, get both volumes for Christmas this year. My first statement, much to everyone's amusement, upon opening the package was "Yay! Now I can bone a duck!" I am looking forward to that one.) I have no wish to be a follow-up to Julie Powell, for her mission is not mine. I don't know what mine is yet. I'll try some different things, and hope I find it along the way. Maybe you can help me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thai Bamboo - Restaurant Review

Thai Bamboo
7 High Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

Last month I graduated from Syracuse University and moved to Southern Maine, where Dave goes to medical school. His mother helped us move into our new apartment, for which I am very grateful, as Dave was working and unable to help with a lot of the moving-in process. On her drive back from Maine, she took the "scenic" route - this adds about two hours and lets one avoid most of Massachusetts.

On our latest trip to Syracuse, we decided to take that route - we were under no time constraints and long drives can be a lot of fun if you have a good travel companion, which I do. New Hampshire and Vermont seem to be comprised almost entirely of antique stores and beautiful forests, so the added time would have been worth it even if Dave had not seen the sign for Brattleboro and squealed "Ohhh! I love Brattleboro! Let's eat dinner here!"

As we got into the town - a quiet, quaint place where I would like to spend more time when I have the chance - he also remembered that Brattleboro was home to a very good Thai restaurant. He wasn't kidding.

We ate dinner at Thai Bamboo, which instantly became one of my top ten favorite restaurants. Thai iced tea is one of my favorite things in the world, and the tea at Thai Bamboo was the best I've ever had. The tea itself was very strong and sweet and the optional tapioca (which of course I asked for) was freshly made - rather than hard, chewy spheres, it was soft and much easier to deal with. I think I drank about three glasses. We shared a scallion (green onion) pancake as an appetizer, and I think we rather shocked the waiter with how quickly we consumed it.

Dave ordered the Pineapple fried rice, which was very good but a bit too sweet for me. I like my drinks sweet, not my food. I got the Pad Thai, which I know is about as Thai as Chicken Tikka Masala is Indian, but I love it anyway. Thai Bamboo has, hands down, the best Pad Thai I've ever eaten. The sauce was rich and creamy, which offset the spiciness. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful, and the egg had been cooked separately, so there were no lumps of noodle and egg stuck together. I normally would not have been able to eat that much of anything, but it was too delicious to let it go to waste.

After all that food, our stomachs were a bit uncomfortable, so we decided to share some ginger ice cream for dessert. This too was delicious, as it was not only ginger flavored but also had large chunks of candied ginger mixed throughout. We ate everything.

To top off the heavenly meal, the price was extremely reasonable. Our three course meal totaled about $45, which considering how amazing the food was, was an absolute steal.

I unhesitatingly recommend this restaurant to anyone with even a mild liking for Asian cuisine.