Thursday, September 28, 2006

Indian Food Fest 2k6

Daytona Beach has absolutely no Indian food. Ok, ok we have one little joint beach side that's just not good but sometimes when we're desperate for it, we give in. One of my goals for my week off from school was to make paneer. Yesterday this is what we did. It was loads of fun and documented in pictures. Behold our Indian food fest 2k6...

Making paneer can be rather intimidating and in some special places you can even buy it frozen or something. Not so in this crumby town. Don't be fooled by the recipe, it is really a cinch to make if you can curdle milk. First take 8 cups of milk (organic whole milk is best) and bring to a boil in a really big pot. When it is rumbling and foaming up add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and wait. Let the curdling begin! It will look disgusting but it is truly delicious.

Let it just sit and do its thing on low heat. It will separate and turn yellowish . I'm not really sure when to stop this but you'll figure it out. Next, strain the big bowl of ew into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Let all that whey go down the drain. It will begin to look like cheese now. Drain it and drain it well. Squeeze the hell out of it by weighing it down with whatever you have on hand, a brick would do. You want it to be in a nice squarish, shape so you can later cut it into cubes. That's pretty much it now make Indian food with it!

The E Coli outbreak stopped us not! I luckily had a package of chopped frozen spinach in the freezer from long before the spinach shortage. To make Saag Paneer puree some wonderful garlic, ginger and onion to a paste then add that to a big pot full of thawed spinach and stir. Throw in some yogurt, cream (buttermilk if you have it), garam masala and chili powder. Simmer it for about 20 minutes and it might thicken up. Add the paneer cubes (you can fry them if you like) right before serving and this will thicken it too but some cornstarch or arrowroot will do the trick too. Piece of cake.

With some ground lamb we experimented with Keema. Brown the ground lamb (or beef or whatever) drain it, and set aside. Infuse some oil with cloves, cardamon pods, and bay leaf. Once that is piping hot add garlic and ginger paste, turmeric, cumin, garam masala, chopped tomatoes and onion. Throw in some yogurt and cream then add the meat and peas. I think this one needs some heat, so add some Thai chiles or serranos for good measure.

It pretty much took all afternoon to make all this but I make it sound like it was easy. I did have some help from my sous chef Diana, it was a good time. I also attempted to make my favorite hot sugary balls of fried dough -- aka Gulab
Jaman. The recipe I used advised me to make a dough with carnation powder, Bisquick, yogurt (there it is again!) and a little milk. Roll out a bunch of little balls and deep fry them until they look like delightful hush puppies. Meanwhile you should make a syrup to soak them in with water, sugar, cardamon pods, and a splash of rose water. Soak the hush puppies in the syrup and well, they double in size! This part was unexpected. The shape didn't hold and things got a little mushy. They tasted pretty good but aren't the gulab jamun I'm used to from restaurants. I'll prob try again with a different recipe or the same recipe with some modification. I have loads of Bisquick now and I'm not a fan of pancakes. What to do...?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Food Milestones

I've been a long time fan of Anthony Bourdain, particularly an avid viewer of his shows A Cook's Tour and No Reservations. His book Kitchen Confidential has been on my wishlist for months and I've picked it up nearly a dozen times but never purchased it until a few weeks ago.

I'd recommend this to the foodie and nonfoodie alike just because of the typical Tony-style crude humor, obscenity, and debauchery that amuses all, regardless of food knowledge. What struck me most about this book though was his description of his first oyster -- the first moment he knew that food was important. Ever since finishing this book, I've been trying to pinpoint that time in my life when I first started to take food seriously -- when food started dictating my every move. I ate a lot of awful stuff growing up and am having a really hard time deciphering the good memories. After all, we remember the bad memories more often than the bad. Like the time when I gorged myself on Chinese food and projectile vomited all over our new carpet, or the time I puked in my mom's shoes, or etc. I used to be one the pickiest eaters of all time, now look at me. As Tony says, "I'll try anything once."

My fondest food memories in childhood probably come from biting into fresh fruit and having the juice run down my chin. Good fruit in our local crap hole Food Lion was pretty rare, and exotic fruits like plums(!) and peaches were a special treat when my mom would bring them home. I distinctly remember eating an entire bag of small oranges in one sitting as well. When our cherry trees were weighed down with wonderful dark red plump berries, I would be stained from head to toe with cherry juice. Our old fashioned cherry seeder was always my favorite chore -- I'd grab handfuls of pitted black heart cherries and shove them in my face.

I have fond memories of visiting 'exotic' restaurants with my mom on our weekend shopping trips. I don't think any of these places exist anymore. We'd splurge on French food at La Petite Aurbage where they actually had steak tartare on the menu. I would gag at the thought. Chinese food, Thai food, authentic Mexican were also some of the more exciting adventures we'd take. The things I ate at these establishments were less than adventurous. Its going to take me some time to figure out what it was that forced me to develop my palate -- what it was that steered me in the direction of food enthustiast.

Friday, September 22, 2006

This week

Adam, the Amateur Gourmet (whose book I'm terribly excited to read!), did a post a few weeks ago of the 10 best things he had eaten that week. I was thinking of his post and all the tasty tidbits I'd eaten this week. Unfortunately, I've been camera-less this week so you'll have to use your imagination.

Ginger Ice Cream
Diana and I had lunch at the one and only Thai restaurant in town, Songkran, which is normally pretty awful but I had heard rumors that they were doing some serious changes so I thought I'd give them another shot after my 5-month absence. My eggplant 'special' was less than special -- overly salted like everything I've ever eaten there. Dessert was another story. We decided to splurge on their ginger ice cream and honeydew melon sorbet. Both were quite wonderful but the ginger ice cream was heavenly! The idea didn't really appeal to me on hearing it but that's why I jumped to try it. This alone makes me want to break down and buy an ice cream maker tomorrow.

Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
I made these last night to go along with some sauteed veggies and Coho Salmon fillets with mint butter. Since my mom insists on always using an electric mixer when making mashed 'taters instead of using some elbow grease with a masher, I gave it a try and made a HUGE mess. There was potato all over my shirt all over the walls -- on everything within a few feet radius. I was intentionally not careful while beating though, because I was having so much fun making a mess. I ate these again today as a snack and they are still wonderful.

First Pomegranate as an Adult

My first pomegranate experience was in elementary school or maybe 6th grade after learning about the Greek goddess Persephone. I told my mom I wanted to try a pomegranate and somehow she managed to find one in our produce challenged local Food Lion (I'm rather puzzled by this). I took it to school for show-and-tell but I don't really remember eating more than a seed or two. Siripon had them cheap this week so I stocked up for our Rosh Hashanah party tomorrow night. Cutting this thing open to behold hundreds of glistening seeds all grouped together like jewels, was a pretty amazing experience. I'll be making a salad with them tomorrow night.

Bok Choy with Bacon and Pine Nuts
Diana cooked this up over at our place this week and gave me permission to steal it. Bacon renderings bok choy and pine nuts made for a wonderful combination that I will be making very soon myself.

Homemade Toaster Strudel
I had some leftover puff pastry and guests wanting dessert so I improvised. I thawed some frozen black cherries and blueberries. In a bowl I whipped ricotta a few tablespoons of whipping cream with a tad of icing sugar, vanilla, and Cointreau. Once the puff pastry puffed, I topped one square with the whipped mixture then a spoonful of fruit then another square of pastry. They were pretty impossible to eat with a fork so we just picked them up and ate them like sandwiches, which reminded me of all those toaster strudels I used to eat before school -- saving the icing packet until last, sucking it down by itself.

Garlic and Chive Boursin Cheese
Boursin cheese is my new favorite thing in the
world. I salivate just thinking about it. I've mentioned the wonderful cracked black pepper kind in previous myspace blogs, but I can't seem to find it anymore at the grocery store. They used to have several different spreads to chose from but now they just have garlic and chive. This was so good I ate it for breakfast! Normally I'm a little freaked out by eating non-breakfasty food for breakfast but this cheese makes you warm and fuzzy all over. Enough said.

Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace
This is a mystery wine. I have no idea the blend of varietals but its good! It went nicely with last night's meal. Honey, tart pear, and a crisp finish.

Rosh Hashanah feast for next time!

Monday, September 18, 2006


My lack of blogging is a result of being in the middle of finals and countless other exams the past two weeks. I've been eating out a lot and throwing together quick curries and other simple, unextraordinary eats. After finals I have a week off to do nothing but be lazy, catch up on reading and work my poor little kitchen to death. I intend to bake and bake and bake and whip up all sorts of things that I've been meaning to learn how to do or just experiment with. I'm terribly excited.

The only thing of note that I threw together was this wonderful fig, feta, and mâche salad with honey balsamic vinaigrette I had absolutely no idea what mâche was but it looked so wonderfully soft and silky in its container. It was just that. Mâche is also known as Lewiston cornsalad, mache, mâche, doucette, rampon, lamb's lettuce, field salad, nüssli, nüsslisalat, rapunzel, and Rampien. I prefer 'rapunzel,' but lamb's lettuce seems to best describe the texture and softness of the green. It makes for an excellent pre-fall salad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Post Potluck

Last weekend's potluck was so much fun, we decided to give it another shot this weekend. Instead of having surprise-randomized types of dishes, we settled on a theme -- sort of. It turned into a tapas style meal but with fall type foods -- fall tapas.

We each made a ridiculous amount of food. The table only could hold about half. I made a white cannellini bean dip with toasted oregano pita chips, Cuban bread toasts with either tomato, parsley, and feta mixture on top or roasted red pepper, feta, and caper topping. In addition, I threw together a simple asparagus and artichoke heart frittata, and roasted fennel orange salad with mint. That was just a third of it all.

We also had... sweet potatoes roasted with sesame seed and toasted coconut, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bread pudding with caramel brandy sauce, cognac glazed carrots, bacon wrapped dates, fried plantains, and Gruyere and bechamel cauliflower. To wash all this down, we downed a bottle of Gewurz, Sin Zin, St Francis Claret, and Pumpkin Ale.

Afterward we had to walk it off on the beach and just sit and digest slowly. I'll mention the recipe for the roasted fennel salad because its wonderful and it was requested of me to make it yesterday despite all the other food we had. Its a piece of cake to throw together and it really is wonderful.

Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad
1 roasted fennel bulb (either slow roasted in the oven or sauteed stovetop until tender)
1/2 large red onion thinly sliced
2 oranges segmented and juices reserved
2 tblsp chopped mint
2 tblsp chopped fennel fronds

for the dressing,
whisk orange juice, salt/pepper, while drizzling olive oil until emulsified
Dress the salad and serve cold or at room temperature

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Starfruit Mahi-Mahi

At Siripon's little produce market, I've been terribly lucky to find super-sized starfruit very cheap. Last weekend I picked up 5 or 6 ready to eat for a whopping $0.75. The greener ones run me about $0.99 per pound which when compared to the grocery store is just crazy. These things are massive, seriously.

I went through a big fruit salsa phase a few months back where I'd put fruit on every piece of meat I could think of from pork, to all types of fish, chicken, anything with peaches, mangoes, pineapple, plums, etc. It was endless, and I grew very tired of fruit atop meat. With these starfruit though, I was itching to chop them up and load them on top of something.

The starfruit salsa (if you can call it a salsa), was simple so not to overpower the light, crisp freshness of the starfruit. I added one single roasted chili some lemon juice, sugar, cilantro, and a touch of salt. For the Mahi, I sauteed it until flaky just with a light dusting of salt, pepper, and ground coriander. I also found some strange globe zucchini's at Siripon's that I'd never tried so I sliced those quite thin to act as a bed for the fish. Finally, some sticky coconut rice finished it off. This was a perfect end of summer type dish but does summer ever end in FL?!

Friday, September 8, 2006

Alexander Valley Vineyards Tasting

Alexander Valley predominately produces Sonoma-style reds, so yesterday we tried two whites and seven reds. The best thing about the whites and the zins we tried was the artwork. We took home a poster of the Sin Zin that I'll frame and hang somewhere as it compliments some of our other artwork. So here's what we tasted and my two cents as best as I can remember. It should also be noted that the servers pour entirely too much at these tastings, and I wind up not tasting much toward the end despite all the tidbits of finger food I eat.

The New Gewurz
Considering gewurztraminers are normally pretty expensive, this one was definitely the best value of all the things we tasted. For $8 you really can't beat it. And the taste? Wonderfully light and crisp as a good gewurz should be.

Estate Chardonnay
Normally chards aren't my favorites because I find them rather 'boring.' This one was pretty nice -- more complex than others I've tried. Its oaky from being fermented in French oak barrels.

Temptation Zinfandel
(92% Zin and 8% Sangiovese) This one was full bodied with black fruits and currants. Spicy, but nicely balanced.

Sin Zin
Another great black fruit zin - black cherry, plum, blackberry and very black peppery. Super fragrant and delicious.

Redemption Zin
The last of the deadly and sinful zins, this was the most complex and the most expensive. It was described as the 'antidote' to the sin zin with a wonderful fruitiness and smooth finish. I meant to try this one again but didn't.

Estate Syrah
Ridiculously light. Slight touches of vanilla and blackberry but this one really lacked any umph. Tasted like...water?

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine Enthusiast gave this one 90 pts and this was my favorite of the Estate reds. It had a lot more body and balance than the others. Silky smooth finish and still under $20.

Estate Merlot
I've yet to taste a merlot that is different from all the rest. Merlot is just merlot so far, although I've tried so few. This, like the syrah, really lacked the umph I was looking for from the fruit.

This one checked in at $45 but boy, was it tempting to splurge on. This was a blend of 80% Cabernet, 13% merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec, and finally 1% Petit Verdot each from their finest Bordeaux from each vintage. Wine Enthusiast rated it a 93 pts and its won some other awards. Its good. Really good. This was the one that they really poured too much in my glass...twice. It had a nice long finish with tones of chocolate, plum, black cherry, and cassis. If I stored wine, I would definitely buy this one to save for a few years.

Thursday, September 7, 2006


Last night I made my first hollandaise. I was rather excited about it myself and it actually turned out quite lovely. So I don't really know what all the fuss is about when it comes to making hollandaise, its not that hard to screw up. Plus, if you do screw up you can pretty easily remedy it. All you need is some elbow grease.

I have been reading The New Kitchen Science: A Guide to Know the Hows and Whys for Fun and Success in the Kitchen which isn't the best book in the world, but its mildly interesting. Last night I was reading the chapter on sauces so I used some ideas from that chapter in my dinner. Sort of. The book is pretty elementary stuff that you'd learn from watching a couple of episodes of Good Eats. It is rather unsophisticated, basic knowledge and there is virtually no mention of technique or advanced skills.

Anyway. I made some hollandaise with a big handful of thyme mixed in to top my roasted asparagus (Note the glistening stalks). It looks a little runny here but it thickened up after I took the picture. In addition, I made some chicken breasts topped with a mushroom vermouth gravy that was wonderfully thick and creamy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Lamb Burgers with Mint Mayo

I don't normally eat red meat but I think I have been converted by these lamb burgers. I actually had to eat two because I was still salivating after the first one.

For the lamb:
1 lb ground lamb
1-2 tblsp grated onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic

Mint Mayo:
5-6 tblsp mayo
handful mint
lemon juice
maybe a clove of garlic I don't remember
blend in food processor until minty smooth

Finish with caramelized onions and toasted bread.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Fizzy Fruit

This is an absolute must repost I just read from Derrick Schneider's food blog An Obsession with Food.
Fizzy Fruit! will be hitting the shelves and changing the way we look at fruit.

Sunday, September 3, 2006


Yesterday a bunch of us hit up the Daytona Flea and Farmer's Market. I definitely don't make a habit of going here regularly since its always filled with scary people selling overpriced junk that no one really wants. The produce is also less then stellar and only slightly cheaper than the grocery store. The only thing to note that we picked up were some wonderful ornamental white eggplant. They also had heirloom black tomatoes which I'll mention later.

So the flea market was so-so, but afterward I went to see Siripon. Although it was the end of the week and she was low on everything, I picked up about 5 perfectly ripe starfruit for $0.75. We decided to do a potluck type thing over at our apartment so I thought I'd whip up some simple things like a red Thai curry and a potato salad. The potato salad was not the typical run-of-the-mill 'tater salad but a recipe I've been addicted to in Fine Cooking magazine. It has roasted potatoes, roasted corn, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and really you could put anything in it then top it off with a red wine vinegar dressing. It beats those mayo based salads by far. For the curry I simply threw in whatever was left in the cabinets -- sweet potato, carrots, white eggplant, and some chicken breast. It turned out to be a giant amount of curry but I have to say its the best one I've ever made for some reason.

The potluck was a success and certinaly something we all will be reapeating soon. We had all the above in addition to fried plantains, homemade hummus, black heirloom unblended gazpacho, carrots with sundried tomoates and goat cheese and loads of wine. Naturally. You may notice from the picture that all the food barely fit on the table. The keen eye might also notice that we drank red wine out of white wine glasses and white wine out of red wine glasses. I'm still not sure how that faux pas happened...

After we digested, we threw together a nice cheese tray with some starfruit and drank port and peanut butter cup martinis. These are becoming my new favorite drink I think just because they look so pretty. They are made simply with milk, Bailey's, Kahlua, and Hazelnut liquer. I like to rim the glass in cocoa powder just to add that extra layer.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Indian Food in a Can

Yesterday marked the grand opening of World Market in Daytona Beach. Sure we have these back in Virginia but I had still never been so I was rather excited. I picked up some PEZ I needed, a ridiculously cute miniature kettle egg timer, P's favorite beer of the moment Spaten Optimator, and some Indian food in a can.

Now before you jump to any conclusions remember this, many good things come in cans. There is canned curry paste, Wolfgang Puck canned soups, and...Fancy Feast? Ok, maybe there aren't too many, but the idea of something as complex on the palate as Indian food in a can was too much of a novelty to pass up. I picked up Palak Paneer and Baingan Bharta. And...well...

The take home message is this: don't be fooled by the novel idea of delicious convenience in a can. Served over a basmati pilaf made it slightly less bad, but I kept telling myself that it only cost $2.99, don't kick yourself. This is almost as bad of an idea as snakes on a plane or those big testicles that hang from truck hitches.