Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fang Cat and One Eye- two pumpkins

Though I can only take credit for scooping out their insides, these are still the best pumpkins I've ever been related to! Joel totally worked the scraped rind angle for the teeth too. This is way better than my usual triangle eyes and circular mouth default.
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Some very fine roasted pumpkin seeds

In an effort to get trick or treaters to brave the two flights of steps it takes to reach our front door, we carved pumpkins last night to set out as beacons to all the passing children, a promise that we will give them candy if only they drag their tired and costumed legs up our steps. I don't actually like the carving part of the pumpkin, so I cleaned them and then roasted the seeds while Joel made the best two pumpkins I've ever been related to (I'll post a photo of them too).

I wasn't sure about temperatures, so I looked through my cookbooks, but there was nothing about roasting pumpkin seeds, even in the olde timey ones (there sure were a lot of recipes for pumpkin chiffon pie though), so I turned to my old friend the Internet. That's where I found these three exciting recipes for toasted pumpkin seeds.

I opted for the curry and the butter and black tea recipes. The curry one was perfect, and the butter and black tea (that's the black tea in the mortar, my first use of my very own long-coveted kitchen tool) was good, but this morning when I went to try them again (I'd let them cool and then stored them in an airtight jar), they were rather soggy, which is contrary to the desired crunchy nature of toasted/roasted pumpkin seeds. If I made it again (and I would, because, black tea and butter? Now that's a combination), I would make sure they were going to be eaten that night, I'd cook them a bit longer, and I'd cut down on the amount of butter in the recipe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Applesauce grows up (and now it never calls/writes)

Applesauce is a decidedly unadult food. And just how do you sophisticate a dish that seems made for the preverbal set? As far as I can tell, there are two routes: add booze or give it an opinion about Harold Pinter. I tried the latter, but it was going nowhere, so I resorted to alcohol, and the results were good!

I haven't included a photo because, well, it still looks like applesauce. Shiny mushy yellow stuff in a cup. Wait, I can do better. A shimmering golden puree. Mmmmm...

So I added a few tablespoons of Calvados as I was cooking the apples with a bit of water, some perfectly fluffy lemon zest produced from the miraculous edges of my super-duper microplane, some sugar, and Golden Delicious apples that Dick and Carol next door brought over from their tree.

The other element that helped class it up a bit was the heat. It was still warm, so it evoked apple pie, not Mott's school lunch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How do you create a cooking library?

I'm missing a grand theory when it comes to cookbooks. I don't have a ton of space on my current cookbook bookshelf (the smallest Ikea Billy bookshelf available- I obviously wasn't planning ahead), and most of my current cookbooks were given to me by somebody, either as a gift or because they were clearing out the cookbooks they no longer wanted and thought of me.

So my library is not directed in quite the way I'd like. Not yet anyway. But I'm not sure how to turn it into the cooking library I yearn for. I also collect a lot of recipes online, and have a large (but increasingly not large enough) binder for storing recipes I print out. My third primary resource is the magazine collection, mostly Cook's Illustrated. That's the least convenient source, since it tends to take looking through five or six magazines before finding the one with that one recipe I'm looking for.

I like finding the best way to organize things, but I'm totally at a loss as to the best way to organize the recipes I like most.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The chicken fire

Last night, we had my mom and Alexis over for dinner. To try and get to the bottom of her health issues, Alexis is on an elimination diet and her food options are few, so we decided to make grilled chicken with an optional marsala sauce, jasmine rice, and hashed brussels sprouts. For dessert, Joel and I got two Masse's tarts (chocolate pecan and frangipane fig) on our way back from the Spice of Life Festival down the street. Alexis couldn't eat them, but the rest of us could, and Alexis found some coconut macaroons on her safe list, so she was not without something sweet.

Everything seems simple so far, right? Joel and I were preparing food, my mom and Alexis showed up, and then Joel took the chicken outside to grill it. He put it on the grill and came back inside. My mom was sitting in the kitchen nook and happened to notice a lot more smoke than usual billowing out the back of the grill. I came over to see just in time to witness the smoke turn from white to smokey gray. I told Joel, who was busy on the other side of the kitchen cutting up onions. He said, "It should be fine. It's too soon for anything to burn."

Then the smoke turned from gray to black and completely obscured the view of the back yard from the window. At that point, everyone but Joel started insisting that something was wrong. Joel finally looked up and then ran outside, flung open the grill top and saw that pretty much everything was on fire. The chicken pieces were little fireballs, and flames shot out of the grill's underside. I grabbed the fire extinguisher that the previous owners had left under the sink, but it took Joel a good two minutes to get all the fire out.

Once everything had cooled down, Joel started to piece together the incident. The drip pan thing looked fine, but I guess the pipe that leads from the grill to the drip pan was rather clogged with grease and other flammable fats, so it must have created a reservoir for the fire.

It seems like the stuff in fire extinguishers might be pretty toxic though, so I'm not sure what to do now that we have a cooking surface coated with it. Anyone know?
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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In praise of Cheeseboard Pizza

Let's just take a moment to celebrate the five-day-a-week glory of Cheeseboard Pizza.

A short and organized singing of the praises:

- The crust is a Goldilocks dream: not too thin, not too thick; crispy but not a cracker; and with a crust that makes you take a step back from the pizza as a whole and savor, for two or three bites, the perfectly baked product of a really nice dough.

- It's almost always cooked to perfection, with a golden browning of the cheese and a perfect crisping of the crust.

- Even though there's never meat, I never ever think of it as vegetarian pizza. As an added bonus, it means there's never ever chicken, an ingredient that really has no place on pizza.

- It's generally not loaded down with toppings, but out-of-the-oven, last-minute seasonings such as garlic- or lemon- olive oil and fresh herbs create complexity and draw out the flavors of the pizza.
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