Archive for May, 2011

My First Chutney

Posted in Fish, Mango, Tuna on May 23rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

It’s really difficult to find a recipe for mango that doesn’t follow ‘mango’ with either ‘salsa’ or ‘chutney’. Since I’m not a salsa person I gave in to the chutney side tonight to make dinner, Seared Tuna with Mango Chutney.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 pounds center-cut tuna fillets, 1-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
  • 1 to 2 mangoes, flesh cut into large dice (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (1-ounce box) golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup sugar

I had to quarter this a little awkwardly for my one piece of fish, using half a mango (the other half will be a snack at work or mixed in yogurt) and ignoring the raisins outright.

Oh and there they go with the “good quality” again – where do I find out if my olive oil is up to standard? I’d post a picture but I would be too embarrassed if it’s not.

Directions:

  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, rub it on both sides of the tuna fillets and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Actually it makes more sense to just leave the fish in the fridge until it’s being cooked at the end, but rearranging the order would have made the original recipe read awkwardly.

  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the diced mango. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Add the orange juice, cider vinegar, raisins, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring until combined. Increase the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced.

With the cutting back on the recipe there wasn’t really much in the way of liquid to reduce in the first place, but I let it simmer while preparing my side-spinach since I wanted to use the same pan to cook the tuna.

  • While the chutney is cooking, prepare the tuna:

Or after the chutney has cooked if you’re trying to save on dishes. Now skip back to step one and take that tuna out of the fridge and cook it like all previous seared tuna. There seems to be only two methods – oil the pan and put the tuna in, or oil the tuna and put it in the pan.

  • Transfer to a cutting board and cut the fillets into thick slices, across the grain. Divide the slices of tuna among individual plates and spoon some of the mango chutney alongside.

A plate I can be proud of – the spinach was sauteed in a bit of sesame oil with soy sauce and sesame seeds.

However I’m not sure if what I made, despite the name, can be considered a true chutney. At the least it seems to be a very westernized version of an Indian condiment, especially considering there weren’t even any spicy ingredients for me to intentionally leave out.

Rapturedoodles

Posted in Cookies, Dessert on May 21st, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

I was about ready for today to be over just for the endless rapture jokes to finally end (although the raptor jokes are still funny) but I couldn’t help sneaking one in myself at the last minute. Andrew wanted snickerdoodles, the best cookie ever, which turned into rapturedoodles, the best pre-apocalypse cookie ever.

My “secret” snickerdoodle recipe is allrecipes.com’s Snickerdoodles V. Forget I – IV, V is where it’s at. The secret is how easy these are to make in comparison to how good they are. I am arrogant enough to say that I cannot buy a snickerdoodle, in a box or fresh, that is better than one I can make myself.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

This is a really easy one to cut in half as well, for a quick cookie fix, which I usually do.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  • In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar.

This is really the hardest part. The next time I make a full rather than half batch I’ll see if the Kitchenaid mixer can take over but usually I just bring the mixing bowl to my desk while distracted by something on my computer.

  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended.

    Here I admit I usually cheat and don’t waste a second bowl sifting – just throw the dry ingredients on top and stir them together a bit before mixing all the way in.

    • In a small shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture.

    I’ve always found that I have too much cinnamon-sugar left over so I cut this in half a second time, since you can always make more if you run out. But leftovers can’t be saved since the dough it’s been touching has raw egg.

    My snickerdoodles also tend to come out more as cookie-balls than the cookies you’d normally buy, which are great as they are, but I wanted to make sure I know how to make a proper looking cookie if necessary so I rolled these a little larger than usual and flattened them a bit on the cookie sheet.

    • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies should be slightly golden at the edges.

    Now the next hardest part was waiting for these to cool before turning them into rapturedoodles.

    As you can see, a hole appeared by the time I was able to start decorating.

    All in all it was an excuse to pick up some red sparkle gel. I tested one with the black I used on the Portal cupcakes and still no sparkle, despite being able to see it in the package. Disappointing.

    Andrew’s vision was more something like a cross, which I didn’t think read as well on a cookie.

    I had imagined a fancy-font ‘R’ for rapture, like this one which I tried to imitate. He said that an “R” would just make him think “Rebecca cookie”, which sounds like something my parents would have made for me as a kid, but I think I’m okay with that.

    This is my cookie.

    Mango Pudding

    Posted in Dessert, Mango on May 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    It’s still happy mango season going by the sales – 4 for $5, 5 for $5! I can tell I’m starting to get a little mangoed out when I find myself having to rush to use them up before they go bad, but I can’t pass up prices like that while they’re available.

    I had a couple false starts with this recipe – I explicitly bought the coconut milk for it one day and totally forgot the gelatin. In the meantime I’m sure I had to cycle through mangoes.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 medium to large ripe mangoes
    • 1 packet gelatine (3 tsp.)
    • 1/2 cup hot water
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1 cup good-quality coconut milk

    Like with the garlic cloves, I wish they gave more of a measurement than number of mangoes since they comes in so many varieties. I don’t know how my yellow mangoes compare to the “normal” mangoes I expect they’re using. They seem like they’re smaller but they could be like the Small Beer vs Large Beer and actually be the same amount of flesh.

    As for the good quality coconut milk, I’ve yet to have an opportunity to go on my rant about recipes that insist you use “good” ingredients, implying my choice of olive oil or soy sauce is inferior, or that I keep the good quality coconut milk on the back of the shelf for special occasions.

    Directions:

    • Do this:

    • And then do this:

    • In a saucepan, heat up the water until it reaches a rolling bowl. Remove from heat. While stirring the water with a whisk or fork, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and stir briskly in order not to have any lumps.

    You have to be really quick on the whisking because once those little lumps form they’re reluctant beyond my patience to go away. But I tend to follow a ‘when in doubt, go to the next step’ philosophy.

    • Add the sugar to the hot water/gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve.
    • Add this mixture to the mango in the food processor/blender. Also add the coconut milk. Blitz briefly until ingredients are combined.

    Then the waiting… it’s the same whether you’re making pudding out of a box or out of a… mango. Into bowls and into the fridge for 2+ hours.

    The weird thing is while being aware that I was eating a pretty exotic dessert, I was also kind of bored. It tasted pretty much like the mango part of the mango tapioca pudding I made recently enough, and I actually wondered if I should just add some tapioca to round it out. A few days later though, giving my taste buds a chance to calm down from the mango overload I’ve been experiencing, definitely good stuff.

    Broccoli Leek Quiche with Garlic Crust

    Posted in Eggs, Vegetables on May 13th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    It feels pretty good to get a comment, “you know you are a good cook when you can put random things together and make a meal”, even if it’s “just” from your mom. Of course it’s easy to look good when you only show off the meals that worked out. I hadn’t yet found a good opportunity to show off why dill and Swiss sandwiches aren’t a good idea.

    Or more recently, my attempt to make Andrew’s yummy yellow rice (cooked with turmeric and butter) which came out nearly more orange than the spice itself.

    Turns out a tablespoon is more than overkill… I should have asked first.

    So I did it again (the good way, not the dill-and-cheese way). I’ve been wanting to make a quiche so I can have some freezable food to leave at work as backup lunches. I don’t know where leeks came into my head from but I’m guessing from the same place that made me spontaneously say out loud, “I wonder if you can put garlic in pie crust.”

    I was a little nervous trying to figure out how much garlic to use. While I normally believe you can never have too much garlic in practically anything, I didn’t want to ruin an entire quiche if pie crust turned out to be the exception to ‘practically’. I used four cloves, blended in the food processor with the flour and butter. Well I don’t like it when recipes list garlic by number of cloves, because if you buy your garlic in bulbs the cloves vary drastically in size from the outside in, so I used this many:

    I became much more confident while rolling out the dough when I kept thinking, ‘where is that wonderful garlic smell coming from?’ and then realizing it was my crust. Garlic and butter is already the ultimate combination – how could I have expected this to go wrong? Then I hit up Google expecting to find out that my unique idea was not so unique after all, but there was nothing on a search for “garlic pie crust” that didn’t just happen to have garlic and pie in the same vicinity. Let it be known that garlic pie crust is MINE!

    After learning about vodka pie crust (now vodka-garlic?) I was looking forward to that easy to work with, stretchy dough I remembered from before. The thing with pie crust is that you can’t get cocky with it, it knows. My dough still tore, but until I start trying to win beauty contests all I care about is getting the crust in the pan in something resembling one piece.

    I learned from the mini-quiche experiment why you are supposed to pre-bake the crust, so that it’s solid enough to hold in the liquid you’re going to pour in next. 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

    Now the tear is much more obvious.

    For the filling, first I knew I wanted broccoli. With fresh broccoli and no measurement to go by, I was kind of proud of this idea I came up with – I just took out the second pie pan and filled it with chopped broccoli until it looked right.

    I felt like it needed more but had to remember that there was going to be other stuff going into this too.

    Then I chopped up the white and greenish-white part of two small leeks, and the other half onion from the previous day’s “omelet”.

    The broccoli I steamed for 10-ish minutes. Luckily I wasn’t in a hurry for it yet, since the steamer is still a functional timer when it’s not plugged in. That ‘ding’ does not tell you that anything has cooked, only that time has passed without you noticing the lack of steam! The onions and leeks I sauteed in some olive oil.

    I’m pretty sure there’s a rule against sauteeing in too small of a pan, even if it’s because your bigger pan is in the dishwasher. I’ve tended to find that the world does not explode, or the kitchen implode, when you break some rules as long as you can say you had a good reason. (And even laziness is a good reason if you’re willing to admit to it.)

    For the eggy part I’m still going off my original recipe, which looks like:

    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup of milk
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 2 tablespoons margarine

    I wanted to leave out the margarine but I wasn’t sure how much, if any, affect it has on the taste so I cut it back to one tablespoon. I also nearly learned through experience that margarine has the same exploding tendency in the microwave as butter

    • A sprinkle of kosher salt (I’ve been converted away from table salt as much as possible for cooking.)
    • A sprinkle of black pepper
    • A sprinkle of white pepper

    And oops… too much pepper. The white pepper “sprinkled’ harder than I expected out of its container. Well you can’t un-pepper a quiche but you can add more – another egg and 1/3 cup of milk – perfectly peppered.

    Everything except the broccoli, which I layered on the pie crust, on top of a layer of shredded cheese, went into the quiche mix bowl, including the rest of the diced ham from the previously mentioned “omelet” and more shredded cheese. I didn’t measure the cheese since I never end up following the amount given in the recipe to begin with. Then I poured it all on top of the broccoli.

    Obligatory naked quiche picture.

    I baked at 350 for way longer than any recipe says – around an hour by the end. I have trouble getting my middle to solidify and I think it may be too much milk. Next time four eggs and forget the extra milk.


    This was a huge success as far as great tasting quiche… and a total failure as far as having backup food for work. The whole thing was gone in two days, ultimately feeding three people.

    One-egg omelet

    Posted in Eggs, Vegetables on May 8th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    My cupcakes and frosting combo left only one sad little egg in the carton for me to use.

    Technically I don’t think anything made with one egg could be called an omelet (unless it was an extremely tiny one) but given my skill with omelets, I’m just jumping ahead to the final result. I didn’t want to call it a “scramble” because that sounds like something off the menu at Denny’s but perhaps a “kitchen scavenge” would be an appropriate name.

    Scavenged:

    • 1 egg
    • Shredded potato
    • Cubed ham
    • Chopped onion
    • Chopped garlic
    • Chopped green onions
    • Baby spinach, stems picked off and hand-torn
    • Sprouts
    • Parmesan cheese

    The potato I shredded with a cheese grater, and patted dry with a paper towel out of instinct. Turns out my instinct was right and the starch should be rinsed off and potatoes as dry as possible to make good hash browns – which this wasn’t exactly but a good place to start – so I went back and did a full rinse and dry.

    Next I heated some olive oil in a pan began the guessing game of order to cook ingredients.

    First the potatoes, then the onions, garlic, and then a handful of diced ham. Technically the ham doesn’t need to be cooked, just heated, but I love how ham tastes after it’s been re-cooked.

    Spinach and green onions, just long enough to cook the spinach.

    Then to justify the “omelet” title, I pushed everything to one side and let the egg solidify a bit before mixing it all together.

    The sprouts went on last, and a handful of Parmesan cheese.

    The only thing missing… cheeeese. I know I put Parmesan on but I couldn’t taste it, and I’ve too long associated scrambled eggs and omelets with melty cheddar cheese that I had to sneak back and shred some cheese and microwave for a few seconds. I know that kills the calorie count but look at all those good veggies in there to make up for it!

    The cupcakes are not a lie

    Posted in Cupcakes, Dessert on May 6th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    I had planned to make a Portal cake in honor of the release of Portal 2 but Valve threw off my timing by releasing the game a day early. The idea morphed into cupcakes, and ultimately the timing worked out better for me to wait a couple weeks so that I could make for Andrew to take to his D&D game because Portal cupcakes deserved to be appreciated by people who get the reference.

    This means that for about two weeks there was a box of cake mix in my kitchen. This felt very wrong to me now that I know how to bake from scratch. I came close to going all out and using a homemade German chocolate cake recipe, but even the official recipe mentions a cake mix.

    Justified, but still hid in the cupboard.

    The recipe(s) that seem to be generally accepted as the true Portal cake are essentially a cake mix with an entire second cake’s worth of ingredients added, and have warnings about being extremely rich. I found a more reasonable version that seemed to be focusing more on authenticity in appearance without being overly complicated.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 (18.25 oz) package German chocolate cake mix
    • 1 package (3.4oz) Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chocolate chips

    I’m not actually bothered by the instant pudding the way I am with by the cake mix – I even use it as an ingredient in an amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe – but I grew up eating instant pudding and haven’t actually come to terms with the idea that pudding is supposed to be cooked at some point.

    Directions:

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease/pam two 9 inch cake pans.

    Being cupcakes instead of cake, I lined my cupcake pans with the brown, unbleached, environmentally friendly liners I was lucky enough to find at Whole Foods. I explicitly wanted brown liners to mimic the look of the cake, while the regular grocery stores only offer a variety of pastel, patterns, and metallic.

    In this case I really just wanted the color and environmentally friendly was a bonus.

    • Combine the cake mix, pudding, sour cream, water, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat it with an egg beater for about two minutes. Don’t beat the cake too hard or too long, just enough so the batter is mixed.

    That’s still a crazy looking amount of stuff in that bowl.

    • For extra chocolately goodness, mix some chocolate chips into the batter. This will give the cake a weird chocolate chip cookie feel to it.

    I’m not a big chocolate chip person myself, and here I am forcing my anti-chip views on my recipients, but I imagined something more along the lines of flaked chocolate pieces like you find in the really good (in my opinion) kinds of ice cream. I put half a cup of chips to start in my mini food processor and…

    The chips seemed to disintegrate from the outside in, so I ended up with chocolate powder covered, smaller chocolate chips. So then I tried a quarter cup in my smoothie maker which came out a little closer but not quite.

    This looks about the same as what’s left at the bottom when I make a milkshake in this thing.

    I just dumped the whole 3/4 cup from the experiments into the bowl and left it at that.

    Last time I made cupcakes I said there has to be a secret to getting the batter into the cups without making a mess. This time I decided to look that issue up and there are – mostly involving excuses to buy more fancy kitchen utensils, but also one ingenious idea I wish I had realized before, using a Ziploc bag as a pseudo-pastry bag.

    Notice the bottom left tip I kept clear to cut the spout.

    Now getting a bowl of cupcake batter into a gallon sized Ziploc bag isn’t without its own mess, but once it was done it worked like a charm. The only downsides are,

    1. Not being able to squeeze every last bit of batter out.
    2. Keeping your inner child from wanting to make poop jokes.

    These went into the oven for about 30 minutes.


    This recipe also uses a can of premade coconut pecan frosting which must be the traditional frosting for German chocolate cake, but the ingredients in canned frosting scare me. So this I made homemade following How to Make an Awesome Coconut-Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup evaporated milk
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3 egg yolks, beaten
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

    I noticed too late that my little bag was only half a cup but those little bags are expensive and I wasn’t going to bother with a second. I also bought pieces because pieces were cheaper than chopped, and then smashed the bag before opening with my “chicken pounder”.

    Smashed pecans are as good as chopped for the cost difference.

    Directions:

    • Put the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, and butter in a medium-sized saucepan.
    • Turn heat on to medium.
    • Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. Keep stirring and don’t walk away from the stove while you are waiting for it to thicken.

    Yes, don’t walk away from the stove to check the recipe on your computer, grab the camera to take pictures, get a chair to sit on, or reply to messages. These are all things I didn’t walk away from the stove to do of course.

    The problem is it doesn’t say how thick is “thick” and that’s probably something that needs to be known from experience and can’t be taught from a web site. When it wanted to start bubbling up every time I looked away for a second I decided that this step was done.

    • Remove the saucepan from the heat.
    • Stir in vanilla extract, coconut, and pecans.
    • Let the frosting cool to spreading consistency, beating every now and then while it cools down. The frosting will continue to thicken as it cools.

    Because the frosting in the picture is darker than you get out of either this recipe or a can, the cake recipe author added chocolate syrup to darken it. I used a couple tablespoons unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder which didn’t just “fix” the color but made it taste amazingly good.

    In retrospect, for making cupcake frosting I would have ran the chunky bits (pecans and coconut) through the food processor first to make smaller chunks. It was appropriate for a cake but little difficult to work with on small areas.


    Now for the decorating, the part that would make or break my theme. I was already taking some artistic liberties by making cupcakes to begin with, and did again with the icing. The cherries are supposed to be circled by white but I found some sparkly black icing that I felt like I would be able to find more use for in the future. In retrospect again, especially since the sparkliness doesn’t even show, I should have gone for the white to be authentic, or better yet, the clear sparkly icing.

    Directions:

    • Frost the cooled cupcakes.
    • Cut maraschino cherries in half and dry off excess liquid on a paper tower.
    • Don’t eat the maraschino cherries before they make it on to the cupcakes.
    • Oops, that one got messed up. You can eat it.
    • Place three cherry halves in an equilateral triangle shape around the top of each.
    • Circle the cherries with icing.
    • Place a candle in the center of the cupcake.
    • Don’t forget garnishes, such as:
      fish shaped crackers
      fish shaped candies
      fish shaped dirt
      fish shaped solid waste
      fish shaped ethyl benzene
      pull and peel licorice
      fish shaped volatile organic compounds
      sediment shaped sediment

    I really wanted that sediment shaped sediment to be authentic, but I did pull off the fish shaped candies as a bonus. (“Fish & chip” chocolates from Chocolatti.)

    • Light and pose dramatically.


    The final question – how did they taste?

    I hate sending my food out into the world without knowing first, so I decided that the ugliest “reject” cupcake would get sacrificed and cut in half so Andrew and I could taste-test. They all looked pretty good so I picked the one that my arm kept bumping while I was frosting the batch.

    The only thing keeping me from saying I’d make these again is feeling like I’m cheating with that box mix. And of course the painstaking decorative work, so if there’s a “next time” they’ll just be German chocolate cupcakes unless I get invited to a Portal-themed party. But if I do get invited to a Portal-themed party, I have to say I’m pretty proud of my creation.