Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Blog

Hello everyone. I have finally made the plunge and bought a domain: I think I am going to still keep posting to this blog for recipes, etc., but keep a look out for posts on the other blog. I'm calling it Wine PhD.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A quick dinner - pesto chicken pasta, or cooking without recipes

Finished, ready to go
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
There are only two things that I can say that I have been doing non-stop for a decade: going to school and cooking. My cooking adventure started with the egg, as I think many others' adventures do as well. How could I make a fried egg taste better? Cooking temperature? Cooking time? Egg size? Sunny side up or down? Butter or (gasp) margarine?

While I did not come to a definitive conclusion (though today I would say medium heat nonstick pan, butter, cook until the white is just set, use fresh eggs), I did discover that experimenting and testing and getting a feel for how foods react to cooking is a lot of fun.

Then, for a long time, I read through recipe books. Then through recipe archives online. Now, I've found myself back to experimenting. All this has become salient with the release of Michael Ruhlman's new book, Ratio, which tells us to learn ratios - food archetypes, to experiment, and to make up our own recipes. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

So, where's the recipe for that food in the picture? I'll give it to you below, but maybe in the spirit of Escoffier, who listed ingredients, then gave a few notes on how to use them.

Pesto Gemelli with Chicken

1 lb of gemelli or other short pasta
a few chicken breasts, cut into pieces
a bottle of pesto (yes, it is premade. And tasty. Stop judging)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
a few garlic cloves, chopped
1 c milk
2 tomatoes, chopped
oil for cooking

Bring water to a boil. Salt, and add pasta.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and let sit on one side for 4+ minutes, in order to brown. Turn over and finish cooking.

Remove chicken from pan, pour off excess oil, if desired. Add in butter and garlic. Cook for about a minute. Add in flour and stir together to form a paste. This is basically a roux. Cook the roux until brown, then add milk and whisk until everything is incorporated. At this point, start adding in pesto, until it gets to the flavor you desire - more pesto = more basil/garlic flavor. As the sauce comes to a boil, it will thicken from the roux. Add in the chicken, and the pasta once it is finished cooking. Add fresh tomatoes to the top and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

There you go. Is that any less verbose than usual? Maybe. I'm trying, Monsieur Escoffier.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I'm Still Alive!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I plan on posting a few food-related blog posts soon. Last quarter classes were crazy, but I think I will have a bit more time this quarter.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Future Vineyard - UC Davis

This is the site where the new UC Davis vineyards are going to be planted. After the week of rain, the view towards the mountains was beautiful.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Multicultural Dinner

On my last day as a free man before I start my PhD program in Agricultural Chemistry at UC Davis, I wanted to do some cooking as a relaxation exercise. A quick glance through the pantry guided the meal, a meal that had no respect for borders or traditional pairings.

Pantry contents: Koubideh spices, flour, Lacinto (aka Dinosaur) kale from Capay Organic, and ground turkey.

In addition to the pantry contents, two recipes I found on the internet today also guided the meal: Onion marmalade and Naan.

Pantry and internet came together to guide tonight's dinner:

Turkey Koubideh, Kale with Caramelized Onions, and Naan

I suppose I will go through the recipes in the order that I made them.

Modified from this recipe

1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs warm water
200 g plain flour
0.25 tsp salt
0.5 g baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy-based sour cream
2 tbsp soy milk

Note: Use yoghurt and real milk in place of the sour cream and soy milk if you have no reason not to.

Dissolve yeast in water and add sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes while doing the next step. It is ready when you see bubbles on the surface. Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add vegetable oil, sour cream, and soy milk. Add yeast mixture. Stir until it comes together. If it is to dry to form a dough, add more water until you get the right consistency.
(Aside: I have found that the only way to *know* what the right consistency is for a dough is to remember what the dough feels like every time you knead and when a bread comes out perfectly, recall what the dough felt like. Each kind of dough seems to need a specific hydration percent (water to dry ratio) to come out right.)
Turn out dough onto floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes. Put back into bowl, cover with damp tea towl, and let sit in a warm place for an hour.

After an hour or so, pull the dough out of the bowl, split into four pieces, and form into balls. Let the balls sit for another 45 minutes, or so.

After the second rise is finished, get out a cast iron skillet or a heavy bottomed pan. Heat the pan to medium high heat. In the mean time, roll out the dough balls into ovals ~1/8" thick. Once the pan is hot, brush with a bit of vegetable oil (or butter) and put a dough oval on in the skillet. Let sit on the first side until bubbles form on the top. Peak at the bottom after a minute or so, and check for brown/black patches. Once it has a good bit of dark spots, turn it over and cook the other side for 10-15 seconds. I find that the bubbles on the second side burn before the rest really gets brown, but it still turns out good. Let cool, or don't - they are good both ways.

Caramelized Onion Marmalade
Modified from BBC Good Food

4 lbs yellow onions
4 cloves of garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
140 g brown sugar
a big pinch of chili flakes
the last sad sprig of thyme from the garden
950 mL red wine 1 bottle (750mL) + 200 mL
335 mL red wine vinegar

Peel and cut onions in half, slice thin. Slice garlic thin. Heat up oil over high heat. Add onions and garlic, stir to coat. Add sugar and chili flakes, stir in. Reduce heat to medium high and let cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. By the end they will be brown and sticky and 99% of the liquid will have evaporated. If the onions seem to be browning so quickly that they start to blacken, back off on the heat.

Add red wine and vinegar to onions, turn up heat to high, and evaporate the liquid for 40 minutes, or until the wine has turned into a thick syrup. When a wooden spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a dry trail, it is done.

Kale and Caramelized Onions
by me.

1 bunch Lacimento kale
1 big scoop (1/2 c) onion mixture, above.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Clean kale, take out the ribs, and roughly chop. Add kale to boiling water. Let boil 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and lightly press out some of the water.

Add a scoop of the onions to the kale.

Turkey Koubideh
from the package directions.

1/4 cup water
1.25 lbs turkey
1 package Sadaf Ground Meat Seasoning

Dissolve spices in generous 1/4 cup water. Mix into the turkey. Let sit for 15 minutes. Cook on a grill or grill pan until done, about 15 minutes.

Now, for the best part: putting it all together.

Make a gyro-like sandwich of the naan, turkey koubideh, and kale. This was honestly a heavenly meal. It has no respect for borders but pulls freshness, seasonality, and flavor together for a wonderfully flavorful, light meal.