Friday, February 20, 2009

5 questions

These questions from Court, over at By Product. It took me a couple of days to answer them. But here they are:

1. What is your greatest triumph in the kitchen?
Cooking at all! Or perhaps baking anything--the recent chocolate concoction, the pie during my senior year of college. Though, honestly, I tend to see any meal that I cook that comes out unruined as a triumph. I think it is a gift and--dare I say it--a blessing to be able to create my own tasty, healthful food. I am always immensely proud of myself--more proud if I did something new or tricky, generally proud of almost every meal I produce (except for the ones I ruin).

2. What is one dish you aspire to create that you feel is out of your realm?
i'm not sure there is one dish specifically that I feel is out of my realm. Maybe something grand and slightly ridiculous like osso bucco, but also perhaps something grand and entirely serious like cooking good steak without overcooking it because I'm frightened of food poisoning and trichinosis. I'm still smarting over that frittata debacle from over a year ago.

3. Discuss two travel destinations that you would choose purely for the gastronomic experience.
A) India. There are actually many reasons that I want to go to India, but food (and Angel) are probably the main ones. Indian food!
B) Its a tie between North Carolina, because I've been craving NC-style BBQ for about 6 months now, and Italy. I'd like to travel to all the different regions of Italy and really be able to immerse myself in the culinary experience. I'd like to learn and understand true Italian cooking--even though it changes from region to region! This all speaks to my ardent desire to be an Italian cook/grandmother.

4. Tell me about your family -- but you can only use food terms/references/stories.
This question actually stumped me for several days. Its hard! I was always a picky eater--I've gotten much better about it, except about cooked mushrooms and fish. Bleh. My earliest food related memory of my sister is when she became a vegetarian, somewhere in middle school or early high school. I, being a younger child (youngest child, actually) quickly followed suit. This actually coincided with the beginning of my dad's ongoing healthfood craze, so it all worked out. Until Sister and I stopped being vegetarians, not being able to continue our immunity to chicken, hamburgers, and lamb (in Indian food. God, I love lamb). Unfortunately, Dad didn't really catch on to the end of vegetarianism for several years. While she was in college, it seemed like my sister subsisted mostly on mashed potatoes and lentils, unless I was visiting and bought her groceries. She was a poor student. Dad, who works at home, did most of the daily cooking. He's quite talented. I also remember my dad growing his own sprouts in a jar, growing his own shitakes on a log, and trying to convince me that vanilla rice milk is good in coffee (no, its not). I view my mother as something of a culinary genius, and I'm pretty sure its true. She at least knows her way about thanksgiving dinners, creative salads, and chocolate mousse. We once made baked alaska. And she also used to flash freeze summer tomatoes and peach crumbles, so in the winter when my SAD got intense, she could pull them out and give the family a whiff of summer. She is also the one responsible for my love for a "mess" of fried tomatoes (green or otherwise), grits, dried beef gravy, biscuits, and parmesan cheese. She ate potatoe chips mixed with feta cheese and green olives when she was pregnant. We're essentially a family of eccentric tastes.

5. What would be served at your last meal?
Hmmmm, the following is assuming that I get everything my way. It would start with a really perfect dirty martini as a cocktail, followed by an arugula, tomato, and shaved parmesan salad, with pepper and salt, and a light and tangy vinaigrette. Then would come the soup course--probably split pea (really really good split pea) or perhaps a tomato and cheddar situation. Or New England clam chowder. Whatever--a creamy, flavorful, soup. I don't know for sure what the main course would be, but it would probably include shallots, butter, and pasta. And really nice steak, just for the decadence. So, perhaps it would look something like this: steak, medium rare with a butter and shallot sauce, with linguine in a white wine (?) sauce. All of this accompanied with a good, full bodied red. The last course would be cherries and cheese--cherries are my favorite fruit, so there would be both red and yellow. The cheeses--a good sharp cheddar, double or triple creme brie, and the Pata Cabra aged goat cheese that Tria doesn't carry anymore.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sin and Chocolate

Well, who’s been neglectful? I have. I’ve actually been meaning to post a ‘favorite things’ list for some time now, but that has to be put off for a little while longer. Because, my friends, I have sinned; in fact, I made a sin.

As a caveat, I’d like to point out that I don’t usually have very much truck with Valentine’s Day. It is just not a big deal, and it is horribly commercialized. And the idea of putting a price on love is a little shudder provoking. That being said, my roommate and I DID plan a special meal for out ladyfriends on Saturday night. (The GF and I also purchased presents for each other, but as neither has arrived in the mail yet, they have not been exchanged. Oh, for February presents).

As another caveat, I beg you to remember that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That’s what made this sin—I mean, cake—so remarkable.

My roommate and I planned a “dessert for dinner” shindig, complete with Asti to make us bubbly (a magnum of it!). She made cream stuffed strawberries—my goodness, I love sweet cream—and churros with cinnamon-scented chocolate dipping sauce. I made something I started calling a ‘truot’—a mix between a chocolate truffle and a tort with a chocolate cookie crumb crust. It comes from Molly Wizenberg’s Orangette recipe collection; she is, hands down, my favorite food writer, so I get a lot of recipes from her (and I can’t wait for her book to come out!).

I originally thought that the cake wouldn’t even work—I don’t bake, I had never used a spring form pan before, I actually hate baking, and I couldn’t find bittersweet baking chocolate at Trader Joe’s. With a little help from my GF and the good folk at Scharffen Berger, I found a conversion that magically turned my unsweetened baking chocolate into bittersweet goodness.

Why was this cake a sin? Because it had almost 2 sticks of butter in it and you could tell. It was creamy, smooth, satiny. Maybe silky. Deep chocolate with the right amount of sweetness. It was the richest thing I’ve eaten in months. It was inhumanly delicious. It was like I baked Gluttony, Pride, Lust, and Sloth into a cake. We wanted to eat it all. I lusted after it when I woke up the next morning; it was delicious cold. The sugar high’s exit induced quite a slothful afternoon. But most of all, I was proud—I baked a cake.

There may be pictures available. I'll post them if that is true.