Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Hundred Things to Eat (If You Dare!)

Adventurous eating is something that I don't do much of these days. I have found myself getting into a fairly comfortable rut when it comes to trying new things. Below are my answers for a list of one hundred food items that I have or have not tried. Some of them are pretty exotic; I had to Google many of the items. Others are not so rare to some of us, as this list has been distributed internationally. The items with an asterik are some of my favorites; those that are crossed out are items that I would never eat. Which of these have you tried? How was it? What would you never eat?

Y 1. Venison

N 2. Nettle tea
N 3. Huevos rancheros (would like to try)
N 4. Steak Tartar
Y5. Crocodile (have eaten alligator)

Y 6. Black pudding
Y 7. Cheese fondue*
Y 8. Carp
N 9. Borscht
Y 10. Baba ghanoush*
Y11. Calamari
Y12. Phở
N 13. PB&J sandwich

Y 14. Aloo gobi

Y15. Hot dog from a street cart (I guess I have)

N16. Epoisses (not sure)
Y 17. Black truffle*
Y 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (Pear wine*, cherry wine, blueberry wine, peach wine)
N 19 Steamed pork buns
Y 20. Pistachio ice cream
Y 21. Heirloom tomatoes
Y 22. Fresh wild berries*

N 23. Foie gras
Y 24. Rice and beans
N 25. Brawn, or head cheese
N 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Y 27. Dulce de leche

N 28. Oysters ( I am assuming they mean on the half-shell)
Y 29. Baklava*
N 30. Bagna cauda (anchovy and garlic dip--this might be ok)
Y 31. Wasabi peas
Y 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (if you had it at Panera, does this still count?)

N 33. Salted lassi
Y 34. Sauerkraut
Y 35. Root beer float*

N 36. Cognac with a fat cigar ( I haven't had these two things together)
Y 37. Clotted cream tea*
Y 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
N 39. Gumbo

N 40. Oxtail
N 41. Curried goat
N 42. Whole insects (It goes without saying that I would not eat this)

Y 43. Phaal (I’m not really sure what Indian dishes I’ve had or haven’t)
Y 44. Goat’s milk
N 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more

N 46. Fugu (Japanese Pufferfish)
Y47. Chicken tikka masala
Y 48. Eel
Y 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

Y50. Sea urchin (sushi)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (Japanese pickled Ume fruit)

N53. Abalone
Y 54. Paneer
Y 55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
Y 56. Spaetzle*
N 57. Dirty gin martini (never the gin kind)
Y 58. Beer above 8% ABV
N 59. Poutine (French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy!)
N 60. Carob chips
Y 61. S’mores*
N 62. Sweetbreads
N 63. Kaolin
This is clay. I’d have to be pretty hungry to eat this.)
N 64. Currywurst (might be good)
Y 65. Durian
N 66. Frogs’ legs (I want to try these)
Y 67. Beignets*, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
N 68. Haggis
Y 69. Fried plantains (even though I hate bananas!)
N70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (There is no way I would eat pig butt)
Y 71. Gazpacho
Y 72. Caviar and blini
Y 73. Louche absinthe
Y74. Gjetost, or brunost
N 75. Roadkill
N 76. Baijiu
Y77. Hostess Fruit Pie
Y 78. Snail*
Y 79. Lapsang souchong
N 81. Tom yum (sounds pretty good)
Y 82. Eggs Benedict*

Y 83. Pocky
N 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
Y 85. Kobe beef (or so the menu said)
N 86. Hare (I have always been curious)
Y87. Goulash
N 88. Flowers
N 89. Horse
N 90. Criollo chocolate
N 91. Spam
Y 92. Soft shell crab*
N 93. Rose harissa
Y 94. Catfish
Y 95. Mole poblano*
Y 96. Bagel and lox*
N 97. Lobster Thermidor
Y 98. Polenta

N 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

Y 100. Snake (Rattlesnake-Cactus Pierogi—It was ok)

That's a total of 56 for me. I would love to try some of these items, and some of them I wonder why I haven't tried yet! As a result of this exercise, I am going to set a new goal to try new things--in both cooking and eating. I'll be sure to report here when I get the opportunity.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It Goes with Everything

The first cookies that I remember making entirely on my own were some chewy gingersnaps (is that a contradiction?). My mother found the recipe in Yankee Magazine. I always thought the cookies were best when baked to a very light brown and allowed to cool completely. I then would eat them with a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream. To me, it always tasted perfect.

The magazine article in which the recipe was contained suggested peach ice cream with the cookies. I think some nice, ripe peaches in season would be even better. Gingersnaps are also great with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even chocolate icing. They really do seem to go with almost anything for dessert. And I have noticed that non-dessert eaters (I will never understand these types)love fresh-baked gingersnaps.

I have since looked for the recipe on the Yankee Magazine website, but none of the gingersnap recipes available match what I remembered. For the past month or so, I have been looking for the perfect gingersnap recipe. I personally don't like cookies that have whole pieces of ginger in the recipe, as I think this makes the flavor overwhelming. The cookies should also not be too hard, as this reminds me of the kind that you buy in the grocery store, in the brown bags. They taste stale, in my opinion.

The fist gingersnap recipe I tried during this search called for 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Normally, I prefer to use butter more than any other type of fat. But the end result of these cookies was a batter that was too thin. I put the dough in the refrigerator for half an hour to try to remedy this problem. While this made the dough more pliable, the cookies were too thin when they came out of the oven. As you can see in the picture below, the they spread pretty badly in the oven. I wasn't happy with their looks, and the texture was way off.

A gingersnap should have nice cracks in the surface. They tasted great, though. As I remembered that the original recipe containing shortening, this was the ingredient that I turned to for a rebake.

Gingersnap Cookies

This is adapted from a recipe that I found on the Yankee Magazine website. I made a few adjustments so they would be similar to the cookies I had in mind.

3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup white sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose white flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, soda, salt, and spices. Add to the creamed mixture and blend well.

Refrigerate the dough for an hour to one day.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease three or four baking sheets. Place about one cup of sugar on a plate or shallow bowl.

Roll dough into a ball about the size of a quarter. Roll the ball in sugar. Continue this process, placing the balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Do not press the balls down.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch the baking cookies carefully, as they will burn rather easily. Allow to rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Serve with your favorite ice cream, coffee, fresh fruit, or whatever else you like.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Apology for Absence

Between wedding planning and various social obligations, I haven't gotten much of a chance to try any new recipes. I also seemed to have picked up a new dependent: something that is erroneously called "Amish Friendship Bread Starter" (they have nothing to do with it--it's just a catchy name). If you've never experienced this new responsibility, it basically involves ten days of kneading and feeding. On the tenth day, you bake, and if you don't pass along at least three cups of the starter, something bad happens to you and your family--per my copy of the instructions. I haven't passed any on, and I am getting worried!

The Instructions I Recieved:

Amish Friendship Bread
-Do not refrigerate.

Day 1: Do nothing
Days 2 through 5: Mash the bag.
Day 6: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup of milk to the bag. Mash the bag.
Days 7 through 9: Mash the bag.

Day 10:
Pour entire contents of bag into a non-metal bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 1/2 cups of milk. Measure out 4 separate batters of about one cup each into four gallon size Ziploc bags. If you keep one for yourself, you will be baking every ten days.
Keep a starter for yourself and give the other three to friends, along with a copy of the recipe. Only the Amish know how to create a starter so if you give them all away you will have to wait until someone gives you a starter back.
Using the remaining starter (about one cup), follow a recipe for bread.

But seriously, the instructions make the entire process out to be a lot of work. Since receiving a cupful from a coworker exactly 21 days ago, I have been coddling mine. I think my cat may be getting jealous.

With the amount of work that seemed to be involved, I did some internet research, and I subsequently found that most food blogs claim that you don't have to bake every ten and feed every six. You do, however, need to knead or stir the starter everyday. If you will be on away vacation, or otherwise not available to the needs of this concoction, you can freeze the starter. You don't even need a starter-sitter. I think that's quite a relief. Furthermore, you don't have to give all of it away, and it is probably healthy for the starter if you throw some away every so often.

And so, since the starter isn't nearly as high-maintenance as it might seem, I've decided to turn mine into a sort of science experiment. This might worry some of you. Who eats their experiments? But don't be scared, it's just active yeast. You eat it all the time!

The bread is really quite delicious, especially with a ribbon of brown sugar and cinnamon running through it. The more mature the starter is, the easier it is to take care of. Just make sure to discard any starter that looks pink or brown, or smells bad. In the near future, I intend to experiment with the starter by making muffins, coffee cake, and maybe pancakes. Apparently, the starter also works well as a replacement for sourdough. Does any one else know of other uses for the starter? I'd love to hear some more ideas.

P.S. Dear Mom, sister and aunts: let me know if you would like a cupful of starter and some instructions! There are also tips for making a starter from scratch here, or purchase one here. But really, I think that buying some starter really defeats the purpose, don't you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

S'More Pie, Please

Last Saturday, Sean and I attended a picnic that a co-worker was having at a local park. With no refrigeration or even running water available, it becomes something of a conundrum to decide what to bring. I have to assume that many people have a similar problem, since there was a glut of brownies and pasta salads. Everything was very good, but it got a little monotonous. However, I wasn't much more creative myself: in situations where there is no refrigeration, I almost always bring a dessert.

But I still need to show off a bit.

This pie is easy to make, I promise. Regardless, people who see the finished product simply won't believe you. I found the original recipe here. The finished product looks delicious, and I love the idea. But there is no way that I am going to make my own marshmallow for the topping! I also got lazy and simply bought a graham-cracker pie crust. This was for the best, since it meant the pie had a disposable pan that I could leave behind at the picnic, with no worries. I also decided to make the top of the pie resemble more of a fruit tart, with the marshmallows arranged in a circular patten over the chocolate layer. With a little browning under the broiler, the whole marshmallows make for a more dramatic finish, I think.

That said, when you brown the marshmallows, watch carefully! On my first attempt, I stepped away from the broiler for literally 30 seconds. When I came to retrieve the pie, the marshmallows were on fire! It blew out easily, but it gave me quite a scare. I only wish I had a picture of that for you. If your marshmallows catch on fire, blow them out promptly and carefully remove from the broiler. With a pair of tongs, remove the marshmallow, being careful not get charred bits on the chocolate. It should come off in one or two pieces. Then begin again.

S'more Pie

Adapted from Gourmet, November 2006

7 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, no more than 70% Cacao and not unsweetened, finely chopped or broken into small pieces
1 cup (or one pint) heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten and placed at room temperature for 30 minutes
Pinch of salt
1 graham cracker pie crust
Mini-marshmallows, for topping. Have a whole bag on hand, in case of charring.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to just to a boil in a heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over low heat, stirring frequently. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Gently whisk in the egg and a pinch of salt until combined. Pour the chocolate into the pie crust (place the pre-made crust on a baking sheet, like the packaging says!). The crust will be half-full. Cover the edge with a pie shield or foil and place in the oven, and bake until the filling is set, about 25 minutes. When the pie is fully cooked, the filling will tremble only slightly when gently shaken. Cool for about an hour, and then cover and refrigerate, three hours to one day.

Take the pie out of the refrigerator and allow to come closer to room temperature, about five or ten minutes. Place the marshmallows in a circular pattern (or however you would like) over the chocolate. Place the pie shield or foil over the crust so that it doesn't burn in the broiler. Place the pie back on the cookie sheet, if you have removed it, and place in the broiler. Watch carefully and turn the pie frequently. When the marshmallows are appealingly browned, promptly remove the pie from the broiler.

Slice the pie with a knife that has been dipped in warm water, and then dried with a towel, if possible.

Marshmallows can be browned with a creme brulee torch, instead of in the broiler. Before adding the marshmallow topping, the pie can be covered and refrigerated for up to one day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer at Last

I love warm weather and the content feeling of relaxation that comes with the summertime, but to me, this satisfaction is never really complete until I have enjoyed a real tomato. The tomatoes I am referring to are juicy and flavorful at their best; hardly resembling the pale, pulpy specimens one might find languishing on a salad in the middle of winter.

When my coworkers decided to organize a pot luck office party last week, I saw this as a good opportunity to make my fist batch of tomato bruschetta of the season. Sean doesn't like tomatoes (the foods that Sean won't eat are a common theme in my writing, I know), so it always seems like a waste to make it just for myself. And so, like a number of my other favorite dishes, I often look for excuses to make this recipe. I foist it on practically everyone, so it was only a matter of time before I posted it on here. It's just that good.

Tomato Bruschetta

Serves six as a substantial first-course, or a good-sized group (twenty or thirty), when served with other snacks.

Adapted from Dining Out , by Mary Engelbreit

You may initially find it a bit odd that I have added a good amount of fresh mint to my bruschetta. However, please don't let that stop you from making it; read this article before you decide against it. And if the mint still seems like it isn't for you, try the recipe without. It's still very flavorful and delicious.

-Four or five small to medium-sized stem tomatoes, the riper the better
-One tablespoon kosher salt
-1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive-Oil
-Four tablespoons chopped, pitted Mediterranean olives, or a tapenade from your grocery store's olive bar
-Three tablespoons fresh, slivered basil, torn, not cut, to preserve green color
-Three tablespoons chopped, fresh mint leaves
-Two tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
-Two or three garlic cloves, chopped, plus two slightly crushed cloves for the bread
-Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
-Twelve 1/2 inch thick slices of bread (a baguette or some nice Italian bread works well), grilled, toasted, or broiled


Peel, seed and finely dice the tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes are easiest to peel; however, this step may take a little time and patience. You will get better with practice!

In a large colander, season the tomatoes with the kosher salt. Stir and let drain in the sink for 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, chop the additional ingredients.

In a medium bowl, combine oil, olives, basil, mint,parsley and chopped garlic. Stir until well-mixed, then season with salt and pepper. When the tomatoes are ready, add them to this mixture and combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Slice and toast/grill/broil the bread. Use the remaining crushed garlic to lightly flavor the bread, being careful with the hot bread. Serve immediately with the refrigerated tomato mixture. Is especially satisfying when enjoyed outside with a glass of white wine or Champagne.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Replace it with Yogurt

I don't know that this is exactly the latest technique in cooking, but I find that a little dollop of yogurt can go a long way in replacing an extensive list of ingredients, including butter, sour cream, mayonnaise (I never buy the stuff), cottage cheese (ditto),eggs, buttermilk, or even regular milk. And since yogurt is healthful and contains less fat than many of the above-mentioned foodstuffs, it's a great go-to.

It can also taste better, I think. My new fiance(!), Sean, hates yogurt almost as much as he hates sour cream, mayo, and cottage cheese, but he never says no to one of my cakes made with yogurt.

Some of my favorite yogurt desserts include a yogurt lemon cake that I have previously mentioned on this blog, lemon-yogurt fritters (I love lemon, if you haven't noticed), and this cake:

The original recipe is for a chocolate chip sour cream cake. On the day I wanted to recreate this, I had all of the ingredients on hand, except for sour cream. I did, however, have some full-fat yogurt. The result is a cake that is much sweeter than it would be if using sour cream. You could adjust the sugar, if you choose. I did not make this adjustment, and the result was delicious. Most yogurt-cake recipes call for full-fat yogurt,so this is probably what you should use, too. But I wouldn't be afraid to use partial fat yogurt for this particular cake. Just don't use fat-free.

Chocolate-Chip Yogurt Coffee Cake


* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, or slightly melted in the microwave
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup plain, full-fat (preferred) yogurt
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup chocolate chips or as many as needed


Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the yogurt and vanilla. Gradually fold in the flour mixture, in 2 parts, until just combined.

Pour half of the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar and half of the chocolate chips. Spoon the remaining batter evenly over top. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

At the risk of being obnoxious, I am posting a picture of my engagement ring, by request.