Monday, August 23, 2010

Does anyone even eat pies anymore?

Today I successfully made pie crust.

Also, a pie. The first of a series, hopefully, because my summer is drawing to a close and while I have mastered cupcakes, scones, cookies, and variety bars, I will not be a true Betty Crocker until I have a few more successful pies under my belt. [Bah-dum-tsst!]

But I think it's the pie crust that is indicative of a legitimate rite of passage.

I am domesticated, yo.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fantastical Thai Introduction

Due to my mom's love for ethnic food, ever since I was a babe I have been subjected to the standard rigamarole of diverse eating. She worked through a missionary cookbook and mastered cheap Asian and Latin American recipes, but the one cuisine that never managed to grace my palate was Thai.

Until recently.

And I have emerged a huge fan.

My exposure in this area has been threefold:

Washington, DC.
Mushrooms, noodles, bean sauce. Numbered "41" for the stupid Americans who couldn't pronounce was the dish actually was. I tried. I couldn't. But our waiter was Romanian, and I don't think he could either. It was Thai Town Restaurant, a tiny little sidewalk joint near the Adams Morgan Metro stop. We ate outside on the portico, just my mom and my dad and me. And, oh rare moment, we ate in silence, because our mouths were full.

New York, New York.
Pad Prik King, a curry without coconut milk.

When Ignite was in NYC a few weeks ago, the YWAM staff took us out to a nice sit-down dinner at the East Village's Spice Thai restaurant. The great thing about going out to eat with a group is getting to sample what everyone else ordered. My favorites were the massaman curry and the drunk man noodles, but not much could top what I ordered for myself. It was so spicy! Like something I had never tasted before, everything in one perfect dish.

Boston, Massachusetts.
Mango chicken curry.

It's possible that some things just taste better eaten at a picnic under the stars, but either way, Boston's Spice & Rice restaurant made plenty of money off the people who flocked to watch the fireworks on the Cambridge side of the Charles River where they set up their kiosk. It took great self-control to save a small portion for Sarah. I practically inhaled the savory, sweet, and spicy goodness.

Perhaps you say, my experience has been too limited? Perhaps you say, Thai is just a glorified fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisines. Perhaps you say, it just has too many peanuts! That might be true. But I am sold on Thai food.

People with peanut allergies, please stay far away from Thai food. It just would make me feel better.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Carrots are naturally sweet, they don't need sweetener, fools.

At long last, working in the kitchen is fun.

A goal of mine for this summer, in terms of self-improvement, is to gain some proficiency in the kitchen outside of eating and doing dishes. At least, this was a passive goal of mine, until my mom heard about it and decided I would be making dinner.

So anyway.

Meatloaf kind of has a bad rap. It's what I think of when asked to picture disgusting diner food, it has this mysterious brown gravy that oozes out of it, and even conceptually it lacks class. It's just a brick of ground up meat. Yum? Either it's too dry and crumbles, or it's too wet and crumbles. It's just bad news. Despite all this, I made meatloaf for dinner. Also, carrots.

It was actually quite delicious. Probably because it had apples and cheese in it, oh yes. Also, mixing with one's fingers is fun. Just throwing that out there.

As I learn more about cooking through trial and error, I've garnered a few questions. Like, oh dear kings and principalities, could someone please explain why the world feels the need to put sweetener on their carrots?! It's like those midwestern moms who put marshmallows on their sweet potatoes. I mean, seriously? I don't want dessert during my meal. Localize your sugar usage!

In abrupt conclusion, I'm a huge fan of Eatocracy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I can't keep Bruschetta and Prosciutto straight.

(I recognize that that's only meaningful if you know how those are pronounced.)
Oh. My. Gosh. My family had the most amazing lunch/dinner today. Here's a look:
On the way home from church (another new one for the first time, it was cute) we stopped at Panera bread and picked up some small loaf stuff. When we got home, I grilled them (high heat, spray the bread with olive oil, don't grill too long) and my dad made toppings. Then, we ate bruschetta.
Maybe you can't see it in the picture, but the toppings were by far the best part. Instead of making one type of bruschetta and serving it as an hors de vour, we had a plate full of every type and we could mix and match as we pleased. There was tomato chutney, roasted peppers, avocado, basil, ricotta cheese, prosciutto, lemon (for the ricotta) and... if you're wondering what those roll-up things are in the picture, tomato and basil wrapped up in mozzarella cheese.
The really nice thing about this is that it's actually pretty simple: bread, and whatever you feel like putting on the bread. Nothing is massively complex, and the assembly-line-meets-buffet style of eating provides the same conversational atmosphere as fondu typically does.

Later this week: Grilled pizza

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I don't love animals

There is exactly one thing stopping me from being a vegetarian: Steak.
Not beef. Steak. I can live without lunch-meats and hamburgers, but any vows made to stick to a vegetarian diet would be broken immediately if steak was being served.
It's not like this for other meats. I'm practically kosher when it comes to pork, fish doesn't taste like anything unless go to a ton of trouble to season it properly (and, at that point, tofu would be the same), chicken only tastes good with salad anyway - so you could just have the salad. But steak is delicious, however cooked or seasoned, it is delicious.

You know how there are different levels of vegetarianism? Vegan being the most hardcore, some people allowing eggs, some fish, ... I keep hoping there's some level which will allow steak but not everything else. But there isn't. That's just called being a "picky eater". Nobody respects your dietary choices when you go around saying, "Oh, yeah, I'm a vegetarian. Except for steak. I'll eat steak." "No. Dude. You are not a vegetarian. Steak is like, the symbol of meat. If you eat steak you eat meat."

So I can't be a vegetarian, because of steak.
(Guess what we had for dinner tonight)
(Oh, yeah. Thanks to Hayley for letting me write here.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Endeavor.

I'm a holy terror in the kitchen. Like really. Whenever company is due and my mom needs an extra set of hands, my mom will call on my little brother before she'll request my assistance. That's the way I like it. I can wash dishes and clean bathrooms and tidy the house like no one's business, but please don't expect me to know how to work a food processor.

But every so often I surprise myself.

Last week my mom made groundnut stew for my brother's geography class, and my sister and I consumed the leftovers. She was irritated she didn't get to have any, but it was so delicious I promised to make it for her. Because I am idealist and lack basic common sense skills.

Today I couldn't stand looking at my schoolwork another second and took advantage of the empty kitchen to make good on my pledge. The recipe was wonderfully simple: oil, chopped onions, minced garlic, brown in a saucepan. Add tomato paste, buollion cubes, chicken broth, a bay leaf, peanut butter -- simmer. Boil chicken. Cut chicken. Add to peanut gravy. Serve over rice.

Everything happened like it was supposed to. Nothing mysteriously turned black or exploded. It even tastes just like my mom's tasted when she made it last week. I am relieved. I added diced tomatoes to make the gravy more chunky, but I was afraid it would add too much acidity, but I ended up having to thicken the whole thing with more peanut butter, and, somehow it all worked out.

How can I describe how it tastes? It's mellow, and creamy, but the best part about it is probably that it's not overwhelmingly peanut butter-y. It reminds me more of chicken pot pie than anything else. Also, the rice is nothing to sneeze at either. [Seriously, keep your germs away.] I love rice. This recipe was gratis a missionary in our church; I owe my success to her, her recipes are no-fail.

There are no pictures. Seriously, it's not much to look at. But trust me, it happened. I actually cooked dinner. Go me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

That Which Is Superior to Oreos

The industrialization of America's food production is a process that has become troubling to most, but if there's one thing the factories do correctly, it's cookies. Homemade cookies have their place, but there's something acceptably indulgent about the assembly-line , sugar-loaded, mass-produced, and highly processed about store-bought cookies. The following are my favorites.

Goya's guava wafers

My Spanish class's end of the year tradition. Ethnic food aisle for the win! Like regular wafer cookies they're basically only sugar, but the bonus here is the tangy guava flavor. Which arguably is better in cookie form than straight from the fruit.

Tim Tams

Yet another thing Australia does better than the United States. I asked for these for Christmas, I love them so much. They're best in the Tim Tam Slam, or the kind of cookie you have to have with milk, but either way, I promise, they match the hype.

Famous Amos chocolate chip

My love for these is part nostalgia, but they really are the king of their kind. The chocolate chips are the best, and the whole buy-in-bulk thing is pretty winning too, but mostly I remember sitting on the front steps with my sisters consuming these cookies and so they have my heart.

Trader Joe's mini meringues

Addictive little fat free puffs of sweetness. First we must establish that Trader Joe's has excellent cookies to begin with, and then we must remember the charm of meringue cookies, and factor in the reality that the size makes them easy and guiltless to consume. Win win.

The dangers of refined sugar aside, and the evils of processed foods neglected, the truth is that the store's specialty cookies are often far superior to the kitchen's oatmeal raisin cookies, if only for the glamor. Fortunately, I am all about brand endorsement. You're welcome.