Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Lunch

It's been a rough week. I feel overloaded with school assignments. My week was improved today however, when I made a curious discovery in the cafeteria. Today, nudged up next to the choco tacos and chipwiches were little styrofoam containers of pumpkin ice cream. I got one and it was actually delicious! I'll just pray there's more tomorrow. Here are some more shots from the caf. I think I'll do posts like this every once in a while throughout the year. It's interesting no?

This is sarah with her lunch of peanut butter and fluff on soft white, a brownie, goldfish, gushers, and that coveted honeycrisp apple. Her "favorite." One of her close friends once told me that she subsists largely on a cheese and ice cream: an enviable diet if you ask me. Sarah also reads my blog, so she will probably ask me who said that in the near future.

This is Jake, one of the pickiest eaters I know. I'm actually really surprised that his peanut butter and nutella is on wheat bread. He's such the person to only eat white. His mom makes him his lunch every day, and every day it's the same thing. His lunch may be the most widely stolen in the cafeteria. People are constantly trying to get his peeled and sliced apples every day.

Here's Matt. The picture makes him look like a big tough guy but he's actually a softie. He's a soccer player and his lunch almost always consists of 2 Uncrustables. Today however, he went to Wawa and got this spicy chicken sandwich with lettuce, peppers, honey mustard, and oregano and some barbecue potato chips and some sour patch kids: a "guy" lunch.

This is Jesse. He's a goofball, all the girls think he's good looking and if they saw his lunch, they'd probably think it was cute too. I mean look at it. Peanut butter and grape jelly (his preference), an apple and some carrots. No he's not a vegan, but he is my boy.

This is Justin. He's just an overall real friendly kid who everyone gets along with. He also often has awesome sandwiches that he lets me taste. Today he's just got some turkey-- I caught him on a bad day.

And that's all for now. More from around the cafeteria in the future.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Can't update today-- loaded with homework and meeting with an SAT tutor and all.

Instead, check out this cool post on sous vide today from serious eats

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Nutmeg, at least for this part of the year, is my favorite spice. I mean seriously, just look at it. It looks like it's got cave paintings inside it.

Appearance aside, nutmeg's aroma is tantalizing. I even prefer it to cinnamon which I believe too often overpowers fall foods. When nutmeg and cinnamon work together with the correct amounts, the results can be masterful.

Such is the case with these pumpkin whoopie pies. While nutmeg is my favorite fall spice, pumpkin is my favorite ingredient. This recipe is from Martha Stewart's website who got it from Matt Lewis of Baked Bakery.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350, and line 2 (recipe says 2, but I halved the recipe and I needed 2 so see what works for you).

2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients except the sugar.

3. Whisk together all wet ingredients.

4. Fold dry into wet.

5. Using a small ice cream scoop, or just two spoons, drop the cookies onto the parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (I actually left mine slightly underbaked, and they were delicious.

For Icing

1. Beat butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer.

2. Add vanilla and sugar.

3. When the cookies are cooled, spread a dollop on the flat side of 1/2 of the cookies, then cover with another cookie. Enjoy

Keep for 3 days in the fridge.

My Comments

Cookies tasted good--I could eat them on their own no problem-- but I'm not sure they were the correct texture for a whoopie pie. I like my whoopie cookies dense and kind of chewy, to contrast the soft cream.

These were really soft and delicate and therefore made eating them with the icing a "uni-textural" experience.

That not to say these weren't absolutely delicious- they were- but there's some room for improvement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Look at Lunch

Here are a few photos from round the lunchroom. This is really just a preliminary post, a preview. I plan to post additional pictures and more matter about my mate's meals in the future. And yes, to get these pictures I kinda walked around the cafeteria, asking people if I could photograph their lunches--might've been slightly weird, but for the sake of the blog...

First pic is my lunch of sweet potatoes that I roasted in bacon fat with sage and garlic, and a sous vide chicken breast that I crisped up in a hot pan the previous night.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Day in Food 10/18

Bananas are perfect with a little green at the top and bottom and I don't much like them otherwise. True, they are sweeter when spotted, yet with this sweetness comes a flavor I find unpleasant. Kind of ironic no? Here I am, foodie at fifteen, praising complex, developed flavors over their banal, bland counterparts, yet I won't eat bananas unless they are more the latter. That's just the way it is.

I started my day off with a perfect banana and a cup of black coffee- a light breakfast, I try not to eat a lot before I go to Lacroix. At Lacroix I tasted a little salmon tartare (I consider it a privilege to be able to eat raw fish at 9 in the morning) and ate some scraps of grilled cheese with brie, Parmesan and prosciutto.

I tasted this awesome new salad of cauliflower, shitakes (I believe), and golden raisins with a garlic mayo dressing. I also had some panzanella salad with toasted bread, corn, and pepperoni. It's really amazing; you can really see that corn is trailing off. It's not as bright, crunchy, moist as it was. It's the end of something old and the start of something new I guess, and the pumpkin-toffee ice cream that pastry had made was delicious.

I ate some haricot vert salad with fried onions, and a saffron vinaigrette and a duck croissant with apricot mustard. When they switched out the old Malaysian BBQ pork shoulder glazed with char siu, I ate some of that.

I made sure to have some of my favorite dish on the menu- duck confit with yellow corn polenta, pearl onions confited in bacon fat, and cherries. The polenta kinda forms a skin on the outside, creating a kind of contrast in textures. It's really quite wonderful.

At this point, I was really quite full, but I needed a cloying culmination. I nabbed a berry cheesecake off the dessert cart and was satisfied. I didn't eat dinner.

I eat well at Lacroix. I let my day at Lacroix be a day when I eat what I want and don't feel bad for it. So far at least, it seems to work out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Trader Joe's Bread

Trader Joe's makes this whole-wheat Sourdough bread that is just hearty and delicious. I love it as toast, and pairing it with scrambled eggs makes one of my favorite meals. It likewise makes great grilled cheese and an awesome panzanella salad.

Here I've used it for a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I buttered both sides and am toasting it as if it were grilled cheese (am I the only one who does that with peanut butter sandwiches?).

Egg-Yolk Orange

Crayola should make a new color "pastured hen egg orange."

It would replace lime green as my favorite.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies suck. I mean, they're pleasurable to eat, because they're sweet and they contain chocolate, but if you can look past your inherent taste for anything sweet, they're just awful. The chocolate just completely overwhelms the pumpkin. Literally, no pumpkin flavor comes through, and any pumpkin dessert which doesn't taste like pumpkin sucks. Therefore pumpkin chocolate chip cookies suck, and if you think I'm wrong, send me a batch and we'll see ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ideas in Food Dinner

I've been reading the Ideas in Food blog for a while, tracking their thoughts and admiring their ideas. It's really a great place to go if you're in search of inspiration.

Yesterday night I made a reservation for the Ideas in Food Dinner at Blackfish on November 2nd. This is the major dinner, since I went to Daniel in New York over a year ago, that I've saved up my own money for., and I'm really excited. My "major meal frequency" has dropped significantly. I just have too many extra expenses that come with getting older.

Anyway, check out the menu. This really isn't anything I'd be interested in cooking myself, but I'm enthusiastic about eating it. Smoked Pumpkin Ice Cream- my favorite fall flavor in ice cream form + smoke: what could be better? Potato Chip Soup? What a concept!

This should be an intriguing experience.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sous Vide Fried Chicken?

I wonder how sous vide fried chicken would work out. Of course I could simply cook the chicken sous vide, then bread it and fry it at a high temperature, but how would this work: bread the chicken beforehand, then sous vide it, causing the egg to coagulate and therefore setting the breading (hopefully). I would then just fry it off.

It will be something to try.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Farmer's Markets: English Speech

I received this awesome assignment in my English class to write a speech, using various rhetorical devices which we had learned in class, about anything that we wanted. I chose to talk a little bit about farmers markets. This material won't be anything new for all of you, but if you're interested, check it out.

They’re red, shiny, brilliant, and plump, but aesthetics aside, they’re incredibly succulent and juicy. At this time of the year, the flavor, the texture, the taste of this fruit is far superior to those of another season. A single bite reveals crisp yet moist flesh and a taste that is altogether purer than that of the grocery store varieties, I speak of the apple, but apples are only one reason to make it out to the farmer’s markets this fall. The markets are filled with a plethora of fruits and vegetables fresh from local farms.

To eat fresh produce from a local farm is a sublime experience, and such an experience is accessible now more than ever. Markets are still full of summer’s bounty, yet are likewise beginning to stock fall’s produce. Pumpkins, apples, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, are becoming increasingly available, and are at their best now. I urge you to pick up these autumnal items from your farmer’s markets rather than your grocery stores.

Markets offer produce picked at peak ripeness, whereas grocery store produce is often ripened artificially, in countries like Chile. Farmer’s market produce has also traveled only a couple, rather than thousands of miles, and is therefore fresher and inevitably better tasting. But don’t solely buy produce from farmer’s markets because it tastes better, buy it because it’s more environmentally friendly, and often in your best interests economically as well. Farmer’s markets support the farmer’s who labor day in and day out, often seven days a week to bring you food. The government however, seems to care little about their hard work. The government subsidizes the growing of crops such as corn to be grown by major corporations, which cuts into potential profits for the farmer. That and the fact that much of what was previously the job of the farmer, has been taken over by the major corporations, whose ruthless tactics, and cutthroat campaigns rarely produce produce of comparable quality to that of small farmers.

True such food (the kind grown by major corporations and sold in grocery stores) is less expensive, but who would you rather give your money to, a small farmer whose life’s work is ensuring that you get a premium product, or a corporate executive who couldn’t care less about the produce he’s providing? What would you rather support, the local economy, or a major company like Monsanto, in which the large concentration of money is at the top, and that gives 9 figure bonuses to its executives ?

I, for one, would rather support the farmers: the farmers (anadiplosis) who tend to your food with their very own hands: the farmers whose lifestyle is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain: the farmers whose food not only tastes better, but is better for the environment. So if nothing else, at least try some apples from a local market this fall. They’re red, shiny, brilliant, and plump, but aesthetics aside, they’re utterly superior, economically, morally, environmentally and in taste, than the grocery store variety.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dinner for Four

Just this past Monday, I got a call from my friend's mom (who I had never met). She asked me to cook for her and her husband, and another couple on Saturday (2 days ago). I was to come over to their house and cook a basic 3-course meal, and be paid for my efforts. It was pretty short notice, but I quickly agreed. I would be getting paid for something I would have lots of fun doing!

I immediately started planning out the menu, choosing similar proteins to those that I hope to serve for the library auction dinner in a few weeks just to make sure that I could pull them off under the circumstances. The guests had absolutely no dietary restrictions so I was really able to do my own thing.

For the first course I chose scallops, corn and a tomato, red pepper sauce. I chose corn because at Lacroix, they make this awesome corn that they really just sweat in butter. I cooked mine in a little butter, some bacon fat, garlic, shallots, and sage, then tossed in some bacon at the end. I got the idea for the tomato-red pepper sauce because last week on Avec Eric on PBS, he kinda cooked down some red peppers in some red wine and olive oil to make a sauce for cod I believe. I saw this awesome looking tomato from my garden and wanted to throw that in there too, so I sweated some red peppers with some garlic, onion, and rosemary, before deglazing with a little bit of red wine and a chopped up tomato. As the liquid evaporated, I added a little chicken stock and cooked it down further. Finally I passed it through a food mill. To order, I finished it off with a dab of butter.

For the second course I chose chicken confit with homemade spagghetti, because it's a very similar dish to the duck confit risotto that I hope to do for the auction dinner. I cured the chicken confit for 24 hours in garlic, peppercorns, cloves, brown sugar, thyme, and I placed some bacon over each leg. I then cooked them sous vide at 176 for 8 hours in duck fat. For the pasta, I used Thomas Keller's French Laundry Recipe, which is real nice and rich because it's loaded with egg yolks. I rolled this out as spagghetti on my pasta machine. To finish the dish, I pulled apart the confit meat, reserving the skin. I then seared the pulled meat in flaming hot oil while crisping the skin in the oven. I then tossed the meat with the pasta, some pasta water, some butter, some olive oil, and some pecorino, then topped the whole thing off with a piece of crispy chicken skin. I made sure none of them were on a diet before I served it to them.

For dessert I served good ol' American apple pie. I was inspired by some massive honeycrisp apples from a local farm that I saw in Whole Foods, and decided that a simple pie would be the best way to utilize them. For the dough I used a 3:4:5 ratio of water to butter to flour, rather than Ruhlman's 1:2:3, because if you can get away with a higher butter to flour ratio, why not do so!? I used completely butter for my dough; it may not make as flaky a pie as shortening but it's just so darn tasty (and anyways, there's a bunch of ways to ensure flakiness even with an all-butter crust).

I prepped almost everything beforehand, and there really wasn't much to do besides sear the scallops, cook the pasta, and warm up everything else. I warned people I was cooking for that I could set their smoke alarm off when I was searing the scallops, but I used their overhead fan and that turned out not to be a problem. Overall, everything went quite smoothly and I got paid for something that was lots of fun to do.

My only regret was that I forgot to take a picture of the scallop dish before I sent it out. I wish you guys could've seen it. It looked awesome.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Colonial Kitchen

One of the few aspects of colonial life I desire is an oven like this one. My boy B Frank probably made some sick pizza.

(I'm pictured in the Harriton house, a colonial home that was once the residence of the 1st and only secretary to the continental congress, Charles Thomson. Pictured is the cooking area, and the little wooden door is the opening to an oven-- a brick, wood-fired oven. In going I received extra credit from my history teacher)