Wednesday, October 15, 2014

French Onion Soup

Onions are a thing of beauty, aren't they? No? You think they are too mundane to be beautiful? They have such a humble exterior, hiding away those lovely, thin layers.

In a passage I found so memorable in the book The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon writes about how to meditate on an onion. "Take one of the onion (preferably the best looking),... and sit down at the kitchen table.... To do it justice, you should arrange to have sixty minutes or so free for this part of the exercise. Admittedly, spending an hour in the society of an onion may be something you have never done before.... Onions are excellent company."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This [book review]

This month I have been dipping into Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Herve This as part of the Kitchen Reader book club. It is a guidebook about the chemistry and physics behind cooking processes. It reports on cooking experiments from a scientific and analytical standpoint.

There are 101 chapters! Each one concerns a discrete cooking question. What difference does it make to salt meat before or after adding it to a hot pan? What is the effect of resting the meat after boiling or frying it? What makes a souffle rise? What kind of wine makes the best marinades? What are the preferred cheeses for fondue?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Caramelised Cherry Tomatoes

Caramelised cherry tomatoes, otherwise known as my new easiest side dish. I have started a new job and I am working much longer hours than before. I have to admit that I gave up on cooking for a while. I bought fast food from the train station and enlisted the nearby delivery restaurants to keep us fed for a month. But too much food cooked outside my own kitchen starts to taste strange after a while. Enter: this laughably easy dish.

I bought some white fish to pan fry since that's a fast main dish. Then I added this Donna Hay recipe for caramelised cherry tomatoes. The idea is really that you pan fry some chicken or fish and remove it. Then deglaze the pan for two minutes with balsamic vinegar and halved cherry tomatoes. Then serve. That is all! Cooking the tomatoes add only two minutes to the overall time of making dinner. I served it on some courgette noodles (they were raw, and the balsamic juices warmed them a bit). That's the kind of fast food I need right now.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee [book review]

Our August Kitchen Reader book was Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J Craughwell. It's a history book that covers Jefferson's time in France before he was president of the USA. He was appointed minister to France for almost five years. This book shows that Jefferson was not only a diplomat, politician, founding father of the US and intellectual, he was also a gourmand.

When Jefferson went to France he took his slave, James Hemings. He made an arrangement with Hemings that if he learned French cookery and then returned to the USA with Jefferson to teach someone else, Jefferson would grant his freedom. The book promises to elaborate on the five years Hemings spent in Paris becoming a French chef in order to bring French cuisine back to America.

Sadly, the book is not really focused on Heming's cooking at all. Instead, it is an interesting book about Jefferson's public life in France and what he learned there. I suppose there is not much evidence remaining about Heming's life in Paris. The book is obviously well researched, but there is virtually nothing about the courses Hemings took, what he thought of Paris, and what he learned to cook. Overall, I was disappointed by this book, though if it had been presented as a book about Jefferson's love of food and his time in France it would have lived up to expectations.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Balsamic Chicken

My favourite camera lens is broken right now. I discovered this just after I plated this balsamic chicken and was ready to take pictures. My friend, Jess, was coming over to eat with Anthony and I; I had finished cooking about ten minutes early in order to snap some pictures. But after one shot, the camera showed an error message: "Communication between the camera and lens is faulty". Oh no!

I switched the camera off and on again (the universal fix for technology?). I was able to take one more picture (which is above) before the error message popped up again. However, the light meter and auto focus both didn't work, hence the courgettes are in focus and the chicken is not. In the end I decided that I really like this picture.... It's hugely overexposed but we'll just call that a "feature" and leave it at that!

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender [book review]

Each July in our food book club, The Kitchen Reader, we read a novel with a food-themed plot. This year we chose The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It's about Rose, a girl who one day discovers that she can taste her mother's sadness in the food that she prepares for the family. Then she realises that in any food she can taste the emotions of whoever made it. It's a bit of a shock to her to discover things about her mother and others that were previously hidden. As Rose matures she learns a lot about herself and others.

As it turns out, this is a novel less about food than the title suggests. It is mostly a book that explores family relationships and growing up. Rose's ability to taste emotions makes explicit how confusing young people find it to see adult things for the first time. It is hard work growing up and navigating friendships, romantic feelings, a complicated family. And there are some food-related gems as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Dip

Carrots are my favourite vegetable and I even contemplated photographing this carrot dip with carrot sticks for dipping. Because that is indeed one of the ways I ate it! But for this photo, I made cucumber dippers. My friend Michael showed me how to cut cucumber on a steep diagonal to make perfect chip-sized dippers. I am always looking for more ways to make vegetables feel like a natural part of fun eating. Cucumber dippers and carrot dip are great examples of fun vegetables!

And so there is no need for chips and salsa at your next snack attack or movie night. If you are searching for ways to eat more vegetables, try this easy carrot dip with veggie dippers. It's also good with sweet pepper strips, celery sticks, or even rectangles of the ribs of Chinese cabbage. (I have tried this and it was superb!)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekend Links #37

Weekend Links is a way of sharing all the engrossing things I see around the internet. I publish Weekend Links approximately every month. As usual, I welcome your ideas and feedback.

food reading links:
--A long article I have been reading about fueling a marathon while eating paleo (from Ben Greenfield Fitness). And here's another take from Mark's Daily Apple.
--While we're on the topic of sports nutrition, I was reading about a couple who are rowing from California to Hawaii without sugar or "junk carbohydrates" (from Diet Doctor).
--A great post from A Veggie Venture that answers the question, "What is a tomatillo?" plus everything you need to know about them.
--Just before our three weeks away from home I was freezing everything left in the fridge and discovered you can even freeze quiche and tortilla chips (from The Kitchn).

recipe links:
--Macaroni and cheese made with Guinness, heavy cream, lots of cheese, and some crunchy barley (from Mutineer Magazine). What a combination!
--Ginger and chocolate ice cream (from Blogging Over Thyme). I love everything ginger, and pairing it with dark chocolate is perfect.
--I was investigating grain-free Yorkshire pudding recently and found a recipe (from The Saffron Girl) that looks like it is worth trying.
--The flaxseed crust on these mini quiches is a useful recipe to have on standby (from The Kitchn). Plus, mini quiches are good for breakfasts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sweet Potato Laksa

Singaporeans are food crazy. I would say that the two national pastimes here are shopping and eating. Locally born Singaporeans are called Peranakan; they are descendants of Chinese or Indian male immigrants who married Malay women in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. Laksa is a traditional Peranakan curried soup, served over rice noodles.

Chinese Peranakan cooking blends Chinese ingredients with Malay sauces and spices. Peranakan food features shallots, chillies, preserved soybeans, prawn paste, and thick coconut milk. My favourite Paranakan dish is laksa. I like the tangy spice of the curry that is calmed (a little) by the coconut milk.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Banana Nut Porridge (grain-free)

I love sweet breakfast foods like pancakes, muffins, and porridge with fruit. But I am trying to eat less sugar and I have been mostly grain-free for about a year. As a result, I now have a good arsenal of low sugar (or sugar-free) and grain-free breakfast recipes. They still satisfy my sweetish tooth and give me the fat and protein I need at breakfast.

Here are some of my sweet breakfast ideas:
  • this banana nut porridge (pictured above, recipe below) has a whole egg whisked in the near the end of cooking, plus it is grain-free and has no sugar added
  • these banana coconut flour pancakes, the recipe for which is given as a formula based on how many ripe bananas you have on hand
  • these pumpkin and cranberry muffins, which are made with fresh or frozen cranberries and coconut flour, with pumpkin puree for moisture
  • this apple and cinnamon mini cake, which is made in the microwave and takes about five minutes including the preparation
  • this mango, banana, and coconut loaf, which introduced me to the idea of sugar-free eating (not grain-free)


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