Monday, October 24, 2011

Imam bayildi: You'd cry, too, if you were an oil-marinated eggplant.

Imam bayildi means "the priest wept" in Arabic, and while I found a variety of stories as to the origin of the name, I'm going to stick to the "eating eggplant cooked with over a cup of olive oil will make anyone cry copious tears of joy."

Sitting in a pool of broth that's mostly olive oil, ready
to be devoured. Yes, it is sticking a few inches off the
plate! Thank you for noticing.

Chillin' in the skillet, pre-baking. The other eggplant halves
had to go in a 9x13 baking pan, because they didn't fit.

Seriously. It's that good. I'm a little afraid of how good for you it is(n't), but I can't care all that much because it is that good. We ate it with lavash, a flatbread flaky with yet more lipids, dusted with za'atar.

Mmm, lavash.
This is the recipe I used. When the blogger says "two large eggplant," I don't think she had foot-long eggplant in mind, but that's what I got, and it worked just fine.

In the dessert world: I've been wanting to attempt a vegetarian (read: gelatin-free) marshmallow for some time now, and with a small amount of maple syrup taking up space in the cabinet, yesterday seemed as good a time as any to attempt a maple sesame marshmallow. After doing extensive research on the hazards of agar agar marshmallows, I used 3/5 the recommended weight of gelatin of agar agar, and I simply replaced the corn syrup in the recipe with maple syrup. Instead of greasing and powdered sugar-ing a dish, I greased it and dusted it with sesame seeds and just a touch of cardamom. The sugar mixture fluffed up just as I hoped it would and didn't have a weird, grainy mouthfeel. Agar agar success! But then it didn't set. Rather, it set to a certain extent, but it just didn't become that cuttable, chewy, fluffy wonder that is the marshmallow. I was crushed. Agar agar fail. Fortunately, upon looking over the procedure once again, I realized that I'd misread the temperature to which the sugar solution should have been boiled. I'd cooked it to 220 F, not 250. Drat. It's these kinds of mistakes that waste valuable enzymes in undergraduate-bedeviled labs the world over. Luckily, it tasted great, and I'm living with someone who I have observed eat a pat of butter rolled in cinnamon sugar. It shouldn't have been a surprise that he was all too willing to eat a soft, gooey, maple-flavored quasi-marshmallow and declare it "so *$&#%)! good. No, seriously, this $*#& is amazing."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Silence, cur!

A little education for the uninitiated: Hush puppies are the finest of Southern delicacies.

Fried cornmeal scallion batter with a chili honey dipping sauce?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin head

I've been remiss. To be fair, potato leek soup looks sort of gross when I attempt to photograph it, and showing you Emmenthal* grilled cheese on homemade rye with pumpkin fries and kale chips would have been simply unfair, and I have made udon noodles four times in the last two years, so who wants to blog about that again? But here you go, pesto pizza on whole wheat pumpkin crust:

That's right, pumpkin crust. I substituted a small amount of the liquid in my usual pizza crust recipe for mashed pumpkin; it only imparts a slight pumpkin flavor (then again, I only added about half a cup), but the color is nice, and the crust is oh so tender. I'll titrate the pumpkin for my anticipated pumpkin flavor-friendly pizza (Manchego? Goat cheese? Parmesan? who knows!) some other time. Meanwhile, using the rest of the (large) pumpkin we got this weekend on pumpkin fries does not sound half bad.

Also meanwhile, Andy's chemistry department guru sent an e-mail alerting the department to a molecular gastronomy talk on, appropriately enough for those dastardly chemists, foams and emulsions. I'm trying to convince him to take time off from his, you know, real work to absorb transmissible wisdom, but he's not being receptive. Yet.

*Insanely cheap at East Village Cheese, the home of all insanely cheap and awesome cheeses.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two pie? Aye!

A potluck at a friend's apartment and a gift sent from Florida provided an excellent opportunity for not one, but two desserts.

The goat cheese cheesecake is something I've been wanting to make for a long time. In its original incarnation, it involved a peach and thyme filling, but peach season has given way to apple season while I was trying to find an opportunity to make it. I also wanted to sweeten this with honey, but I wanted to go by the original recipe first until I had a better idea of what the viscosity would be. This was rather runny as-is, so if it had been sweetened with honey instead of sugar, I'm sure the baking time would have had to be significantly increased. But oh, boy, would that have been delicious.

Turning from autumn to summer, we have a key lime meringue pie, thanks to the parents of a dear friend from high school. They sent us a wedding gift of miniature ceramic pie plates, key limes, condensed milk, and a recipe for key lime meringue pie. How could I resist?

Apple nutmeg goat cheesecake for those without a springform pan, adapted from Food and Wine
Double the recipe (except for the goat cheese; the original called for 11 oz) if you have a springform pan.

1 prebaked crust of your choice in a pie pan (I used graham cracker, but I bet a flaky, buttery pastry crust would be amazing)
6 oz goat cheese, the good stuff
3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice plus 1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (or honey, if you're brave)
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 large, tart baking apple, of the sort that mostly breaks down when cooked
2 tsp butter

Peel the apple and slice it thinly. Melt the butter in a pan and add the apple, a pinch of salt, nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp lemon juice. Cook over medium-low heat until a chunky paste is formed. Set aside to cool, and set the oven to preheat at 350 F. Beat the goat cheese with the egg yolks, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and sugar until it's very smooth. Stir in the flour until just incorporated. With clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Stir a third of the egg whites into the goat cheese mixture, then gently fold in the rest. Pour about half the filling into the pie crust. Layer the apple paste on top as evenly as you can, and pour the rest of the filling on top. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes (I know, it's a big span of time, but my oven is weird and should not be trusted), until the filling is set and a knife inserted into the middle of the cheesecake comes out clean but moist. Cool to at least room temperature before serving sprinkled with nutmeg.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Man, Janeway really *does* pose like Robin Hood...

My BLS/IV venipuncture course ended well over an hour early tonight, without incident save a little pain inflicted on a classmate (sorry, Brent) who volunteered his arm, so I had plenty of time to bake these carnival squash:

But first I filled them with a mixture of rice cooked with mirepoix, spinach, saffron, cinnamon, and a little pepper, then stirred with some yogurt. For dessert: toasted squash seeds with cinnamon sugar. When you toast them in your cast-iron skillet, they spin around so quickly they blur, or do the Mexican jumping bean thing.

And now to a very thrilling, Manhattanite Friday night of weight-lifting, multiple episodes of Star Trek: Voyager* (or maybe an episode of Torn Apart, the web series accompaniment to The Walking Dead that is providing yet another piece of evidence that no character in any form of media who is named Hannah is a person you want to empathize with***), and lots of sleep.

*Nobody is ever going to convince me that this is not an awesome Star Trek incarnation. I've already seen every episode at least twice**, but Andy had never seen a single one, so of course we're planning to gradually rewatch it together.
**Wipe that pitying look off your face, young whippersnapper!
***A Widow for One Year? Hannah's a backstabbing slattern. House? Hannah's a whiny adolescent. Hannah Montana? Don't even. Veronica Mars? Hannah's a doormat, just as she is in Harry Potter. There's a Hannah in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but that movie is deeply creepy and basically justifies abducting women and coercing them into marrying you by saying, "Look, they'll fall in love with you eventually!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Licking my wounds

That exam was predictably not good (for everyone, not just me, which I guess is a good thing?). I needed salve. I needed comfort. I needed the food equivalent of this:

This is eggplant ziti with a goat cheese mint bechamel sauce. 

Recipe: Very thinly slice and abundantly salt 1 large or 2 medium eggplant, and let it sit for an hour or so to draw out some of the moisture. Meanwhile, make 2 1/2 to 3 cups bechamel sauce. Just as it's finishing, stir in about 8 ounces of goat cheese and whisk over low heat until it's smooth. Toss in 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (and some parsley, if you want), 1 pound al dente ziti, and salt and pepper as needed. Preheat the oven to 350. Pat the eggplant slices dry, then alternate monolayers of salted and peppered eggplant with layers of sauced ziti in a greased baking pan. Top with breadcrumbs and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender. Unlike me, you should let it sit for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven so the slices of ziti hold together.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

If you fry it, they will come

There's this Steelers bar/restaurant on 41st called Public House that is becoming Andy's de facto Place to Watch Football Games until he finds one either closer to Washington Square or closer to the medical center. But even if a Steelers-friendly locale opened up across the street from his lab, I'm thinking he might stick with this one, because he has recently discovered the all-holy fried mozzarella stack: two slices of fried mozzarella between which is a slice of tomato, accompanied by pesto and marinara sauces. Fortunately, I refuse to be outdone by a sports bar.

These are fried rounds of goat cheese accompanied by homemade Concord grape jam and pesto. Please ignore the fact that the pesto sort of looks like baby poo on a plate and focus on the fact that alongside it is fried cheese, which is actually food of the gods.

I also made focaccia with Concord grapes and sunflower seeds, and the omnipresent kale chips, of course!

Andy: "If I buy you ten pints of grapes and some meth,
how many of these can you make per week?"
And then ate the rest of the grapes. They're $3 per overflowing pint at the farmers market. Next week, I will be purchasing one of several varieties of white grape, because they looked amazing and because I bet they'd go well with a wide selection of awesome semi-soft cheeses.

This leads into why I made a rather elaborate--though surprisingly un-time-consuming--dinner instead of studying for an exam for which I'm extraordinarily, terrifyingly, unprecedentedly unprepared: I did not trust myself around those grapes. By Monday afternoon, when my exam was over, I would have picked and nibbled until there were none left. Other omnipresent theme: self-control? Not my thing.