Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cheese Review: Mimolette

Mimolette is a beautiful cheese, the color of poppies, with an aroma like dried apricots and dates and citrus. The flavor is slightly sweet and deeply cheesy and savory, like a cheddar grown old and slightly world-weary after a life of indulgence. It is a hard cheese, but not granular; it has a solid chew and certain presence. Its rind, which looks like crusted dirt shaken loose, has the flavor of honey with little of its sweetness. I found this distinct and fascinating, but I am no great lover of the flavor of honey.

It turns out upon research that a defining feature of mimolette is the introduction of cheese mites, which burrow into the surface of the cheese and manufacture the unique rind from their detritus. This was a disturbing thing to learn having already consumed the cheese, and I worried for days about the introduction of cheese mites, which are otherwise pestilent, into my fridge, until convincing myself that there were certainly no live cheese mites in my sample, and that mimolette is put on cheese plates all the time.

That scare past, I remember this cheese with fondness, and recommend it to you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brie-Korean Pear Sandwich

Here in Rochester we have a little cafe called Open Face. I've never been there, although I hear it's charming. It seems strange to consider that I don't even quite know where it is, considering I've had countless of their sandwiches. They are the favorite caterers for the MD/PhD program I'm in-- we have their sandwiches for our Friday Scientific Reasoning in Medicine sessions. Almost all of their sandwiches are delightful. Last year I always got the pepper turkey, maple turkey, chick pea, or black bean. This year I've ventured into genoa salami and brie/pear, always with a side of baguette chips and Orangina. The brie/pear sandwich is somewhat of a trademark of theirs. They assemble it in very narrow baguettes, one side spread with aprioct preserves. They're a lot more savory than they sound and a whole new taste sensation. I've replicated the sandwich at home, variously with brie or camembert, all sorts of pears (thought my favorite is Asian pear-- crisp! delicious!) and peach preserves (what I have on hand).

Brie-Korean Pear Sandwich

long, thin fresh baguette
brie cheese
peach jam/preserves
Asian pear

Cut baguette in 4 inch pieces, and slice in half. Spread bottom with a bit of peach jam. Cover with 1/2 cm thick "slices" of brie. Top that with thin slices of crisp pear. Put lid on sandwich. Yum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sushi Party!

I had a sushi party with about a dozen friends this past weekend. The concept was that everyone would bring something they considered essential to or good in sushi, and then we would all have a jolly time assembling and eating. Authenticity was not the goal, and to be honest, quality wasn't really the goal either. Fun was. It was a delightful surprise when the conglomeration of contributions was practically comprehensive (including some fantastic sashimi) and the sushi was as good and as beautiful as I've ever had. Have a sushi party. They're easy, they're communal, they're aesthetic, they're delicious. Have people say what they plan to bring and then fill in the gaps. All you have to do the day of is prepare sushi rice and maybe have fun at a pre-party Asian grocery trip. Pick up a sushi rolling mat for 99 cents. As for assembly, I'm not going to provide extensive instructions. You're smart, you can figure it out-- that's what we did-- and our maki rolls turned out gorgeously. Of course, you don't have to make rolls. You can go for chirashizushi (literally, "scattered" sushi-- just put some yumminess on some sushi rice) or hand rolls (a few pieces of yumminess on a clump of rice) or temakizushi (rice and yumminess in a cone of nori).

Sushi rice

1 cup medium-grain white rice (such as Calrose)
1 1/4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse rice in strainer until water runs clear, drain. In heavy medium saucepan, cover rice with 1 1/4 cups cold water. Cover and let soak 30 minutes. Uncover and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until water is absorbed and rice is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered 15 minutes. Transfer rice to large glass bowl.

Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Drizzle mixture over rice. Gently toss rice with vinegar mixture to coat. Cover rice with clean damp towel and cool completely at room temperature (do not refrigerate).

Things you need for certain

Nori (dried seaweed sheets)
Soy sauce
Wasabi paste
Gari (pickled ginger)

Ingredients to consider

Cucumber, cut in matchsticks
Bean Sprouts
Scallion, cut in inch long pieces
Carrot, cut in matchsticks
Red, orange, yellow bell pepper
Baby bok choy
Enoki mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms, cut as "matchstick" as possible
Bamboo shoots (available cut in matchsticks, canned)
Avocado, cut in long chunks
Cream cheese
Egg fried up with some dashi
Roasted Eel
Faux crab
Cooked tuna mixed with mayonnaise
Sashimi: yellowfin tuna, mackerel, etc.
Roasted sesame seeds

Good desserts

Asian Pear

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food. Whenever I go out to an Indian restaurant with friends, someone orders chicken tikka masala. People eat a lot of it in Britain, I'm given to understand. Interesting. Also interestingly, it is, seemingly, not very Indian at all. Some restaurateur in the UK made it up by putting masala sauce onto chicken tikka. Anyway, this recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated Magazine. I made it with friends last semester. It did turn out deliciously, and every step of preparation smelled heavenly. (No step looked heavenly, however. This is not an attractive dish.)

Chicken Tikka Masala (4 to 6)

Chicken Tikka

½ t cumin
½ t coriander
¼ t cayenne
1 t salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 c plain whole-milk yogurt
2 T oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (2 t)
1 T grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce

3 T oil
1 medium onion, diced fine (1 ¼ c)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (2 t)
2 t grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced
1 T tomato paste
1 T garam masala
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 t sugar
½ t salt
2/3 c heavy cream

1. Stir together spices for chicken. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with mix, pressing gently to adhere. Place on plate, cover with plastic, fridge 30-60 min. In large bowl, whisk yogurt, oil, garlic, ginger. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium heat till simmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, garam masala, and cook, stirring frequently, till fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, simmer 15 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream, return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
3. While sauce simmers, adjust rack to upper middle (6 in from top) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken in yogurt to coat thickly. Arrange on wire rack set in foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Broil until thickest parts are 160 and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 min, flipping halfway through.
4. Let chicken rest 5 min, cut into 1 inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (don't simmer chicken in sauce.) Adjust with salt, serve with basmati rice.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We make good chocolate chip cookies in our family. The recipe is adapted from the classic Toll House back-of-the-bag recipe. Our recipe has extra flour and extra vanilla; Mom read in a newspaper once that adding extra flour 'paradoxically' makes a softer cookie. While she didn't find the resultant cookie softer, exactly, she did find it better, and we've been using 2 1/2 c of flour every since.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c shortening
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
12 oz (2 c) chocolate chips
1 c chopped nuts (optional)

Sift together flour, soda, salt. Cream shortening with sugars. Mix in eggs, vanilla. Fold dries into wets; stir in chocolate chips. Line outside of cookie sheets with foil. Bake at 350 F, on the upper shelf.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


This is actually the whole reason for this blog-- how many times have I asked for the recipe for pie pastry, scrawled it on a scrap, and discarded/lost it directly? Perhaps a dozen. So here it is, set out in 2008's version of permanence. Mom claims to make it exactly as instructed by Better Homes and Gardens.

Pie Pastry

Single Crust

1 1/2 c sifted all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 c shortening
4 to 5 T cold water

Double Crust

2 c sifted all purpose flour
1 t salt
2/3 c shortening
5 to 7 T cold water

Sift flour and salt. Cut in shortening till pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle water over, 1 T at a time, tossing mixture after each addition. Form into ball. Dough should rest for a while at this point, either in the refrigerator at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. Flatten on lightly floured surface; roll 1/8 inch thick from center to edge.

But what about using it? I thought I'd compile in the same entry Mom's methodology for actually assembling pies-- including 'recipes' for some basic fruit pies.

Assembling a single-crusted pie

Roll out the pastry, and lay it in a pie plate. Trim the edge to a Mommy's finger's side's width from the edge of the plate. Turn it up under itself and crimp it between your fingers to form a beautiful edge. A personal instructional session is recommended. To blind-bake the crust, take a piece of foil and press it in the pie plate BEFORE laying the pastry in the pie plate. Remove it. Carefully fit the shaped foil into the assembled pastry. Fill it full of dry beans or other approved weights. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes. Take out pie and foil, prick the crust with a fork, bake for 10 more minutes.

Assembling a double-crusted pie

Cut ball of pastry in half (see below for exceptions). Roll out half of the pastry, and lay it in a pie plate. Trim the edge to a Mommy's finger's side's width from the edge of the plate. Fill the pie. Roll out the second half of the pastry and lay it on top. It's easier to lay it on top if you fold it in quarters before putting it on the pie and then unfolding it. Cut a design on it if that suits your fancy. Trim the top crust a finger's width wider than the bottom crust. Fold the overhang of the top crust around the overhang of the bottom crust and crimp it. Again, personal tutorials are recommended. Bake such pies at 400 F for 30 minutes; turn the heat down to 350 F and bake for 35 minutes. Unless of course you have some other sort of filling that wants a different baking time.

Apple Pie

1 c sugar
4 T flour
2 t cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash salt

Stir it over your apples. If you have many many apples, Make a bigger top crust than you otherwise would. This is the exception I mentioned above.

Peach Pie

Peach pie needs 1 T more flour than apple pie; Mom uses half as much cinnamon and often adds ginger.

Blackberry Pie

Use 2 pounds of blackberries. Use half as much cinnamon than apple pie. Mom says, "the issue of how much thickener to use is largely a matter of taste. Some people like their pies juicier, and some people like their pies stodgier. Also it depends on the juiciness of the fruit. So, yeah, you'll probably want extra flour in a blackberry pie."
If you use frozen fruit, bake it longer in the second half-- an additional five minutes or so.

Rhubarb Pie

Use 2 pounds of rhubarb. Make like apple pie.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Drop Biscuits and Muffins

Here are recipes for the two things that we make in a muffin tin. When I was very young, I knew that they were different and I even knew sort of how (muffins have eggs, biscuits don't). But I didn't really know why the differences were important or why Mom would make one for some meals and not for others. Since that time, they've diverged into distinctly different characters for me, and yet here I am posting them at the same time. Mom says that she considers biscuits and muffins "culinarily interchangeable." I personally like a biscuit with meats and stews, and muffins with, say, beans, or things closer to being vegetarian. The biscuit recipe is adapted from the 1976 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook; the muffin recipe is from the 1975 Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Mom got these two cookbooks as wedding presents-- no wonder they hold such an influence in our family's culinary repertoire.

Drop Biscuits

3 c flour
4 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/2 c yellow shortening
1 1/2 c milk

Preheat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients. Cut in yellow shortening with a pastry cutter. Keep the chunks of fat fairly large-- about the size of peas. Fold in milk, but only mix enough to wet the flour-- no more. Drop into greased muffin tin. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and serve immediately.


1 egg
1 c milk
1/4 c salad oil
2 c flour
1/4 c sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t salt

Preheat oven to 400. Mix cry ingredients, including sugar. Beat egg in a small bowl and add to a liquid measuring cup with oil and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dries. Drop into greased muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from pan immediately.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Almond Cookies

A very different approach to almonds today, but likewise perfect. These are my very favorite of all Mom's cookies. She usually makes them at Christmas, because they are an expensive ordeal to make properly. The cookies are an adaptation of Better Homes and Gardens' Chinese Almond Cookies (in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1976). I drop the word Chinese as I don't suppose they really are, and the addition Mom makes does make a pretty big (and delicious) difference in the final product. She adds almond paste-- "however much [she] can get her hands on." Don't buy the hard tubes you may find at most grocery stores. Buy soft almond paste from a specialty store or perhaps a finer grocery store. This is a momentous entry-- one of my favorite recipes in the world.

Almond Cookies

2 3/4 c sifted all-purpose flour
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 t soda
1/2 t salt
1 c butter
1/2 lb to 1 lb almond paste, give or take
1 slightly beaten egg
1 t almond extract
1/3 c whole almonds

Preheat oven to 325. Sift flour, sugar, soda, and salt together into bowl. Cut in butter and almond paste until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add egg and almond extract; mix well. (Alternatively, cream butter with sugar, soften paste in microwave oven, cut into pieces, and cream it into the fat/sugar. Cream in egg, extract. Add well-mixed dry ingredients in batches).
Shape dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Place an almond atop each cookie and press down to flatten slightly. Bake 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on rack.

UPDATE 12/29/11: Do not obey the above directions. Do cream the butter with the sugar. Cut the almond paste into small-ish chunks without softening it in the microwave-- the warm almond paste runs the risk of melting the butter, which is bad. Cream the almond paste into the fat/sugar. This may take some time and effort. It is ok if there are some little chunks of almond paste that aren't quite incorporated. Then add egg, extract. Add well-mixed dry ingredients in batches. Bake on parchment paper. These cookies brown less than other cookies. You want the bottoms to just be toasty golden, not brown. The tops should not really be brown in the slightest.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bhone Badaam (Spicy Almonds)

These are from Julie Sahni's Indian Regional Cooking. Mom first made these several years ago, and I can't now think of any other food that is quite so... addictive. They are sweet and spicy and, if you go into the upper range of red pepper, hot. And proteinaceous and perfect. I made these for a party in Provo once... a little nervous, since they're kind of strange for-- well, you know-- a party in Provo. I declare: they were the life of the party even though I undercooked the sugar and they remained kind of sticky. Ms. Sahni suggests as variations raw cashews or shelled walnuts. There's just something so perfect and sweet and earthy about an almond, though.

Bhone Badaam (Spicy Almonds)

2 t ground cumin
2 t - 2 T ground red pepper

1 t coarse salt (I always use regular salt)

1/2 c vegetable oil

16 oz (about 3 c) whole unblanched almonds

1/4 c water

2 t lemon juice

1/4 c sugar

1. Combine the cumin, red pepper, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the almonds and fry, stirring constantly, until the nuts are puffed and give off a roasted fragrance, about 5 minutes. Do not overfry, or they will taste burned. Drain the nuts in a sieve and set aside.

3. Heat the water, lemon juice, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the syrup rapidly for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the nuts and mix well to coat. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle them with the spice mixture, turning to coat evenly. Cool completely before serving.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is in vogue in my circle of friends right now. Pumpkin bread is as good a candidate as any, I suppose. It's fast, it's easy-- you can make it quickly with friends. It's also delicious and makes it look like you know what you're doing. I have always been fond of pumpkin bread, but none of it ever lives up to Mom's. I supposed I was just being nostalgic, loyal, and trained-- until Mom brought out the pumpkin bread this Christmas. Hers is better. And not just better! It is perfection. I asked her where her recipe was from, and turns out it's just a standby from (at least) the 1975 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook (minus the raisins). Well then why, why, why is it so much better than everyone else's? If this recipe is so available, and for so long, why hasn't it overtaken all other pumpkin bread recipes? She hypothesizes that it may be because she uses self-processed sugar pie pumpkin. I think it might be because, when it comes right down to it, my friends don't measure their ingredients. Whatever it may be, this recipe deserves to be a permanent fad.

Pumpkin Bread

2/3 c shortening
2 2/3 c sugar
4 eggs
1 can (1 pound) pumpkin -- Mom uses sugar pie pumpkin she processes herself
2/3 c water
3 1/3 c all purpose flour
2 t soda
1 ½ t salt
½ t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
2/3 c coarsely chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350. Grease two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans or three 8.5x4.5x2.5-inch loaf pans. In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Stir in eggs, pumpkin, and water. Blend in flour, soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans. Bake about 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Pumpkin bread freezes very well in an air-tight bag.