Not a Culinary God/Goddess? It’s all in the name!

September 23, 2009

Last night, I made the most amazing pea pesto on crostini with tomato, and a spinach salad with citrus vinagrette. Sounds like a day’s worth of slaving over knives, and kitchen tools, and ovens (oh my!)

Not so, my fellow kitchen newbies! The aforementioned meal was made in less than 10 minutes. It’s all in the translation!

Crostini- slices of slightly stale french bread thrown on a rack, drizzled with olive oil, and put in the oven on 400, baked for a few minutes. They come out crispy and toasty– you can even season them, some suggestions: Garlic, basil, butter, anything really.

The pea pesto was an idea stolen from an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada DiLaurentis. I don’t remember what she did, or what she put in it, but I remembered seeing her make a paste out of frozen peas. She called it a pesto, but you could also pretty safely say it was like an alternative hummus, with the green peas serving as a substitute for the chick peas. I threw garlic in there (because you’ll learn quickly that I add garlic to everything I make), and some lemon juice.

To bring the whole thing together, I merely topped the crostini (read: toast) with my green pea pesto (blended peas, basically) and sliced a tomato to top that. Viola! Instant gourmet, so grab a dictionary and translate the terms before you nervously step away from the cookbook… sometimes that mountain is really just a molehill.

On pumpkin:

September 20, 2009

It’s that time of year again! Autumn brings with it cold weather, something I’m not particularly fond of. It also brings the new school year, another thing I could do without. However, come September bakeries start creating muffins, breads and pastries with that oh so wonderful fall flavor: Pumpkin.

You can be sure that in order to take advantage of the availability of pumpkin products, I will be stopping by the local bakery and picking up my pumpkin muffin every morning before school; that much is true. However, I was recently inspired to try making myself the treats I so love in the delightful flavor [pumpkin] of the week [season]. I turned, of course, to the first person I always turn to in search of advice in the kitchen: the ever scientific Alton Brown. I found a base recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/pumpkin-bread/1426.html . Having watched his 3 minutes of footage, I embarked on the undertaking of recreating Alton’s pumpkin bread. I made twice the amount of batter indicated in the video, therefor allowing me enough to make a loaf of pumpkin bread as well as a tray of pumpkin muffins.

The muffins finished first, because although Alton’s recipe calls for an hour and fifteen minutes worth of baking, the muffins I made were absolutely tiny and cooked rapidly. They were sweet and cake-y, and full of the wonderful flavor of fresh pumpkin (I took about 45 minutes attempting to butcher a medium sized pumpkin–not an easy task apparently). The only problem I had were the seeds. Alton Brown’s recipe called for toasting the pumpkin’s seeds and then folding them into the batter. They were chewy and at a near-rubber consistency, they were hardly a welcome addition to the muffin. Maybe I did it wrong– perhaps I should have baked the seeds longer? Whatever the problem, I have decided to re-use the recipe, but nix the seeds. Sorry Alton!

A final note: The loaves of bread never come out of the pan the way I’d like! It’s not fair that on television they slide neatly out of the pan to cool, leaving not a crumb stuck to the sides of the loaf pan. I greased the ceramic loaf pan I used in excess, and still when I tipped the pan over to release my homemade treat, only the top half fell to my cooling rack; the bottom of the loaf remained steadfastly pinned to the bottom of the pan. What I have learned in my adventures in baking however, is that its how it tastes that really matters– no matter how the cookie (or cake) crumbles!

Up in flames?

September 19, 2009

A word about flambe’s: they don’t always work.

I found a recipe for flambe’d peaches online that just begged to be made. Then I thought how good they would taste piled on a graham cracker crust! Tres delicioso!

Here is the reason it didn’t quite work out as I’d planned:

The most crucial element of this recipe, the act of flambe’ing the peaches, was an exercise in futility. It’s not often I can say this, but I failed despite trying very hard, to set my food on fire. It’s not as easy for food to burst into flames as the media may lead you to believe! You may remember an episode of The Simpsons in which homer has become Mr. Burns’ personal assistant. He attempts to cook many items for Burns’ breakfast, each attempt punctuated by a towering flame. In fact, Homer gives up and pours a bowl of cereal to which he adds a generous amount of milk. What does the cereal do? Burst into flames, of course! Let me tell you right now, Fox is lying to you! After cooking down my peaches for the alotted amount of time, I proceeded to add 3 shots of peach flavored schnapps. Now, the recipe called for whiskey, but I decided the sweet peachy flavor of my favorite liquor would taste better (and it was all I had on hand!). Bad idea, I could not, for the life of me, set the liquor on fire. You’d think alcohol would be more than willing to catch fire, but rudely it did not. I tried vodka, thinking something with a little more alcohol content would work better. I eventually did manage to light a small blue torch on top of my peaches, but it lasted less than 30 seconds and was nothing like the towering, licking, heat throwing flames I saw Gordon Ramsay create on The F-Word! I discovered the only way I could create a flame is to pour the alcohol into a separate pan, light it on fire, and pour it onto the peaches…

When I try again next time, I solemnly swear to:

1. Use the alcohol the recipe calls for, or at least one that has a high alcohol content. Whiskey was probably indicated for that very reason…

2. Drain the peaches before trying to set them on fire; there was a lot of runoff liquid from reducing the peaches in the pan. Liquid isn’t always an asset, especially when it comes to playing with fire!

3. See where the next attempt takes me!

Welcome to the culinary adventure!

September 19, 2009

I often find myself watching those high-stakes cooking competitions at home, you know the type– Chopped! (where you get three or four ingredients to make an entree, appetizer or dessert), Iron Chef America (all out, no holds barred, culinary battle royale hosted by my idol the great Alton Brown), and the Next Food Network Star (a dozen or so amateur food enthusiasts fight in true reality show style to become the next personality on the food network and win their own regular slot on the network) and I begin wishing that I was amongst their ranks.  During all these [not-so] wasted hours of television, I find myself inspired. I watch Alton, Bobby, Aaron, Guy, Giada, and yes, even figure skating star Brian Boitano prepare all those tasty meals and find myself saying to myself “hey, I could do that!”.

I decided finally, to do it. Putting my money where my mouth is, I am embarking on this culinary blog– an amateur’s experiments in food; photographed and documented (with snarky commentary compliments of the [almost] chef) for your enjoyment and your forewarning (in many cases).

Bon Apetit!