Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe Geek Extreme Edition: Chocolate Almond Pie, aka Vomit Pie

Sometimes I go overboard when I try new recipes, and make stuff that just doesn't work out. Usually this happens when I am trying to cook something extra nice for a special occasion, like the Valentine's Day Steak Disaster. Last weekend I made chocolate-almond pie in honor of my mom's birthday. It sounded so good - the filling was supposed to taste like cannolli filling, and contained ground almonds, ground chocolate, mascarpone and ricotta cheese, and whipping cream. The filling was put inside a cookie crumb crust and chilled. I improvised and made a crust out of some leftover biscotti. That part worked well, at least.
The proportions and order of addition for the filling seemed a bit off, but since i don't make a lot of pie fillings I ignored my instincts. Making matters worse, I messed around with the recipe and scaled it up slightly non-proportionately. It tasted great, but had the color and texture of vomit. It was kind of curdled, rather than smooth and creamy I filled the pie crust and chilled it. It firmed up but still looked nasty.

I covered it with grated chocolate. It looked slightly better but was still disappointing.

It tasted ok, but even the combination of cannolli-filling and biscotti flavors couldn't offset the weird texture.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recipe Geek: Noodles with Red Curry Almond Sauce

It should come as no surprise that I enjoy reading cooking blogs. 101 recipes is one that I like. It's all vegetarian, mostly vegan, but the blog is well written and there are some interesting recipes. This week's was soba noodles with almond sauce. It sounded good and I'm a big sucker for noodles with nut based sauces, having subsisted on noodles with thai peanut sauce and tofu in my grad schools years. $2.50 bought a big portion from the food truck - it was enough for lunch and dinner. You can still get similar lunches there, although the price has risen to a whopping $4. $1.50 bought a massive slice of spinach pizza, which was my other favorite lunch. I was mostly vegetarian back then. But enough of my grad school nostalgia.
Now, one of my problems with the 101 recipes recipes is that they usually call for unusual ingredients. Believe it or not, I had most of the ingredients for this recipe*, save for the pea shoots. I decided to substitute baby spinach instead. Upon closer inspection, my soba noodles really weren't soba, but that wasn't a big deal. I cooked them up and then made the sauce, which contains almond butter, red chili paste, water and lemon juice. I wasn't paying close attention to the recipe, so I misread the amount of red curry paste to add. I added 3 tablespoons instead of two teaspoons. Ooops. Fortunately for me, my red chili paste is fairly wimpy. The sauce was very red and moderately spicy. I mixed it with the noodles and braised the tofu and spinach. It was tasty, and only a slight bit too spicy. (Disclaimer-I did eat a bowl of jello to quell the burn). If I were to do it again, I'd add less curry paste and would maybe add some ginger and sesame oil, because everything tastes better with ginger and sesame oil. I'd probably also go back to using peanut butter, since it reminds me of grad school.

*it was purely random that I had all the ingredients, but I guess it's like the proverbial monkeys typing - given enough time and they'll replicate Shakespeare's works, and given enough time I'll have all the ingredients for a 101 recipes recipe.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tomato Geek

As most of you probably know, I'm a little bit obsessive about my tomato plants. I plant about 6-8 plants per year, mostly heirloom with a few early hybrids thrown in for good measure. I'll plant a few token squash,eggplant, herb and pepper plants, but they all play second fiddle to the tomatoes.
My dad is pretty much the same way about his tomatoes, so we have a friendly competition. The two main differences between us are that he only plants hybrids, and that his garden has a lot more sun. So the typical outcome is that he gets a lot more tomatoes, but my plants are bigger and my tomatoes have more flavor
Because I was out of town for five weekends in a row, I was very late in planting them this year. As usual, I planted them in a rich mixture of dirt and aged manure, with an added dose of abalone guts for good measure. They grew like gangbusters right from the start, but it wasn't enough to make up for lost time. It's currently early July, and it'll be at least three weeks until I get rip tomatoes. That's about a month behind schedule. Its been relatively cool so far this year, so that hasn't helped things. My dad isdefinitely winning the tomato competition so far this year.
Nonetheless, I have high hopes for my tomatoes. I've got a lot of interesting hybrids I haven't tried before, including several purple varieties, such as Black Trifele and Black Krim, as well as "Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato" (a big orange variety) and something called "Red Fig", which makes small pear shape tomatoes which can be dried in sugar to makes sort of a fake fig. Not that I'm going to do that. The big tomatoes don't have much fruit - it's been too cool for them to set much fruit. I'll report back on the results once the fruit is ripe.
If you're a tomato geek like me, the tomatofest web site is a fun way to waste time.