2.27.2008

February 24 - Turkish delight cupcakes (kinda)

I love you, Kitchen Aid.

These cupcakes were brought to you by my beautiful new hand mixer. Let me just say this: in a cagematch knockdown-dragout-fight to the death between Kitchen Aid and Black & Decker, Kitchen Aid kicks Black & Decker in the balls.

I decided I wanted to try to make Turkish Delight themed cupcakes - a rosewater flavored cake with pistachio frosting. Why would I do this? To utilize my other new toy, of course! Food processor power!!

So first: the rosewater cake.

1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch Kosher salt
3 eggs (room temp)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp rosewater (I would use more next time)
6 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together. Beat eggs until homogeneous, add sugar and beat until mixture lightens. Bring rosewater and milk to a boil in a small pan. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, mix until just incorporated then add hot liquid in a steady stream. Stir in butter and vanilla. Fill cups just past half full, bake 17 minutes or until tops are springy to the touch and toothpick comes out clean.

Spring has sprung! Into my cupcake pan!

My rosewater flavor didn't come out as much as I would have liked, but the flavor was still nice. Like a lightly sweet yellow cake. The texture was also a bit tough, but I suspect I may have over mixed the batter after I added the flour. I was probably a little overexcited about my new handmixer. And who wouldn't be? It's beautiful!

Quite a nice rise, I think.

Ok, now for the frosting:

1 1/4 cups half and half
3/4 cup unsalted pistachio nuts (more on that later)
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks (room temp)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1/3 (ish) cup confectioner's sugar

Bring half and half and pistachios to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand one hour. Beat sugar, yolks, and flour until light yellow and well mixed. Bring half and half mixture back to a simmer and gradually incorporate hot mixture into yolk mixture. Return all to saucepan and put over medium heat until mixture bubbles thickly. Transfer to food processor, add vanilla, and process until pistachios are finely chopped. Refrigerate for two hours. Beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, then gradually incorporate pistachio cream. Add confectioner's sugar until desired sweetness is reached.

Like a pistachio hot tub.

Apparently it's unheard of to want unsalted pistachios. Why wouldn't you want salt? Salt is so delicious! Sigh. So after scouring the grocery store, I settled on a bag of shelled, roasted, salted pistachio nuts. And I rinsed them off. Yes, it's ghetto. I know. But you know what? It worked. So shut up.

I heart food processor.

The frosting turned out beautifully, really. The pistachio flavor was great, and it wasn't crunchy at all. The sweetness was there, but subtly so. I felt it was a very sophisticated cupcake. If such a thing exists.

For some reason I thought they'd be green.

While the Turkish Delight thing didn't really come through, the cakes were certainly tasty and somewhat unique. I think people were surprised at the flavor and mild sweetness of the frosting. I wouldn't change a thing about the frosting. More rosewater next time. The end!

2.24.2008

February 20 - French food, processed food

So beautiful.

Happy! I've taken another step towards becoming a decent home cook - I've gotten myself a shiny new food processor. It's a thing of beauty, to be sure. It came with 2 work bowls and a ton of attachments. It's my new favorite toy. Thank you, Macy's, for putting it on sale at a questionably low price.

You can imagine how difficult it was for me to make it through my work day while dreaming of my new food processor. I was counting down the hours until I could go home and play with it. Lucky for me, Ron and I had plans to head to Belle Epicurean for lunch.

I should have had one of each.

I'd been hearing about this little French patisserie/cafe for a while, and was pretty excited to try it out. Fighting my urge to just order a bunch of pastries and gorge, I perused the lunch menu and decided on something sensible. Well, sensible for French food.

I went with the ham feuillette, which is basically a brioche cup filled with ham and gruyere cheese, mingling with an herbed bechamel sauce. Translation: butter butter ham butter cheese butter and butter. It was delicious.

Don't let the salad fool you.
This is not a healthy lunch.

Ron went with something ever so slightly less buttercentric. The fool. I guess it still looked good: a deviled egg salad on a croissant with a side of the house mushroom soup. I was kind of bummed that it's the only soup they offer, since mushrooms taste like dirt to me, but I got over it. The salad was fresh and tasty, and I pretended not to notice the pleasure with which Ron slurped his soup.

Better than the egg salad in your lunchbox.

Feeling that I had not quite tripled my suggested butter intake for the day, I got a berry. . . pastry. . . thing. I don't remember what it's called. I just know that it was delicious when I got to eat it at work later. My cubicle buddy was, undoubtedly, green with envy. And I didn't share even a little bit.

Making the office just a bit more bearable.

At long last - food processing time! I decided to take full advantage and process some onions - which usually make me cry like a neglected child of divorce. It worked like a dream.

You'll best me no longer, onion fumes!

I decided to make ground pork patties - something my parents used to make with rice noodles and lettuce for family lunches. I took about a pound and a half of boneless pork ribs and sliced em up good.

Pork: food of the gods.

Then the cool part: I dropped them into my shiny new food processor and the came out lookin like this:

Minced meat!

I then put my freshly savaged pork in a bowl with my processed red onion, some salt, pepper, msg, and fish sauce, and squished it all around. I shaped this squish into patties and tossed them into a pan on medium heat.

Mmmm. Char.

Ideally, I would have had rice noodles and lettuce to eat these little guys with, but I didn't plan this very well. I opted instead to serve them up with rice and cucumber, as well as the secret sauce. You want secret sauce? Fine

1/2 cup plus a bit more fish sauce
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
squeeze lemon juice
chiles to taste

Mix it all up. It's delicious with lots of stuff. Like this for instance.

Ignore the magnetic ribbons.
Focus on the food.

It was equally tasty in my bento box the next day.

2.21.2008

February 17 - Envy, failure, and devil's food

Is lusting after kitchen appliances wrong?

As an urban dweller, there are many things I appreciate about my nearly adult lifestyle. My proximity to shopping, drinking, dancing, and varied and delicious foods is fantastic. This is why I've compromised a bit on the square footage of my hip Capitol Hill pad. Most noticeably in the bathroom and the kitchen. My kitchen storage space is nearly nonexistent. I have therefore been unable to possess the object of my desire: a stand mixer.

I could write poems about its beauty.

So when my friend Diane asks if we can bake together, I say, "hell yeah!" Why would I pack up and leave my familiar (if cramped) kitchen to bake across town? Well, the lovely company is one element, but my beautiful friend Diane also owns a fire-red super-sexy stand mixer.

Beat that batter. Beat it hard.
Yeah. . . that's right.

So I decided to try making devil's food cupcakes - a recipe I've never tried out before.

2 cups flour (I used self-rising, but I think next time I'll use cake)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened (Dutch process) cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (maybe less next time - not sure)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (room temp)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugar. Add all other ingredients except for eggs, mix on high for two minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mix batter until just incorporated. Fill cups halfway, bake about 18 minutes or until tops spring back when touched and toothpick comes out clean.

I'm used to filling cups 2/3 to 3/4 full, and having them rise in nice domes. This recipe behaved much differently than the others I've recently tried - when we filled them 2/3ish they waaaay overflowed their paper confines.

Oh no! Too full!

The tops ended up spreading out like cookies, and being just as flat. The cakes themselves were incredibly light. I am thinking I over chemically-leavened. Apparently self-rising flour is not for every recipe. Sigh.

Fallen. Just like my dreams.

After the first batch puffed and fell, we wised up and filled only halfway, resulting in properly sized cupcakes.

That's better! I guess.

I decided to go with a mint buttercream on top of these cakes - kind of like a baked hockey night. Or. . . . girlscout thin mints. Or ande's mints. Or that stuff that my dentist used to polish the plaque off my teeth.

Ah, the possibilities of mint-chocolate!

1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp peppermint extract

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add 3 cups sugar in batches, alternated with milk/extract mixture. Add the rest of the sugar until desired texture/sweetness is achieved.

Look into the frosting. You'll see your future.

I would have added a teensy bit of green food coloring to make things pretty, but we didn't have any on hand.

So these were a bit of a disappointment. The flavor was great - dark and chocolately - but the consistency was all off. Waaaay too light, but at least they were moist. I also didn't add enough sugar to my frosting, I think, but again - the flavor was there. I would totally do this again, with a few adjustments.

Use your imagination.

But just imagine how cute these would have been with green pastel frosting and those little edible silver beads - French dragees. Those things are awesome.

2.17.2008

February 15th - Hot Dogs, Hip Hop, and Sushi

Crafty temptress!

I have to confess to something very un-American: I don't like hot dogs. Don't get them. Historically, the only time I've eaten and enjoyed a hot dog is while camping, and that's only because I go into survival mode and feel that I should eat anything foodlike to keep up my strength. I'm not very good at camping, really. Not much of an outdoorsman. Anyway.

I work in downtown Seattle, right by Westlake Center, and Dog In The Park is right outside the door to my office. Every time I walk outside, the scent of sizzling beef/pork/meatlike tubes is wafting about, mingled with caramelized onions and boredom. Well, that last part is probably my job, but after three months of being scent-assaulted by these dogs, I decided I would eat one.

Apparently the secret is slicing then in half.
Shhhh.

I ordered a Spicy Louisiana Dog - it was. . . okay. The spicy was good, the toasty from maximum grill exposure was good, the caramelized onions and various condiments were good but. . . . it was still a hot dog. And I still don't really like hot dogs. Sigh. Hopefully I can remember that in the future when I have to walk by the delicious (in theory) dogs.


It's a dog.

That night was a special one - I had an RSVP to a Yelp Elite Event at the Moore Theatre. It began with a cocktail party and ended with a hip-hop choreography show featuring Kriss Kross. Yes, the Kriss Kross. Backwards clothing and everything. It was kind of awesome. Unfortunately, I have no picture of the awesome. As our tickets were free, they were also in the nosebleed section. Plus, I wasn't sure if we were supposed to have cameras. So here's a picture of the preceding cocktail party.

Charlie and Tommy. They suspect me.

After we got served, we headed over to Kisaku to get some delicious raw fishes.

We started out with what I usually very much enjoy with my sushis: sunomono. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the one I'm used to (from my fav neighborhood sushi joint, Sushi Maki, consisting of cucumber and octopus only). I don't generally like seaweed in salads, and the dressing on this wasn't bright enough for me. The octopus was good, though.

Octo-pie!

The rest of the meal was fish-tastic. We got a seared fatty tuna with mushroom stuff. The tuna was amazingly tender. Perhaps due to the fatty.

Tuna, vegetable, and mashed potatoes?

David and Diane insisted upon the next dish - sauteed geoduck. It was rich and briney and chewy-licious.

It's not jee-oh-duck.

The sushi itself was pretty delicious. We got a few nigiri: amber jack (don't remember that one), squid (didn't try it, but it looked. . . shiny), flounder (mild and sweet, quite tasty), wild sockeye salmon (I LUVS THE SALMON), and yellowtail (mmm). I also didn't try the spicy tuna roll, but it looked huge and big.

MONSTER ROLLS!!!

After shoving all that raw fish in my face, I could scarcely stand the thought of dessert. So we ordered some.

We got some kind of panna cotta with a passion fruit syrup and chopped strawberries. It was smooth and creamy and mildly delicious.

Little. Yellow. Different.

The other one was a house specialty - Kisaku potato. Potato dessert? Sounds like my dream! And it was. . . . pretty good. Sweet potato in a crispy shell dusted with powdered sugar, accompanied by ice cream, red bean, and strawberry. The presentation was lovely, but I actually thought the potato innards were a bit lacking in flavor. And I was expecting them to be purple, but that's not really their fault.

Aww. . . so pretty!

Overactive evening - leading to a weekend of unsuccess. I may or may not post my semi-fail devil's food cupcakes with mint buttercream frosting. Time will tell.

2.16.2008

February 14 - Of romance and anti-romance

Will anybody have a PBR light? Anybody?

Happy Valentine's day!

I've never been big on couple-y celebration of Valentine's day. It's an excuse for restaurants to double their prices and make you wait for a table. Blah. I'll skip it, thanks.

But I did go out for lunch - to Matt's in the Market. It's a very popular little spot overlooking Pike Place Market. I've been warned many times of how irritating the wait for a table is, so we went in after the lunch rush on a weekday to avoid waiting list-induced rage.

Oyster sandwich: squishable!

Moos went for the fried oyster sandwich. I thought it was a strange concept, but I guess it's a southern thing. Go figure. He said it was tasty, but as far as texture goes, a conceptual fail. Squishy oysters on soft bread just doesn't make for a successful sandwich. I'm not a big oyster fan, so it failed even more to impress me.

We both went with the seafood chowder. A solid salmon-filled soup, but it pales in comparison to Pike Place Chowder's offerings.

Grilled pork sandwich: craveable!

What did impress me was my sandwich - the grilled pork tenderloin sandwich. It did seem sad to go to Matt's and not get something from the sea, but frankly their lunch menu is a little lackluster in terms of seafood. And I'm glad I went with the pork. It was tender and spicy, with melty mild Oaxacan cheese on delightfully toasty bread. It is a masterful sandwich - one to rival Paseo. Well, maybe not rival, but it's a good downtown alternative.

On to the evening's festivities!

Featuring the gayest DJ in the world.

In the spirit of V-D, we went to The Stranger's Valentine's Day Bash. The concept: people bring in mementos of failed relationships and have them destroyed on stage. Catharsis for all people. People like Sean.

Closure: simmer for 4-6 hours and serve.

Sean's ex-girlfriend brought this crock pot to his house one night. He made her dinner in it and then she broke up with him. What better way to bid her adieu than to allow Dan Savage to smash this symbol of her wenchery with a sledgehammer?

Why did we break up?
She was a c***!

Sean told his story on stage, to many a sympathetic ear. And then. . .

To smithereens!
Take that!

While the evening was fun, all the stories of love lost began to wear on us. So after nearly being beheaded by a flying, liquid nitrogen-soaked, stuffed lamb, we made a break for The Viking.

All in the wrist. . .

Where I learned that I suck at shuffleboard. Like every other bar sport. But with a belly full of cheesy gordita crunch and Tom Collins, I gave it my all.

The face of a loser's partner.

And dragged my partner down in a bitter 20-9 defeat. Sorry, Ian. Ah well, there's always next time.

And next year! Maybe I could find something in my lovelorn past that's just begging to be dismembered by a machete-wielding Dan Savage.

Machete Valentine 2: The Reckoning.

2.13.2008

February 12 - For the haters and for SFA

I don't know what issues you people have with trust, but fine. Here. I had two people I'm not even remotely related to taste my latest culinary experiment: the banana peanut butter cupcakes with brown sugar marshmallow frosting.

Urge to vomit? No. . . .

And after Monique managed to keep hers down, Kris sampled my wares.

I guess she didn't vomit. . .

Happy? I assure you, nobody vomited.

Jeez.

Ok, now STFU.

So after my neighbors enjoyed the cupcakes I'd baked, we headed off to see Holy Fuck and Super Furry Animals. While I hadn't heard of the first band before, I've been a big fan of SFA since I was in high school. Their songs make me happy. I was pretty pleased to finally have a chance to see them live.

But first - Holy Fuck!

Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

No, really, that's the name of the band. And I don't feel it really fits their music. Not that I could suggest a better name, I'm just sayin. I'm can't tell my grandmother how much I like them, you know?

But if I could, I'd tell her how much I like that Holy Fuck brought out a melodica. Damn I love melodicas.

Who doesn't love a melodica??

And here's something else I'd discuss: WTF was that thing the keyboard player on the left kept messing with? It looked like he was pulling film out of a projector. Does that make noise?

Now how are we going to learn
about mitosis?

And after he pulled the filmstrip out, he'd mess with these little toggles on the side of the apparatus. Does that make noise?

Spin it! Pull it! Bop it!

If anyone can tell me what he was up to here, please do. I've included a video for your review:

video
Mystery machine.

And then Super Furry Animals came out and rocked my world.

No, really, it sounds better this way.

So I really liked them. Their songs are so lovely . . . and their live performance felt really sincere. Like - hey guys, what's up. We're here to be subtly awesome. While wearing Power Ranger helmets.

Go Go SFA!!

I also got to play around more with my new camera. I took more pictures, but damn if this thing doesn't have a lot of buttons. It's so confusing. So very confusing. . .

My God. These carrots are delicious.

My only disappointment is that they didn't play Fire In My Heart, but I got over it quickly. I love that song, but I also love their other songs. Especially the ones in Welch, which is just a neat language. I once learned how to say, "Could I have a cup of tea?" in Welch, but it's gone the way of the state capitols and subjunctive tense.


Dyma ein hawr.

Beautiful.

I'll leave you with this photo I took of a roasted sucking pig. My favorite Asian BBQ place in ID was selling it by the pound for Tet. It was like tasting pork nirvana. You're jealous, admit it.

Take that, year of the pig!