Monday, July 30, 2012

Random Recipes 15.02

I suppose I'll qualify this by saying that random recipes is different from haute cuisine in that random recipes will pertain to everyday type dishes, and haute cuisine will be more elaborate or unique or aesthetic.  So, without further ado...

We got a box of miscellaneous produce recently, including eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a bunch of summer squash.  Tons of other things, but this is what we did with them...

1) Cucumber sandwiches:  8oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tbsp chopped dill, garlic and onion powder.  Mix, spread on bread, place a single slice of cucumber on each piece, garnish with more cream cheese mixture and a sprig of dill, and dust with paprika.

2) Bruschetta: Diced tomatoes (cored, seeded), diced basil, olive oil/salt/pepper to taste - serve on slices of baguettes

3) Eggplant Parmesan: 2 eggplants, sliced, coated with skim milk and then bread crumbs (2 cups, mixed with  ~1 tsp of oregano, thyme, basil), baked on greased/sprayed cooking sheets for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees.  Remove from oven.  In a 9x13 baking pan, put a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of eggplants, then a layer of sauce, then a layer of mozzarella cheese, then repeat eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella cheese until using up the ingredients - then add a layer of grated parmesan on top, about 1/8 cup.  Bake at 375 for 40 minutes until bubbling and browned.

4) Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte with Parmesan: Mix 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup Asiago), plus 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, onion and garlic powder (1/2 tsp each), 3/4 tsp white pepper, and 2 tbsp flour.  Slice a bunch of potatoes (about 2 pounds) and summer squash (about same amount) into 1/8 inch slices.  Butter the bottom of the pan, you can use pie tins or anything really, and start with a layer of potato, then squash, then drizzle a little olive oil and add a thin layer of the cheese mixture.  Repeat again, potato-squash-cheese.  Finish with a layer of potato on top, press down to compact a bit, then add a final layer of cheese.  Bake for 40-70 minutes, cover first with tin foil then remove halfway through.  Bake until potatoes are tender and cheese on top is sufficiently crisp/browned.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wine 16.01

Okay, I suppose this category has been a long time coming.  Amazing to think that perhaps 2 short years ago I essentially refused to drink wine, and now I drink it almost every day, go to Napa regularly for tasting, and am now on my second wine club.  The first was Sattui, which was pretty good, and now Hess - the maker of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon (Allomi vineyard).  We like a lot of varieties - and I tend to go through phases regarding the reds - but one of our staples has always been Riesling.  Ever since we discovered Riesling wines at Sattui in Napa, and subsequent bottles of Chateau St. Michelle at Safeway, Rieslings have been our favorite white wine.  Not only does it taste great and is super affordable, but it's German in origin (we love German food, the language, the music, and the culture in general) and it's extremely versatile in food pairings.  

As far as red wines go, my fiance and I tend to differ in our tastes.  We usually agree on the Cabernet Sauvignons, but I am a fan of the fruitier reds, such as Zinfandels.  I also love Syrah and Petite Sirah, and went through a Merlot phase for a time.  Another grape I like is the Charbono and now the Carignan, a Spanish grape that is hard to find.  That is one of the things we love about the Hess winery - they make some small production varietals that you rarely see at the store, and they're all solid red wines.  

Anyhow, July has been chosen as the month of Rieslings, for some reason.  For more information, you can check out this website.  My fiance and I recently went to Hagafen cellars in Napa, and then to Brassica restaurant in St. Helena, because the restaurant was having a month of Rieslings special (a flight of 3 Rieslings, two German ones and one Napa).  The German rieslings have a distinct flavor - almost like mineral water vs softened water.  Anyhow, while perusing the list of restaurants on the website (and looking for affordable ones - Saison in San Francisco will not be in our price range for another 20 years...) I found Blackbird Kitchen and Bar in Sacramento.  They are offering a food and wine pairing, 3 Rieslings and 3 food pairings (mussels, trout, and peach cobbler) for 45 dollars per couple!  That's pretty affordable by our standards, so hopefully we'll have a chance to get out there in the next week or two.  

In the meantime, it being a hot summer day and all, I decided to open up one of our chilling Rieslings that we bought on a wine splurge at Bevmo.  This particular one is called Weingut Dr. Heyden Riesling 2009 Oppenheimer Sacktrager Auslese.  Most of the Rieslings we picked up from Bevmo were in the 15-20 dollar range, so this is more than we generally spend on wines that we haven't tasted at a winery.  Opened up the Dr. Heyden and it tastes great!  So now I have two others with twist tops in the refrigerator and we will sample from each of those as well.  The other two on the list are Monchhof Robert Eymael Mosel Slate Riesling-Spatlese, and the other is Kungfu Girl Riesling 2010 Washington State.  For those not familiar with Rieslings, their primary growing regions in the US are Washington (Colombia River Valley), some in Oregon, and fewer in California (mostly coastal).  I will list the tasting impressions from these three Rieslings below!

Weingut Dr. Heyden 2009 Oppenhyimer Sacktrager Auslese: Crisp, moderate sweetness, aroma of fresh apple.  Somewhat brisk feeling on the tongue, but smooth without a bite.  Flavor has hints of peach, honeysuckle, Fuji apple.  Short aftertaste, but medium-strong body.  Verdict:  Extremely good, would buy again.  Probably too sweet for those who prefer dry wines.

Monchhof Robert Eymael Mosel Slate Riesling-Spatlese: Slightly dry, moderate sweetness, aroma and flavor of green apple, slight tart flavor but not sour.  Short after taste, medium-light body.  Verdict: Quite good, but prefer the Dr. Heyden.

Kungfu Girl Riesling 2010 Washington State: Slightly dry, moderate sweetness, aroma and flavor of green apple, more tart and dry than the Monchhof, light body.  Verdict: Good but not my favorite.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Random Recipes 15.01

So, wild blackberries, if you have never tried them, are several standard deviations above store bought or typical cultivated blackberries as far as flavor and awesomeness.  I don't know why this is, but they are definitely different.  I used to pick blackberries at local patches all the time, and haven't done so in quite a while.  As luck would have it, we currently live near a lot of blackberry patches and I went out with my fiance yesterday and we picked about 2 pounds of blackberries.  With so many, I thought I might try my hand at making a pie.  I've only ever had a berry pie once before, so this was going to be interesting.  I made everything essentially from scratch, as follows:

Crust: 2 sticks butter (sliced and frozen), 2.5 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 6-8tbsp water - basically mix, I did it by hand, and then make two separate spheres and refrigerate for about an hour.

Filling: 3 tbsp corn starch, 4-5 cups blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp lemon juice - mix it all together

Covering: 1 egg, 1 tbsp water, sugar to a certain consistency - blend together separately until it has a somewhat grainy texture

It's pretty simple - roll one ball of the pie dough to about 11-12 inches in diameter for an 8-9 inch pie tin, I made it about 1/4 inch thick.  Put it in the pie tin.  Roll out the other dough ball, and cut strips about 1/2 - 3/4 inch wide, and 6-9 inches long.  Pour the filling into the pie.  Layer the dough strips across in an alternating fashion.  Take the egg-water-sugar mixture and paint the tops of the dough so it glistens a bit.  If you don't think the sugar is apparent enough, take some extra sugar and lightly dust the surface of the strips so it makes a coating.  

Oven at 400 degrees F, put in uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover with tin foil and put in another 20-30 minutes until you can see the surface of the filling sizzling or making a few bubbles.  

Take out, cool, enjoy.  

It passed the taste test now too - quite delicious.  Unfortunately I don't have much to compare it to, so who knows how good it really is, but the sweetest tastiest ripe wild fresh-picked blackberries I could find can't possibly be bad!  Nom nom nom.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Halloween 13.07

Another update on the Aperture Science Hand-held Portal Device - it is coming along.  I have the biggest parts all physically made.  It's about ready to put together but I need my fiance to figure out the LEDs.  The front ones will be a bit challenging - I'll have to run the wire underneath the center chamber and cover with electrical tape.  I'll have to adjust the widths of the circular bits holding the chamber in place.  The claws also look to be challenging as well.

I found my solution for filling in the tiny gaps in the shell was using gesso.  I've used it before but it brings back annoying memories of art class in high school.  Not that I was bad at it, I'm actually pretty decent with drawing and art in general, but being forced to do it my whole life by teachers and my mother has made me rather resent it.  Anyhow, using gesso has definitely smoothed the look of the small shell, so I'll continue with that.  Sand it then paint it one more time then spray paint it.

Here are the latest photos!  I also made a front mesh for the gun so it looks cool-ish.