Category Archives: Epicurious

Chocolate Cake

A wondrous gift of each session of The Academy is the hospitality of this particular retreat center. And one aspect of hospitality that has been handed down through the ages is… food. There is always a good selection of food here that we enjoy – centipedes notwithstanding, apparently!*

Last night there was a luscious, decadent, wonderful chocolate cake, with rich chocolate frosting and scattered chocolate chips. I took one slice – one, Lynn, just one! – with some fresh blueberries… the combination was just so wonderful. The blueberries melted with the frosting and chocolate chips into bliss.

I have no real comment beyond that there are times when a lovely bite of food is just an amazing thing…

*Someone had a centipede crawl out of a purple potato last night. I would think that could negatively impact your view of the food, but the table was laughing, so it must not have been too traumatic…

(Epicurious) Purple Pirate Potatoes

Tonight we had a new triumphant experiment: Purple Pirate Potatoes! It was a simple dish of mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower (a purple variety we picked up at the farmer’s market), and diced/mashed orange pepper and beets. I know it might sound weird, but it was really good!

Here’s how we made it (with alternative suggestions in parenthesis):

We had a head of purple cauliflower that I steamed/cooked in the microwave. I cut enough of the stem off for the floret to sit in a microwave safe container, put water in the bottom, then cooked it for 10 minutes. (See potato suggestion below for alternative for cooking it.) I mashed the cauliflower by hand. (I suggest running the cauliflower through a food processor. Mashing it by hand left the mixture a bit stringier than I would have preferred.)

We had in the fridge half a roasted orange pepper and half an oven roasted beet, already roughly diced. I diced the orange pepper more finely, and roughly chopped the beet into smaller bits. Then ran the mixture of the two through the microwave for a minute, melting a very little bit of butter on top, and mashed it with a hand potato masher. -Note: This portion is intentionally left a bit rough/chunky, in order to be the buried pirate treasure – rubies and gold!-

Although we don’t generally stock our pantry with them, we happen to have a few boxes of instant mashed potatoes that we inherited from some friends who moved. So I prepped and used half a box of herb & butter flavored instant potatoes. (An alternative suggestion that we’ll use in the future: we’ll boil the potato and cauliflower portion together in a pot. The cauliflower actually changes the water to a purple hue, which the potatoes will partially absorb. Makes one less dish to wash, too!)

Mix it all together, and enjoy! The potato/cauliflower mixture is a bright purple, and the bits of roasted orange pepper and beets give texture, some additional flavor, and add fun as you discover “gold” and “rubies!”

Lynn commented it had a slightly sweet flavor to it, Will enjoyed it (we all had two servings!), and we all had a bit more vegetables tonight as a result of it! 🙂

(As a subcategory on my blog, Epicurious entries are about my curiosity and love for food and cooking.)

Banana “ice cream”

Our best recurrent dish for this summer (late summer, anyway) has got to be, hands down, our banana “ice cream.”

Banana “ice cream” started as a healthier alternative for Will. Many months ago (6+), well before Will ever tried real ice cream – with its many yummy, but sugary, ingredients – Will regularly enjoyed his mommy’s banana “ice cream,” a simple combination of (1) banana and (2) milk lifted from two different cookbook sources*.

Lynn’s original method for making it was simple: take a frozen banana (usually we do this when the peels get mostly brown), let it sit out for 10 minutes, then mash with a fork and mix in a bit of milk until it is the right consistency. (This version comes from Chef Kathleen.) Lynn found an alternative, where we dump the frozen bananas into the food processor with some milk and let it run until we get the right consistency… you do have to hold on, the processor jumps around a bit at first!

This summer Lynn found a 40lb box of bananas for $3. A stellar deal, and so we have ample bananas in the freezer, so we’ve been having banana “ice cream” with other fruit on top – sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. And we’ve taken to mixing it with chocolate milk instead of regular (chocolate soy milk, actually). The consistency coming out of the food processor is just like real ice cream. It’s a fantastic, chilly snack for warm summer days

(And it doesn’t hurt that you can get amazing deals on fruit – including bananas (we saw a $1 40lb box today!) – at the Superstition Ranch Market in Mesa.)

*See Missy Chase Lapine’s book series The Sneaky Chef (website here) & Kathleen Dealemans’ Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen (website here).

(Epicurious) What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?

Earlier post has me wondering, and thought I’d pose the question:

What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?

and, while we’re at it, What was the worst?
Share your answers in the comments or over on my Facebook page. As for me…

The best thing I’ve ever eaten: Shrimp Scampi, at a small restaurant in Luxembourg. My fellow student-teachers and I were taken there one evening for a celebration meal, ostensibly because they had great Paella. But the scampi stole the show for me – huge prawns, cooked to perfection – likely in butter, white wine, and garlic, but I’m not really sure. Wish I could remember the name of the place off the top of my head – Chez Something or Other. It catered to the Luxembourg royalty, and was excellent. Best food I’ve ever eaten.

The worst thing I’ve ever eaten: hands down, smoked eggplant. My own error. First, eggplant can be grilled – as a vegetable it would cook very well with a quick sear on the grill. However, I tried to slow smoke it. And I didn’t know how to properly smoke yet, so mostly I just overcooked it and “sooted” it instead of smoking it. The end result was an ash encrusted mush that couldn’t be considered food anywhere in the world. Lynn and I ate one bite each – I’m not even sure we swallowed. Our german exchange student, bless her heart, tried to eat it. She really tried, well beyond what we did…

So, what’s yours? Best? Worst?

(Epicurious) Parsnips, Shitake, & Tofu

“What’s the plan for dinner?” That’s probably one of the most common questions around here these days – next to “is she sleeping?” and “good God, what is that?” And, true to form, the question arose again this evening when the intended pork ribs were still resting in their unintended deep freeze marinade (read “frosted”)…

Hmm, thought the bedraggled but culinar-ally curious husband. Run to the market, find some lean meat on sale? Find a good side veggie? What’s in the fridge right now? A couple parsnips… maybe could pair that with, I don’t know, broccoli?

Alas, a trip out of the house was not in store for our epic hero this eve, and so instead he consulted the pantry and came up with a small list of potential ingredients.

Leaf lettuce.
Dehydrated shitake mushrooms.
Firm tofu – don’t ask.
Parsnips.
Bean thread noodles.
Jalepeños. (Yes, I know that one of these things is not like the others…)

I had the ingenius idea – or sad brain fart – of trying to make some form of lettuce wrap. But I didn’t want tofu with the consistency of ground beef, so I needed to do something to firm it up. So how about an initial dredge in seasoned flour, egg wash, and second dredge in said flour?

I seasoned some flour (salt, pepper, nutmeg, curry – though it turned out kind of bland). Sliced the tofu into small rectangular pieces, four stacks. Dredged two stacks less one piece with flour, egg, and flour – did one piece without egg. Let the rest sit stacked after a single dredge – and discovered that as they sat, the salted flour mixture pulled out enough moisture from the tofu to make the egg wash unnecessary. So the second two stacks went back into the flour sans egg wash. So the tofu squares – or “nuggets” as we described them to Will! – came out in two styles: the egg battered ones had a slightly thicker batter on them, but the batter puffed up a bit; the non-egg washed ones had the same color and crispness, but no puffiness.

Okay. Tofu (why did we have that in the fridge?) was cooked/cooking. Had some extra egg wash and flour and so I thought, why not?, and deep fried a few jalepeño slices. Mmmm. Could eat these all day. Oh, wait, I have to cook for the other two…

Took the mushrooms out of their soak (and was disappointed that they didn’t all soak all the way through), sliced them roughly, and threw them into a skillet to cook with the parsnips, bean thread noodles, some red & orange pepper, and a teriyaki sauce over high heat. Oh, darn, should have started the parsnips first…

So the whole thing didn’t turn out stellar… Although I did use the lettuce to “wrap” mine, Lynn forwent that – the ‘shroom & parsnip mixture was a bit too chunky, perhaps…

But I do have to say that I was struck by how well the parsnip and shitake flavors mingled together. Were I to do it again, I’d julienne the parsnips a bit finer and sweat them a bit before adding the shitake; I’d also julienne the ‘shrooms rather than just slice them. The bean threads would have added a nice crunch if I had deep fried them – but the oil was not looking pretty anymore, so I wasn’t going near it again. On their own, they didn’t really add much to the combination…

Overall, it was good – and, again, I was struck by the combination of parsnips and shitake mushrooms. I wouldn’t have thought of that before. Sometimes having no clear plan in mind, and experimenting with what’s in the kitchen, doesn’t turn out too badly!

And Will loved the nuggets, both styles. Ate them better than he eats chicken nuggets – 7 of them! Course, he had ketchup on them, too…

(As a subcategory on my blog, Epicurious entries are about my curiosity and love for food and cooking.)