Friday, January 30, 2009

Philly Diner - Belgian waffle

So, I walk a couple of blocks to the grocery store every weekend. On the way, I pass by this diner - which is the only 24-hour diner in the immediate vicinity, a fact that doesn't go unappreciated by the college student population surrounding it. In fact... I have a very clear memory of my first time eating there, during orientation week, like around midnight. Good times.

Anyway. Paid a revisit in the daytime with Haine.

I'm not endorsing this restaurant, by the way. Just documenting. It's not that great. In fact, it's kinda bad. They do eggs and sandwiches okay.

In an unknown or questionable diner, I always find a Belgian waffle to be a safe bet. And that is what I ordered:

It has a Liberty Bell in the middle! Awww.

It's good if it's late and there's nowhere else you can go. It's good if you're hankering for some pancakes and eggs. Otherwise... not so much! Haha.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amish Apple Dumpling

So as opposed to so-called "Amish" friendship bread, apple dumplings are actually a typical Amish dessert. I love to get them from the farmer's market by my school.

This is a good way to use a disc of pie dough if you want to try something different.

Start off by making a syrup by boiling brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, butter, and water.

Peel and core 3 apples. You don't really need a special tool to core an apple. If you have the straight kind of simple peeler, and then you can use the tip to poke in and twist.

Make sure your apples are pretty dry (otherwise they'll melt the dough). Cut an 8 inch by 8 inch square (approximately) out of the pie dough. Stuff pieces of butter and brown sugar and cinnamon inside the apple. It doesn't matter if it doesn't all fit or if it spills over, since it's going to leak out anyway.

Wet the edges of the dough with water, then wrap the apple, pinching the seams tightly together.

Place the wrapped apples in a greased baking dish. Take the syrup (which should be cool now), and brush the dumplings all over. Be generous. (Actually, the normal recipe says to pour the syrup over the dumplings, but I thought that seemed a bit excessive.)

While the dumplings baked, I occasionally "basted" them with more syrup.

And there you go! Like a little fat apple pie.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Curry bento (15)

Another one from the archives. I'll finish posting all these eventually!

On the left, Japanese curry and rice. I made the curry out of those Golden Curry instant packs, and I've never had them before, but they're kinda... sweet! They're even sweeter than Chinese curry. Not very spicy, even though I got the "medium" flavor one. I added onion, carrots, potato, and a crumbled-up soy burger. Yaay.

In the middle, cucumber slices and a couple of grape tomatoes. Also, a little bit of Chinese sponge cake. On the right, some rice crackers and supremed orange segments.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Poached eggs

Okay, I admit it - sometimes I just like to take pictures of food. Eggs are quite pretty! And delicious. Like so:

Poached eggs are admittedly difficult. Well, they are for me - I don't know about you! I'm giving you what few pointers I know (because I have yet to truly perfect the poached egg) and walk you through it.

So take a room temperature egg, and break it carefully into a small dish. Don't break the yolk! That's the best darned part.

Okay, I have no photos of this next bit, because it was difficult enough to monitor my poor egg while taking pictures, too. But bring a pot of water (give yourself quite a few inches) right up to a boil but not quite there -- when you see the bubbles start forming for the boil, you're good to go.

Using the handle end of your slotted spoon, make a whirlpool in the water. Sort of... slowly drizzle the egg into the swirling water. It'll look like a mess for a little while, but stick with it. Encourage the swirling or push the whispy egg whites in as necessary. (This is where I always mess up, because a lot of my egg whites just cook and... float away.)

My final product (minus a bit of egg white...):

Now you have poached eggs to do what you will. But sometimes simple is the best! My favorite is just on toast. So let that dry while you toast a slice of bread.

I like the bread to become the plate. So I butter the bread, place the egg on, salt and pepper, and poke it to let the yolk come out.

I eat up most of the egg. And then I smash the remaining bits around:

Eggs and toast. Yay!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Banana Cream pie

Bananas layered with brown sugar pastry cream, topped with whipped cream, in a pastry crust.

So I had some leftover pie dough that I needed to use before I went back to school. Nothing seemed to be presenting itself as a filling, until I spotted some ripening bananas in the fruit basket. And so, we're doing the comedy staple: banana cream pie.

Start off with egg yolks.

Which are mixed together with brown sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and hot milk.

You cook it over the stove, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and thickens into a custard. It'll look something like this:

The custard needs to chill, so let the bowl rest inside a bigger bowl of ice and cold water, and whisk it occasionally to keep it from developing a skin. (Alternatively, you could put the custard in the fridge, but make sure to place some plastic wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming.)

A banana cream pie filling is not baked (it's a cold pie), so you need to blind bake the crust before. A good time to do this is while your custard is chilling.

So fit the pie dough over your pie plate. Butter a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it, butter side down, over the pie dough.

Pour some sort of weights into the pie dish to keep the crust from puffing up. You can buy weights for this, but dry beans or uncooked rice work just fine. There is no shortage of uncooked rice in a Chinese household.

So bake that and let it cool.

Then, the fun part! Spread some pastry cream over the bottom of the pie crust. Layer on slices of banana.

Keep going, alternating pastry cream and banana layers until you get to the top.

Then, whip up some heavy cream and a little bit of sugar and vanilla to make whipped cream. Spread it all over like you would icing on a cake.

You can eat it straight-away or let it chill out in the fridge for a bit.

The keep time is kinda iffy because the whipped cream starts to dry out and deflate after a while. But with a tasty pie like this, you shouldn't have to worry about that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cheddar Cheese biscuits

Biscuits are pretty easy to make if you just take a few extra minutes to prep the dough. Seriously, they're one of the easiest baked goods to make - how else did they get on the dinner table, every day, for generations? So I don't want to hear any more about biscuits that come out of a cardboard tube, ya hear?

First, whisk around your flour, baking powder, and salt. (You don't even have to sift!) Then, cut some cold butter into bits. You can shortcut this by grating the cold butter on a cheese grater (I've shown you this before). But I couldn't find my cheese grater, alas, so I just cut the butter into bits.

Then, using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour. This sounds weird, but go with it. It's not a baking euphemism -- literally, rub the butter between your fingers. Just make sure all the bits of butter are covered and incorporated.

Then, pour in your buttermilk, or milk.

Toss the mixture together with a fork, until it starts to clump together. Then, add the shredded cheddar cheese. I like to use sharp cheddar here, because the flavor comes through better.

Mix all that together, and knead the dough a couple of times until it all pulls together like this:

Using a light touch (you don't need to knead it to death), flatten the dough out with a rolling pin until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. You know how it goes: press, turn, and pop out.

The biscuits, ready to go into the oven. (And yes, I know, I am wasting trees by using parchment paper here, but I have a whole roll in my kitchen that no one is using.)

And there you go. In 15 minutes, you've got hot biscuits for dinner.

Remember, no more eating out of cardboard tubes!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Smashed Avocado sandwich

Sometimes the simple things are the best. Putting together the right combination of the best ingredients makes for a great simple meal.

So take an avocado.

When picking avocados, go for the ones with dark skin. It's probably best to pick the firmer ones in the store (less likely to bruise or smush during transport) and be patient and let them ripen fully at home (let them sit at room temperature). An avocado is ready to eat when you give it a squeeze in your hand and you feel it give a little.

Toast some of your favorite bread (I like the seven grain wheat bread for this one - nutty breads work well with this). Halve the avocado, and scoop out one half onto the hot toast.

You can store the other half until you're ready to use it. Just squeeze some lemon over it (to keep the avocado from turning color), pop it in a plastic baggie, and put it in the fridge.

Smash the avocado and spread it around the toast. Sprinkle on some salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of a nice olive oil.

Close up your sandwich, serve with some chips (and I like a good tart orange juice as well), and you've got yourself a great little lunch. If you move fast, the toast will still be hot -- and that's just a beautiful thing.

Sure, it doesn't sound like a lot, but something about the combination of the nutty, buttery avocado with the sweet olive oil and the hot crunchy toast... It's a sandwich I've come to love. (Romaine lettuce and plum tomatoes also make great additions.)