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Food Photos

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slideshow is Up

Well, I updated the template and added a slide show of a bunch of photos of meals that myself, friends and my wife have eaten while on vacation. I also added pics of some of the meals I've cooked at home. The blog is still a work in progress, and I haven't really updated it in, oh, two years or so, but changes are on the way. I'll be adding captions to the photos soon, and likely some recipes as well.

Long Time No Blogging...

Well, I started this blog a couple of years ago intending to actually post on a regular basis, but obviously that hasn't happened. Anyway, I'm going to start posting here again, hopefully more often than not. I'll also be adding pictures to the blog within the next day or so.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

LOTS of Persian Food...

Okay, so my other computer is STILL being worked on, so pictures coming pretty soon but not today. Anyway, last weekend myself, significant other, friends and my sister got together to make Persian meal. There's a pretty large Iranian community in Southern California, actually, and just a couple of weeks ago they had a celebration for Persian new year, Now Ruz. As I hadn't had Persian food in a long time, and a co-worker wanted to experience a new cuisine, I decided to try my hand at some traditional recipes. Personally, I have no idea whether this meal is anything like what they eat today in Iran, but the food turned out pretty good nonetheless.

My first exposure to Persian food happened during my college years wherein some friends and an acquaintance, who happened to be Iranian, took us to a Persian restaurant. I remember the food being good, but as I had no idea what was what at the time, I stuck with chicken kebabs...which was pretty unadventerous, I know. Since then, though, I've been to a few Persian restaurants in Orange County, specifically Darya and Caspian. Both are good, though Caspian is the more affordable of the two, though Darya has more of that "fine dining" vibe.

So, what did we have at our meal? The dishes we made were Fesenjan, which was poultry (duck is apparently traditional, but we used chicken) and rice in a pomegranate and walnut sauce; a small salad with cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, lemon, and olive oil; borani, or a mashed eggplant and yogurt mixture; "jeweled rice," which consisted of basmati, various types of dried fruit (apricots, golden raisins, sour cherries, barberries and dates), saffron and chicken; onion-and-tomato marinated lamb kebabs; a yogurt sauce with garlic, cucumber, and mint; and an awesome chewy-yet-fluffy bread called Sangak that we bought at Wholesome Choice a Middle Eastern market in Irvine. By the way, the Sangak came in a...vast is the only word to describe it...sheet about 14 inches wide by 36 inches long, all for just bit more than $2. I also bought the majority of the ingredients I used at this market, too. For example, it's pretty tough to find pomegranate syrup in regular markets, and Wholesome Choice specializes in Middle Eastern ingredients. By the way, Wholesome Choice has an extensive food court serving Persian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican and American food, just in case you're in the area and are looking for something fast and a little different.

The Fesenjan was probably the most impressive dish I made, largely because the sauce, which is key to making this dish work, was far easier to make than I thought it would be. The Jeweled Rice also turned out far better than I expected, as I managed to get the crispy crust (called tah dig) on the bottom. Last time I tried to produce the crust the rice didn't turn out so well.

There will be pictures coming soon illustrating the steps, but in the meantime, here's the recipe for Fesenjan that I took from Claudia Roden's cookbook, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, and modified:

Rice:
2 cups of basmati rice
Enough water to fully cover the rice
A couple teaspoons of salt for the cooking water
A small pinch of saffron boiled in about 1/4 cup of water

Chicken:
2 lbs. of boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to fry the seasoned chicken in

Pomegranate Sauce:
1 whole onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
6 to 8 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup chicken stock

This recipe requires decent timing, as you don't want the sauce finished before the rice and chicken. The rice is pretty simple though I actually made it the traditional way, which is more labor intensive than just cooking the rice in twice as much water until it's the right texture.

For the rice, first rinse the rice 2 or 3 times in lukewarm water. A collander with a fine mesh works the best for this step and later in the process. Next, salt a large pot full of water and bring it to a boil. Add the rice. Cook the rice until it's almost done (you need to eat a couple of grains yourself to test it), just slightly underdone. While the rice is cooking, put the pinch of saffrod threads in the 1/4 of water and microwave it for about 1 minute. Next, drain the rice back into the collander in the sink and shake out the excess water. Using the now-empty pot, put it back on the stove, melt about a tablespoon of butter in it over low heat, and add the rice. Pour the saffron-infused water (threads and all) over the rice and put the lid on. Now, you let the rice steam itself (the liquid left in the rice will accomplish this) for 20-30 minutes.

If you're using a non-stick pan, the crust shouldn't stick when you're ready to take the rice out. However, if you're using a regular pot/pan, to get the rice crust (the tah dig) to unstick itself, run cold water over the bottom of the pan. That will loosen the crust and allow you to remove it without totally destroying it.

The chicken is very basic. First, chop up the chicken thighs into 2- 3-inch chunks. Season them with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Note that the above seasoning amounts are just suggestions. I found that although you could taste the seasonings a bit, the chicken flavor did come through, which is what I was going for. I didn't want the garlic and onion flavor to class too much with the sauce. Next, pour some olive oil in a large pan and turn the heat to medium low. When the pan and oil are hot, add the chicken and cook until the juices run clear.

For the sauce, saute the chopped onion in a little olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat until they are somewhat caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Next, toss in the chopped walnuts. Cook the walnuts with the onions for a couple more minutes and then add the chicken stock. To this mixture you want to add the pomegranate molasses and the sugar. You'll end up cooking this until the sauce coats a spoon, which on medium low heat on my stove took about 15 minutes. Be careful not to reduce it too much; you want a sauce, not some sort of pomegranate onion candy.

Okay, assembly and plating is pretty basic. First, get a platter big enough for all the rice and put the rice down as a base. Next, place the chicken on top of the rice. Put the sauce in a bowl on the side with a serving spoon. Let people help themselves to the chicken, rice and sauce. That's it. Enjoy. This recipe will serve about 4-6 people if you're not eating anything else with it, though I'd suggest a salad of some sort.

Friday, March 17, 2006

O.K. Computer?

Posting real fast from work. I'm not dead, but my computer still is. Will actually put new stuff up once I get the thing back (and functional).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Camera, but No Computer...

So I got an Olympus PowerShot 4.0 megapixel camera now, but my computer blew up last week. From what I was able to find out, a transformer in the area caught on fire and the resulting power surge fried something in my computer. Very odd, because it was plugged into a surge protector and everything else (the monitor, speakers, etc.) was fine. At any rate, I'm posting a short update from work. Pictures of cooking-related stuff and more posts to come in the near future (the computer should be fixed by Wednesday).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Robusta vs. Arabica...

I found this article online today. Interesting topic, as I always assumed that robusta beans always produced inferior coffee to arabica beans. Admittedly, my opinions is that of someone who has read (mostly) read articles in food magazines and from sources such as Peet's, Starbucks and Coffee Bean.

In other news, a digital camera is on the way, so there will actually be pictures up here soon. Yeah, I know I've sucked at updating this blog lately, but that's mainly because I enjoy posting recipes and cooking experiences more than anything else, and without some photos, the posts just don't do the recipes and the cooking process justice. Anyway, stay tuned, and as we say in the publishing industry, photos tk.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Coffee Conversation

There's an interesting conversation about weak vs. strong coffee and perceptions of the beverage in various parts of the world going on over at eGullet. Lots of agreement that Starbucks makes "burnt" not "strong" coffee.

Here's thelink.

Interesting stuff. eGullet's a great site for all kinds of food-related converation, by the way.

Oh yeah, wacky ad hoc lamb recipe I made the other night still to come.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Belated Cookie Recipe

Well, now that I've returned from the almost dead I have a couple of recipes to post. The first one is the classic "snowball cookie." I know that they show up on cookie platters everywhere around the holidays, but I figured I'd post this one here just because my family has been making them my entire life.

Snowball Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups of flour
2 sticks of unsalted butter (1 cup)
2 cups of chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar (however much you need to coat all the cookies)

Makes about 48 small cookies

Directions:

Okay, this recipe looks really simple, but a lot of online and print recipes I've read don't get the steps right. First, pre-heat the oven to about 350 degrees F. Next, use a mixer to cream combine the butter, sugar (not the powdered sugar; the regular sugar) and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl. I typically use a stainless-steel bowl. THEN you add the flour and chopped nuts to the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture.
After it's all combined into a dough, you use a round tablespoon measure (about the size of a melon baller) to measure out the amount of dough you'll need for each cookie. You'll need to round each cookie with your fingers, by the way.
Next, put the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. You'll probably end up using about four, maybe five, cookie sheets overall. I can usually fit two sheets in the oven at a time. The butter in the cookies keeps them from sticking.
Put them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes (sometimes 15, depends on whether your oven has been pre-heated long enough). Take them out and let them sit for about 10 minutes or so. They have to set so they don't fall apart when you roll them in the powdered sugar.
Once they're cool, gently roll each cookie in the powdered sugar. After your're done rolling all of them, eat!

In the next installment, I'll be writing about a meal I nearly destroyed and then salvaged. Smoky times in the kitchen and all that.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bleargh...

Rather ill at the moment. Made some cookies this weekend with my girlfriend. Will post recipe once I'm feeling somewhat less awful.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How about some coffee in my Coca Cola...

Not sure who thought this one up, but apparently Coke is planning on putting coffee extract into Coca Cola. They're going to call it Cola Blak. I think I hate the name more than anything else about this new beverage. Cola Black? Just freaking call it Cola Black. Why the lame-ass attempt at being "edgy?"

I'm also not entirely sure what the point of this drink is. If you want more caffeine, there are plenty of beverages out there (Jolt, Mountain Dew, any of the "energy drinks") that can keep you awake for 48 hours straight. I guess the Coke execs thought adding coffee extract would somehow enhance the soda's flavor?

Anyway, I doubt this will catch on. I'm not much of a soda drinker, though, so maybe it'll attract a small, hyperactive following.


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO - news), the world's No. 1 soft drink company, on Wednesday said it will launch a coffee-infused soft drink called Coca-Cola Blak in various markets around the world in 2006.

The news of the launch came hours before Coke Chief Executive Neville Isdell was scheduled to address financial analysts and investors in New York.

The new drink, a combination of Coca-Cola Classic and coffee extracts, will be first launched in France in January before being rolled out in the United States and other markets during 2006.

A Coke spokesperson said Coca-Cola Blak will be a mid-calorie drink, similar to Coca-Cola C2, which was launched in April 2004 and contains half the sugar, calories and carbohydrates of regular colas. The formula for the new beverage is expected to vary based on local tastes.

Analysts have said one of the keys to the company's future is capturing more consumers who have moved away from sugary soft drinks to diet versions, or to healthier low- or no-calorie beverages.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

La Mill Coffee

I'm considering ordering some coffee from La Mill Coffee in Alhambra, California. They've apparently won the Taste Maker award in Food & Wine and were also featured in Los Angeles magazine. They definitely have a slick website.

Anyway, not sure what I'm going to order at this point. I'm leaning toward the La Mill Espress roast. I'm a fan of Segafredo's Espresso Mocha blend, so I'm interested in finding out how La Mill's Espress blend compares. I'll report on my findings sometime in the near future.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Coffee News

Looks like Peet's roasting center is moving. Check out the press release below. Not sure how this will affect the company, but hopefully it'll mean some interesting blends of coffee. It's also a sign of the company's financial health, which is a good thing because Peet's produces pretty decent coffee overall.


Peet's Coffee and Tea, Inc. to Build New Roasting Facility in Alameda, California
Tuesday November 29, 4:00 pm ET

Company announces contract for development of new roasting facility to meet long term growth plans

EMERYVILLE, Calif., Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - Peet's Coffee & Tea, Inc. (Nasdaq: PEET - News), a specialty coffee roaster and marketer, announced today that it has selected The Waterfront at Harbor Bay Business Park in Alameda, California, as the site of its new 135,000 square foot coffee roasting and distribution facility. The new facility is intended to support the company's long term growth plans by helping to meet the growing customer demand for Peet's distinctive quality coffees and teas.

"We look forward to calling Alameda the home of our new roasting facility and making a positive contribution to the community," said Patrick O'Dea, President and Chief Executive Officer of Peet's Coffee & Tea. "We are excited to build a facility that we believe can meet our Western U.S. growth needs for the foreseeable future and feel comforted in doing so just six miles from our existing roasting plant, which will allow us to retain our dedicated Peet's employees."

Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson said, "We welcome Peet's to our community. We're proud to add them to the growing list of companies that are choosing to locate in Alameda. Our central Bay Area location, attractive neighborhoods and quality schools support our position as a very competitive business location for a wide range of businesses."

Peet's will work in partnership with leading Bay Area developer, SRM Associates and Pacific Coast Capital Partners to develop the new roasting facility. Construction is scheduled to begin April 2006 with completion December 2006. Relocation of Peet's roasting and distribution operations to the new facility is expected to be completed by the end of March 2007. The cost of this phase of the project, which includes both land and construction related costs, is estimated at just over $17 million, with total costs once completed, of approximately $24 million.

"We are pleased to be working with Peet's to develop their new custom facility," said Joe Ernst, development manager for SRM Associates. "Peet's Bay Area roots, valuable staff and reputation for producing coffees and teas of uncompromising quality and freshness will complement the existing businesses located at The Waterfront at Harbor Bay."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving

So, 42 pounds of turkey (two turkeys, one 20 pounder and another 22 pounder), three kinds of stuffing, and five pies later (and no, that's not counting the vegetables, salad, fruit salad, Jell-O molds, etc.), a food-filled Thanksgiving was had by all. Thankfully, there were enough of us there that we made a dent in all the food, 12 people or so, but mostly we ended up taking about a week's worth of leftovers home.

So, what did I make for Thanksgiving? This year I tried some more...experimental dishes, except for the sweet potato pie I made, which everyone liked last year. Oh yeah, pictures to come soon, too, once my sister e-mails them to me.

Starting with the maple bourbon sweet potato pie, here's the first recipe:

Maple Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie, based on Food Network's recipe by Karen Barker

1 9-inch pie crust (Trader Joe's brand in my case)
1 15-ounce can of pureed sweet potatoes (yes, you can cook and puree them yourself, but the can I bought for the pie worked fine)
3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp dark maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
A few grinds of black pepper

So, first preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Next, combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix them well. Let the pie crust thaw for about 15 minutes but before putting it into the glass pie dish, wet the outer edge of the dish with water. This will help keep the pie crust from sticking. If you think the crust may stick, spray a little bit of nonstick coating (I'd use a canola spray over olive oil one) onto the dish before laying the pie crust down. Pour the filling into the pie crust (I used a Trader Joe's pie crust, which doesn't call for blind baking). I did use a "pie shield," and it did keep the pie crust from over browning. Let it cook for about 45-50 minutes or so. Take the pie out and let it sit for at least 30 minutes so it can set. Serve with whipped cream, or whatever sort of dessert topping you and your guests prefer. Serves about 8.

Next, I tried a sort of cornbread "pudding," which came out a bit more like a savory cornbread cake than anything else. Part of the problem with my recipe was that I used a crusty sourdough bread, which, although it had decent flavor, made the slices of the pie that had the pieces of bread with crust on them somewhat chewy. I determined that next time I really need to use French, or some other kind of softer bread, like the recipe says. At any rate, here's the recipe, courtesy of Alton Brown's show Good Eats. Mine is slightly modified, and I've substituted the type of bread I plan to use next time in the recipe over what I actually used.

Sweet Cornbread Pudding

1/2 medium onion, diced fine
1-ounce of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 15-ounce can of creamed corn
1 cup of heavy cream (I actually used fat-free half and half and 1/2 cup of cream)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal, whole grain, stone ground
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (you can choose any kind of cheese, really, though I would avoid particularly sharp cheeses, such as bleu cheese)
1 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper to taste (3-4 turns)
2 cups cubed French bread (if the crust is too tough, remove it before mixing it in; trust me)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice bread into 1-inch cubes. Next, combine corn, cream, half and half, eggs, baking powder, cheese, salt, cornmeal, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make sure you have enough room to add 2 cups of 1-inch cubes of bread to the mixture without it overflowing. Fold in the bread cubes and let it soak while you sweat the onions.

Next, sweat onions with butter and herbs in an oven-safe skillet over low heat until they're translucent. Pour the batter into the skillet, on top of the onion mixture. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. Cool slightly before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.

With those two dishes out of the way, I made creamed spinach, which everyone seemed to like. I kind of just made it up as I went along, but it turned out well enough, so here it is.

Creamed Spinach

2 bags of frozen spinach
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
4 medium cloves of garlic, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp sage
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter
Salt and ground pepper to taste

First, cook the frozen spinach in a separate pot (the package directions said to cover it with 1/4-inch of water, bring it to a boil and then cook it for about 5 minutes). Drain the spinach and squeeze the water out. The less water you have left, the better. Next, sweat the onions, garlic and herbs in the olive oil for about 3-5 minutes over low heat, or until they're translucent. Next, add the spinach, milk, melted butter, half and half, heavy cream and nutmeg. Cook this mixture for about 15-20 minutes or so over medium low heat. You want some of the liquid to have evaporated but if there's some left, it's not a big deal. The key, again, is to make sure you've squeezed as much liquid out of your cooked spinach before start cooking all of this. Serves 10-12 people who like spinach.

I also made a cranberry sauce recipe, but I'll leave that for the next post. Stay tuned for some pictures.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fall Breakfast

Sorry for the lack of recent blog postings. I'm going to make more of an effort to post on at least a bi-weekly schedule starting after Thanksgiving. I'll also post my sweet potato pie recipe that I'll be making for Thanksgiving right after the holiday as well.

In the meantime, here's something I made for breakfast last week. It turned out really well, actually.

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes, (Original recipe Bon Appetit, 2000, modified my me)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp vanilla paste (better flavor than the liquid stuff)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin (I used an organic brand from Wild Oats market; ended up being good stuff)
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil
Maple syrup (Log Cabin is okay, but I'd recommend using the real stuff)

Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla in medium bowl to blend well. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just until smooth (batter will be thick). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter in 2 additions. Brush large nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes and bottoms are brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with oil between batches. Serve with syrup.

Makes about 12.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Coffee...

So still no digital camera yet. I'll have to bug my sister about it, but hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on it in the near future. That said, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite topics that doesn't require pictures (although they would be cool): coffee.

At work a small group of us started something called a "coffee club," wherein we each bring a pound of good coffee, go through them in order and then replace the bag each of us brought when it's gone. We started this coffee-sharing group because the free coffee at work is...the opposite of good.

The system for who buys coffee when works pretty well, although there has been some shuffling of coffee bags, which means some people may end up buying more coffee than others. It's not that big of a deal because there are only about six people in the club. Right now we go through about one bag every two to three weeks.

The group brews a variety of coffee types, though some favorites seem to be Starbucks' Gold Coast Blend and Starbucks' Sumatra. Unfortunately, the Gold Coast Blend isn't that great. The Sumatra was actually decent. Sadly, I also bough a pound of Gloria Jean's Italian Dark Roast blend that just wasn't good at all. At the time, I thought, "How bad can it be?" Here's a little more info about each.

Starbucks' Gold Coast Blend: Ah, Starbucks. With a reputation for overzealous roasting, their lighter blends are often equivalent to other companies' dark roasts. Well, with this blend at least Starbucks is willing to call a dark roast a dark roast. I've had dark roast coffees before, though, and this blend leans more towards burnt than dark roast. It has a "smokier" flavor than other Starbucks blends that I've tried. Overall, not awful but too harsh for my tastes.

Gloria Jean's Italian Dark Roast: Not a great blend. Something about it just tasts sorta...off. I'm not entirely sure what the problem is, but it has a somewhat "flat" taste. The overall flavors are muted and don't resemble other Italian dark roast coffees that I've had (espresso blends or otherwise).

Starbucks' Sumatra: Not a bad coffee blend. Definitely a dark roast, but the longer roasting time complements the earthy/herbal flavors of the coffee better. It's also not too astringent, which keeps the coffee under control.

More coffee-related stuff to come.