Horchata Pudding

Monday, July 30, 2007

I love the taste of horchata, and decided to try to mimic the flavor as accurately as I could into a rice pudding. This is the result of my experiment - the best rice pudding ever. E-V-E-R. It's insanely sweet and has that smooth milky taste you love, with slight whispers of vanilla, and caressing mildly spicy notes of cinnamon that follow. It's quite a rush.This stuff is also rich, as in if you fed it to a racehorse, it would die. Thus, proving the true yumtasticness of this rice pudding. I attribute it to the use of heavy cream and arborio rice. This is a recipe where the quality of ingredients will really make a difference. I used Mexican vanilla, and whole Mexican cinnamon sticks for a more authentic flavor. Almonds add a nice smooth flavor underneath it all. I know some people like a bit of lime in their horchata, so if you want feel free to garnish this with some lime zest.
All the time and effort that this recipe demands is worth it, and a great way to spend a long cold day when those come up. I just pull up a stool next to the stove, get a book and a glass of gin and tonic, and stir. It makes for a fragrant and relaxing respite in life.

Does it get any better than this? I think not.

Horchata Pudding
What You'll Need...
3/4 cup of arborio rice
1 stick of Mexican cinnamon
3 cups of milk
3 cups of heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, preferably Mexican, split lengthwise -or- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar
large pinch of salt
1 cup blanched skinless

What You'll Do...
1) Place rice in a small sauce pan with two cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then drain. Transfer rice to a heavy 3 quart pot.

2) Add 2 cups of milk, 2 cups of cream, sugar, cinnamon stick, and salt. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the milk and rice mixture. Place over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk has been absorbed by rice, about an hour. Rice should be tender and rice should be creamy.

3) Add another 1 cup of milk and cream and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes. Stir often, if not continuously, to prevent the bottom from burning.

3) When it is done, you should be able to pull the spoon through the middle of the pudding, and the pudding take a second to fill in the breach. (It should be pudding consistency, albeit hot pudding.) Chop the almonds and fold into the pudding. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature and thicken.

4) Serve in small portions and garnish with ground cinnamon.

For a traditional horchata drink recipe, check out the recipe here at Life Begins at 30.

Feel free to use 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom in lieu of cinnamon and use in the place of vanilla rice pudding in the Cardamom Pistachio Cupcakes with Rice Pudding Filling recipe!

The Mothman Delicacies

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back when we were kids my mom would load my brother and me up into the old Volkswagen Camper, circa 1970-something, and take us on a month long camping trip around the U.S. I think over the many summers, we hit every state except Maine and Alaska.

They were always adventure filled with near death on stormy lakes, running through hail storms, getting incautiously close to live bison and their young, and riding possibly suicidal asses down into the Grand Canyon (donkeys, I am talking about donkeys). It was all great fun and very eye opening. I was a very lucky child.

One particular trip, my dad had joined us and we were somewhere in the southwest-ish. It was a desert and there were lots of rocks and boulders to go rock hopping on so that sounds right. Anyways, it was a grand ol' time, mom and dad could relax and stretch a bit after driving with the kids for 8+ hours. My brother and I often went off rock hopping long distances seeing if we could get lost or find a mountain lion den (mom must be so proud reading this).

After my brother and I morosely found our way back, sans mountain lion, we would all have a meal of spaghetti-o's, milk, and and canned green beans. the four of us then began to chat about our rock hopping adventures like we had found our way into a Joseph Conrad novel, and mom and dad would listen intently, enjoying their spaghetti-o's with gusto and listening with true interest.

We then would move on to joyful games of travel Clue or Mad-Libs. (It is still my firm belief that all sentences are indubitably better with the word "butt" inserted anywhere.) At some point in the night our conversation had somehow moved onto how bugs are eaten in other cultures.

You see where this story is going?

Dad said it wasn't anything big. I decided to call him on it, "Oh yeah? I dare you to eat that moth!" My hand thrust towards the unkowing hapless creature, hypnotized by the lamp light.

"How much?"

I was taken a bit aback, but only for a second. I studied his face - try to imagine me around the age of eight, and apply that sentence. "A nickel!" (Big Spender!)

"Deal." And he made me shake on it, the better to seal a deal with an 8 year old. Mom just kind of looked on, not knowing whether to stop it, or keep on watching because it was so joyfully voyeuristic. She smiled, my brother smiled, I smiled.

Dad reached for the moth and caught him in his hand. What would the moth care? He was busy trying to self-immolate himself, and diving head first into the glass. He opened his fist and picked the moth up by the wings.

The smiles vanished into stares. Dad opened his mouth, and popped the moth in. He took a bite or two, and swallowed. No flinch, no emotion, just swallowed the poor creature that the universe, with my help, had deemed to die.

There were roars of disgust and pleasure from three of us, all applauding dad. Back then it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen, and in retrospect, it still is.

Vanilla Olive Oil Ice Cream

Friday, July 27, 2007

Now that my vanilla bean infused olive oil is finished, I've begun putting it to work. It's already been drizzled over freshly cut papaya and avocado for an simple afternoon snack, but today I really wanted it to shine.

If you've never had olive oil ice cream, it's quite a treat. It's very smooth and creamy, and a perfect chance to really allow any designer olive oils you might have on hand to shine. Regular olive oil is fine, but the vanilla infused olive oil creates an aromatic ice cream that matches perfectly with freshly cut peaches.

Vanilla Olive Oil Ice Cream
What You'll Need...
1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

6 egg yolks
/2 cup of vanilla olive oil
(Optional: If you don't have vanilla infused olive oil, 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract can be added)

What You'll Do...

1) Warm the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together the yolks in another non-reactive bowl.

2) Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the yolks while whisking constantly. Afterwards, pour the eggy milk mixture back into the saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir with a heatproof spatula and keep scraping the bottom and sides to ensure nothing becomes too solid.

3) When the custard mixture can coat the back of a spoon, pour the mixture through a wire mesh and into a new bowl set in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Add the cream while whisking furiously. Add the vanilla olive oil and whisk until fully incorporated.

4) Allow to chill in the fridge, then pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturers instructions.

Garrett's Inferno - Part II

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The next installment in a little creative writing project I'm playing with that parodies Dante's Inferno. Constructive criticism and feedback always welcome. Will be back to normal stuff tomorrow. Hope you enjoy.

Further below we went and with each step, the shudder of sobs reverberated the unearthen walls that enclosed the abyss. When we reached the second circle, new torments and new tormented souls surrounded me no matter when I set my gaze.

Here the air was stiff and bitter, and all around us lay the naked souls of those damned with their insistence of pedantic, inspid ideas on food. They believed cheese could be made from coconut milk, or carrots grew upon tress and bushes. They were brash and foolhardy when confronted with the truth and refuted it. They spat upon those who would show them in kindness their errors.

Their eyes, which refused to see the truth, had been not only removed from their place, but from their existence entirely. Only skin could be seen where eyes and sockets once were, as if flesh had simply filled what would have been two piercing cavities.

Each was set upon the task to unearth a proof they could not verify in life. They were tormented to prove what they so furtively believed, and with each failed attempt the trauma of seething electricity scorched through their minds, scathing every recess with pain. Punishment for refusing to educate themselves to the reality of their culinary enigma.

In the far distance was Cassandra, who showed her disdain at her position as keeper of The Inane, through her impassive stare and slightly discernible scowl. My guide raised her hands and waved her off, telling her that cupcakes were baked in their papers; an assertion to the cursed oracle that we were not under her charge.

We made our way through the pit as one suddenly raised himself to sit, quickly as he saw us passing before him. “Those you see here were foolish to those who tried to guide them right, in life they were idiots and fools. Here I will prove fish can be considered truly vegetarian! Do not judge me, for I will show you the truth. The rest are constantly shilling their ridiculous claims. I know I am right! Unlike those who are strewn about and wailing, I will be vigilant in my science, and bring certainty to my claims!” He gripped his head recoiled and face contorted as he then proceeded to attend to his pointless endeavor.

And I knew that he, like his tormented kin, would wallow down here in their darkness and pain, unable to abate their foolish theories and accept the most base and simple truths of the world.

This is what awaits, and with that we descended…

To be continued...
Read Part I

My Cupcakes on TV!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

So I dunno if you use BakeSpace that much. It's like AllRecipes.com, but without the stuffy rules and ads and other crap. Over the past year or so Babette, the owner of BakeSpace, and I have had a nice dialogue and friendship going, even though we've never met face to face.

While normally I am kinda possessive about where my recipes get posted, I am more than happy to share them on BakeSpace. Babette ensures that BakeSpace doesn't own the recipes submitted *cough cough AllRecipes cough*. Plus, there is a bit more connection with the other bakers and cooks out there.

Well, during an TV news story about BakeSpace, guess whose cupcakes, name, and blog got mentioned? And then syndicated over 150+ other markets including NYC, LA, and Chicago?

Oh yeah... it was me. The Chipotle Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcake is a star now. BakeSpace's B-day is coming up, so be sure to check out what they have there. It's pretty awesome and a lot of fun. If the video doesn't work for you, click HERE.

Bitter Melon is Not for Me -or- A Plea for Help

Bitter melon is a veggie used in lots of Chinese dishes. It is, like the name says, bitter. Like make your wretch bitter, that is unless you cook it first.Still, I wanted to try it, so after cutting it open and removing the insides with a spoon, I sliced them up and gave them a nice salt bath for about 15 minutes. Odd, I know, but all the websites and the girl who sold them to me told me to do this. Afterwards I gave them a hardy wash and soak to get rid of all the bitterness the salt should have leached out.
I then went to deep fry them. The result? The big pieces were too bitter to consume. The tiny pieces tasted of salt and only salt.Did I do something wrong here? I'm calling out for any bitter melon advice you have out there cause I have a crap load of the stuff sitting in my fridge still, and I am at a loss.

Bay Scented Strawberry Cupcakes with Balsamic Syrup

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rarely do I ever become truly smitten for a cupcake, but this is one of those times. I've now made this recipe three times in one week. The recipe produces just enough for Rob and me and a few guests, it's relatively easy, and when using the freshest ingredients you can find it produces an ethereal taste.

The bay leaves soak in the milk for a few hours or overnight, allowing their menthy, verdant flavors to permeate the cake. It's very subtle and refreshing with the farmer's market strawberries I've had in my fridge, their little red faces just goading me to use them in a cake. Cream cheese frosting would go well here, but I like seeing the naked strawberry smiling up at me, and the vinegar syrup just has a nice little bit of bite to it to help cut the sweetness.

Really, this cupcake, like a day at the spa, can only be described as invigorating!

Bay Scented Strawberry Cupcakes
makes 15 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
8 fresh strawberries (more or less depending on size)

What You'll Do...
1) Place the milk and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the rim. Take off heat and let cool in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

2) Beat butter on high until soft for 30 seconds.

3) Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.

4) Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

5) Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.

6) Mix in the flour mixture then the milk mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Chop up 6 of the strawberries and fold them into the batter.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers about 3/4 full. Place an open slice of strawberry on top of the batter, and lightly press it in a bit.

8) Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Balsamic Reduction Syrup
Place 1 cup of balsamic vinegar (quality can make a real difference here, but I used Safeway brand and it was fine) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for about 4-6 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced by half. Pour in a glass or ceramic bowl to cool, and continue to stir. Drizzle syrup on plates or over cupcakes.

Vanilla Infused Olive Oil & Vanilla Extract Update

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Have you ever had vanilla infused olive oil? It's quite a luxurious little treat. It's fruity, with a slight hint of vanilla. Simply split a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and then place the seeds and pod in some quality olive oil. Give it a shake once a day, and in about a week, it's all done.

Take the bean out, wash it, and then let it dry for your next use.

What can you use it for though? Well, it's fantastic on lobster, and goes great over grilled fruit, and is refreshing over freshly cut papaya, pancetta, or avocado. Try pan searing some shrimp with it too!

As soon as it's all finished, expect a recipe or two! Plus, remember that vanilla extract? Well here it is now. The sweet smell is intoxicating. It's robust vanilla profile is much more fragrant and floral than the commercial products. Can't wait to use it!

Sorry I can't give ya a real post. I'm with the masses reading Harry Potter #7, I have to find out if my theories were correct or not.

Garrett's Inferno - Part I

Friday, July 20, 2007

This is just a little bit of creative writing I have been playing with, after I decided to read Dante's Inferno for like, the umpteenth time. A fine book if you've never read it, I suggest an annotated copy to help you follow it though as it references a lot of pop culture of the early 14th century in Florence, but it's still quite awesome. I did an inferno piece back in college which was kinda crappy, so I decided to re-work it again but from a new direction.

Anyways, I'm having fun writing this even though creative writing has never been my forte, so like it or not, here it is. It'll be coming in parts whenever I find a chance to finish them. Hope you enjoy! Comments encouraged!

Since I was home alone with nothing to do, I cleaned my fridge because the eyes on those ancient potatoes had an evil stare blazed upon them and their roots began to form small beards of sorts; the spuds becoming akin to angry, ancient men. A horrid stench prevailed that was reminiscent of either bad meat or good cheese, which it was I know not. The cleaning was well needed and order would give me peace of mind, so gloves donned I set upon my self-ordained task.

To my surprise I found in the back of my fridge, Elizabeth Taylor, saying she had come to guide me through Hell to teach me of the grievous food addict sins that society’s anabasis into gastrotastrophy was committing and the divine punishment that there lay in.

She said M.F.K. Fisher heard my rallying cries against humanity in relation to food and wanted to help, but couldn't miss the episode of Friends with the sexy phlegm, and thus sent Elizabeth. I was surprised she sent Elizabeth, as she wasn’t dead or had much to do with food, but I guess that much liquor and prescription drugs makes traversing the planes of existence a relatively minor task when they aren’t as solid to your sense of perception. Plus, she was awesome as Cleopatra and isn’t that reason enough?

Down we went through the first circle of hell, my ears ringing from the cacophony of tormented wails from snooty food people. There we found the haughty conniosseurs who in life may have indulged originally out of love, but then did so out of self praise, status, and gustatory bravado.

They looked down upon Two Buck Chuck and milk chocolate, since fine Shiraz blends from Chile and bitter 68% cacao from the Congo were more expensive and had greater character due to their possession of the exotic ingredients and high price. Who doesn’t love a Hershey’s bar, and smore-ific memories they bring? Sometime a cheap wine isn’t necessarily a bad wine, that’s what college teaches you. They had forgotten these simple pleasures, and pitied those who enjoyed them.

As punishment they were forced to stand in a pool of Napolean era, well preserved Brandy, while a tree of organic, rare terroir peaches hung from a tree above them. When they wished to analyze the oakyness of the brandy, in would recede. When they reached for a peach to inform all their friends about it’s superb flavor profile, a breeze would blow the limbs and fruit out of reach.

They would cry out in suffering and with great agony moan over their classist approach to food, wishing they would have relegated themselves to a glorious chance encounter with a street side hotdog.

“Beware,” moaned my slightly inebriated guide, “Here, is where downfall first comes. Be aware of food, enjoy its finer points and appreciate its subtilties, histories, and those who bring it to fruition. But do not use it as status or a way to separate yourself amongst the mass and place yourself upon a pedestal. They there who ache for food and drink scoffed at those without the financial means to be able to chance appreciation for it, and those who found joy in less vainglorious delicacies.”

This is what awaits, and with that we descended…

To be continued...

Tarragon Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tarragon always reminds me of my childhood. One of my favorite dinners growing up would be when mom made fondue. It was always so much fun and so interactive. She would break out the brick red fondue pot with its little yellow stained, originally white, squiggly line design from way back from the 70's and fill it with hot oil. We would each be served a bowl with cubes of steak (often times mom and I would eat them raw with a bit of seasoning, yum! perfect making for a cannibal sammich as she called them) and we would all have our very own artichoke.

After my brother and I fought over who got which color of fondue forks, we would all catch up on our days while dropping our steaky bits in the fondue, the occasional piece being lost, and sooner or later we would be undoing the jigsaw of forks to get our streaky bits out of the pot. My refusal to eat the artichoke heart (it was a spiny heart and I was a kid, would you eat a spiny heart as a child?) was a bit of a ritual. It was a hands on, play-time meal for the whole family.

But the smell of tarragon! The dipping sauce my mom made for the steak and artichokes was amazing, but simple. Melted butter, some salt, and chopped tarragon! She would place it all in ramekins and place them on top of the lid of the dish the artichokes and let them melt. Oh! I loved it, and have ever since. Tarragon's grassy, slightly anise like flavor is intoxicating. And while some out there are thinking, "EWW, ANISE!" tarragon is always the exception I find when it comes to those who hate licorice flavor, including myself.

These cupcakes taste better have spending the night covered in the fridge so the flavors have more time to meld. Vanilla bean and tarragon go great together and have a classy, adult flavor to them. They were a total hit at the office where I work, it seems tarragon and vanilla is that perfect pairing no one ever seemed to notice before, and I bet would make for wonderful flavors to add to fish and salads. The high society flavor of this cupcake is perfect for a bridal shower or maybe an afternoon get together with friends.

In the future I would also garnish them with some tarragon leaves, but ah well, next time.

Tarragon Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes / 350F oven

What You'll Need...
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon

What You'll Do...
1) Place the milk and 3 tablespoons of chopped tarragon in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the rim. Take off heat and let cool in the fridge.

2) Beat butter on high until soft for 30 seconds.

3) Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.

4) Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

5) Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.

6) Mix in the flour mixture then the milk mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Fold in the rest of the chopped tarragon.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers about 3/4 full.

8) Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
What You'll Need...
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
1 vanilla bean

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter until soft.

2) Add the sugar and then the milk. Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds. Cream till soft. Spread on cool cupcakes.

Edible Sacramento - Summer 07

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The next issue is out with a lot to offer. Mike Madison, author of The Blithe Tomato, contributes a piece full of his classic dry humor. Christine Weber Hale covers the seasons fresh produce and fish, and provides some radiant recipes to best show them off like grilled sloughhouse corn risotto with teleme cheese and basil oil. You'll find a few restaurant reviews and a market review by yours truly, as well as an interview with The Firehouse's new chef, Deneb Williams.

Be sure to pick up a free copy at your local fine food store, or help support the magazine by purchasing a delivered subscription.

Check out The Errant Gourmet review of Pedrick's Market at EdibleSacramento.com!

Cantankerous Old Buttface

Monday, July 16, 2007

Being elderly is no excuse to be a bitch.

Now before you start to write angry e-mails, this is not a rant about the elderly. I love many elderly people, and feel that with their experience and wisdom they deserve respect from people which society seems to deny them far too often.

This post is about using your age as an excuse to be old sack of bitter and mean. The kind of people who turn on the sprinklers when the girl scouts approach their door wishing to unload cookie merchandise.

I was at a little pastry shop today trying to pick out a tasty little lunch (oh yeah, dessert for lunch, love that 20-something metabolism). I was going through the cases of nummy treats when a senior couple approached behind me; I hadn’t decided what I wanted so I offered for them to go ahead of me.

"You young people don’t know how to make a quick decision anyways," snapped the old lady.

"She’s old," I thought, "I’ll let it slide."

"Well, it’s my first time here, and I’m just seeing what they have first. There’s a lot to choose from."

"Get the sacher torte," she noted, not looking in my direction.

"Not sure if I’m really down for that for lunch." (I have to keep some kind of restraint, right?)

"You just don’t know what’s in it. I can tell. You’re too young to know anything about refined food like this."

"Excuse me?"

This was the wrong thing to say because at this point, apparently all of the meds wore off ans she showed her true inner sociopath "Oh just take a class and learn what a cake really is!"

Now in the many instances of stupid people I seem to magnetically attract, I think I hold my cool pretty well. I like to think I have good manners, and despite the demagoguery of politeness I try to embody, sometimes, well, even the best of us lose it.

"Excuse me but first, that’s a nice way to be polite after I let you ahead. Second, I can MAKE a torte! Third, just because I’m young doesn’t mean I’m an idiot or that you can talk to me that way."

She was taken aback. Apparently when she deals it out she’s used to people succumbing to her and her grandma status. She wasn’t used to back-sass. She soon recovered, "How dare you speak that way to me! I’M OLD!"

The entire restaurant just stopped and starred at her. And then at me. The person who had upset the little old lady.

I smiled and held back the idea of telling her to just buy her cake and to watch out in case someone drops a house on her. That and the image of slamming her face into the first cake I see danced in my head. Thank god for restraint.

While all of this was going her husband / man friend / croney / whatever just stood there and ignored this whole thing. Like it never happened.

She ordered her cake and took it home, attempting to burn me alive with a baleful stare. To which I simply smiled and waved as she left. Yay for passive aggressiveness.

So you’re old? Congratulations, in X amount of years on earth you didn’t die from disease, freak accident, or bad luck. Doesn’t mean that you can use your age to be a total cantankerous buttface. Maybe you do know more about food than me, there’s a good chance you do. But I guess no one will ever want to hear it from you with an attitude like that.

As I approached the counter, I watched her through the glass in the door as she took her cake and got in the car with her not-a-care companion.

"Jesus, I’m sorry. She’s always like that. She’s screamed at me more than once before," noted the girl behind the counter, a pallid and apologetic look upon her face.

"You mean she’s ALWAYS like that?"

"Yeah, even to the pastry chef when she tells him ‘How to do it right.’"

I left a big tip in the jar. Along with my condolences.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Penelope and I decided to take a day off from the world yesterday. No spouses. No work. No thinking about school, duties, errands, tasks, promises, lies, ideals, hopes, failures, or commitments.

It was a day to relax. To sit back and stare at the sky. To enjoy oneself. To ponder the universe and all of it's types and patterns. To have a comforting simple meal, and a simple day out for pure purpose of a peaceful, entertaining night in good company.

The day before I graduated high school, I laid down on the grass and stared at the sky, and wondered what my future was going to be. I never would have guessed I would be where I am now, doing the things I am doing. I did the same yesterday. I guess I came full circle, though I didn't realize I was on any path to begin with. I guess I begin the gyrating tread once more.

We made a picnic lunch and went out the the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival to see The Comedy of Errors, which is by far one of the bard's best plays. Confusion, puns, and hilarity ensues amongst long lost and separated sets of twins and a town is thrown into turmoil. It's worth seeing, and even if you're someone who thinks "Shakespeare is too hard for me to understand!" trust me, seeing it on stage makes it very easy to understand when you have a face to put to a character name, and lines are being read with emotion. It's still going, so be sure to catch a viewing and bring a picnic lunch! You can find tickets here.

Penelope and I made a very simple and very satisfying picnic lunch. We used Tea's recipe for lentil salad (albeit a few alterations, it's a great base recipe that allows lots of room to personalize it,) made a simple fruit salad with some chopped mint and lemon juice - mint perks up a fruit salad like nothing else - and we tore apart a roast chicken and mixed it with some romaine lettuce. Throw in some water and kiwis and we were set. Next time we'll be sure to remember the wine as well.

It made for a perfect picnic to a perfect show on a perfect day.

Sometimes a day of escape is just what you need.

Simple Fruit Salad
serves 4-6

What You'll Need...
2 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries
2 nectarines or peaches
3 apricots or plums
2 cups of seedless grapes
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint
juice of 1 lemon

What You'll Do...
1) Wash and dice the fruit.

2) Combine the fruit, mint and lemon juice in a bowl and toss. Serve immediately or let sit in the fridge for a bit to let the mint permeate the fruit a bit.

Optional: If you want, assorted berries really work well in this recipe, as might a 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger if you so wish.

Vanilla Scented Cornbread

Friday, July 13, 2007

An alteration to a recipe a friend said I should try. It's a sweet twist on your everyday cornbread, and is wonderful in the morning with some fresh jam spread over a warmed square of it. You'll love the smell this makes in your kitchen.

Vanilla Scented Cornbread
What You'll Need...
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar or vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of buttermilk (or milk with a good squeeze of lemon juice, and let sit for 5 minutes)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
contents of one vanilla bean scraped (optional; I used a Tahitensis / Planifolia Blend bean)
6 tablespoons of butter, melted

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract and vanilla bean scrapings if using.

2) Combine the wet ingredients to the dry and give it a quick few whisks. Pour over the mixture and stir.

3) Pour into an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan that has been lightly greased and floured. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. I find ovens really vary for this recipes, so keep an eye on it.

Coconut Milk Cheese

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A small exchange that took place a few minutes ago...

Co-Worker: Where can I buy coconut milk cheese?

Me: I'm sorry? No, um, you can't buy it.

Co-Worker: Why not?

Me: Because you can't make cheese from coconut milk.

Co-Worker: But it's milk.

Me: No, it's just called coconut milk because it looks like milk. It isn't actually milk. It's juice from inside the coconut.

Co-Worker: But you make cheese from milk.

Me: Yes, milk from a cow or goat or something.

Co-Worker: So you can't make cheese from coconut milk?

Me: Nope. Sorry.

Co-Worker: I'll go ask *other co-worker* and see if she knows where I can buy it.

Because apparently, I'm an idiot and a liar. I wish him the best of luck in his search.

By the way, comments are closed and will not be posted anymore on this post. I am over stupid people arguing with me over the definition of a word and a culinary fact that's 8000 years old. If you want to call me an idiot - email me at gmmccord (at) gmail (dot) com.

On another note, there is now a cheese called Kokos. It's a Dutch gouda made with cow's milk that has coconut cream swirled into the milk. The cheese requires the milk to age the way cheese normally does. The coconut milk is simply a flavoring, like adding fennel seeds, or wrapping the outside with grape leaves. 

On Tapa Sac (Tapa the World - Sacramento, CA)

You can find Tapa the World next door to Kasbah, which shouldn't be surprising as they're both run by the very same Paul RIngstrom and Conni Levis. It's the older sibling to Kasbah, and undoubtedly the original source of its neighbor's popularity.

Tapa the world a Spanish style tapas restaurant that's popular as a late night stop before going out dancing or clubbing on weekends. Since they stay open until midnight, it's also popular for some of those coming home from the clubs as well. Rob and I decided to drop by on a whim for a light dinner earlier on and see if we could grab a table amongst the hustle and bustle of trendy and pretend-to-trendy.

The olives were meaty and salty, just as olive should be. I always hate when an olive dish is pallid and lacking diversity or served in a petri dish that barely satiates one person, but this was a large terra cotta dish filled to the brim with a nice variety of olives. We did have an issue with one of the one pitted variety of olives on the plate. Something was wrong with those, they tasted a little funky and had a sort of mildew taste to it. The others were superb.

The tapa of the night was a delicious shrimp plate with melted butter and sprinkled with black salt and aioli. They were fabulous, salty, and creamy and perfectly cooked so the shrimp was just flavorful and tender. There's also something delightfully barbaric about ripping the heads and shells off of shrimp and devouring them. Loves it.

The kobe beef was gamey and melted in your mouth with a nice full flavor that was helped with a nice blue cheese butter and crispy onions. Though it was a bit overdone, the food was still delicious.

There was a downside in that we were sitting in the courtyard. Here there are pitfalls; be prepared if there happens to be any fire or emergency. Mainly because the sirens' cacophony in that cave will drive you deaf. Also, the table next to us had their table extended for a birthday party which came so close that anyone wanting to get by ended up having sex with our table.

We never once saw our server, that or we had four of them. One took our order, one brought the olives, one brought the food, and the last took the check. No one ever asked how we were or even gave us side plates for bread. We had to stop a girl to get the check. Really, busy or not, it was shoddy service.

All and all, a nice meal, but be seated in the front patio if you can and go on an off day.

Tapa the World
2115 J Street
Sacramento, CA

Bread Machine Death

Monday, July 9, 2007

"I'll use it all the time! I love fresh bread! It will make every meal of mine elegant and wow my friends! I'll do it!" And so you ring it up.

This is what you rationalized to yourself when you bought that bread machine. Or home rotisserie. Or George Foreman grill. Or whatever amazing little device you thought would change your life and bought on impulse on TV or at Costco.

I mean, when I bought my bread machine, it was used almost daily. Cinnamon rolls! Cottage cheese and dill bread! Sourdough bread. Fresh pizza dough. I was putting the local bakery to shame.

And then, one day after a long day of class and work, I got home. One shunted look at "the machine" (it was starting to take up a lot of room out in the kitchen anyways) and I decided to use it tomorrow.

Twenty-nine tomorrows later, I finally put the machine away. Never to be seen again.

It would make a guest appearance once in a while. Maybe even experience a small Renaissance of sorts, but in the end it would always find it's way back to the bottom of my closet. Probably hiding under a shirt I don't wear anymore, but don't want to donate to the Salvation Army just yet.

It's the inevitable problem I am facing with the ice cream maker. It's being used tons, but actually I think I can keep it from facing Bread Machine Death. Mainly I see it as economic, it helps me keep my AC off as an alternative way to stay cool. Even in my laziest moods I can just dump some orange juice in there and poof, tasty frozen treat. Come winter, it will be shelved, I know that.

So here is hoping it makes a comeback next spring after the hotter days have left us. I think I can do it. I will do it, damn it. I will try to see it as economic, a way to keep cool and happy. Something to come home to after work.

And here's also hoping I can bring out the bread machine for one more zombie walk out of the Bread Machine Death closet come fall.

Spiced Mango Soup with Strawberry Basil Sorbet

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Perfect for a light, sweet lunch. The cool mango soup is slightly spiced with ginger and red chilies. It's the perfect backdrop for the sweet-tart strawberry sorbet that has been kissed with small flecks of fresh basil that serenely appear and vanish in your mouth.

It's an easy recipe, and a perfect chance to use some of that fresh Farmer's Market produce you might happen to have lying about.

Strawberry Basil Sorbet
serves 2-4

What You'll Need...
1 lb. of strawberries
1/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of water

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tablespoon of fresh basil or Thai basil

What You'll Do...

1) Hull and chop the strawberries, puree.

2) Push the strawberry puree through a strainer. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and water and whisk. Chill for an hour, then pour into the ice cream maker and proceed following the manufacturer's directions.

3) Roughly mince the basil, add to the ice cream maker when there are only 5 minutes left of churning.

4) Serve right away or place in the freezer to set up in a tightly sealed container.

Spiced Mango Soup
serves 2-4

What You'll Need...

1 cup of plain yogurt
2 mangoes
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 red chili pepper (or jalapeno)

What You'll Do...

1) Grate the ginger. Devein and seed the chili pepper. Cut the pepper in half length wise. Dice 1/2 of the pepper and save the other half for salsa or what have you.
Cut the mango and dice.

2) Blend all the ingredients together with an immersion blender/blender/food processor. Chill for 30 minutes.

3) Strain the soup through a strainer if you so desire. Ladle into bowls, then place a scoop of strawberry basil sorbet in and serve.

Local Sac Food Events for July

Friday, July 6, 2007

  • Demonstration cooking series with another local cookbook author, Ann Martin Rolke of Sacatomato. Ann is a very talented cook, wonderful teacher, and shibby person, so don't miss this golden opportunity. The class is at the Kitchen Cabinet Expo, Sacramento, Rte. 50 at Bradshaw Road; demo, tasting, and book signing, $20/person or $50/all 3 classes, call 916-364-5400 for reservations:
    July 7: Hands-Off Indian, including Chickpea-Potato Curry and Yogurt-Dill Sauce (Raita)
    July 21: Hands-Off Southern, including Mason-Dixon Cornbread and Country Captain
    August 11: Hands-Off Greek, including Cucumber Salad and Medium-Rare Greek Meatloaf.
  • Vive la France! A special French wine tasting, live music by the Midtown Music Makers, French cheeses and more for Bastille Day at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op’s Community Learning Center and Cooking School, 1914 Alhambra Blvd, between S and T Streets. Saturday, July 14, 5-7 pm; $8 per person.
  • Featured wines will include:
    Whites: 2005 Louis Latour Mâcon-Villages Chameroy (A lovely creamy Chardonnay from the Burgundy region); 2005 Domaine Andre Neveu Les Longues Fins Sancerre (A minerally Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley)

    Pink: 2005 Chateau de Jau “Le Jaja de Jau“ Rosé (A jaunty dry Grenache and Syrah Rose from the French Mediterranean)

    Reds: 2004 Georges DuboeufBeuajolais-Villages (A fresh and fruity Gamay from Burgundy–serve slightly chilled); 2005 Bouchard Père & Fils Burgogne (A Pinot Noir from Burgundy with ripe cherry fruit and a smooth oak finish); 2004 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône (A smoky Rhône wine that is a blend primarily of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre)

  • Patrick Mulvaney Welcomes Texas Chef Tim Love for an Evening Barbecue and a Celebration of American Lamb

    You are invited to a special event on Monday, July 16, at Mulvaney's Building & Loan. The beautiful, garden patio will serve host to a family-style barbecue featuring American Lamb prepared by guest Chef Tim Love, aka "The Cowboy Chef." Chef Patrick Mulvaney has created a menu of appetizers, side dishes, and dessert to complement the succulent flavor of American Lamb. Trefethen Family Vineyards will provide perfect wine pairings.

    The barbecue begins at 6:00 p.m. with passed hors d'oeuvres. Chef Love will conduct a brief American Lamb presentation and serve dinner at 7:00 p.m. Chef Love and guest farmer, Joe Pozzi, will be on hand to answer questions regarding lamb preparation and the lamb industry.

    The event is open to the public and costs $45 per person. A discounted price of $40 is available to Slow Food members. Please contact Melinda McRae to make reservations at 916-492-5331 or melinda.mcrae@fleishman.com. Space is limited.

    The menu:

    Passed Hors D’oeurvres
    Smoked Salmon on our own Potato Chip with Crème Fraiche and Chives

    Crispy Fillo Cups filled with Summery Delights

    Family Style Dinner Service
    Ray Yeung’s Heirloom Tomatoes and Handmade Mozzarella, Basil, and Apollo Olive Oil

    Sloughhouse Corn Ravioli with Fresh Savory

    Del Rio Cherry Tomato ~ Grana Padano

    Whole Pozzi Farms Lamb Roasted on a Spit

    Smoked Belly

    Uncle Bob’s Potatoes

    Grilled Full Belly Farms Squashes

    Tuscan Salsa Verde

    Stone Fruit Strudels with Lavender Ice Cream

    Old Soul Coffee

Vanilla Plum Sorbet

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I had a bunch of plums from Elise that were so ripe you could barely hold them without juice seeping out and trickling down your arm. What better way to use a bunch of delicious plums quickly than with this tasty freeze treat? The vanilla is subtle and just sort of lingers in the air like the smoke from a fire extinguished hours ago. Mouth-puckering tart, smile inducing sweet, and altogether shibby.

Vanilla Plum Sorbet
What You'll Need...
8 plums
3/4 cup of vanilla sugar or sugar
1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup of sugar

What You'll Do...

Chop and pit the plums. Discard the pits. Puree the plums and push through a strainer. Combine with water, sugar/vanilla sugar, and cut open and scrape out the inside of a vanilla bean. Whisk together.

Chill the mixture, then freeze it in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.
(I used one from the vanilla sugar bottle that had some left. Remember, vanilla beans can be used many times before being discarded.)

More Holiday Fun at Safeway

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

-Crazy lady at Safeway stocking up for the holidays

The holidays bring out the best in people at the market, don't they? Have a happy Fourth of July everybody!

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