Saturday, March 29, 2008

Masaman Your Face Off

As promised my lovelies.

It's real good and pretty damn easy. Is this a traditional Masaman recipe? No. Why? Well, there are a lot of versions out there. I found three and kind of mixed em up plus made a major change--which is what makes this recipe delish.

The secret? Cashew Butter.

There is greatness outside of Skippy people. Almond butter. Tried it? Amazing. Macadamia Butter!!! Umm get on it!

Them gredients:

A bit of oil
1 big onion chopped up
3 cloves garlic chopped up
2 cups veggie or chicken stock(use the cartons, cubes, whateva works)
1 can of light coconut milk (I love this stuff, by the way.)
1/2 cup Cashew Butter
S & P to taste
2 TLBS of Any Curry Spice
1 TLBS of Garem Marsala Spice
4 BIG carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 head of Cauliflower
Chopped Cashews
*Protein is totally optional for this dish--throw on in some chicken or tofu if you're feelin' it.

OK you'll need two pans. A big ole pot and a saute pan.

Combine the coconut milk and veggie stock. Bring to a boil. Stir in Cashew Butter. It takes a bit of time and effort to stir in the's sticky--just keep it up. Add the Curry.

Chop all the veg into bite size pieces. Keep them around the same size so it all cooks at the same rate.

Everybody in the pool! Bring it down to Med and cook for about 20 minutes. It'll slowly start to thicken with starch of the potatoes.

While that pot is going saute the onion in a bit of oil with the Garem Marsala. Then add the protein if you like. Add the garlic in the last minutes.(I forgot to take that picture.)

*Garlic side note: Garlic, while delicious, burns super easy and then gets bitter. Wait a while before you add garlic. If it burns it'll add a weird tang to your dishes.

Now add the onions and garlic to the big pot. Stir in the peas. Add your S & P. Let it hang till the all the veg in tender--tender is a creepy word--till the veg is cooked? Yes, cooked.

In the last few minutes toast the cashews. Toasting nuts brings out all their best flavors. Just throw em in a dry pan (nuts have enough oil) on low--as soon as you start to smell nuts then they are toasted! Don't burn. That would be sad, cause then you'd have no nuts. Crunch is nice.

Taste one last time and adjust spice and S & P. If you want a lot of curry or Garem flavor just add more--little bits at a time.

Bowl it out--top with nuts--eat.

In other food news. I have a new job.

Grand Opening is April 6th. I'll be both in the kitch and on the floor. Best of both worlds. It's in Wicker Park--come out and play.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Molecular Gastronomy Is Cooler Than You!

So I was on the treadmill at the gym 10:30pm watching Top Chef(like you do) and the guest judge was Wylie Dufresne--a very famous chef and molecular gastronimist!

He inspired me to tell you all about my secret fantasies of cooking with pacojets, cryovac machines, and paint stripping heat guns--word.

Really my experience with this food is purely in the form of eating it AND that experience is limited to one freakishly expensive meal at an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G restaurant here in Chicago called ALINEA.

What is this Molecular Gastronomy I speak of?--Well, it's basically the chemistry and science of food flipped upside down to create a plethora of artistic, unique, and delish cooking techniques. The dishes are beautiful and usually have an innovative way to go about eating them.

Wiki says...

Example areas of Molecular Gastronomy investigation:
~How ingredients are changed by different cooking methods
~How all the senses play their own roles in our appreciation of food.
~The mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavor
~How and why we evolved our particular taste and flavor sense organs and our general food likes and dislikes
~How cooking methods affect the eventual flavor and texture of food ingredients
~How new cooking methods might produce improved results of texture and flavor
~How our brains interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the "flavor" of food
~How our enjoyment of food is affected by other influences, our environment, our mood, how it is presented, who prepares it, etc.

Hopefully you'll get a better idea when I tell you of my experience.

After knowing my new friend Rachel in Chicago for about 5 minutes-- Brit and I agreed to go with her to Alinea for her 25th Birthday!

I was just off a raw food cleanse--so real food was most welcome.

Best decision ever? I really do believe this was and probably will be the most amazing dining experience of my entire life. Now, the question remains is this exciting? or depressing?... because I'm only 23. Mmmph?

We also decided to do the petite wine paring. With each course we received a new little glass of wine. It really blows your mind how each wine can really enhance an entire dish.

Did I mention there were 12 courses? We did the 'tasting.' See how it curves? The meal progresses based on our taste palate--salty-sweet-savory--then back to sweet. Notice ingredients like : vegetable ash, toasted hay, and smoke. Mmm and sweetbreads!--yikes. Google it people.

And here is the 'tour'. 25 COURSES!!! Ah. Maybe someday I will get to taste the amazing dishes I missed out on...chicken skin and liquefied caramel corn.

And because we LOVE us some carbs we were very excited that each course also had its own unique bread with a different spread or infused butter. Sigh...

So this was my favorite dish 'Beans.'

I can't really tell you much. Except it was life changing. We ate it clockwise. Using the puree in the middle to mix with each of the little blobs around the edge.

This also came on a pillow of nutmeg air. The plate went on the pillow so as you were eating you smelled the air as it enhanced the eating experience.

Yeah, I know.

Here was another memorable one.
There were very specific instructions about eating this.
1. MUST eat it like a shot. One bite.
2 MUST have our mouth closed completely when we bite down. No space for the food to squirt out!
It was like a cold refreshing apple cider explosion in your mouth!

I could go through and talk about each course--but I won't. You should save your pennies and get up here to Chicago to try it out yourself. And visit me, duh.
They also can do vegetarian. Still awesome I'm sure. And it's seasonal so the menu changes. We were on the cusp of fall to winter. Oh I wonder what spring will be!
Dinner anyone?
Coming soon: I just invited the best Masaman curry for Brit--it's the only ethnic food she eats. Well that and Pho. She also eats Pho. But that's it. The curry is mind blowingly good.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How I get my kicks.

Get ready for the most exciting post ever. Now I KNOW all of you have been wondering how the hell one would make coconut kefir. Because I know the world is obsessed with the fermented nectar of young coconuts.

Well here is your chance, y'all. Get funky.
Yesterday was a rough day. I won't go into the deets, but it was. And so to cheer me up, the girls and I got together to ferment things. Power tools were involved!

This is our idea of fun. I swear. We don't get drunk or snort things. We don't paint our toes and eat Ben and Jerry's. We ferment and culture foods and then take pictures and then post the pictures and then comment on the pictures in order to spread our joy!

The perfect lovely new coconut...

Miss JJ cuts off thin slices off the outer shell looking for the 'magic hole'--yes the 'magic hole.'

She found that magic hole!

Pour out that sweet coconut nectar! There is about 1.5 cups in each one. We had 19. Yes, 19 coconuts! Rachel bought everyone Whole Foods had and they in turn thought she was coconuts.

Next step is to saw that baby in half! We let JJ's bro handle this duty. It made him feel manly. Though he he did refuse to be photographed...was he embarrassed to be fermenting coconuts on a rockin' Monday night? It's possible...

Ta-da! What a beauty.

Rachel was on scoop duty. She's a really good scooper.

Oh oops! I see a brother! Shh...don't tell him.

We heat up the nectar to ignite fermentation!!!

This is a bowl full of coconut meat!So. Good.

Coconut pudding...Mmm.

So here are the final fruits of our labor. From left to right we have Coconut cheese, Coconut Kefir, and KimChee(which is cultured vegetables--this batch is cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, cucumber, and green apples) It ferments for a whole darn week!

Yeah, we really are that good of a time.

You should come hang out with us and rid yourself of the evil candida. It's a blast!


Here are a few links if you really are curious why we eat this stuff.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

La Basics: Part One.

If I am over to your home, you best know I shall be snoopin' in your pantry.

Do you mind?

It tells a lot about you. A glimpse into your foodie soul.

I'll try not to judge you.

I have a friend, poor thing. This friend has the saddest little collection of goods I have ever seen. It's OK, he knows this. He lives on cheese and olives. But not even good cheese and olives. We're talking Velveeta and the ones with pimentos. It's OK, he knows this. But this friend wants to grow! He wants to eat real food. He came to me for advice. I shall now pass along the same advice to you.

Part One:

First step. Do a clean sweep. Just purge. Anything that looks funky toss it. Even if you think you might eat that half used bottle of 3 year old rainbow sprinkles or all 600 packets of ketchup from Wendys --you won't, so just toss it.

Here we go y'all...I know I said pantry, but I'm gonna throw in some things that might need the fridge. With these staples on hand you can make anythang!

Fat! It's real good. No lard for us folks.

Must haves: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Butter(for richness!) or a non-dairy sub like Smart Balance.

Step it up: Flaxseed Oil--this is so good for you. I use it in salad dressings. Don't cook with it. Just raw.

Feelin' Fancy: Coconut Oil. This is my new favorite. I know what you are thinking. "Dani, that is saturated fat!--Isn't that bad for us?!?" Coconut oil is actually very good for you. Check out the link.

I put a bit (.25 teaspoon) in my tea!

*Fat makes things taste extra delicious. But if you are anti-fat you can saute things perfectly using broth or stock--be it veg or chick.

Acid!How rock-n-roll. Acidic foods balance out flavors.

~ Lemons and Limes: Real ones. None of that fake plastic fruit silliness. Keep them handy. They last quite a while.

~Balsamic Vinegar: BV is a a great deglazer. It makes wonderful sauces and is great for marinades and dressings.

~A white vinegar: You choose. Frankly, all vinegars have their speciality. And their own unique taste. But you don't need 5. Either Apple Cider or White Wine will do the trick.

Spices! This is really about personal taste. You could get a spice rack and have all your bases covered, but those spices aren't usually the freshest. Even though spices are dried their potency wears out over time. Below are just some of my faves. Do what you like, but create a variety. "Italian Spices" won't work in every dish.

Must haves: Sea or Kosher Salt and A Pepper Mill(Grind it up!)

My faves: Cinnamon, Red Pepper Flakes, Curry, Dill(I'm in a dill phase...), Fennel Seeds, Chili Powder, Cumin.

These are spice combos that rock: Garam masala(Indian), Chinese 5 Spice, Herbes de Provence( make sure to get the one with lavender), Pumpkin Pie Spice (I use it all year round!), a Grill Seasoning, Old Bay(Best seafood spice eva!).

Feelin' fancy: Saffron( takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron-- so it's pricey!), Pure Vanilla(derived from the pods of the only edible Orchid--pure is amazing.)

*Some herbs are best fresh: Mint, Cilantro, Rosemary-- for example. You can get these dried, but dried Basil does not produce the same effect as fresh! Mix and match. Grow a wee herb garden!

Ok that's a start.
Get goin'.
More to come.

"To eat good food is to be close to God." said Primo!