May 15, 2013

culinaryme: a cookbook


It's been three months of hard work - writing down recipes, grouping recipes by shared ingredients, grocery shopping, measuring, cooking, plating, photographing, editing, with repeated steps sometimes.

And finally, after a text formatting nightmare with the ebook, I have finally completed my cookbook. It is available in hardcover, softcover and in ebook format. I have copies of each, so I can honestly say that everything turned out well. The photos are pretty, the text is clear, and a friend paid me a great compliment by saying simply that she could see herself making a lot of the recipes in the book.

The sections are named after the different sections/classes I took at school - Cafeteria, PCR, Latin Quarter (which I renamed Asian Quarter to feature some of the things I ate growing up), Advanced Baking & Pastry, and Garde Manger. Some of the recipes have already been posted on the blog, but they were selected for being the best of what I've made.

This link has a preview of the book, so you can see what some of the pages look like.

I know that for a cookbook, it's a little bit pricey, but that's because the books you order are printed individually and not as part of a bulk order. If I ordered a thousand copies and sold them, it'd be cheaper and I could probably stand to profit, but then I'd have a physical inventory to contend with. So I choosing not to profit and just to offer them at Blurb prices.

To cushion the blow, I'm offering anyone who buys a book the option of getting the ebook for free! Just let me know that you've purchased one by dropping me a comment.

Thank you for having followed me in my culinary school journey, the book is really dedicated to you all.

As for next steps... I am moving (back) to New York for a full-time job. It's not cooking related, but hunger related, so you know I will still be involved in food. If I cook anything of note, I will still include it here. But for now, good bye and good luck!

April 21, 2013

boba cake

My sister Jenny came up from Southern California for spring break. It was a drop-in visit, so I scrambled to make a cake since I wouldn't be seeing her for her birthday.

Since she loves pearl milk tea (known as boba in SoCal), I decided to make her a cake that looked like the drink.

First I started with Betty Crocker boxed yellow cake mix. Yes, it was given to me, and no, don't judge.

So despite it being boxed cake mix, I applied learned techniques to make it. First, have the eggs at room temperature and whip them in the kitchenaid mixer. Eggs will beat fluffier if at room temperature (you can cheat by microwaving them for about ten seconds). While it's mixing I sift the dry mixture so it is airy and lump-free. Then I alternate pouring the dry mix and the wet mix (water and oil) into the mixer until everything is just incorporated. Then it goes into lightly-oiled round pans and straight into the oven.

Once the cake rounds were baked I allowed the pan to cool, then took the rounds out by running a knife around the edge. Since I don't have a cooling rack, I just inverted the rounds onto an upside-down muffin tin.

cake rounds

When the cake rounds cooled to room temperature, I leveled them and punched different sizes rounds out of them using metal cutters.

cake rounds stacked

These were stacked one on top of the other, from smallest to largest. The bottom round was anchored to the plate with the help of some melted chocolate (chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirred in between). Then the other rounds were anchored with the help of a boba straw.

cake frosted

Two 8" cake rounds were enough to make two boba cake "towers". I frosted them with apricot whipped cream. Usually I put fruit between cake layers, but it would have compromised stability in this case, so I put it in the whipped cream instead (basically canned apricot pureed and mixed into whipped cream). The only unfortunate part was that it made the whipped cream less smooth and spreadable.

cake decorated

The last-minute addition was of boba pearls. You can cook your own, which I tried, but it took more time than I had so the pearls were too hard. So I ended up using pearls plucked out of a boba drink. Unfortunately they were really slippery and wouldn't stay "glued" to the towers. If I had more time, I would have cut the pearls in half - think that would have made them stick a lot better.

The good thing is, we were able to surprise Jenny with the cake, so that allowed the cake's flaws to be overlooked a bit. When in doubt about your creation, surprise the recipient with it! I'm only half-kidding. She liked it a lot though.

spiced potato wedges

These are kind of similar to the semi-homemade garlic parmesan parsley fries from awhile back, except these are entirely homemade and cheaper.

First, start with 2 or 3 potatoes. Scrub them well and cut them in half lengthwise, then into wedges.

Then, toss them with oil and spices - I used my standard italian herbs, garlic powder, cayenne, salt & pepper. In terms of quantity, it's just enough so that every wedge gets some on both sides. You can put all the ingredients into a bowl and just toss.

Then I laid them on a oiled sheet tray and into the 350F oven for maybe 10 minutes on each side.

potato wedges

After they're nicely golden and almost brown, I slide them onto a plate and sprinkle parmesan cheese, then put the plate back into the turned-off-but-still-warm oven for a minute so the cheese melts.

On top I sprinkled scallions, which is what I had at the time, but you can use any herb garnish. And then for dipping I had my favorite ranch and sriracha-spiked ketchup. Addicting.

March 6, 2013

rice soggies krispies

So in the month that I didn't blog, I mentioned trying things out and not having them work out. Rice krispies was one of those things.

Even though I'd never made them before I assumed I could, like other things, just make them. Well I was wrong. Apparently mastering the finer points of pastry does not exempt one from krispie fail.

In rice krispie attempt #1, I browned butter and added nutella to the mix and then topped it all with smoked almonds and chocolate syrup. I wanted the syrup to harden so I put the pan in the fridge, which I thought must have been a mistake, because the rice krispies became rice soggies (or just softies).

So then in rice krispie attempt #2 I made sure to keep the pan far away from the fridge. The kripies were crispy for like 10 triumphant seconds (okay maybe minutes) but eventually became soggy. Another fail.

I was beginning to feel like I couldn't make anything when I decided to forgo the whole making-my-own-homemade-marshamallow part and just succumbing to KRAFT jet-puffed marshmallows.

browned butter + marshmallows

So I browned 2 tablespoons of butter and melted 26 marshmallows into it. Stirred with a silicone spatula until the marshmallows were fully melted.

melted marshallow + rice krispies

Then I poured the mixture into 4 cups of rice krispie cereal (with some dried cranberries and almonds thrown in for kicks).

marshmallow pull

And lo and behold, something about the manufactured corn syrup-ness of it all meant that the marshmallow mixture didn't seep into the cereal but simply adhered to the cereal like spider silk. Crazy. Took an hour or so to set and stop being like pulling taffy.

And a day later, it still tastes great. Makes you wonder...

loaded baked potato

baked potato

Oftentimes I get hungry right before bed, which is always a dilemma because they say you shouldn't eat before you go to sleep and yet an empty stomach keeps me up.

So to preempt the problem I had a late night (but not too late night) snack of a baked potato. It was wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the oven while I baked other things, for about an hour.

The texture was very smooth, almost like it was boiled. I guess since it was wrapped in foil it was actually steamed.

I topped it with creme fraiche, parsley, salt and pepper, cayenne, and some gherkins/cornichons on the side. Could always do cheese or bacon bits! With toppings it's like the more the merrier :)

February 27, 2013

farro salad soup

farro salad soup

Today I came home from class craving soup.

No soup in the fridge. No soup in the freezer. No soup in cans. No cup of noodles even, it was at work.

What to do??? In situations like these I tend to pace about from pantry to fridge, fridge to pantry, in hope for some vain substitute. It rarely ever works.

Cris had brought over some farro salad he made earlier today. I'm not sure if I've ever eaten farro (it's like twins with barley, and I guess I've eaten that). Anyway. It was sitting in my fridge. I stared at it, willing it to be soup.

Then I thought - why not turn it into soup???

I couldn't even wait to thaw out some turkey stock from the fridge. I took some water, spooned some chicken base into it, dumped the farro salad in (farro, lamb, olives, carrots, cucumber, apple), then brought the mixture to a boil. While it simmered, I drizzled a little cornstarch slurry to thicken. A few minutes later I poured it into a bowl, dropped in some parsley leaves, and I had soup.

There's nothing like satisfying a craving.

turkey patties

Since I mentioned turkey burgers in my previous Cooking Matters post, I had to make them for y'all.

turkey patty ingredients

Started with 1.25 lb of ground turkey, 1 egg white, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of finely diced onion, a couple cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

turkey patties formed

Mixed everything by hand and formed little palm-sized patties.

turkey patties seared

In a hot pan with oil, I laid the patties down. Flipped them over once they browned. Then covered the pan with a lid so the insides would cook. A few minutes later they were done! (The egg whites help in this case because you'll see the little cooked bits starting to seep out.)

turkey patties

And behold, one of the best food photos I've taken as of late.

turkey patties & quinoa

I ate the patties atop some quinoa pilaf (dried cranberries, feta cheese, crushed almonds, minced parsley and orange zest). The patties are just the right amount of meaty. I think ground turkey might just become my protein of choice!

garlic parmesan parsley fries

parsley garlic parmesean fries

One day after work I was craving fries, so I stopped by the local grease burger drive-up joint and ordered a bag of fries. They came piping hot, like presents I all too eagerly unwrapped into a soon-to-be scalding mouth.

Rather than go through the entire bag like that, I decided to jazz up the fries by sauteeing some minced garlic and parsley together with the fries, then sprinkling some pre-packaged parmesan cheese on top.

For dipping, I had the joint-requested ranch along with some sriracha ketchup I whipped up. Deeelicious. Nothing like satisfying a craving.

February 22, 2013

cooking matters

For the past six weeks I've been volunteering with an organization called Three Squares - so named for their belief that everyone should have three square meals a day.

A cornerstone of the work they do is teaching Cooking Matters classes in community centers all over the Bay Area. They have classes for children, teens, adults, and some are even in Spanish!

I volunteered to be the Chef Instructor for one of their teen classes. The goal was to teach healthy cooking and eating. And I have to admit, I learned quite a few things myself, including some healthy delicious recipes that are now part of my repertoire. They include the baked flaked chicken pictured above (paired with baked kale) as well as turkey burgers (like these) and pita pizzas (like these).

It was challenging teaching to teens with busy schedules - a lot of the students didn't attend regularly or had to leave early. Many of them had trouble sitting still and letting others talk without interruption. But when it came to cooking they generally became very focused. Hands-on learning was a big hit, and luckily for me that was the portion I taught.

In one of the classes I taught the teens how to make brown rice & veggie sushi. Two of the students had never even tasted sushi before. They each made their own roll and ate it with dipping sauce (soy sauce + vinegar), and all seemed to like it. It was very gratifying for me to have introduced them to something new.

Of course, I would encourage you to volunteer!

February 18, 2013

buttermilk mac & cheese

This recipe started out with a surplus of buttermilk. I'd originally purchased some to use for cornbread (something that didn't make it onto this blog because I've yet to find a recipe for my ideal cornbread, which is cake-like yet robust and just slightly sweet) but there was a lot leftover.

So when I was hankering for some mac & cheese it occurred to me that I needn't resign myself to Organic Annie's box but that I could Google buttermilk mac and cheese for ideas. This came up and looked delicious.

Started with a roux of 2 Tb butter and 2 Tb flour. I let the butter go a little too long, so it got browned (but all the better for flavor it turns out). To the browned butter dark roux I added 1 1/2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese and 1 cup buttermilk.

Then, in went the cooked Annie's macaroni shells (6 oz), 1 cup ground turkey sauteed with garlic, 1/2 cup diced tomato, a sprinkle of sliced scallion, and salt and pepper to taste.

mac n cheese casserole

I poured the cooked mixture into one of those giant ramekin-like souffle dishes. On top I sprinkled another 1/2 cup of cheddar, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs and some herbs and cayenne. This was covered with aluminum foil and baked in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes. For the last couple of minutes I actually took the foil off so the crust could brown some and get more crust-like.

mac n cheese dinner

It turned out even better than I had hoped. Cheesy crust, gooey savory oh-so-comforting inside - with some sauteed mushrooms and green beans to go alongside. I'm going to be making this one again and it might even make it into the cookbook!

vegetable quiche

Since graduating culinary school I have been cooking at home. Some of it's stuff I photographed and meant to put up, except the recipe didn't turn out right or I didn't like how the results tasted, so nothing's come up here yet.

Never fear, however. I will continue blogging sporadically while I attempt to write my very own culinaryme cookbook.

This vegetable quiche will be one of the included recipes - the first time I made this marked my discovery of fontina cheese as the perfect quiche cheese. The vegetables were just what I had on time at the time, but it turned out great so I decided to make it again. You can surely add meat but you won't miss it if you don't.

First, the crust. I looked around at quiche crust recipes but defaulted to a French classic, pâte brisée, or shortcrust pastry.

pate brisee ingredients

That's 1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour (APF), 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp crème fraîche (to make it more French) and 1/2 tsp salt.

The flour is sifted with the salt and the butter is cold/hard and grated with a cheese grater to render the butter into bits. (If you have a food processor there's that option too.)

pate brisee mix

Beat the egg and pour it into a well in the flour. Incorporate the egg into the flour, then add the crème fraîche and knead. Refrigerate for an hour or so before you roll it out.

quiche crust

Here is the crust rolled out and into a 8" cake pan. I poked holes with a fork so the crust wouldn't inflate from butter steam. This went into a 325F oven for about 5 minutes, until it got golden.

quiche vegetables

For the filling, I had thyme, 1 shallot (minced), 1 zucchini (diced), 1 box mushrooms (sliced) and half a bag of spinach. These were sauteed with a little oil - shallot first, then mushroom and thyme, then zucchini, and spinach last.

quiche filling

Besides the vegetables the filling consisted of 1 cup heavy cream, 4 eggs, 8 oz fontina cheese, 2 oz jalapeno havarti (or some other spicy white cheese), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp nutmeg.

quiche filled

Everything was mixed and poured into the quiche crust, which was returned to the oven and baked for another ~45 minutes.

quiche baked

I took it out when it got golden brown on top but was still a little gooey inside. If you prefer it firmer, you can cover it with aluminum foil and bake it a bit longer. Satisfying either way!

January 15, 2013

macarons finally

I've made macarons before, both at school and at internship. But making it at home was a whole other deal. Thanks to recipes and detailed explanations from this blog, I was finally able to make them successfully at home.

stiff peak meringue

Here are the key ingredients: almost-stiff peak meringue (mine was a little too stiff) and sifted almond meal + powdered sugar.

The meringue was made with the swiss meringue technique: cooked over a double boiler. 105g of egg whites (roughly 3 eggs worth) and 110g of sugar heated to 110F, then whisked with the kitchenaid.

The sifted dry mixture was 140g of almond meal (Trader Joe's!) 90g of powdered sugar.

macaron "dough"

The dry mix was carefully folded into the meringue with a couple drops of red food coloring. The resulting dough is supposed to be a little more liquid than this, since my meringue was a little too stiff. But it's better to err on the side of too stiff than too soft with this.

macarons piped

Piped the macarons with a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Then left them on the counter for half an hour to develop a "skin" (basically when you touch the rounds and nothing sticks to your finger).

chocolate for ganache

While the piped macarons were sitting, I made the ganache filling. Melted 4oz dark chocolate, 1/4 cup of nutella (can be omitted) and 2 Tb of butter in a double boiler.

cream for ganache

Then whisked 1/2 cup of heated cream into the chocolate mixture. The ganache mixture was left to cool and solidify a bit. I popped it in the fridge to speed up the process.

macarons baked

Once the macarons were ready, I baked them in a 275F oven for 15-20 minutes. They're ready when they are hard, almost-golden and come off the parchment nicely.

macarons with filling

I paired the macarons based on matching size, then piped the chocolate ganache onto half of the pairs.

macarons finished

Now that I've successfully made macarons, it's time to experiments with colors and flavors!