Saturday, September 22, 2007

A weekend of cooking from the internet

I certainly didn't plan for everything I cook last weekend to be from the internet, but that's what happened. Here's what I made:

Scarlet runner beans from Rancho Gordo - Scarlet runner beans are one of the larger varieties from Rancho Gordo, and thus need plenty of soaking. Soaking that I neglected to do. I gave them two hours; evidently it was not enough.

The sun was out in the morning, so I decided to use my solar oven for the beans. I sauteed some chopped onion, added minced garlic after the onion was soft, then poured in the water and beans. I used a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, and a branch of thyme for flavor.

Although a previous attempt at cooking beans in the solar oven was spectacular---each of the Rio Zape variety beans seemed to be perfectly cooked and none of them fell apart. But with the runners, it did not work as I hoped. After several hours in the solar oven, the beans were still hard and chalky. Evidently, they were too large or had not been soaked long enough to cook using the mild heat available in the solar oven (the temperature was just below the boiling point). I gave them a few more hours on the stove, but they were never quite right. The flavor and aroma---it's clear why rosemary is classified as an "aromatic"---was excellent.

Photo of honey-pecan semifreddoHoney-pecan semifreddo from Tom Philpott at Gristmill - According to the Food Lover's Companion, Semifreddo is Italian for "half cold" and can apply to a range of chilled or frozen dessert.

In Tom's recipe, semifreddo is basically a mixture of egg yolks and honey that have been beaten into a foam, whipped egg whites, and lightly-whipped cream. I added ground locally-grown pecans to the base for added flavor. After the everything is mixed together, the semifreddo went into the freezer for a few hours to chill.

The texture of the fully-chilled result was rich and creamy with very little ice crystallization, almost like real ice cream made in an expensive machine. The flavor was sublime: a pure and direct essence of honey, delivered to the taste buds by the rich cream and egg base. I'll probably make this one again with alternative seasonal flavors (e.g., orange zest and pistachios in the winter).


Photo of homemade granola barsHomemade granola bars from Heidi Swanson's Supernatural Cooking, via Becks and Posh (where you can find an adaptation of the original recipe) - Wholesome and addictive, almost like a rice crispy treat, but with whole grain, fiber, and plenty of nutritional value.

They were so good that I made two pans in the span of four days and right now am thinking about when I can make another pan. I ate pieces for breakfast, as a morning snack, as an afternoon snack, and at other times.

The brown rice syrup and sugar mixture binds everything together into a sweet chewy mass. The basic flavor is oats and rice, with the "the good stuff"---toasted almonds, bits of dried apricot, raisins, toasted walnuts---popping up now and then.

The second time I made the bars I took a few extra steps by toasting the rolled oats in the oven for a few minutes and replacing some of the brown rice cereal with popped amaranth seeds. Popped amaranth is a pleasant flavor and leads to better success than did my previous cookie experiment with amaranth seeds. Unfortunately, I cooked the rice syrup for a little bit too long, thus causing the bars to be too hard.


Thousand layer lasagna from 101 Cookbooks - Not exactly one-thousand layers---more like ten---with fresh mozzarella, a simple tomato sauce, and fresh basil. I was not happy with the result because I overcooked the very thin sheets of pasta and my tomato sauce was somewhat bland (a lasagna is a place where canned tomatoes are often superior to fresh, as they have more assertive flavor).

Also, something "lasagna-esque" was missing for me: the ricotta custard. That creamy, airy, herb-filled, and garlicky custard is one of my favorite parts of lasagna. It has even made appearances in another pasta dish that I love.

(Sorry, no photo because they all were lousy. For some beautiful photos of the lasagna, visit Heidi's page.)


Salad of Roasted Cauliflower from me - a great way to eat cauliflower. Rich roasted flavors, a sharp dressing, and the mellow cauliflower background.





Random link from the archive: Tokyo, City of Culinary Marvels and Mysteries

Technorati tags: Baking : vegetarian : Food

1 comment:

Earnest and Game: Heather said...

Thanks for the post on the power bars--inspired, I made as well from the recipe listed on Becks & Posh. I also sprinkled dried coconut on top--it went well esp. as the bars already are fragrant from the coconut oil.