Month: December, 2009

Sugar and Spice is Nice at the Rambling Restaurant

Bright colors are nice too.

At the last Rambling Restaurant of 2009, we served a trio of richly colored dips – chickpea hummous, beetroot hummous, and carrot cumin dip. So pretty in pink.

For maximum dippability, we prepared straight-out-of-a-hot-oven-and-onto-the-grill flatbreads. Take Moro flatbread recipe (recipe below), multiply by 15 (eek!) and you have a lot of steaming hot fresh bread  in your future. Also a lot of rolling pin action. Stop whining, it’s good for the arm muscles.

I know making your own bread for a meal sounds thoroughly unrealistic, but this pita-like bread only needs about 20 minutes to sit. This means you can take about five minutes to make the dough, let it sit while you chop vegetables or prepare something else, and have WOW-YOU’RE-AMAZING homemade bread to accompany your meal. Even if it’s only yourself you’re impressing, it’s totally worth it. Especially when you fold it over and stuff it with sauteed spinach and halloumi cheese and roasted eggplant and other such delights.

We followed up the onslaught of foldable starch and pretty bowls of mush with a Turmeric Lime Chili Chicken over a Roasted Eggplant, Pomegranate Seed, Scallion, Parsley, Mint, Tomato Fattoush with a dollop of Cumin Yogurt Sauce. It’s a lot of ingredients that somehow all work in symbiotic grace to produce a happy mouthful of amazing.

But a discussion of odd-sounding ingredients that don’t really seem like they’d work together but actually will blow your mind would not be complete without Chef foodrambler’s dessert: Orange Blossom Almond Polenta Cake with Coriander Syrup.  You might not think you like coriander, but I DARE you not to like this cake. I like this cake so much I am actually going to make it right now for a Christmas Eve Day Brunch.  I also like you enough to show you this pretty picture which does no justice to the rich, moist, exotically sweet and just a touch of spicy cake perfection.

Garnish with a twist of orange, a sprig of cilantro, and a spoonful of honeyed syrup with dots of coriander seeds.  Staring at this picture makes me very happy that this cake is only several hours in my future.  For those of you gluten-free people out there (sis Irene Bean is testing out a potential gluten allergy),  this cake is made with polenta and not flour. Woohoo!

Now go find yourself some cake too. Happy holidays!

Moro Flatbread

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
a bit less than 1/2 a cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

NOTE: this amount makes about four small-plate size flatbreads, enough for one very very hungry carb fiend like me, or two normal people. Multiply appropriately depending on your eating party’s level of carbophilia.

What You Do:

1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl and activate the yeast in the water, if necessary.

2. Slowly pour the water and yeast into the flour and incorporate by hand. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, punch the dough around for a few minutes. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. Add the oil and keep kneading until you have a single ball of dough with a relatively smooth texture and a bit shiny with oil.

3. Let sit, covered with a damp tea towel, for about 20 minutes.

4. Pull off small balls, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, and roll them out to your desired thickness onto a sturdy floured surface. A good rolling pin is handy here, but floured wine bottles work just as well.  We decided to go super-thin at Rambling Restaurant, but I like the thick and fluffy kind too.

5. Once the dough has been rolled out, you can either put them on a lightly floured baking tray or a lightly oiled pan. At RR, we decided to do both – stick it in a hot oven until they puff up and lose their wet doughy sheen, then finish off on a griddle pan for some tasty brownedness. Either way is delicious.

6.  Cook until puffy, browned, and yearning to jump into your mouth. Dip in something tasty and pat yourself on the back for having produced your very own homemade bread. That is, if your hands aren’t busy tearing apart your creation and stuffing it in your mouth.

like you enough to leave you with a picture so you can start drooling yourself.

Sailing An Orange Slice On A Punch Bowl Sea and Coffee Geekery

You know you’re about to have a bit of a bizarre experience when you’re asked if you’ve recently suffered from discharging ears. I suppose all sorts of odd precautions are necessary when you’re about to float across a punch bowl full of 4,000 liters of cocktail. WOOHOO! PUNCH IN YOUR FACE.

I got to visit the amazing Architectural Punch Bowl by Bompas & Parr last week and wrote it up for Wired UK here.

I also got to interview my favorite coffee maker and World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies and coffee roaster/ex-World Barista Champion Jim Hoffman for a piece on coffee geekery as well! So much cool sh*t going on here in London.

Some more photos from the Punch Bowl after the jump…

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A Golden Ticket Tasting At Artisan Du Chocolat

The invitation from Yelp read: ‘a tutored tasting of one of a kind cocoa creations, chocolate bars, and chocolate cocktails from the chocolateria menu at Artisan du Chocolat’ and I felt like little Charlie Bucket when he peeled back the wrapper of his hard-earned Wonka bar and first caught the glint of his Golden Ticket.  I’d never say no to a chocolate tasting in the first place, but a private behind-the-scenes showcase of the couture creations from one of London’s most illustrious chocolatiers? My eyes grew bigger than Everlasting Gobstoppers.

My excitement only continued rising upon stepping into the shop in Bayswater, a curious composition of luxury boutique crossed with gleaming white and futurisitic space pod.  Squares of etched chocolate as colorful as works of modern art, rounded truffles piled like jewels on a queen’s dressing table, boxes of caramels as classic and streamlined as the most expensive French perfume. My mouth dropped open, and stayed open for the next two hours as we lucky Yelp Elites were plied with chocolate, caramels and cocoa in an stunning array of forms and flavors.

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Chocolate Cars, Pacman Pizza, and the Cutest Bento Boxes on the Planet.

I’ve put together a photo gallery called Play With Your Food for Wired UK! It features my favorite examples of geek gastronomy like a seven-patty-stack-of-heart-attack Whopper in honor of Windows 7, the most adorable Super Smash Brothers bento box, and an absolutely amazing stop-motion video at the end. It will BLOW. YOUR.MIND. You’ll have to go to the site to watch it, but sneak preview screenshot here:

Pizza eat ghost. Me eat pizza. Want pizza now…

Ok, while I go eat pizza, you go check out the gallery and leave a comment because you luuurrrve me and want Wired to keep me around. Mmm. Pizza.

Man cannot live on bread alone. Cake and bread, however…

Hey guys, remember the summer? Remember that one time where we all went over to Daniel’s house to make food for his birthday?  Man, that was like…four months and one day ago. What’s that?  You aren’t sure that happened?  You don’t think you were invited, or maybe your invitation was lost in the mail a la the sarcastic qualification under the “parties” section of the Gossip Girl website on the intro to the hit teen drama “Gossip Girl”?

Well fear not, for I have pictures and intend to pair them with descriptions of the evening so, cruel social exclusion notwithstanding, you can tell all of your friends that you attended.  You can watch as their eyes, usually half covered by australopithecine lids, focused on nothing in particular as though staring at a television displaying a (marginally) lower primate wearing a party hat, and arrhythmically clashing cymbals together, begin to fill with tears of envy.

You’re welcome.

Moving backwards through the evening we begin with this espresso-chocolate flourless torte.

Chocolate Espresso Torte

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Holiday Happiness With Perfect Pork Shoulder and Crunchy Crackling

One of the most deliciously useful bits of knowledge I have gained so far in my time in London: how to roast a perfect pork shoulder, complete with addictive crunchy little strips of crackling on the top. At Rambling Restaurant a few weeks ago, chef foodrambler made a classic Sunday roast from the excellent River Cottage MEAT book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. While flipping through the cookbook, I happened upon this recipe for Aromatic Shoulder of Pork ‘Donnie Brasco,’ so named because you can put it in the oven on low heat overnight and ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’ Oh Hugh F-W, you are hilarious. Also, a meat genius.

Since the mere reading of the recipe made my stomach grumble with longing, we decided to make the pork shoulder for three consecutive Rambling Restaurant suppers. After a day’s worth of roasting, you pry apart the brittle outer shell of crackling and dig through a shuddering layer of burning hot pork fat to find the most perfect, tender, juicy, falls-apart-with-the-tug-of-a-fork meat. Shredded with two dueling forks and bathed in an impromptu soy-hoisin-chili-garlic-leftover spring roll dipping sauce mixture, we had guests raving that it was the best pulled pork they’d ever tasted.  And so I recreated it for my family back home in Boston, introducing them to the joy that is garlic and spice-rubbed, high heat-blasted pig skin.  Here’s the recipe so you can do it yourself, very very slightly adapted from Hugh F-W’s recipe in ingredients and time, should you decide at lunch that pork shoulder is essential for dinner, without quite enough time to ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’

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Adventures with Bouillabaisse, or, what would Julia Child do?

At the end of the summer, Daniel and Max and I hosted a small house-warming gathering at which we served two dishes inspired by two culinary goddesses who’ve both had tremendous influence on our Ithacan kitchen: Mei, my sister and primary proprietress of this lovely online space, and Julia Child. We imagine that their lovechild would be miraculously tall, butter- and bacon-loving to a fault, and look something like this:

Hmm… maybe we’ll stick to hybrid meals and leave offspring to the professionals. Bouillabaisse and scallion pancakes ahead.

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Exporting the Valuable American Traditions of Turkey, Pie, and Stuffing…Your Face

Thanksgiving is without question my favorite holiday of the year.  It involves all the things I love most – family, friends, fun in the kitchen, and obscene amounts of food. Before returning back to Boston for the annual FamilyStylesFoodFestFunTime, Chris and I decided to organize a London Thanksgiving to comfort the Americans missing their annual tryptophan hit back in the States and to introduce some Brits to their FirstEverThanksgiving. Such a phenomenal opportunity to welcome foreigners to a holiday that revels in stuffing yourself beyond capacity.  Oh and we tossed a few Australians and Canadians in the mix too. I only wish we could have invited about thirty other friends, but we could barely pack the 20-odd guests into the living room already.

The menu was a classic Thanksgiving feast for the first-timers but also involved some first times for me. Like my first time brining a turkey! Apparently the ratio of one gallon of water to one cup salt and one cup sugar  is ideal to unwind the meat proteins of the turkey, allowing the flavored solution to be drawn up into the meat. Sweet. More moisture + more flavor = happy eaters. There’s nothing worse than dry turkey breast. And you can add your choice of spices, aromatics and flavorings to make things even more exciting. Here’s what I came up with based on the contents of the kitchen:

Brine For A Juicy Turkey:

1 gallon water
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2  lemon, sliced
4 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
about 1/2 tbsp white pepper
about 1/2 tbsp Chinese five-spice
a few sprigs of thyme

Here is Boris (named for our London mayor) or Natasha (named for Boris) in his (or her) bag of spicy salty sweet bathwater.

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