Friday, 29 April 2011

Catching up on the Cooking: Good Friday's Good Food

When thinking of Good Friday, the typical theme is fasting. And indeed, among other reasons, I certainly fasted last Friday and thus felt justified in preparing a not-so-typical meal for dinner when I visited home last weekend. Still keeping with the no meat rule, I cooked a cheese encrusted pan-seared salmon, and spaghetti with asparagus and mushroom. Of note, this time of the year beckons such simple ingredients as those needed for these particular dishes, while also providing much leeway in terms of adjusting for the ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Visit of Sungara, the Easter Bunny's Kenyan Cousin

A few days ago, I was asked the question "Have you ever had bunny cake?" Not having been a huge fan of coconut, I responded with "No." It is from that point forward the bunny cake challenge was proposed. And so it happened; after baking, sculpting, frosting, coating, and shaping, Sungara was born. As I explained to some of my colleagues, in celebration of the first day of sun in what has seemed like ages, Sungara (Swahili for "rabbit") (or roughly translated in "Erik"-speak, "Pete") came to visit our office. In actuality, Sungara is made of a white butter cake and coated with buttercream frosting and coconut, with jelly bean eyes and a nose.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

I Was Hungry Last Night, So I Cooked Food

Unsurprisingly, I found myself hungry last night and decided to cook some food. While I typically do not post recipes or "common" meal experiences, this is one that has helped to shape how I identify what I find to be in the spirit of this blog. This said, I am writing about this part of my journey because I was able to use some of the chicken and chicken stock I recently broke down and made, respectively!

Happy Birthday Beth

As it turned out, the birthday of Beth (our ISS/MCSA Administrative Assistant) was mid-week last week, but in the tumult of all the event planning, we had waiting until last Friday to celebrate it. Before Friday and the great Flash Mob, I asked Beth what her favourite cake was and she responded with the one type I was hoping she would not say: red velvet cake. As you may know by now, dear Reader, I am up for a wide range of culinary challenges, but there was something about the traditional flavours of a red cake and cream cheese frosting that made it seem like quite a daunting task. To boot, I am not all that familiar with this cake of cakes so it was a bit difficult to determine as I was putting this together as  to whether or not I was on the right path. All this said, I set off knowing I would deviate from tradition and, after at least an hour or two comparing at least a dozen recipes for red velvet cakes and frostings, as well as devouring sites such as this one which focused on experimentation and even the technical science behind baking a perfect red velvet cake, I came up with this concoction which I have officially added to my list of very lucky culinary results.

Monday, 18 April 2011

If You Know (and Are Comfortable with) Poultry, Proceed

Alongside all of the Saturday morning cartoons, as well as the afternoon cooking programs on our local public broadcasting channel, painter Bob Ross stands out as an influential character in my artistic journey. It was in large part because of him that I ended up dabbling in oil painting and watercolor; and if/when memories of his fro or the scraping of the painter's knife against a canvas fade away, one word will somehow resonate with his seemingly flawless relationship with his work: happy. For those of you who know what I am talking about, I am of course referring to the embellishments Bob would add to his paintings, most notably his happy little clouds, or the tree friends he would add to his compositions. All of this randomness is to say that in a different medium of art--i.e., culinary--I seek happiness through food, and am particularly pleased when I have happy cooking accidents. Last Wednesday, the 13th, marked one such happy cooking accident.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

If You Can't Handle the Heat [Outside], Get in the Kitchen

On Saturday evening, the night of my shadowing experience at The Short Story, I remember seeing what looked like sangria; regardless of what it actually was, the idea had been planted ("inception," anyone?). Sunday proved to be a beautiful day and with a shift in weather to the warmer side, sangria sounded like an extraordinary idea. And as such weather blossoms, I often think equate that heat with the freshness and vibrancy of fruit--particularly mango--and decided to pair that in some way with salmon. With a recent gift from Normandy (sel gris, a.k.a. grey sea salt) also needing to find a home in my blog, I ended up with a great Sunday dinner: Pan-seared salmon atop a bed of steamed green beans with sel gris, garnished with an orange balsamic reduction sauce (influenced by an episode of Dinner: Impossible I had recently seen), and served with jasmine rice and a spicy mango-cucumber salad. Oh yeah, along with a tall, cold glass of sangria. Of course with no actual blood in it, sangria comes from the Spanish word sangre and is based on the tradition of using red wine as the base. From what I have read, there is no one way of making an "authentic" sangria; as you continue reading, note the different layers to this wine punch of sorts and feel free to let your culinary creative juices (wait for the punch line...) flow.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Here, Eat This

It's about 4:30pm and as I make my way through the doorway of The Short Story, the wait staff gets ready near the bar area for the first customers to arrive and talk about who has already eaten some cake makes its way to me, at which point I'm given a healthy serving of moist chocolate cake and told "here, eat this." Eventually, I'm given a fork and Robert Harrison, executive chef of The Short Story, meets me at the entry way to a fairly small kitchen and asks me if I'd like to be introduced to the cook staff (which he forewarns me is a small one). In between bites of cake, I'm introduced to Dylan (a.k.a., the head dishwasher; a.k.a., the 16-year-old-who-cooks-like-he's-30; a.k.a., "the Prodigy") and then to Carly (the baker and plater of the chilled small plates and desserts). And as I finish my plate of cake, service begins.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

An Early Afternoon at The North Market & "A French Menu"

After months of waiting, the time had finally come for me to attend my first cooking demo at The Columbus Dispatch Kitchen in The North Market, one of my favourite weekend locations in the Columbus area. A centralised collection of specialty tastes--from a wide array of cheeses to fresh poultry, breads baked daily to freshly squeezed juice, soul food to Indian flare--The North Market is my go-to locale for a taste of the international...in Ohio. 
As for the cooking demo itself, today's instructor was Columbus Dispatch food editor Robin Davis. Alongside more than a dozen folks, we gathered on the second floor of The North Market to join Robin in her studio kitchen as she harnessed northern and central French flavours using "grocery store" ingredients.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

This One Takes the Cake (Literally): My "Books 2 Eat" Entry, pt 3

Parts 1 and 2 of my cake posts have so far chronicled the journey of my Books 2 Eat entry. And now, it's time to find out how everything came together, how others interpreted their books, and how the cake actually tasted.

This One Takes the Cake (Literally): My "Books 2 Eat" Entry, pt 2

Part 1 of my cake posts focused on marshmallow fondant work I had prepped Wednesday night. Undoubtedly one of the largest (if not the largest) photo food albums I have to date is of the construction and painting of my Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows cake entry to this year's Books 2 Eat contest, which is the focus of this second part of this recent series of posts.

This One Takes the Cake (Literally): My "Books 2 Eat" Entry, pt 1

Some time last week (followed by a subsequent blog post), I read that there was to be an edible book contest which would be taking place in the campus library. After a bit more reading (ironic, eh?), I found out that this was actually an annual international event. And so, in the spirit of culinary challenges, I set off to enter the contest; little did I know how much prep, bake, and execution, work I would be clocking in for this one. After learning that the general theme was the representation of a favourite book in food form, I seemed to quickly settle on replicating the final book of the Harry Potter series. With the foresight of a time turner owner, I made sure to take quite a few photos for this one, and have divided the photo collection and blog posts into three, more readible posts. This first post focuses on the fondant preparation which I had read is best done overnight to 1) save time the next day since it would already be done; and 2) allow the fondant to have ample time to set, both in terms of consistency and colouring.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Three Great Days of Cooking (and Eating)

Well, hello, dear Reader... long time no write! If you've been following my culinary journey as of late via Facebook, you'll certainly be much more prepared for the next set of posts. Indeed, I hope I can catch you up on my cooking before this Sunday, when I'm scheduled to take a cooking class in Columbus (French themed!). In any case, it's hard to be believe that it was just this past weekend that my family came down to visit me, and my sister stayed through the weekend until mid-week. In that time, we/I did quite a bit of cooking (and subsequently, eating, of course). From favourites in my growing repertoire of recipes to on-the-spot adaptations, what follows in this post are meals that may or may not induce some kind of food coma.