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.

Sunday, March 27th: During the spring term, some of us associated with Denison in some form or another took turns cooking a meal for Mass attendants; this month, it was my turn to cook. As per the community rules of the Open House, where Mass is held on campus on Sundays,, the largest restriction on my menu planning was that I couldn't have any meat (the Open House thus accommodates vegan/vegetarian eaters, as well as those who practice kosher and hallal cooking). With that in mind, I went with one of the simpler "from scratch" recipes: crêpes. Of course, not knowing how many folks would actually be eating, I erred on the side of making more batter than I needed and so I multiplied my savoury crêpe (olive oil based, and no cinnamon) recipe by six, which allowed me to use up a package of a dozen eggs. The huge bowl of batter thus accommodated 72 crêpes from 10" skillets, representing the most batter I have ever made at one time; in the end, I estimate I made four dozen crêpes within an hour and half time frame. In the photo above, you should be able to see my crêpe assembly line. The back pans held the primary filling--two packages of frozen Parisian-style vegetables which were thawed out in separate pans and then combined together; each pan of veg was cooked with 1/3 c water, a tablespoon of unsalted butter, sea salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder--and the other burners were used to make three crêpes at a time, while I set the oven to warm to keep the crêpes nice and hot until dinner time. Also part of the filling was shredded Swiss cheese, three packages of which were used.

For dessert, I made a strawberry lime salad from two packages of fresh strawberries (quartered by my sister and a staff member from the local parish) which had then been broken down by macerating them in about a cup of granulated sugar, as well as the zest and juice of one lime. This was all combined in metal bowls and put in the refrigerator for about an hour and, as seen above, was served with chocolate and French vanilla ice cream.

Monday, March 28th: Continuing with the strawberry theme, I made my two-story chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and topped these off with an orange-strawberry reduction sauce (handful of strawberries broken down by medium heat in orange juice and granulated sugar). Alongside the pancakes, my sister made a smoothie of strawberries, banana, mango, and orange juice.

For a late night dinner, I made a baked spiral pasta with frozen mixed veg which I pre-defrosted in boiling water and then added some shredded mozzarella after draining the veg. All of this went into baking dishes and after topping it off with leftover steak and a good bit of shredded mozzarella, it was onto a baking sheet and under the broiler to form a great crust.

Oh, yes, and alongside the baked pasta, we added some microwaved jarred pasta sauce to which more shredded mozzarella was melted.

Tuesday, March 29th: After a visit and factory tour of the Anthony-Thomas Candy Shoppe, in west Columbus, and followed by a day of work, I set off on a culinary visit to some memorable ribs from nearly two years ago. Using the same recipe for both the ribs and sauce from 2009 (click on the "ribs" link if you haven't already) as a guideline, and making sure to have the windows open and using my sauté pan's lid to control the smoke level in the kitchen, I used pork (instead of beef) back ribs and a different dry spice rub mix (1/2 tsp thyme; 1 tsp each Penzy's "mural of flavor," garlic powder, ground black pepper, paprika; and 1 tbsp sea salt).

While the ribs were cooking for an hour and fifteen minutes, I set off to work on baked mac 'n cheese that included broccoli, crumbled bacon, and a mozzarella-based béchamel (1 tbsp flour cooked into 1 tbsp unsalted butter, added to 1 c milk and 1 c shredded mozzarella and then seasoned) which I later added to the bacon pan (fat drained out). All of this went into baking dishes and just was the case with the previous night's baked pasta, went under the broiler to let some topped-off mozzarella do their browning.

And alongside all of that, I baked some corn bread (to which I added a touch of paprika) and cooked some Jasmine rice. I ended up eating most of my servings, and have definitely been enjoying the leftover mac 'n cheese. For more deliciously satisfying meal photos, from just the three days described in this post, click here.

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