Sunday, 30 October 2011

Buy a Doughnut [/Donut] Today... or Make One Yourself!

Today we celebrate "Buy a Doughnut Day," but as the folks at CDKitchen suggest, why not modify this day to be "Make a Doughnut [/Donut] Day"? In honour of the donut, I finally got around to making Chinese-style donuts which fed perfectly as a dessert to a dinner I had last night with four Denison students who live in my residence hall. Just as these recipes suggest (links 1, 2, and 3), the easiest way to make homemade donuts is to shape them out of the pre-made buttermilk biscuit canisters you can find in the grocery store. But with successive failed attempts at working with yeast, I was determined to finally master its use in creating homemade, from-scratch, donuts fit for celebrating. By combining these recipes (here and here) along with the brilliant recipe found at the Pioneer Woman's blogsite, I got around to making light donuts that were warm with doughy goodness. I have made donuts before using the pre-made stuff, but with a little patience, the from-scratch variety is much more meaningful. Along with my Chinese-style donuts with spiced chocolate sauce and whipped cream, the rest of the dinner menu included a Vienna pizza bread on my part, and by Joy (one of the students), soy sauce chicken and mushrooms, spicy sliced pork and cabbage, and "real" rice(!).

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Tribute to the Aztecs: National Chocolate Day 2011

Yesterday was, in my opinion, the food day of all food holidays: National Chocolate Day. As you may know by now, I try my best to celebrate food holidays with dishes that give me a reason to try (synthesizing) a new recipe, bring me back to something I've made before, or are inexpensive and easy to make. Yesterday's celebration was no exception and this time around my celebration dish was one that covers all three of these areas. The simplest recipes of what I made involve three principal ingredients: heavy cream, chocolate, and something to serve as a coating (more chocolate, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt, etc.). I first recall making these in high school and so it took me quite some time to resign myself to the fact that this was as simple to make now as it was back then. I'm talking about truffles. No, I'm not talking about truffles as in the fungus, but rather the chocolate version that resembles those expensive delicacies best found by pigs.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Celebrating National Potato Day 2011 with a Potato Gratin

I don't know what is so different about this week, but it certainly hasn't been difficult finding dishes to make in celebration of national food holidays. Today of all days is the celebration of one of the easiest and most versatile starches to work with: National Potato Day. From the potato soup to potato puffs, poutine to potato salad, many easy dishes can be pulled together and under a very acceptable budget. To celebrate this year's day of the root crop I'm most familiar with, I made a potato gratin (also recognised as scalloped potatoes) with a Swiss cheese Mornay sauce (i.e., béchamel with shredded Swiss cheese). And I don't know about you, but it's tough to cook with potatoes and not have some sort of pork around; to that end, I also discovered my own way of making bacon bits... by twice frying them.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bacon and Black Bean Quinoa Cakes in Honour of National Food Day: A Healthy (Gasp!) Alternative to National Greasy Foods Day

For those of you who are not aware, today is National Greasy Foods Day. While I would typically be categorised in the "let's eat greasy food" to celebrate this national food holiday (and I may very well do so later today), I have decided (at least for my midnight snack) to go a healthier route, given that yesterday was National Food Day. Established this year by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this year‘s theme is "Transforming the Way Americans Eat: Focusing on Healthy, Affordable Food Produced in a Humane, Environmentally Sustainable Way." Certainly a timely theme given that of Saturday's farm to table program, a Food Day collection of recipes by prominent chefs and food writers sparked me to consider what I could make in honour of this inaugural year. Bearing in mind the six Food Day principles--the first among them being the reduction of "diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods"--I settled on a trio of quinoa cakes (using smokey maple bacon and black beans) for my midnight snack to balance the fine line between the two aforementioned holidays. When it came time to actually cooking them, however, I found that what I ended up actually accomplishing was the ability to test out the cooking technique of this truly amalgamated recipe. An "America's Test Kitchen"-approach, I'm pleased with the final result, pictured above and described in greater detail below. [Servings:] The recipe and process is good for nine quinoa cakes, six of which contain bacon.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Columbian Cuisine and Home Cooking à la Ayalas

Just as I thought I had finished blogging today, another wonderful opportunity found its way to me that (unsurprisingly and fittingly) needed to be added to the blog. After Mass this evening, those who could attend were invited to the home of the Ayala family. As it turned out, a small group of us joined the Ayala family at their home for dinner and were treated to a beautifully home cooked meal by Mónica's mom who is here in the States visiting from Columbia.

It Finally Happened!: Farm to Table Cooking Class 2011

Shortly after my arrival to Denison's campus last autumn, I received an e-mail soliciting event ideas for the 2011-2012 campus-wide theme of "Migrations." Now a year later, months of planning, an intensive three weeks trying to pull everything together, and cognisant of both yesterday being the last Farmers Market day of the fall season and Monday being National Food Day (ironically, this year's theme is "Transforming the Way Americans Eat), my fall food and culture program "Farm to Table Cooking Class: An Experiential Food Adventure" finally came to fruition. When all was said and done, our group of 21 registered participants and crew of 10 (myself, Ana, Dave, Lauren, Marilyn, Marlaine, and Susan, as well as Jen, Monica, and Nicki of PEAS--People Endorsing Agricultural Sustainability) somehow pulled off a truly ambitious menu. Before I share with you our program and menu, I should note the coordination of a large group of over 30 (with plans to feed at least 40, if the farmers/vendors were to have joined us) was a script I had been dreaming and rerunning multiple times in my head over the past week and, while a rewarding challenge in the end, it would have had no meaning were it not for the participants and crew that took part in the challenge. I would be remiss to not also acknowledge the wonderful support from both Denison (especially our respective offices, and in particular the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life for providing the Open House as our wonderful venue) and the Granville Farmers Market community. With this said and with much gratitude, and in the words of the Iron Chef America chairman's uncle, let us now turn to yesterday's event... à la cuisine ! [Side note: As those who are familiar with this blog should know, and as I mentioned to the participants yesterday, all of the recipes I have made have all been written out here in an on-traditional recipe style. You are encouraged to read the blog from start to finish, taking note of your mise en place (i.e., preparation, organiation and knowledge of the location of especially measured ingredients). In addition, I would also like to note that I have made most of these dishes and the recipes I've shared are my adaptations of a variety of others; if this is the case, the dishes will be linked to additional posts on this blog.]

Chicken Piccata for Two: Lauren's Visit to Granville

Without question, this has been one of the busiest weeks so far since I first started working at Denison; and as many may know, I've had some busy ones! Yet despite all the work, it's been wonderful to share this part of my daily life with Lauren over the past few days. She arrived on Thursday and as I'm writing this post, I'm also getting ready for my last commitment for the weekend (greetings from our department and taking part in a diversity workshop for prospective students) before Lauren has to return to her daily life at Notre Dame. So often are we (and I'm speaking in general terms here) bogged down by work and activities that by the time we're able to spend any time together with friends and family, all of that is pushed aside. This time around, completely setting aside work has been particularly difficult as the hours approached for my Farm to Table program, and so to have her support through this time has been especially meaningful. Speaking of meaningful, after a very long drive from Indiana, Lauren cooked one of her burgeoning specialties for dinner on Thursday, chicken piccata.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Celebrating National Chocolate Cupcake Day 2011 with Dark Chocolate

If you didn't know, today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day and quite naturally I had to celebrate this unofficial food holiday that's nevertheless recognised this time of you. Combining my adapted dark chocolate cake recipe (based off of the recipe found on the back of Hershey's dark cocoa powder containers) and this one offered by online specialty foods magazine The Nibble, I woke up this morning prepared to bake some cupcakes in acknowledgment of this 19th century treat. The one issue I faced was the fact that I don't have any cupcake pans in my apartment and so I baked two cupcakes in ramekins and poured the rest of the batter into a baking dish; by definition, a cupcake is typically a cake made as a single serving and so at least the ramekin versions fit the celebration. On the menu: Dark Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Orange and Almond Cream Filling and Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.

Monday, 17 October 2011

From Scratch and Supporting Local Sustainability: World Food Day Weekend, Part II

As I've noted over the past few days, yesterday was World Food Day; in the U.S. alone, 300 events marked this day which, since 1979, is meant "to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty." While food concerns are certainly rampant throughout the world, the inequity, mistreatment, and mismanagement of food does not help to alleviate very glocal issues. We don't need to be Goodwill Ambassadors to initiate and bring about change in our communities; for those who are fortunate to be part of the food market (as producers and consumers), we have an obligation to give back, learn from, and support to the extent we can, local food, global and regional influences, and each other. On day two of my celebration of World Food Day weekend, I focused on preparing homemade food, with a common (and local) autumnal ingredient: butternut squash. On yesterday's menu: Monterey Jack and Roasted Squash Tomato Ravioli with Nutmeg and Brown Buttered Almonds.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Brezel in the States: World Food Day, Part I

World Food Day (which will officially be recognised tomorrow), and according to World Food Day USA, "is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-around action to alleviate hunger." There are certainly many who are quite far away from wherever you may be reading this blog post who lack food, let alone clean water and shelter; on the other hand, there are perhaps even those near you who may also be in a similar situation. Indeed, while food is a means of exploring identity and bringing people together, it can also give rise to exploitation, inequity, and division. If it's in your power to affect change on a grander scale, such as this video may suggest (and there are examples within that which could be adaptable), I've found this video to relate to the work I already do around food on this blog. And so, let the conversation continue; following is my first day of World Food Day weekend 2011.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

An (Un)intended Food Migration: Texas, Germany, Northern India, and Back to Ohio... All in One Night

Yesterday, I noted my excitement for tonight's Northern Indian dinner in one of our campus dining halls, under the direction of visiting Sodexo and Executive Chef Sathish Kumar. Well, as we press on with on-going post-pre-orientation programming and gatherings, and continuing to build on this year's "Migrations" theme with a truly inspirational and powerful play which concluded this evening, the stage seemed to have been deemed from the very beginning as set to translate the message of food identity, culture, and migrations this evening. In fact, I felt particularly moved when I heard many times over in the food line today, "Can I have a little bit of everything?" What courage, what bravery, what culinary gastronauts! And what a great day and series of events to celebrate my one-year anniversary with Denison!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Sodexo's International Flavours Make Their Way onto Campus: a Northern Indian Lunch

For some reason or another, it seems that food has recently taken on an evolutionary meaning for the Denison community. From searching for locally sourced ingredients to artistically representing sectors of the food industry and opportunities for food and culture programming (such as my farm to table cooking class in two weeks) as a direct correlation to our campus-wide theme of "Migrations," the interrogation and study of food seems to have been welcomed to Denison's table. This wonderful trend continued this past weekend with the arrival of Executive Chef Sathish Kumar who shared traditional preparation techniques with the cook staff over the weekend and is also on campus to direct the preparation of two authentic Indian meals for the campus community. In addition, Chef Sathish was available to meet students, faculty, and staff at the first of two Indian meals today for lunch, and naturally I had to meet him in person.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

National Taco Day and National Frappe Day, In Celebration of

Alongside maintaining this blog, there's one other publication that I maintain on a regular (weekly) basis: "Diversity @Denison." This online newsletter is a central hub for information regarding diversity efforts on campus, as well as a medium for conveying issues regarding diversity in its varied identities and cultures. This year, I added a special section on food and cultures; just as there exists national holidays to celebrate specific cultures, so too do there exist ones to celebrate the gastronomic world. One resource I turn to each week is the online food magazine about specialty foods, The Nibble. If you navigate via the attached link and get to October, you can see that this past Tuesday and Friday were National Taco Day and National Frappe Day, respectively. Both of these were on my list to celebrate this year, and we (my colleagues and I) did just that.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Empanadillas à la Puerto Rico: A Latin Cultural Cooking Experience

On Denison's campus, Preston House is the residential site for language students. With language at the core of cultural exploration and identity, students are organised by target language and meet regularly to celebrate cultural dimensions of the language. During my Filipino food and culture program, I was invited to join the Spanish language students on a Latin cooking venture of their own. Little did I know beforehand that I would soon be learning so much from the starting point of a dough-filled pastry and its culinary (and cultural) variations. On the menu: empanadillas of chicken and pizza; yellow rice with turkey sausage; potato salad; and chocolate chip cookies.