Sunday, 29 January 2012

A Midnight Snack in Melbourne: A Post-Australian Open 2012 Sunday Brunch

Good evening, dear Reader! It's been an incredibly long day for me here in Granville, aided in large part by the fact I've been awake since just before 5am. I had intended on waking up earlier to catch the start of the Australian Open men's final, but was nevertheless quickly drawn in as Rafa secured the first set and already seemed to be ready to finish off the match; just as quickly it seems, the match turned in favour of Novak. And when it all seemed over, at 3-4 in the fourth set, 0-40, Rafa pulled out the come from behind win to level the match at 2 sets each. By set five, the match felt much more alive as the Western side of the world began to awake while the crickets could be heard in Melbourne. In the end, Novak won and though I was severely routing for Rafa--indeed for the entirety of the fortnight--playing for nearly six hours (as many have cited this "epic" match as the longest final in the open era) pulled out the best in both players and acted as a form of consolation regardless of the end result. Alongside all that was to be learned from this match, it was great to feel the rush of emotion and dedication to the sport; indeed, it felt more than two people "just playing tennis." Perhaps the irony of it all is that I can still remember catching glimpses of tennis on the television when I was younger and saw two players hitting a yellow ball over a net as people just playing tennis, being barely able to sit through an entire match (let alone an entire game). I also remember my transition to actually playing and liking the sport (also ironically, while getting drawn into the French Open), and the fandom surrounding support for the King of Clay against another player heralded as one of the greatest in Roger Federer. The 2008 Wimbledon match, which I still remember watching on my mini black and white tv during my summer research period at Albion, also revealed a passion for the sport and qualities of endurance, commitment and true brilliance when the game became personal. In retrospect, I know the "feeling" of tennis was never fully in me when I started playing in high school (why I even chose the sport is a story on its own); but I share this side of me with you because I now relate this drawn out history to my aptitude for all things food and food studies and, as far as cooking/food preparation goes, the "feeling" of "understanding the essence of the moment" (The Flavor Bible, pg 24).

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The First Use of My Standing Mixer

Over the winter break, I received a standing mixer for Christmas. And since then, it's been sitting in my makeshift demo station as I sought out time to actually make use of it. All told, I knew that once I started using it, it would be very difficult to go back to basics and whisk everything up by hand; midway through the first semester of my time here at Denison, my electric hand mixer broke and so anything that needed whisking had to be done old school. In many respects, knowing full well the workout that would ensue helped me to decide which recipes I would attempt. The first use of my standing mixer would have to be for something I had never made before but wanted to... had I had such an amazing kitchen appliance. Last night, I decided that that something would be homemade butter which I would then use for berry butter, and mini chili chocolate cakes in celebration of National Chocolate Cake Day.

Friday, 27 January 2012

It's Nearly February: Time to Stock Up

Of the many sale items I look for when grocery shopping, cheese is toward the top of my list (along with bacon, unsalted butter and high pulp orange juice). I happened to find these 2-cup bags for $2 each and they have a great refrigerated shelf life; however, I never anticipate them staying in the fridge for too long. As for the gouda (smoked of which is my second favourite cheese), that too was on sale for $3.99 (originally $5.29).. do check the expiration date.

Have you ever had those days when you aim to go to a grocery store and whether or not you actually have a list you end up buying more than you actually intend? That's quite often the case for me and as far as restocking my staples, I take the time to succumb to sale items or give in to the moment and purchase an ingredient I don't typically use. As much as I love bacon, cheese and cream (I'll count milk in that lot; don't get me wrong, those are well tended to), forcibly stocking unfamiliar items gives me the creative room to think outside the box (and in many cases, out of necessity, i.e., before they spoil or go to waste). In this post, I'd like to catch you up on some great developments--interspersed with some of the random items I purchased--before I get onto a follow-up post on finally using my Christmas standing mixer to make homemade butter.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Not All Appetizers (and Doughs) Are Created Equally: Winter Hors d'Œuvres in Granville

All hors d'œuvres are appetizers but not all appetizers are hors d'œuvres; and really the difference comes down to how many bites it takes to eat them. As I type this, I'm reminded of the classic '80s Tootsie Pop commercial I grew up seeing alongside my One Saturday Morning cartoons.

Among the many things I like about cooking--or even more simply, preparing food--is the exchange of ideas and directions that takes place in (and out of) the kitchen. This was certainly the case last night; and in blogging about these experiences, I get to extend this exchange past the relatively isolated event. In retrospect of the great help I received this evening to prepare three appetizers, I want to emphasize and properly call the work we accomplished as "hors d'œuvres" for the simple reason that the presentation of the food naturally took center stage (and technically they were all one-bite apps). There's an art form in itself for presenting food and, contrary to the thought that "it doesn't matter what the food looks like," recognising food presentation for the art that it is (and arguably should be) is incredibly important to our senses and overall appreciation for the food we consume.  Though somewhat a rather strange way of beginning this post, I assure you there's a reason behind all this. Amidst all the work we've been planning for our semester-long celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tomorrow, one of my co-workers--Beth--had mentioned the possibility (weather permitting) of a small gathering she would be preparing over the weekend in celebration of her husband Jim's birthday in a few days' time. As it turned out, the gathering would indeed take place and she asked if I would be interested in helping out with putting together some items for it. Quite naturally, my response was... of course!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Community Culture Kitchen: French Cultural Cuisine

The last couple of weeks have seen the relatively quick development of a new program on campus: the Community Culture Kitchen. As I noted in yesterday's post, this program is sponsored by the office for which I work and the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. Hosted each time at the Open House (the site of the aforementioned Center and hosting site for the fall farm to table cooking class I led this past October), at each event "participants learn about the culinary and cultural significance of food in relation to its preparation and roles in celebrating and expressing a group's identities. Academic departments and student groups are invited to partner with the CCK in planning an event which speaks to specific traditions that are connected in some way to food." Tonight, we celebrated French [Catholic] cultural cuisine. Christine, the professor of the French class I'm auditing (which in itself is focusing on connections between gastronomy and religion), focused on the galette des Rois (also mentioned in yesterday's post), while I focused on the beloved crêpe.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Week, New Resolutions for the New Year

With a new episode of Top Chef: Texas as I write, it must mean it's once again Wednesday. Since my last post over the weekend, the second semester of the academic term began; just over halfway done with the week and it already feels as if an entire month has passed. It's certainly been a whirlwind couple of days and what better way to slow things down than with baking. The arguable precision and added concentration for my guesstimation sensibilities on Tuesday morning before work definitely helped me through the day, with this post writing as another break in the work week and another moment to reflect and slow down.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Potato Pancakes with Scrambled Egg and Crumbled Bacon

About a year ago, I saw Chefs Anne Burrell and Robert Irvine make potato pancakes on the second season of Worst Cooks in America. With my basic ingredients still in stock (and a cold winter's day--finally--making me want to stay inside), I found this to be a rather opportune time to try my hand at making these myself.

Midweek Dining Experience at the North Market

After Wednesday morning's tour de cuisine of sorts, I was ready to make it through yet another long work day so I could decompress with an evening dining experience which didn't involve any cooking. Around 5pm or so, I joined some international Denison students on a trip to Columbus where we would later be seeing Shrek: the Musical at the Ohio Theatre. But first, we made a visit to my favourite Columbus foodie locale-- the North Market, where a diversity of flavour is consistently available.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Three Dishes, Two Components, One Breakfast in Burton Morgan

For what seems like the longest time, I've made a few promises for foodie-sharing experiences à la cuisine for folks throughout campus. Earlier today, I had the fortunate opportunity to get to one of these groups; the only time that would bring everyone together was today for breakfast. There weren't any foreseen limitations I had to work with, but I definitely knew I wanted to use the Vermont maple syrup I had recently received and that I wanted to have a very short grocery list, supporting those items with the basic ingredients I wrote about as needing to be in everyone's kitchens. On this grocery list were: asparagus, goat cheese and grape tomatoes. Planning for at least 10, and having leftovers (and ingredients) to spare, the final menu ended up being a new example of an effective morning workout routine.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Fairly "Fishy" Visit Including a Zoo, a Hop and Food

Crêpes Filled with Mozzarella and Topped with Parisian Vegetables Cooked in Sherry (Recipe toward End of Post)
If you haven't yet been introduced, let me be the first to introduce you to GroupOn, the website that works under a premise of "collective buying power." From massages to rock climbing courses, the format encourages members of the community to not only save money and build relationships with local business owners, but to also explore their home and area surroundings. For me, one of the greatest draws to GroupOn is in regard to all of the great food-related deals they have available, totaling anywhere from 50-90% in savings. From coney dogs to domestic and international food fusion, you're oftentimes introduced to recognisable locations, just as much as you're introduced to hole-in-the-wall-type establishments that can easily become your new favourite locale. And if not thing else, it's definitely a fun, enjoyable and relatively inexpensive investment. A great GroupOn which I recently purchased was for Sushi Rock, located in downtown Cleveland, Beachwood and Columbus, OH. Prior to having gone there, the only big critique I had heard was that it could get quite pricey really quickly. Reading through others' reviews on-line, I must admit I'm rather spellbound as to why their reviews aren't necessarily the most favourable, as I enjoyed the dining experience.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Cooking for One in One Cooking Vessel

Yesterday, I wrote about the common must-have ingredients for every kitchen. This evening, I put that to the test, especially after having found this article earlier today on the benefits of investing in a well-stocked kitchen. In additional preparation for a future blog post on the necessary kitchen tools, I have also been keeping track of what gadgets I use on a fairly consistent basis. With the context and general theme of uncertainty looming, my most recent cooking experience was certainly one of trial and error. On this evening's menu: Dijon Meyer Lemon Chicken with Rosemary, Served with Toasted Almond and Long Grain Rice; and Chocolate Cereal Bars.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's 2012, So Re-Stock: Twelve Foods to Make Sure You Have on Hand throughout the Year

As the end of each year approaches, I'm reminded of all the things we must prepare before the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins (or shortly thereafter). I doubt this is only the case with my family: buy a new calendar; take out the trash from all the rooms; make sure we have (however little) some flour, sugar and rice. Okay, maybe not exactly as I've illustrated but hopefully you get the gist of this sentiment. Indeed, over the past 48 hours or so, I've been thinking about those items in my pantry, refrigerator, freezer and the like that should always be on stock. If you've read my other posts throughout the past year, you may take note of those rather successful meals that seemed to cost very little; in large part, this is due to the fact I have many of the basic ingredients already on hand, saving not only money but time in the process. This leads me then to the focus of this post-- what are the top 12 foods you should always keep replenishing? Whether it's for a late night meal or to create a component of a dish that would cost more to buy than to make yourself or to be able to say, "Yes, I can lend you that cup of sugar or random half cup of milk" (actually, it's been more of the reverse in my case), I'm convinced I have figured out a proper list. And they all exist somewhere on my small dining table pictured above.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Suiting Up Strawberries for the New Year

Well food fans, welcome to 2012! As was the case with other food bloggers (such as this one which I just saw tonight while watching a very close Iron Chef America battle), yesterday was a time for me to say farewell to a food-filled 2011 and to prep in ushering a year full of endless possibilities. From one meal to a post to a new year, food presentation has become a focal point for not only the table but for blogs, as well, and it is with this in mind that I tack onto my growing list of 2012 resolutions a conscious lens on artistic creativity when it comes to both plating and photographing the food that I prep. Perhaps I'm stretching this a bit for my first post of the year (I'm claiming baby steps here), but I find it fitting in retrospect that the first dish I prepped in 2012 was suited up for the occasion: tuxedo strawberries.