Monday, May 12, 2008


I hope some of you have noticed (Anyone? Anyone?) that even though I may not post a new recipe every day (or even every week, despite my best efforts), I’ve been steadily adding photos to all my old entries so that you can see what these recipes look like in action, and hopefully be tempted into making some of them. Granted, I have no photographic expertise or interest in food styling, so what you’re seeing are clumsy, un-Photoshopped images of the food right before I eat it, impatiently taken in a dark kitchen on a point-and-shoot camera by someone whose hands are probably shaky from low blood sugar, but you still get the idea. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the Internet, because nowadays I find myself reluctant to even try a new recipe if I can’t see a photo of how it’s going to turn out. So, in case you’re the same way: I’m working on it. 66 down, only about 120 to go!

I also find myself reluctant to post a new recipe these days unless I’ve got a photo to accompany it, unless it’s something you just absolutely have to know about right away, like the D.I.Y. taco seasoning. This means that some of the recipes I’ve tried recently have slipped through the cracks—some good but in need of further refinement, others satisfactory enough but not anything I need to make again. Still, you might find them interesting or useful, or I might want to refer back to them later, so here you go:

To Make Again

BANANA CAKE: This is the cake I made A for his birthday, and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself. I might have written a full post about it, if I’d remembered to actually take a picture of the inside of it. All you can see here is the frosting, and that was nothing special—in fact, it was an emergency fudge frosting I whipped up from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook after this chocolate fudge frosting recipe somehow went horribly awry just a few hours before I intended to serve the cake. (I don’t blame that recipe; I think it was my execution. Somehow I must have overcooked it, because it turned out really hard and unspreadable, like actual fudge.) As an emergency frosting, it was great—easy to make, used ingredients I had on hand, and tasted good. But it really didn’t do justice to the cake underneath it, the awesomeness that is this banana cake recipe (ignore the caramel-walnut-upside-down part). I will definitely be making that cake again. But it needed a darker chocolate frosting, like a ganache, or maybe no frosting and just some chocolate chips stirred into the batter?

FORK-CRUSHED PURPLE POTATOES: Take a look at these beauties at The Smitten Kitchen. Of course I had to try them—the lemoniness was too potent for me to resist, especially when it involves a magical chemical reaction by which the lemon juice actually makes the potatoes an even brighter shade of purple. Mine didn’t seem to be quite as photogenic (in fact, they turned a rather alarming shade of hot pink), so I didn’t photograph them, but I’ll certainly make this side dish again. I did find the result a little overwhelmingly oniony—all the crunchy raw shallots seemed distracting, both flavor-wise and texture-wise. I’d like to try sautéing the shallots in the olive oil until they’re tender, then pouring that over the boiled potatoes and adding the lemon juice and parsley. Yum.

CINNAMON-RAISIN NO-KNEAD BREAD: No-knead bread is great, so why not punch it up? I tried this recipe from Not Eating Out in New York, and it was pretty tasty, both on its own (toasted, with butter) and later as French toast, as shown in the original post. I’d like to try it again with some revisions, however, before I add it to my repertoire. The recipe calls for sugar to be sprinkled over the top of the dough before baking (which is done at very high heat in a covered container), and perhaps I overbaked my bread (I don’t have a big Dutch oven—future gift ideas!—so I have to divide it into two smaller loaves cooked in succession, and maybe I didn’t adjust the cooking time accordingly), but the sugar burned, which not only created a terrible mess in the baking dish, but also imparted a bitter taste to the bread’s crust. Meanwhile, the inside of the loaf didn’t taste quite as sweet or cinnamon as I’d hoped, making me wish I’d just mixed together all the sugar with a generous amount of cinnamon and swirled it inside the dough. All in all, however, you can’t complain about quick, easy cinnamon bread, so I plan to stick with this one.

STOVETOP BAKED BEANS: I’ve never felt compelled to make baked beans before, but the urge struck me suddenly while I was contemplating how best to use up the hot dogs left over from my birthday beach bonfire party. The answer: an early-summer faux picnic, with hot dogs grilled on the George Foreman and served in buns with all the condiments, accompanied by the farmers’ market’s first ears of corn on the cob, plus these stovetop baked beans. The fact that they’re not actually “baked” was a huge boon, because my apartment’s beautiful 1950s Thermador oven has been broken for the past week and a half (we’re trying to have it repaired, because it’s a real collector’s item), leaving me at a loss in the kitchen. In this time of trial, the beans were a delicious comfort, tender and saucy with a nice sweet/sour/spicy balance and bacony undertones. I cut up leftover hot dogs and mixed them into the leftover beans for a Boy-Scouty treat. I’d definitely make these again as the summer progresses. (Recipe notes: I used canned cannellini beans with their liquid, omitted the cloves because I didn’t have them, substituted brown sugar for molasses, and skipped the onion/bacon garnish. I also wonder if mincing the onion and garlic and them leaving them in after the intial boiling might amp up the flavor even more.)

A Case of the Maybes

FLUFFY RICOTTA PANCAKES: Like the creators of this recipe from The Kitchen, I had some lemon curd (homemade last summer with a coworker’s glut of Meyer lemons and stored in my freezer ever since) to use up, as well as some ricotta, so breakfast-for-dinner ricotta pancakes seemed like a great idea. Beating egg whites until stiff (which is what gives these pancakes their lightness) is always a breeze with my KitchenAid, but it does mean that mixing up the batter is an irksome two-bowl affair. As promised, the pancakes were tender and fluffy, but they didn’t rock my world or anything (the lemon curd, on the other hand…nom nom nom). I’d make them again if I needed to use up some ricotta, but there are plenty of other delicious ways to do that. In short, a nice experiment, but not an addition to my permanent repertoire.

NO-BAKE NUTELLA OATMEAL COOKIES: Of course my oven had to go and conk out just when I needed to replenish my freezer’s cookie supply, but luckily I had this no-bake recipe from Bake or Break in hand. I love Nutella and uncooked rolled oats, and these treats were certainly easy to make (mix on stovetop, dollop onto waxed paper), though not as intensely Nutella-flavored as I’d expected (partially my fault; I didn’t feel like obtaining Frangelico and used vanilla instead). Given the array of cookie recipes available in the world, I’m not sure I’d make these again unless I find myself ovenless in the future--and really, they're more like candy than cookies; still, they’re certainly chocolatey and pleasing, with a tantalizing melt-in-the-mouth texture, like oaty clumps of firm frosting.

SWEET AND SALTY PEANUT CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES: I like peanuts, I like chocolate, and I like some salty with my sweet, so of course I had to try this recipe after seeing it in Cooking Light. The cookies tasted good, about as you would expect, but the texture wasn’t ideal—a bit thin, as though the cookies only qualified as “light” because there wasn’t actually much cookie there. Again, given the wealth of cookie recipes in the world, I probably wouldn’t repeat this one unless requested, but it was perfectly worth trying once.

Not For Me, Maybe For You

CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP: The lesson here is simply that I don’t like cream of mushroom soup as much as I thought I did. I had a sudden craving for it a few months ago, and this glowing entry from the Smitten Kitchen provided a recipe I felt I had to try. It’s a perfectly good recipe and I think I executed it properly—I even bought expensive shitakes at the farmers’ market—but while I was making it I started to get overwhelmed by the mushroominess, even though I usually think of myself as quite the mushroom aficionado. Turns out dried wild mushrooms totally wig me out, and the smell of shitakes isn’t my favorite either. Who knew? The soup wasn’t inedible or anything; it was just too mushroomy for me and A. It’s always a strange feeling when you think you want something, and then when you get it you realize you were actually longing for something else, maybe something that doesn’t exist. In my case, I was apparently attracted to the idea of mushroom soup, not its reality. Learning experience!

PARMESAN-STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS: You know how I enjoy foods stuffed with more food, especially when lemon and cheese are involved. This is a simple recipe from Everyday Food that, on the plus side, is a cinch to make. On the minus side, the flavor was just too simple. I found it hard to lift up the chicken skin sufficiently to get the stuffing evenly distributed across the breast; instead, it was more like a stuffing lump atop each piece. So when you cut into the top of the chicken to eat it, your first few mouthfuls were full of nice lemony cheesy flavor, and then after you’d eaten the top away, you were basically left with…a plain roasted chicken breast. Not my favorite thing. I’d rather have rubbed the seasoning all over the outside of the chicken, or stuffed it under the skin of a thigh instead. But still, there was just nothing special here. It’s fine for an emergency meal if all you have is chicken, parsley, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and a lemon, but frankly I was underwhelmed.

No comments: