Archive for October 2007

Cinnamon-Apple Cake, yes please!

October 31, 2007

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I love baking! One of the main reasons is the awesome aromas that invariably fill your house / apartment whenever you’ve got something in the oven. I would be in heaven if I could come up with a reason to bake something new every day, seriously (not that I’ve got the time). It’s a sense of home and comfort that really comes from nothing else. And I truly like baking more for other people than I do for myself, because it’s an opportunity to show others that you care about them and that you were willing to spend time on them. I suppose this is revealing my domestic side, but then I never claimed to not have one, in fact I’m rather proud of the domestic skills I do have and the pleasure that I take in some of the activities that others consider to be downright drudgery. Granted, I don’t have to do this every day and I am generally only taking care of myself, but at the moment things like baking and cooking seem more like fun and adventure than like a chore.
This evening I tried a new recipe, in honor of Halloween, for Cinnamon-Apple Cake (I’ll add the link so you can make it too if you are so inspired). I think it is going to be a real winner at the party tomorrow night, if the batter is anything to go by. And by the way, it’s a personal rule of mine that I have to lick the spoon, no matter how many raw eggs there are, I’m sorry, tough! Here’s a picture so you can get an idea of how it turns out (though the picture with the recipe online is more appetizing, if I’m being truthful).
Next time you’re feeling a little homesick or your house / apartment is missing that extra umph, just try whipping up a batch of muffins or a cake. It’s the easiest thing in the world and it’ll make you feel so much better.
P.S. I only ever make things from scratch, just try it, it’s seriously only a few more steps than the box mixes and you’ll feel so much better knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body, even if it’s just more sugar, eggs, and butter. =)

More than one reason to be ginger obsessed.

October 23, 2007

So my assignment for the Daily Pennsylvanian “Recipe of the Week” column for next week is to come up with a recipe / story on an aphrodisiac food. Those of you who’ve been around me for a bit may be aware that I was more than slightly obsessed with aphrodisiacs for a several months last year, starting right around February when I got a cookbook entitled The New Intercourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook. Now I have to say that this was one of the best gifts ever, not so much because the cookbook itself was so wonderful, I’ll get to that in a moment, but more because it really started me thinking about the notion of sensation and food and how these two are so closely intertwined. Now, as I mentioned, I wasn’t that impressed with the actual book, in fact I thought it needed a lot of help. There were some beautiful pictures of naked women strategically draped with various aphrodisiac foods, but the recipes seemed to have no rhyme or reason, and the personal stories that went along with them often had a follow-up in which they related how the couple had subsequently broken up, yeah there’s a real endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. So I was inspired to think about potentially writing my own aphrodisiac cookbook, something I’ve still got stewing in the back of my mind. But what I wanted to get around to here was a bit of a discussion about one food in particular in the book, i.e. ginger. I love ginger, I put it in everything, I add it when a recipe seems to be lacking some je ne sais qoi, I add it when I run out of other ingredients. So let’s just take a few moments to explore the wonders of this spicy little root.
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Part of my crusade for ginger stems from the fact that it is supposed to be good for migraines (something I’ve suffered from for the last 17 or so years), and whether it really is helping or not, my headaches have been less frequent lately (due on the whole to a less stressful lifestyle), and I’m unwilling to give it up if it seems to be working. And now for the aphrodisiac qualities, apparently ginger causes your blood to thin, allowing it to flow easily to all areas of your system, and (here’s a quote from the book) “engorging the body’s most sensitive areas with oxygen-rich blood.” With effects / praise like that, I don’t know why we’re all not wandering around continually sucking on ginger candy. So, if you haven’t yet tried the carrot ginger dressing, or haven’t bought candied ginger in you can’t remember how long, maybe now is the time to rethink your habits. If nothing else, it will add a little bit of kick to your cooking, some pizzazz to your dining, and a bounce to your step.

One thing I will say about aphrodisiacs as a group, it seems that there are two general classes of them, those that have actual physical effects that might enhance your feelings of amour or your “performance” shall we say, and those which make you think about sex, a combination of texture, color and smell. I personally prefer the latter group because then aphrodisiacs are a personalized experience. What foods turn you on?

In the news

October 18, 2007

Check out my second published story in the Daily Pennsylvanian on the sidebar under ’34th Street’ entitled Recipe of the Week – Czech Mushroom and Potato Soup. The most interesting part of this process for me is the editing where for the first time in my life my writing is chopped and massaged into sometimes unimaginable different formats (though this was more the case with the Mission Grill review than this story).

Dragon Fruit

October 17, 2007

The summer after my first year in graduate school I spent a month in Hawaii as a teaching assistant on an archaeological field school, an awesome opportunity to take advantage of some of the wonders of the Big Island. One of my fondest memories of that time was the trip we took to the farmers’ market in Hilo one Saturday. I was so overwhelmed by the abundance of exotic fruits and vegetables that I’d never encountered before and I wanted to try them all. Fortunately there was one particular vendor who seemed to specialize in catering to the needs of people like myself, neophytes to the tropical fruit world, and was more than happy to explain the differences in all the new produce that they had available. I walked away from that market with a huge smile on my face and a great deal of new flavor adventures stored up in my bag. One of those adventures was the dragon fruit.

The dragon fruit I had that summer was amazing to me. The fruit itself was so beautiful, with its magenta exterior with the little green leaves and an even more brilliant magenta interior with tiny black seeds (similar to what you find inside a kiwi). I was in total awe of the brilliance of the color in this fruit. And the flavor was nothing to sneeze at either. It was perhaps a bit subtler than one might expect, given the overwhelming visual appearance, but it was sweet and juicy and entirely satisfying.
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Needless to say, when I came across dragon fruits for sale in Chinatown this weekend, I had to buy one to see how they compared to my memories. I did a little research before I cut into the fruit and realized that the variety I had purchased was most likely not the one with the brilliant magenta flesh, but the more commonly available white-fleshed type, which was purportedly less flavorful. My expectations began to drop. So, I cut it open this morning (the fruit is ripe when it is squeezable, like an avocado), and peeled off the red outer peel. It was indeed the white-fleshed variety. Here I have to agree with the comments I had read from others, this type was much more flavorless (as its appearance even suggests). I would liken its taste to something between a really bland kiwi and a cucumber. Yes it was juicy and interesting in appearance, with the little black seeds speckled throughout, but certainly not a fruit I would go back for seconds on. How disappointing! C’est la vie. But hey, it was an adventure, and that’s what life is about. Food as memory, now that’s a topic worth exploring, but we’ll save that for another day…

I love dried seaweed!

October 11, 2007

There is something about dried seaweed that just explodes on your tongue.  This I cannot explain.  Perhaps it is the salt that perches so delicately on its uneven surface, but it must be more than that.  I, as those who know me well can attest, am not typically drawn to foods with a salty base.  I don’t crave salt, and I don’t generally cook with it, nor do I often add it to my food.  Yet, there is something undeniably satiating about the saltiness of a piece of dried seaweed, whether it is wrapped up as part of a make roll (sushi) or around one of those rice crackers (amongst other uses, of course).  As I said though, it is more than just the salt.  It is the play of the salt against the flavor of the seaweed itself, the essence of the sea rolled flat and dried out only to be reinvigorated and released as it touches your tongue, mixes with your saliva.  My memories of seaweed are longstanding, I had a Japanese playmate in first grade who was very liberal in distributing the contents of her lunchbox.  Many people would say that this is part of the reason why it excites me so much; I will not disagree.  However, the level of appreciation for this food has only recently been more fully realized, as I begin to focus in on the emotional, physical, psychological, and taste sensations that the foods I eat can elicit.  This is just one example of a food which moves me to say more, and I sincerely hope, for my own sake, that there are many more experiences and tastes like this to come.