Archive for May 2008

The Perfect Refreshing Dessert!

May 23, 2008

Summer is coming, I swear it, though when it will actually arrive no one knows. But even the slight warming that has occurred over the last few months and the lengthening daylight hours has been enough to put a spring (literally and figuratively) back in my step. With the habitual warming weather, of course, our palates go through a transformation as well and rather than longing for foods rich and comforting, we tend to shift toward lighter, brighter and fresher tastes as more fresh produce become available in season. If you are looking for the perfect refreshing, light, flavorful, healthy, colorful, uncomplicated dessert for your next kitchen foray, have I got the recipe for you! Now, this is not at all a recipe that I came up with on my own and I won’t take any of the credit for it, but I, and now a good number of my nearest and dearest friends, can vouch for its being a really wonderful end to a meal or even an afternoon snack. What is this fantastic dessert of which I speak? Well it’s a berry pudding with cream. This, upon first hearing it, may not seem like the answer to all your dessert-centered desires, but let me expound a bit more on the pleasures and details of this simple dish. All that it really consists of is pureed fruit (either fresh or frozen), pushed through a sieve to remove any seeds or pulp. You then add a bit of corn starch and some sugar and put it on the stove, stirring constantly until it boils, and then for just a minute longer. Pour it off into a bowl, let it sit for ten minutes, then press plastic wrap on the surface so that it doesn’t develop a thick crust on top while it sits in your fridge for at least two hours, but up to several days. Perhaps the best part is that you serve it with a mixture of whipped cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, and greek yogurt. The juxtaposition of the tangy, slightly sweet and creamy yogurt with the fruit in the “pudding” is wonderful. It is almost like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt in reverse, but not as sweet. I love that the pudding is essentially just straight up fresh fruit and it really explodes in your mouth. I’ve now made both a raspberry and a strawberry version of this for different occasions, next I might try mixing these two flavors together, or I was considering mango (another way to get a dose of my favorite fruit). I urge you to give this recipe a try, it is well worth your time and perfect for the season!


Oatmeal is not very photogenic!

May 11, 2008

It wasn’t until I started taking pictures of food, just for fun and long before this blog ever came into being, that I really began paying attention to the minutiae of the visual appeal of food. I always new that food could be beautiful, that the colors and shapes that you can create with food are amazing and that it is in part so fantastic because these artistic creations are fleeting, generally being consumed within only a few minutes or hours of their being finished. I mention this hear because I wanted to write a post about a new breakfast I’ve been eating over the last couple of weeks, well not really new because I’ve eaten it before, but just breaking out of the routine of the same peanut butter and banana sandwich that I have been absolutely wedded to for probably two years now. That’s not to say that I don’t still eat that sandwich, just that I have incorporated a new option into the breakfast repertoire and it seems to be working out well. So the dish in question is called “Apple Oatmeal Pudding” and it is definitely warm and satisfying. But, as with many of the dishes I realize that I make at home, it is not very photogenic. Obviously the restaurant industry can expend a lot more time, energy, and even money into the presentation of the food they put on their plates. They are, after all, trying to tantalize their customers. This is not to say that we should not attempt to do this at home, but more to comment that it is the first thing to go when we’re time crunched and have other priorities, but still want to make time to cook for ourselves. As long as the food is tasty, healthy, and filling, then that’s all I really care about at this juncture. I’d say I rely more on the plate or bowl that the food is served in to amplify its appearance, than any sort of garnish or architectural construction made of food. Again, these are accoutrements I’d definitely consider if there were other people involved in the bargain, but since it’s just me, why take the extra effort? (I can, by the way, think of many and justifiable reasons to take the extra effort, but the pressure of productivity on my dissertation wins out.) I wonder also if I am detecting a trend in my food preferences that is at the opposite end of photo-worthy, meaning mushy, soupy, casserole-like foods that must be the stuff of nightmares for food stylists. Perhaps I will question a food stylist the next time I meet one (or I should more accurately say the first time I meet one), about the creative ways in which they work around this general genre of food. What they do to enhance its appeal. In the meantime I will try to keep a better eye out in magazines and such…

So that whole long intro was really a plug for you to give the Apple Oatmeal Pudding recipe a try. If you like oatmeal in the mornings, this is a nice way to bake yourself enough for four days in advance, then all you have to do is microwave it for a few minutes and add some milk to get it to the desired consistency and you’re golden. It’s actually a bit thicker of a consistency because the baking allows the oatmeal to set, but not in that gross “it’s now a huge brick” sort of way, more like a casserole that’s held together with the oatmeal. I love the recipe, which is a hand-me-down from someone in my mom’s office about ten years ago, because it really gives you a warm feeling inside. Let me know what you think! Just don’t be deterred by the photo which, as I hinted above, is not entirely inspiring. We can and do feast with multiple senses, but it doesn’t always have to be with the eyes first.

Vegan adventures

May 9, 2008

So anyone who has perused this blog at any juncture is well aware of the fact that I am clearly not a vegetarian or vegan or any facsimile thereof, I mean have you seen the pictures of the deer heads and suckling pig? But even though I work with animal bones on a daily basis and am not at all afraid of meat on any level, I also am not on the carnivorous end of the omnivore spectrum. I do not eat a great deal of meat, but I don’t make an extra effort to cut it out of my diet either. I am equally happy to have chicken or tofu for dinner. For me, at least at this stage of the game, it is more about the experience of different flavors, textures, and cultural traditions, than it is about other aspects of food choices. (And believe me I am also well aware of the arguments for vegetarian and vegan dietary choices and I definitely support those people who decide that these lifestyles suit their personal goals and moral and political stances.) I, personally, am trying to move as far away from any sorts of restrictions or defined boundaries when it comes to foods as I can and so I choose to eat whatever might appear on my plate and to be more intrigued by the story behind the food.

With that information as a backdrop, I will admit that I definitely have an interest in vegetarian and vegan cuisine as such. I am very interested to experiment and experience the kinds of flavors and textures created with non-meat products. Following along this path, I and a few of my friends went to Horizons for dinner this evening. It was a special prix fixe menu that was a terrific deal and a wonderful opportunity to taste a few of the foods coming out of this well-known and well-loved Philly vegan hot-spot. Our menu included:

Jamaican bbq seitan with green jerk cabbage and scotch bonnet crema

Pan roasted tofu with exotic mushroom paella, english pea sauce, and tomato salad

Bittersweet chocolate cheesecake with balsamic strawberries
(ummm, yeah, so as is my wont, I got too excited when dessert came and I’d eaten the whole slice before I remembered that I was supposed to have taken a picture of it, but you know what cheesecake looks like, so just imagine it) ☺

The seitan appetizer, and this was the first time I’d ever had seitan, was a very unique texture. I described it as almost like a very fatty pork belly or some similar cut, but without the distinctly stringy texture of the meat and the overly disgusting feel of a big wad of fat in your mouth (I abhor chewing on large chunks of fat). The seitan was chewy in the way that pork belly is, but without all the associated guilt. The bbq sauce had a great punch, which was well balanced with the crispness of the cabbage and the crema sauce. The hot seitan also contrasted well with the cool cabbage and sauce.

Though the pan roasted tofu was a simple dish in and of itself, just add some seasoning on top and you’ve got your dish, the accoutrements were wonderful. The mushroom paella was more like a smooth creamy risotto and the pea sauce was fantastic! It added both a bright green color and an extremely fresh and bright flavor.

The chocolate cheesecake was also quite good, very light and fluffy. Not much to say there since I obviously liked it so much I forgot to take a photo. Chocolate in a dessert and I’m one happy woman.

Like so many others before me, I was quite impressed with the food at Horizons. The presentation was really nice, the colors were vibrant, and the flavors and textures were really well-balanced. The ambiance of the restaurant is also very pleasant and the staff were extremely congenial. At the very least I will have to make a return visit to try their mango crème brulée because it’s on the list of the top 5 crème brulées in the city (according to Citypaper), which I’m trying to, but doing a very poor job of, working my way through. But I’d want to go back anyway, this is a place you can take your vegetarian and vegan friends for sure, but also people who just like to eat these sorts of foods, to see, taste, and experience what is out there in all the various arenas of the culinary world.