Sights and smell of the holiday season which has just begun.
Thanksgiving brunch with Ivy, lots of good coffee, cooking with Amy and Nevo and Tosca (who is camera shy), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole–Alton Brown style, Thanksgiving Dinner at Jackie’s (forgot my camera), more cooking the next day with Amy, cranberry orange relish, orange glazed yams, brussels sprouts, tree lighting–all done with spritely christmas music. I love this time of the year.
“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.” –Hans Hofmann
Sometimes I wish I was one of those cool people who can say “oh, I don’t watch TV, I don’t even have one.” The fact is that even though I don’t watch that much TV, it’s on most of the time when I’m home. I like the sound, I like the moving picture. When I do pay attention to the screen, I watch a fair amount of live sports, news, and a few guilty pleasure shows.
I discovered that my TV has contracted jaundice one weekday morning back in September when I turned it on to watch my morning news shows, and everyone’s face was yellowish green. I instantly reacted with denial–something’s wrong with the cable. I waited until the afternoon, believing that many customers must have called in to the cable company by then to complain, and the problem must be resolved soon, if not already. With one click, I entered the acceptance stage–my TV is sick, and it, like me, has no insurance to get medical help.
Since yellowish green is not very pleasant to the eye, I turned the color down as if turning back time to an old-fashioned black & white television. The novelty of old times wore off in about two weeks. Cooking and fashion shows were uninspiring for obvious reasons, I couldn’t even watch one of the movies because an important detail is supposedly the heroine’s changes in hair color.
We finally got a new used TV last night! We went from a 21″ to 27″, which is huge for our matchbox living room. It almost feels like sitting in the front row of a movie theater. Size, however, does not matter to me (really). What matters is, like a certain automotive commercial says, “when you turn it on, does it return the favor?” It did today.
I made another soup tonight–Pumpkin Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Hazelnut.
I was at Whole Foods, and I wanted something warm, nutty, autumn-inspired for dinner tonight, so what better than pumpkin soup? The more I thought about soup, the more I craved for it. But since I’ve never made it before, I had no idea what else other than pumpkin I would put in it. I just knew that at the end, I’d be pureeing the soup with my favorite new gadget. I picked up canned pumpkin puree, nutmeg, shallots, frozen butternut squash–already not an ambitious attempt to make the soup with fresh ingredients.
After clicking through an assortment of pumpkin soup recipes online, I’ve decided to only loosely follow what has been simmered, and pave my own golden pumpkin road to another great soup. I sauteed onions, shallots, and garlic until softened. Then I added the butternut squash, some sweet corn, and seasoned it with sage, thyme, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. After everything was softened, I poured in the pumpkin puree and chicken stock. I kept added herbs and spices until it tasted closer to what I imagine my soup should taste like. Still it lacked depth and sweetness. I got a little impatient with trying to figure out what was lacking in the soup, I just wanted to jump to the final step–the best part of making soup–busting out my immersion blender.
Realizing that my soup tonight wasn’t going to get any better than what it was, I tossed in the last ingredients of toasted hazelnuts, maple syrup, a little cream. Without even remembering to take out the bay leaves, I blended away. The blender is loud and it splatters hot soup on my arm, and I actually don’t even know if this cheap brand can withstand the heat of the hot soups I’ve been plunging it into, but I love the crushing process. Blades in hand, it makes me feel strong. Muahhhahhaha.
Oh, the soup. It was good, but not quite the flavor I wanted, so I won’t bother posting the recipe now. It needs deeper layers of flavor. But it was still quite a tasty and filling meal full of autumn lusciousness.
I like watching Ace of Cakes on Food Network. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. The show is about Charm City Cakes, a cake shop in Baltimore run by a group of funky, creative, off-beat artists who make fanciful, charming, one of a kind cakes. While they can make traditional, elegant, Martha-style cakes, the tv show only documents the fun stuff they design. I can only wish I’d have a reason to order a cake from them, which costs a minimum of $1000. I often wonder what I would ask them to design. I also wonder if their cakes actually taste good since their cakes are all fondant covered, and fondant is basically sweet play dough, fun to play, not so fun to eat.
My cousin, Cynthia, told me she had made a Wii cake yesterday. A Wii cake? I thought it was a Wii game that lets you pretend to bake by twirling your wrists just like one can pretend to exercise by standing on a board with Wii Fit. But when Cynthia actually showed me the cake, I was quite impressed!
Good job, Cyn!
Dinner with people is always better than eating alone, especially when the food is good. Good food tastes even better when enjoyed with people. Tonight Amy came over to try my second attempt at the Brussels Sprouts Veggie Soup to which I have made some changes (see recipe below in previous post) for a better result, I believe.
We were at the store earlier and saw some nice looking haricot verts and heirloom tomatoes, so we decide to assemble a simple salad from those. Of course while I’m at the market, I can’t not get some five peppercorn salami. Our simple dinner of soup, salami, bread, cheese, salad, and wine was on the table in 15 minutes.
Haricots Verts and Heirloom Tomato Salad
1/4 lb haricot verts, wash and trim ends
1 large heirloom tomato, sliced
1/4 cup shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
toasted almonds or pine nuts (optional)
salt & pepper to taste (if needed after dressing)
Blanch haricots verts in 1 cup of salted, boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove promptly and rinse under cold water (or ice bath) to stop further cooking. Arrange sliced tomatoes on plate, and add in haricots verts. Add on shaved parmigiano-regianno over ingredients. Sprinkle red chili pepper flakes. Drizzle vinegrette dressing (below). Salt and pepper to taste if needed.
Basic Vinegrette Dressing
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly grind black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients.
Filed under: Cooking/Food | Tags: cupcakes, green tea cream cheese frosting, lilikoi cream cheese frosting
After a gratifying, but quick, soup dinner, I hurried over to my friend’s place to start our cupcake extravaganza. Tabitha made cupcakes the night before, so we spent our time coming up with frosting recipes.
We first tried a lilikoi cream cheese frosting, then a green tea cream cheese frosting. Both were good on its own, but the chocolate cake was too intense for the flavor of either frosting to come through. Both competed with the chocolate, and both lost.
The dilemma with the lilikoi flavor is that since we’re using frozen concentrate juice, it dilutes the frosting and makes it too runny. But to harden it, we’d need more powdered sugar, which would further make it too sweet.
Our next attempt will be to make white cakes and put the frostings to the test again. Upcoming ideas include pumpkin cupcakes, banana foster cupcakes, citrus cupcakes with Ficoco (fig & chocolate) filling.
It’s just for fun right now, but who knows, maybe this is our true calling.
Filed under: Cooking/Food | Tags: amy, brussels sprouts, soup, Vegetarian
You know how Post-It was an accidental invention and that some of the best creations in history were results of trials and mishaps? My dinner tonight was almost that, except I dare not call it the best in history. Perhaps it is the best in my soup-making history.
The dinner choices on this cool, tranquil Sunday night were either Indian or Italian–frozen dinners which fill my freezer. Hidden behind the prepared frosty goodness were veggies–spinach, corn, peas. Suddenly, vegetable soup sounded perfect. The only fresh vegetable I had on hand was my recent new favorite, brussels sprouts. No, I didn’t grow up with my parents forcing me to eat the vociferous green, so I never developed an aversion to it. In fact, after reading about its bounty health benefits, and seeing them handsomely displayed at Whole Foods, I had to try them.
I chopped up some onions and garlic, threw the brussels sprouts, frozen corn, spinach, and peas into a pot and started sauteeing, not knowing what to do next. Then I found a bottle of Bitton brand Rosemary, Thyme, & Vanilla Oil that my dear friend Amy, whose effortless but delectable soups I often crave (and whose spice cabinet is inspiring!), gave me recently. The label on the bottle said that it’ll be an excellent soup so in the pot it went. I opened up my measly spice drawer and randomly picked out some dried thyme, coriander, and black pepper (a must for me) to go into the soup.
As the soup simmered away, all the frozen vegetables began to liquefy except for the thewy brussels sprouts. Even for me who likes brussel sprouts, the soups was not looking particularly appetizing. Some visual changes had to be done. In went the hand held blender.
The soup turned out to be excellent! I had a nice soup, bread, prosciutto and cheese dinner with my roommate. It’s an accidental success that needs some tweaking and improving.
Brussels Sprouts Veggie Soup
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 medium size onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen spinach
5 heads of brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs Bitton Rosemary, Thyme & Vanilla Oil
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups vegetable broth (or double chicken broth)
salt & pepper to taste
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil on medium low heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add in brussels sprouts for a couple of minutes, then add in spinach, corn, and peas. Season with coriander, thyme, and flavored oil. Add in broth, turn heat on high. Once soup comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 7 minutes until vegetables are soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off, use hand held blender to puree soup, or ladle soup mixture into conventional blender in batches. Be careful of hot liquids.
Serve with bread and cheese. Serves 4.