Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

11
Nov

Laterculi: Poppy Seed Pop Tarts

   Posted by: Livia

Okay, so this is not an accurate redaction. Or, well, it’s about (slightly less) as likely to be accurate as anything else.

There’s a play by Plautus (Poenulus 325-6) there’s a reference to laterculi with the only description being that they are composed of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, (wheat) flour, and nuts.

Okay, so the name is also descriptive. It’s the word for bricks or tiles.

Some people take this description and match it with gastris, a food from Crete described by Athenaeus as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and poppy seeds, with fruit, honey, pepper and white sesame seeds. That will lead you to redactions both simple and amazing.

Now that last gastris redaction – which looks to me like a seedy fruitcake – would be perfect to make in an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ shape that was not unlike a common Roman brick shape.

On the other hand, Athanaeus’ gastris recipe has fruit and no flour. But Plautus was very clear that flour was involved in this project. Flour would be easy to add to the gastris because the nuts are working in a similar way. But it’s also leeway to go in a completely different direction.

One could make candies out of the honey and seeds with just a bit of flour.

Or! And here’s what came to my mind as being kinda fun – you could make pop tarts and call them tiles.

Okay, so pop tarts. First place to go is Smitten Kitchen‘s homemade pop tart recipe.

Next the filling. I liked how La Spelonca separated the poppy seeds and the sesame seeds. It both made them look more dramatic and kept the flavors clear and less like bagel toppings. So tentative working plan is to have two different flavors of pop tarts: Poppy Seeds and either almonds or walnuts or both; and Sesame Seeds and either hazelnuts or pistachios or both.

Okay, so poppy seed filling is a thing. But my first google search yielded only recipes that called for milk… but the Romans mostly ate their dairy in the form of cheese. It just didn’t feel right.

So I kept looking and loved this one that described the method and thought process beautifully and clearly – cook poppy seeds with a minimal amount of water, grind, cook again with honey and sugar.

Okay, so first I have to find the poppy seeds. So off I go to Amazon. And the first review right off the start informs me that real bakers look for unwashed poppy seeds for a richer, nuttier flavor and a better texture. Well, okay. So off I go looking at the unwashed poppy seeds and their reviews. And then things started to get weird. There was some division, but also some overlap, between the bakers and the people making poppy seed tea. And some of the people making the poppy seed tea seemed more interested in the color of their tea than the flavor, but others loved the flavor. Erm… And then I got to the ones talking about how ‘effective’ their tea and/or baked goods were. And there was the one who assured people that the reviewer really could tell that these poppy seeds were unwashed because there was plant material included as well. Ummm… I object! Because if I’m baking and there’s plant material, don’t I then need to wash the poppy seeds? But it wasn’t all double entendre and drug references, because there were still people staunchly championing the unwashed seeds while listing their preferred baked good and their baking credentials. But then I got to the one that was all, “I just made the best batch of muffins ever. Now I’m off to take a nap.” And I just. Now I have no idea whether kolaches is actually a baked good or just a wink and nod drug reference in the land of amazon reviews. So I still haven’t what to buy for making a large quantity, but I picked up half a pound of what are definitely washed seeds at a spice shop in the Italian Market.

So poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Check. Going well. The poppy seeds take on moisture, darken, and swell.

Grind the poppy seeds… doesn’t go so well. I put some in my mortal and grind it with the pestle… and it goes okay, but every time any utensil touches the poppy seeds there’s mess left behind. And so after a few desultry grinding attempts I figure I might as well see if I might like the consistency of it not ground all that much. So I put it all back in the saucepan and add the honey. And then add more honey because honey was more common that sugar back in the day. And then panic! Because the honey just liquifies and everything becomes sloshy. And cooking it more doesn’t make it any drier. And what if I really needed sugar to get a good paste because of how honey is like an invert sugar? Eh, whatever – let’s refrigerate what I have and see how it moves tomorrow. Plus I’m going to add nuts to it.

And the paste is fascinating! I used a fork to move it and it’s sort of a non-Newtonian liquid. Woo!

Okay, so crust. Filling. Assembly!

I got a friend with skills and a marble rolling pin to help with the first set of rolling out (I’m hoping I can use my pasta roller when I’m on my own). I rough guessed a size that’s smaller than pop tarts. My goal is to find a size that stretches my supplies while still being large enough to not get grabbed by the handful. One or two should be an intuitively obvious portion size. These ended up about 4″ x 3″ (and I think I could go a smidge smaller and have them about the size of poker cards).

I did one batch with just an egg white wash for sealing and one with a beaten egg. I think I’ll go with the beaten egg for future versions (because simpler to brush and more efficient use of stuff).

About 2 teaspoons of filling lumped in the center. And then I spread it out with my fingers because everything else seemed to just get coated in seeds more than helping to move them where I wanted. I left 1 cm margin. I can try getting a narrower margin, but too narrow might lead to disaster. And then I crimped the edges sealed with a fork and poked holes in the top.

I started the oven at 350F. And then after 10 minutes with no obvious cooking I popped it up to 425F. Total cooking time was 25 minutes, and that was a little too much (very brown, some corners just starting to burn, still entirely edible and hella tasty). Then I looked at the recipe, which was 350F for 30 minutes. So I just panicked too early.

When they were cooking, there was enough butter in the dough to lead to puddles of bubbling fat that were almost frying the pop tarts. So not okay for a toaster! But it was kind of sexy on a lined sheet pan.

When you bite in, the first taste is browned butter. And the second bite is also butter with a bit of pastry. When you get to the filling, it’s amazing. The nuts and poppy seeds are a lovely texture among the crispy pastry flakes and I’m not going to worry about grinding the poppy seeds at all for the future. And the honey is a great balance to the butter. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. They’re going to make the best breakfast.

So plans for the future:

* reduce butter per 2 cups of flour from 1 cup to 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons)

* try rolling out with pasta roller

* Cut to 3.5″ x 2.5″

* Poppy seed & almond is great. Also try sesame seed & hazelnut.

* Make 75 of each flavor; 150 total. Freeze before baking.

Okay, so you’re going to have to forgive me on this one – I’m trying to take pictures of my food, and photography isn’t one of my interests. However, of all the people I invited to eat my beans, I didn’t manage to invite anyone else who wanted to take pictures, either, so it was all up to me and the camera in my phone.

That said, I can cook – and cook I did. I wasn’t expecting a particularly good success rate. In fact, I did run out and buy bagels just in case everything failed – that’s how little confidence I had. This was way out of my comfort zone, and yet I ended up liking everything!

So I cook with beans regularly – why was this out of my comfort zone? Well, for one – one of the dish was a baking project, and I’m still not fully pleased with my breadmaking skills and don’t consider myself a competent baker yet. And for another – when I make beans for just me, I really enjoy cooking them to mush, but for this I wanted to much more precisely control the textures of the beans and have a wide range of firmnesses… and if I were going to be playing with it, they might all end up crunchy after 3 hours cooking and what would I do? Oh, my!

So my two main weapons for playing with texture were baking soda (basic) and citric acid (acidic). Well, okay, I had many options for acidifying, but alkalizing has fewer options.

Marx Foods is a lovely company, and so far they’re the only people to ever offer me free things to experiment with, and some of my favorite experiments have come from working with exotic samples they have given to me. This time, they gave me three kinds of beans: Marrow, Mayacoba, and Azuki.

And I made at least one dish for each bean.

Azuki beans – intrinsically sweet, source of red bean paste (on language)

my opinion – I didn’t find them all that sweet… just not so savory that sweet things wouldn’t work with them. But I did end up adding sugar to both dishes.

I separated the 700g of red beans into two sets of 350g each, and I cooked one with baking soda to make paste, and the other batch with an added 1/4 tsp of citric acid as soon as they started to soften so that I could work with whole beans. With both batches, I ended up using less than the whole quantity (noted in the recipes)

Dish 1 –
Azuki Bean, Lemon, and Coconut Bread Pudding

(dairy free)

ingredients:
1 lemon peel (after having been used for something else)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

350g 150g azuki beans
50g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp citric acid

1 loaf challah, day old
1 cup large flake unsweetened dried coconut, loosely filled
1/2 cup golden raisins
8 10 eggs
3/4 cup coconut sugar
(2) 15oz can coconut milk

Two days before:

Take the peel of 1 lemon (organic, since you’re using the peel) and boil it in plain water. After the peel is soft and the water has a yellow tinge (the longer you boil it, the less bitter – I aim for about an hour), drain. Boil (low boil, not rolling, because this is hot sugar!) it again in equal parts sugar and water. Again, for as long as you have patience – at least half an hour. This time, when you remove the peel, reserve the syrup as well.

Put red beans on to soak. (I put them in an empty quart yogurt container, add plenty of water, and let sit about 24 hours)

The evening ahead:

Drain red beans and simmer in plenty of water until they just start to soften. Add sugar and cook for another 10 minutes. Bite a bean and see if it has a pleasing texture. When the texture is firm but not crunchy, add the citric acid. Stir. And then drain the beans.

Oil large casserole dish and tear the challah loaf into chunky pieces so that they fill the casserole dish. Add drained beans, coconut, and raisins. Slice off the pith from the lemon peel, and cut the candied peel into thin slivers – add as many of these slivers as you like, I used half a lemon’s worth.

Beat together the eggs, sugar, and coconut milk (I did this in a couple batches so that I could use a bowl with a spout – having a container that pours well is more important than efficiency here). Pour the mixture over the bread and fillings. Cover and refrigerate overnight – to make your life easier in the morning when you’re hungry, and so that it has a creamier texture because everything has longer to soak the liquids in.

The next morning:

Cook in a slow oven. (In this case, the cooking temperature and time were determined by another dish, but on it’s own I would guess that it would do well at 325F for 45minutes, but definitely check to make sure it’s cooked through)

Heat up a quarter cup of the reserved lemon syrup, and pour overtop the pudding.

Verdict:
I ended up with the beans a little harder than what I had pictured when I devised the dish, but it really worked well that way – they were almost like nuts. But my guest who abhors nuts in bread pudding (or almost anything sweet), still loved the dish. The beans and the coconut really play well together, and I’m thinking of taking the beans I ended up not using and simmer them with coconut milk to have with sweet sticky rice. I’ve adjusted the recipe also to include more liquid because mine ended up near the dry side, but I was limited by my coconut milk and didn’t want to switch to adding dairy to the amazingly dairy free bread pudding.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 6 out of 10
I found things with similar names on some restaurant menus (Ozumo’s execution in very different; Bamboo Sushi’s is also a bread pudding and has a citrus note, but the execution is darker and it does not have coconut), but I did not find any recipes or blog posts with a similar recipe. The closest I came there was a rice pudding.



Dish 2 – Azuki Bean Paste Cinnamon Rolls
(note: dough is only slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour’s guaranteed recipe)


ingredients:
(dough)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
198 to 255g lukewarm water
361g all-purpose flour
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
35g vanilla sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
30g dry milk
21g oat flour
20 cardamom seeds, ground

(filling – enough for 2 batches of the dough above)
350g azuki beans, having soaked overnight
42g coconut sugar
1-2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp korintje cinnamon

2 tsp milk
oil for pans

(icing)
3oz cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered (vanilla) sugar
milk to thin for consistency

The evening ahead:

Make the dough – proof the yeast, mix everything together in a mixer with a dough hook for, “about 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom,” put in a greased container to rise in the refrigerator overnight. (more complete directions here)

Make the paste:

Only use about an equal quantity of water to beans because you aren’t going to be pouring any off – add more as needed. Simmer. beans and water until soft.

Oh, what, they aren’t getting soft? Add 1 tsp of baking soda and stir that in. There’s no reason not to add the first teaspoon right at the beginning, but you get a fun foaming action if you wait until the beans have started to cook.

If they still take a while to soften, add up to another teaspoon of baking soda, but increase slowly.

Often with sweet things you add a pinch of salt for balance – do not do that here because baking soda has a salty taste of its own.

Once the beans are soft, add the sugar to taste. I like the coconut sugar because it’s not as sweet as regular sugar, and it has a bit of a toasty dark undertone. I was aiming for the low end of sweetness, so you might want more sugar.

Add the cinnamon. If you are using a milder cinnamon, feel free to increase the amount to taste.

Note that I don’t have any mushing directions. I found that just stirring broke down the beans to the point where there was a lumpy paste, and I liked the additional texture enough that I didn’t see a benefit to breaking it down further.

Refrigerate overnight.

That morning:

Roll out the dough to 16″ x 12″ (possibly just those dimensions because it fits well on the KAF cookie mat or because everything happens in half sheet pan measures – I was rolling it on the mat to measure). If the dough starts to resist and pull back in, cover it in plastic and come back in a few minutes to keep going.

Brush dough lightly with milk.

Spread a thin layer of the bean paste on top.

Roll dough the long way as tightly as will keep everything tight but not distort the dough too much. It will stretch some as you roll. Pinch the end to the roll to create a smooth seal (it seals especially well if you roll the seam to the bottom as you slice the cylinder).

Slice into 1″ pieces and set in your tins (I had 1 8″ round, which held 7, and 1 9″ square, which held 9). Cover and let rise for an hour.

Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar, and then drizzle in the milk until it’s loose and runny. Drizzle lightly on top of the hot rolls.

Serve!

Verdict:
Wow! These came out perfect. And they were never frustrating, even though I’d been told that this sweet roll dough could be hard to work with. And I was going to put all of the credit on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but no – I have also gained skills, too! The giving up and letting the dough rest when it starts to fight back is definitely a new skill. There was no frustration rolling it out at all. And I now want to use my mixer for my bread doughs instead of all of this kneading by hand craftsmanship. Though the reason I went with mechanical help was that in the reviews and comments on the King Arthur site there were a couple people who had troubles, and the answer was almost always insufficient kneading time.

To prep for this recipe, I also checked Cooks Illustrated‘s techniques for making the dough. And while the dough wasn’t so useful there, they spent a lot of time discussing the problems of filling leaking and burning. And you know what – I think bean paste cinnamon rolls might be superior to cinnamon sugar ones. One – it stays where you put it and doesn’t leak. Two – instead of using the sugar for texture and quantity of filling as well as sweetness, you don’t have nearly as much flexibility with the sweetness level of the roll and they often end up too sweet.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
This was hard to search as there are many permutations of rolls and buns, which might include or just be on the same page as cinnamon, using azuki beans or red bean paste. So it’s hard to be sure I wasn’t missing a lot. That said, I didn’t find many exact matches, which is actually a shame since I think it’s a superior result. The first match I found that was close was a cinnamon roll that used the beans in the dough, instead of the filling, but then I found someone with the exact same idea (in fact, that search was where I got the idea to include cardamom in the dough), only she did not enjoy the results as much as I did – partly because she processed her red bean paste more than I.

Mayacoba beansdescribed as mild beans that are thin skinned and also good at keeping their shape in cooking.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these! You know those kale and white bean soups that are so delicious? Imagine that – as a quiche!

Dish 3 – Kale and Mayacoba Bean Quiche

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Pie crust (sorry, I used up all my baking mojo on the rolls – this was purchased)
egg white

1/3 lb pancetta, in 3 thick slices, then diced (bought at Milk & Honey Market)
1 medium purple onion, diced
3 large curly kale leaves, cut off the stem and sliced into thin shreds

4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp spicy mustard (obtained mine at the Philly Food Swap

Put the beans and herbs together in a pot with plenty of water and simmer for an hour – but keep a close eye on them. We want them completely soft, but not at all mushy or broken down. And, yes, these beans were amazing for that – the skin might break, but the beans kept their shapes nicely. When they’re cooked to your satisfaction, drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick out the rosemary stem and the bay leaf.

Cook the diced pancetta all the way until at least half of it is looking crispy. Pull out the pieces and drain on paper towels.

Take 2 Tablespoons of the pancetta fat, and cook the diced onion down in that over medium high heat. Once the onion is soft and starting to brown at the edges, add the kale. Just dump it over top, and then start turning it as the bottom wilts. Stop cooking it when the kale is a bright, vibrant green, soft all through, and glistening with an even coating of fat. (note: pancetta fat can be exceptionally salty, so wait until you can taste the kale before deciding whether to add more salt to accommodate the beans.

If you’re going to make the pie crust, do so. Lay the pie crust into the pan and ease it into the base. Prick all over with a fork and then brush with some egg white. (in the land of not being wasteful, I just go ahead and crack the first egg for the filling and aim the brush for whites – thus having one fewer dish to wash). Bake for 10 minutes at 350F

So now you have ready to go in: beans, cooked pancetta cubes, and a kale/onion mixture.

Take your pre-cooked pie crust and layer those fillings in. (I considered also adding a hard cheese, but that idea was abandoned when I saw how rich my other ingredients were already going to be). If you can, end with the kale on the top, but that doesn’t matter much.

Thoroughly scramble your eggs and beat in the dairy (yes, you can use half and half, instead) and the mustard. Pour the eggs over the filling, and then stir them together a bit (which will break up your layers – no worries.

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Verdict:
Yum! OMG Yum! This was exactly what I’d hoped. Everyone loved it. You really can’t go wrong with quiche. It didn’t even seem heavy at all, even with the full measure of beans. I’ve even frozen some pieces to reheat as breakfasts over the next few weeks. I tried microwaving one this morning, and it even reheats well. ♥


How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 8 out of 10
I have no idea why I didn’t find anyone else making this recipe – it’s delightful. Possibly because there are just so many white bean options that I didn’t search the right one. Here are the ones vaguely in the same family of delicious: white bean quiche with fennel and corn; spinach olive bean quiche; parsnip and kale quiche avec bacon; spinach and white bean quiche; vegan cannellini bean & kale quiche)

Erm… so I ran out of original ideas, and this next one is from a recipe. That said, it’s a recipe from ancient Rome that’s very different from a lot of food going on these days.

Dish 4 – Conchiclam Commodiana (Dried Beans in Commodus’ Style)

Conchicla Commodiana: pisam coques. cum despumaverit, teres piper, ligusticum, anethum, cepam siccam, suffundis liquamen, vino et liquamine temperabis. mittis in caccabum ut combibat. deinde ova IV solves, in sextarium pisae mittis, agitas, mittis in cumanam, ad ignem ponis, ut ducat, et inferes. (Apicius book 5, section 4, number 4) (I mostly used this site’s redaction, except for where I corrected their translation or substituted based on what I had available – and I didn’t look up the measurement equivalences… so only a little bit, but I did use it as a source)

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dill seeds (anethum is dill, not anise)
1 tsp epazote (because I wanted more green herbs, and it might be helpful with beans)
1 tsp fat or oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, finely diced (dried in recipe)
half a dozen healthy sprigs of parsley, leaves and stems divided, both chopped finely
1 tsp Phu Quoc fish sauce
2 Tbsp red wine
4 extra large eggs

Boil the beans, skimming off the froth.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the pepper, dill seed, and epazote.

In a skillet, fry the onion and parsley stems in a little oil (I used a teaspoon of the pancetta fat from the previous dish). Add the cooked beans, ground herbs, and fresh parsley – stir that together. Add the fish sauce and the wine, and it should be easy to stir, but not liquidy.

Take the beans off the fire and let cool.

Beat together the 4 eggs, and then stir into the cooled bean mixture.

Put it in the oven and cook very slowly. You could use a water bath, but I was already using the pan I usually use for that with the bread pudding, so instead I slowly raised the oven heat – letting it settle a bit at 180F, 220F, 275F, 325F, and 350F. And I think it was almost 2 hours before it looked cooked through.

Surprisingly, it was a souffle! I made ancient Roman bean souffle!

Verdict:
Fascinating. The (other) classicist among us said that it tasted like spring time – with the bright dill, green herbs, and earthy loamy beans. It was simultaneously heavy and light. It wasn’t a dinner dish, and I’m not sure it’s a breakfast dish. This was solidly in the land of brunch food.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
You won’t find it anywhere else, but I certainly didn’t make it up.

Ohhh… this next one might be my favorite. This is the only one that could actually be a workday breakfast.

Marrow beans – described as having a creamy texture with either a meaty or a bacon-y flavor.

Okay, so this past year I finally started to enjoy congee or jook – by making it at home. I was inspired by both Tea and Cookies and David Lebovitz to make it at home with rich and flavorful little tidbits.

And I thought to myself – why not cook a very thin bean soup full of tastiness like you do with rice? I was so confident of this recipe, that I used the whole measure instead of dividing it into two potential recipes.

So I have no idea how incredibly inappropriate the name of this dish is – probably a bit, since it’s not rice – but I also have no better word to describe to you what is going on in this dish.

Marrow Bean Jook

ingredients:
1 tsp bacon fat (or pancetta fat, or any oil, really)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 inches of ginger, cut into thin 1″ matchsticks
750g marrow beans, soaked overnight

duck stock

1 cup dried chanterelle mushrooms, steeped in hot water for half an hour

3 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin rounds
2 mild peppers, sliced into thin rounds with no seeds

Stock:
Right, so I made special duck stock for this dish. I picked up a container of duck heads and feet from Siu Kee Duck House in Chinatown, and I cooked it overnight at 200F with my allium ends and carrot peelings, seasoned with 2 dried chilies (one of the few remaining things from the first sampler of free things Marx Foods sent me), black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, 1 star anise, some fennel fronds, and a sprig of rosemary.

Jook:
In a bit of fat, cook down the onions. When they are creamy, add the garlic and ginger. After a minute, add the drained beans. Stir a few times, and then in goes the stock. Don’t worry if the stock is gelled solid, it will melt as it gets warm.

And then cook it for hours as you make everything else.

After the first hour, take the rehydrated mushrooms and cut them into centimeter pieces. And go ahead and add both the mushrooms and their water to the jook – it’ll only make it tastier.

Stir it every 15-30 minutes to encourage it to break down. I found that the marrow beans did not need any baking soda to turn smooth.

Near when it was time to serve, I took the three condiments above (scallions, garlic, and hot pepper) and toasted them separately in a barely-oiled skillet and put them out for toppings.

Also, go ahead and taste the soup. Mine was plenty salty, but if it had not been, I would have added a teaspoon of fish sauce.

Would also be excellent with a poached egg on top – but this particular meal had used plenty of eggs already.


Verdict:
YUM! Totally breakfast-y. Rich flavors, mellow intensity. Felt like a big hug.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 7 out of 10
There’s millions of years of history of thin bean soups. Gruel, porridge, pottage, pulse – there’s really very little possibility this is a unique innovation. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only one on the internet.

Here’s a small selection of other things vaguely like it that I found while searching: lima bean potato gruel (wow – least exciting name for food ever); mung bean millet gruel; Pat jook (made with azuki beans, so that wouldn’t have been original); fruited green bean congee; congee with mung bean; 1889 bean porridge; Tutu – dutch Antilles bean porridge; mung bean porridge in coconut milk; Molly Katzen’s Bean Porridge; Ful

I love having greens for breakfast, and I’m glad any morning I have the time to cook and fresh greens in the fridge.

This was actually almost dinner, but I’d gotten everything cut up and then decided I was too tired to actually eat it – so everything was prepped and ready in the morning.

Oh, and I have a rant about poached eggs. You know how they’re pretty difficult for many cooks, with the whites all turning whispy and unruly? And you know how some authors are tempted to try to sell you gadgets that promise to make everything simpler? And other authors just whip up delicious poached egg dishes?

Well, that’s making things too hard and getting all of your dishes dirty. Just make food with a little liquid to it, crack the egg into the food, and then cover it so that the egg poaches in steam and/or the liquid in your dish. Not only is this easier, requires fewer dishes, and gorgeous, but also the end result is more delicious because your egg whites get to absorb the flavor of your dish.

I clean out and keep those takeaway containers made out of foil for this, but you can use any kind of bowl or lid (that is high enough not to touch the egg while it’s steaming), if you don’t compulsively reuse containers or if you’re worried about cooking with aluminum.

Kale for Breakfast with a Poached Egg on Top

I melted 2 teaspoons of butter into the bottom of my skillet and tossed in a sliced (young enough that it hadn’t developed a bulb) vidalia onion, a cubed red bell pepper, and the flesh (only) of 1 habanero pepper, having been sliced into tiny slivers.

While that sauteed, I washed 4 young curly kale leaves. I just shook them dry, leaving a decent amount of moisture still in the leaves as I cut the leaf off of the tough rib and then sliced the pile of leaves across into short ribbons.

I got my egg ready.

Once the cooking vegetables were decently wilted, I added the kale and stirred it all up just until the kale turned bright.

But on tasting it, I realized I needed a bit more saltiness, so I went back to my Roman kale recipe for methodology and tipped in 1 teaspoon each of fish sauce and sweet red wine.

A quick stir to distribute the liquids, and I piled the greens into a nest.

Cracking the egg into the center, I covered the egg nest of greens with another container.

And it took about as long to poach as it took me to toast a frozen bagel.

You can peek under the lid – you are looking for no visible liquid white and an amazing rosy blush to the top of the yolk (which you don’t get from regular poaching).

Then eat!

There’s a charcuterie challenge, #charcutepalooza, going on in the food blog community, and it has been a lovely source of inspiration. So I figured by the end of April that I’d toss my hat into the ring, too. (See – my name is even on the list) I want to be a cool kid!

Only I’m not so good with deadlines, you see.

And while I loved the premise for the May challenge (grinding), and I loved the detailed directions (seriously, those directions are clear, thorough, and a work of art), and I even had a couple pounds of extra lamb fat I’d cut out of the shoulder roasts for Passover – despite all that, May 15th came and went with no meat having been ground.

I’d ordered the Kitchenaid grinding and sausage stuffing attachments, but I’d ordered them in my pseudonym and was unable to convince the post office to actually give them to me. After a month of trying to retrieve them, they went back to the suppliers and I hadn’t the fortitude to try again (they were just sitting there three blocks away – totally out of reach). And I hadn’t made it back down to South Street to acquire more meat. And it ended up being a month of fairly tight finances (did I mention my sink exploded in April?).

But then! May 28th came, and meat was ground. But not the meat painstakingly explained in the directions. No, a totally different meat. No so good with directions, either. I’m sure you haven’t noticed, though.

See – my friend, Lulu, has plans to attend Pennsic (as do I). And we are interested in trying this baking bread in a dutch oven with a camp fire (and coals) thing. I have high hopes.

So she just bought her dutch oven, and we decided that the very first thing she should cook in it should be a pound of bacon, rapidly followed by a batch of biscuits! My friend Geeksdoitbetter offered up potatoes for home fries. And I said, “Erm… well, I’ve got this breafast sausage recipe, and they say it can work in a food processor… what do you have in the land of meat?” Turned out to be chicken. The game is on!



Chicken Breakfast Sausage

Snag 1 package (1.75lbs) of skinless, boneless chicken thighs from your friend’s freezer… (would that one could get the skin and fat without the bones, but I wasn’t purchasing the meat, so I wasn’t going to be picky).

Thaw over about 30 hours in the refrigerator – it should still be a bit crinkly with ice crystals around the edges, but cutting is no problem.

Cut it up into a dice. The instructions said 1 inch cubes, but I felt it worth being more cautious and went with a half inch dice.

Then I put it into a gallon freezer bag, smoothed it out into a thin flat layer, and popped it into the freezer and went to work.

La la la – end of work

Into a sturdy food processor, I added half of the chicken meat (having wiggled the bag a bit and separated the cubes), many generous shakes (not weighed, could have been more generous) of rubbed sage, some thyme, fresh ground black pepper, powdered garlic, table salt, and about a quarter cup of minced fresh parsley.

And it was horrifying to first turn on! It shook the counter as if it were a clothes washer with an unbalanced load. It was loud. And it clearly wasn’t right.

But I persisted. And I also walked away for a little bit to chat with friends. And then fairly soon, maybe 20 minutes later, it turned perfect. Still mostly frozen, and yet thawed enough to be easy to cut. The blades with through the meat, and it was perfect! Pop it open and make sure the bottom circulates with the top, grind again, and it’s looking like sausage!

Now I was worried about the lack of additional fat, so at the last minute I pulled out of the freezer my container of schmaltz. And I scooped small chunks into the food processor until I’d added between 1/8 and 1/4 cup. Process some more until they are broken up into rice-sized pieces.

And then I shaped and cooked up a test patty. And once that received acclaim, I made and cooked the rest – some of them were even made into biscuit sandwiches (which is really the best fate a sausage patty can hope for).

The second batch ended up with even more parsley… and there’s a delicate balance between freshness and some green, and your entire patty taking on a green tinge. Just saying. Also, I seemed to have been less generous with the spices the second time around and should not have been.

My friends loved them. Ecstatic. I thought they were a little bland.

But the three of us ate almost the entire package of meat, leaving over bacon, even though there were also potatoes and biscuits and filling things. I have a standing request to make them again.

I’ve been trying to be thrifty this week. I had to buy tables so I could invite people over for a Passover seder.

But I lucked out last Friday to find leftover crudite from some workplace event put out in the staff room. And I had empty lunch containers at the right time, too. I acquired cauliflower, broccoli, grape tomatoes, orange bell pepper, mushrooms, baby carrots, and a decorative yellow chile.

Breakfast Mushroom Sautee

So the mushrooms were something I wanted to eat for breakfast. So I made half a slice of bacon, removed it to drain and left the fat in the pan to cook the rest.

I turned the halves of mushrooms into slices and then sliced up the yellow pepper and an onion. They went in onions, then mushrooms, then pepper. As it was cooking, I cut in some fresh rosemary.

And then I just stirred it until the mushrooms released liquid and then browned a bit.

I spooned this over top a fried egg on toast, and it was enough to have covered 2 or 3 eggs, but I still had my spoon and just went ahead and ate it directly without company.

I didn’t know what to do with the cauliflower, until I remembered the remains of the Saint Agur I’d been thinking would melt into a nice pasta sauce. I also had a random jar of hot pepper garlic pasta sauce that my parents hadn’t gotten around to using, so had passed on to me. And I’m just going to take a moment to give this a review on its own. That jar is not pasta sauce. It might be the random oddly-sized scraps of garlic and hot pepper (red, decently thick fleshed), having been left over from making a pretty jar of pickled peppers, that you decided to put into a jar with some oil… but it is not sauce. It’s a bit harsh. I have a very sturdy constitution, and it was threatening me with heartburn. So it’s an ingredient… a way overpriced one… but it’s not what it claims to be. Luckily, I was just using it to perk up the cheesiness – unluckily, I hadn’t realized how much oil I’d be unable to avoid adding on top of the cheese. Should you try this, just cut up some garlic and hot peppers on your own.

Spicy Cauliflower Penne

Start the water boiling and just start the cauliflower cooking when you put in the pasta – this isn’t going to take much more than the 9-10 minutes the pasta cooks. I think this dish is well suited to a whole wheat or spelt pasta.

Cut up an onion, and got that started in a teaspoon of olive oil.

Then I went through the cauliflower and barely broke it down even more – into a fork-friendly size – and added any extra stem bits into the pan right away to give them more time to cook. Then I turned the heat higher than medium and added the cauliflower, looking to get it softer and a bit browned without actually making it limp.

When the vegetables are two minutes from the right consistency, turn down the heat and add the cheese in clumps. Stir them in to melt evenly. And here I added some of the hot pepper garlic ‘sauce’ and stirred that in – about 2 teaspoons or so, draining out as much of the oil as possible. It benefited from some black pepper ground on top, too.

Then I used a slotted spoon to shift the al dente penne to the cauliflower and stir it in so that it was coated with sauce and absorbed that for the last bit of its time and sucked in flavor, too.

And then I ate most of the broccoli dipped into hummus, but I had a few pieces left when I was trying to decide how to use up the rest of the vegetables. While looking in the fridge, I noticed I still had a partial can of red thai curry paste waiting for use. Perfect! It was only after I started cutting that I noticed just hot very orange this dish was going to be – at least there were a few broccoli pieces to add a little contrast. Actually, that shocking bit of contrast looked amazing on the plate.

Carrot Red Thai Curry

Rice: 1/2 cup short grain rice; 1 cup water; pinch of salt; 1/2 tsp coconut cream – boil, reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

Curry – wait until there’s only 10 minutes (or less, but I have no patience) left on the rice before starting to cook.

6 ounce cans of coconut milk are the best thing for the single cook!

Shake the can until it sloshes (keeps the fat from sticking to the lid and sides) before opening, and then pour it into your pan to heat. Once the oil starts pooling at the top, add about a third of a pound of baby carrots, sliced in half.

Cook for a few minute before adding the curry paste – 2-3 teaspoons, stirring in and tasting between each addition.

Add the broccoli.

And then add a(n orange) bell pepper, cut into 1 x 4 cm strips).

Stir to coat and cook evenly. When the bell peppers just start to look no longer raw, take them off the heat and you’re ready to plate.

This made two portions.

I’d put the second portion in my freezer and gone out to the porch to eat, when one of my new neighbors came by and asked if I’d made enough for two since she was very hungry. I’d expected her to end up disappointed either because of the lack of protein or the spiciness level, but she came back full of compliments with my container empty.

10
Jan

Weekend of food and glory

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

Thursday
Did not make progress of truffles because I had house buying mischief. Closing date is set to January 31st.

Mortgage rate would be 5%, which is higher than I’d hoped. Apparently rates went up right before the holidays. Do you think it would be weird/too late to shop around more?

I still don’t believe that the sellers will have all the repairs done in time, but I’m starting ye olde boxe collection of moving.

Gah!

Then met up with Hugh for dinner and socializing at Cheesecake Factory. I think they secretly add crack to their food because it’s bizarrely tasty.

And then I conned him into running errands with me: dropped of sewing machine for repair and bought rubber caps for the bottoms of my kitchen chairs (because it’s only okay for them to cut into the rented flooring.

Whee! Good times.

Friday
Made 5 batches of vegan ganache to be the center of truffles. Also made Smitten Kitchen’s buckeye filling.

And then I was wooed out of my kitchen by book group and potential movie watching, and I packed up my goods and rolled some chocolate balls that night. I even dipped some of them.

And then Smittywing showed up! I’d… erm… sort of forgotten having invited her up a couple months ago, but luckily my apartment was in decent shape and able to accommodate a guest with barely a hiccup. Plus I put her to work on the chocolate front. :)

Went home, went to bed, and resolved to wake up early to complete the truffle process.

Saturday
OMG – so nuts.

Breakfast of freshly baked bread while covering kitchen in chocolate as part of the frantic truffle making process.

Smittywing was kind enough to take orders and make labels for all the truffles. And a sign to post by the farmers market. And add signature garnishes to the tops for identification. Yay sous chefing!

And then I got a call reminding me that I hadn’t left the key with Lulu last night at book group, so I ran over quickly to open the door to the site before heading back home to finish making stuff and putting on clothing.

Ended up completing the following truffles: laurel, earl grey, peanut butter, and thai-inspired

Spent some time helping sell. Spent some time out front with Bitmonger doing a dance with the sign and encouraging people to come in and sample our wares.

And then we were running out of chocolate, and we were only a small fraction of the way into the bake sale… so I headed off back home to make more truffles (though as I was heading out, I did see more people with baked goods headed in). Smittywing came with me to review the shocking news of the day on her computer, and I twisted her arm into making a batch of (amazing!) cookies, too.

So we rolled chocolate in chocolate and talked politics of OMG.

Oh, and there was also experimental orange peel candying. Is there a trick to getting them dry enough not to make syrup?

completed truffles: masala and green tea
completed cookies: mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles

Went back. Rendezvoused with MeriSunshine , who had made black cocoa brownies that were all light and fluffy.

More chocolate was sold, and a significant profit was made – another year’s worth of BiUnity’s operating expenses covered. Whee!

Geeksdoitbetter showed up, looking glorious, just in time for final call and the wrap up auction.

And then we went back to Lulu’s and Bitmonger’s place and had dinner. Much gratitude to Geeksdoitbetter for making dinner of infinite amounts of pizza go. I had no idea how much I needed that until it happened.

Sadly, we still didn’t watch Memento (which had been an option for both book group and tonight) – maybe next Thursday?

We did spontaneously schedule a dim sum brunch for next week.

And as I left, I surreptitiously snuck both Smittywing and D into the prospective house for a looksee.

Sunday
There was sleeping in on Sunday!

And then I started on cleaning the kitchen… and it was bad enough that I used the technique of just picking an edge and working along methodically. Then a round of dishes… then more cleaning… And we got it all in decent shape by noon (well, aside from some spots on the floor…). And that was good because I’d had a moment of insanity the previous week of inviting SCA people over for crafting at 1pm! Way to overbook my weekends.

There was still time, in the midst of the cleaning, for a fancipants breakfast. Bagels. Fried eggs. Potatoes. Scallion cream cheese made just that morning from scallions picked from the pot on my porch. An orange.

So then Smittywing departed and the SCA people started arriving.

The first one brought rosemary and garlic bread, for which I made some honey butter, and a kumihimo project (I think). We spent some time talking calligraphy and bookmaking, and I sent her home with a pen nib that I acquired in the Great Bryn Mawr Paste Room pillage of ’02.

The second person showed up with a bar of good chocolate, some yarn to ball, and a sewing project.

We ended up discussing garden plans, and it looks like I’ll have a set of 4 large raised beds to plant in next summer! Whoooo!

That makes my next summer diversified gardening plan up to:

  • 2 small vining vegetables in Lulu’s front bed
  • hot peppers, maybe a squash, maybe some other vegetable not tomatoes in Jen’s back yard
  • tomatoes, hot peppers, and some things not susceptible to late blight yet tasty to my parents in (you guessed it) my parents’ back yard
  • And raised beds of awesome, too!
  • And I think I’ll still pursue negotiations with the funeral home next to the prospective house to see if I can garden on the roof of their garage

I made a dinner out of random things hanging around in my fridge:

  • ground meat (beef, veal, pork) cooked down very thoroughly with some onions. Sauced up with some sheep’s milk version of gorgonzola. And then mellowed with some light, fluffy ricotta. Tossed with whole wheat penne. Topped with parsley.
  • Side dish of Dandelion greens wilted down in olive oil with ground savory, parsley, clove, red wine, fish sauce, and a lot of pepper.

I sewed a wee coptic book with a 2 needle version. I am not sure I did it correctly, but it worked. Next step will be gluing the covers together and trimming them to size, and then I’ll decide whether it needs a book or some sort of closure.

Monday
And I have almost all of the dishes done and everything! Whee!

And still had time for a brag-worthy breakfast. I minced the last of the ghost chilies (saving the seeds) and cooked that down with a portabella in bacon fat. Once that was thoroughly cooked and seasoned, I mixed that with the very last of the ricotta and used that as the filling for an omelet. Toasted up a bagel and had more of the scallion cheese. And a bit of tea. \o/!

9
Nov

Ghost Chili Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , , ,

So I have these insanely hot peppers to test (see previous entry for full disclaimer about free peppers), and I don’t actually have any friends who will eat spicy foods with me. They sometimes have difficulties with black pepper.

I solved that by putting out a call on the internet to find local people who were excited by spicy food. And this morning I got to meet a lovely person with a delightfully high heat tolerance (who happened also to know two of my pre-existing friends).

We met for breakfast.

Fried eggs were just as tasty on the second go through.

The sweet potatoes were amazing! They didn’t get as caramelized as I expected, and the heat ended up being surprisingly mild. I think I might try candying the sweet potatoes, instead of glazing, just to see what happens.

The butters got approval (as did my homemade bread), and she preferred the honey butter on general principles of texture.

And then I started to improvise.

I picked some of the (bountiful and thriving) chard from my garden and prepared my Kenyan greens recipe, but with some hot pepper sliced in… and that was too hot. Unpleasantly so, without adding anything to the flavor. But once I picked the pieces of pepper out, it was pretty tasty – so perhaps just adding a chunk of pepper while cooking and then removing it.

And then I had the lovely stems left, so I made some fried rise with an onion, chard stems, diced carrot, leftover brown rice, finely sliced ghost chili, and a few drops of oyster sauce for moisture. It received approval from my guest, and I added some roast pork leftovers to it as I packed it up and froze it into lunch portions.

And I sent her home with the spicy truffles, so I haven’t heard back yet. The filling was right on the edge of okay for me, so I’m hoping they end up better once they have another layer of chocolate. I only had time to coat three of them, though, so my taste has to wait until tonight. I did learn an unrelated lesson about truffles, though – using a lower milk fat dairy option for the ganache center (the store was out of heavy cream) really makes a noticeable and unpleasant difference to the texture. I won’t be doing that again.

Note: Marx Foods did provide the ghost chilies to experiment with for free. They did not, however, influence my impressions of the product.

So I was lucky enough to trip over Marx Foods and Justin Marx a bit ago. And he’s been generous about letting me try the products he sells.

So I tossed my name in to try out their fresh ghost chilies. Yes, these were free and given to me by a company.

And they are hella intimidating. I’ve never had peppers tingle my nose before, and these could do it while whole and untouched.

Right, so I haven’t talked about hot peppers much here. I’ve frequently grown jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. I think the flesh of a couple jalapenos are pretty decent substitute for green bell peppers in many dishes. Serranos are perfect for tingling up a summer sandwich of garden fresh tomatoes, white bread, mayonnaise, and salt. I rarely ever use the habaneros because they don’t add much in the way of flavor while they’re adding heat. My father’s the one who wants to plant them, and it’s mainly so he can talk about how he grows these really hot peppers. The most machismo I’ve had about peppers was eating a whole fresh bird’s eye chili on a dare in college – it hurt a lot, but I managed to surreptitiously drink a can of cola and that did a great job of cutting the burn and giving me style points.

In addition that background, it’s also worth noting that I usually can’t be bothered to wear gloves, even with habaneros. I just have one dirty hand (which touches the peppers) and one clean hand (which only touches the knife) – and then I try to remember which was which as the day wears on (okay, fine – my right hand is always the one with the knife). For these, however, I went to the sex supplies and pulled out the gloves.

Right, so the first recipe was just a private experiment to see just how impossible it was to eat one.

Ghost Chili bagel and egg breakfast

step one – fry half a slice of bacon. Once crispy, remove the bacon to a towel to dry.

Cut flesh of the chili from the seeds and membranes. Slice very thinly. Toss the slices of chili into the hot bacon fat and stir them around until they start to brown.

Put sliced bagel in the oven to toast.

Scrape the toasty pepper slices into a single thickness gathering, and crack an egg over the peppers. Continue to fry the peppery egg as you enjoy.

Gather your plate of toasted bagel (with cream cheese), bacon, and fried egg. Place the egg on top of one bagel and salt generously – but don’t make a sandwich in case you want unadulterated bagel to soothe your mouth later. Also slice some cheese for buffering, too.

Nom

End result of the breakfast was actually not bad! I might do it again. My nose ran a little and there was a little sweat on my scalp, but it ended up being an entirely delicious breakfast.

Oh – one more bit of background, I recently went to visit my ex, who has since become a rabbi, and while there we made candied etrog peel. I suggested we save the boiling liquid, so I came home with two jars of etrog syrup and my bags having been searched by TSA.

Right, so etrog syrup.

First things I made was citrus candied chilies.

Candied Chilies

First, I cut the flesh of two chilies away from the seeds and membranes – hold by the stem, and aim shallow. I managed to get one pepper into two pieces and the other into three.

Next I boiled the etrog syrup – already so supersaturated that crystals had formed, so I didn’t add more sugar. If you are starting without syrup, add equal quantities of water and sugar of sufficient quantity that the pieces float about and you aren’t worried the liquid will boil away.

Once it came to a boil, I carefully transferred each piece of pepper and let them boil for about three to five minutes.

I placed the pieces on some waved paper to dry, and I poured the (now insanely spicy) syrup into a clean jar.

Once the peppers were drier, I dredged them in sugar and put them in a jar.

So what do I do with candied peppers? Well, so far I’ve tried truffles

Candied Ghost Chili Truffles

ganache center
6oz República del Cacao° 75% Los Rios
4oz light cream (should have been heavy cream, but the store was out)
2 grams candied ghost chili, minced finely

coating
70% Santander

But that just used up one of the five pieces, and the truffles are just on the slightly insane side of spicy, but tasty.

And I still have the etrog/pepper syrup. But I have a plan. Well, at least a plan for a little of it.

Chili-glazed Rosemary Roast Sweet Potatoes

Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or larger chunks.

Roast them in oven, until just cooked through, with rosemary and ground allspice.

When cool enough to handle, toss the potatoes with the etrog/chili syrup and then put the potatoes back in the oven long enough to get some caramelization.

Finish with kosher salt for texture.

I tried roasting some of the peppers in the oven, but they are thin-skinned peppers and I chose some of the smaller ones, so I ended up with dried peppers, instead. From them, I made two seasoned butters.

2 Ghost Chili Seasoned Butters – sweet and savory

Sweet
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
3-4 Tablespoons of buckwheat honey
sprinkle of powdered mace

Savory
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
1/16th teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon paprika

And that still leaves me with quite a few peppers to work with!

10
Mar

Eggs – you’re doing it right

   Posted by: Livia Tags:

It has been a few months since I read about double-boiler scrambled eggs, and I’m still a bit flabbergasted by the whole discussion.

So it’s possible to get eggs wrong – they can be burnt or impossible to scrape out of a pan or unevenly cooked in a way you find icky. But once you get past that – you’re doing it right.

There is no single perfect platonic ideal of an omelette for all occasions. There’s the thick, sometimes browned, 2 egg omelette of the buffet line; there’s the thin, custardy French rolled omelette; there’s the even thinner folded short order grill omelette; and there’re even the scrambled eggs you were hoping to serve as an omelette, but which are still tasty just the way they are.

Seriously, I don’t care whether you pre-mix your scrambled eggs or just break the yolk in the pan. I don’t care whether you turn with a spatula, fork, or just swirl the pan delicately. The eggs are still going to be delicious.

But here’s the true secret to delicious eggs. It’s the one thing that makes someone’s fancy egg demonstration taste so much better than yours. The secret – the really important secret – is that you have to convince whoever is eating the eggs that the rest of the food is unimportant, and that they should be standing around – fork in hand – waiting to eat the freshly cooked egg the moment it leaves the pan. That, more than anything else, improves the eggy experience.

10
Jan

Black Garlic experiments

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

About a month ago (at the start of December) Marx Foods ran a promotion where they’d offer esoteric food items to food bloggers willing to write up reviews. And, honestly, this was my first ever shot at free food just because I have this hobby, so I gleefully bopped on over and signed up.

And also for full disclosure, I found out about the company in the first place because my friend, Meghan, had been to their site and entered a photo contest that had scored her some vanilla beans, of which she spoke highly.

So of three choices, I asked to try the Black Garlic because earlier in the year there had been a wave of food bloggers trying out this ingredient, too, and it’s appeal seemed to come from its flavor as well as its novelty value.

And right away I had to change my shipping address and had to try out their customer service – and received prompt emails back from Justin Marx on a weekend. Wow! And he was very supportive of my little amateur blog and every welcoming even though many of the things he sells just seem way out of my league / price range. So I am very impressed by them.

But how impressive is the black garlic?

Scent – I had it shipped to my work address, and I could not resist opening the package and poking at it right away. At first it didn’t seem to have much scent, but then I left the office to do something, and I came back to realize that there was quite a strong, dark garlic scent all through my office. Oh, yeah. I am full of professionalism. Luckily, no one has to share the office with me. But it made me very hungry for the rest of the day.

It ended up arriving at a fairly busy time for me, and the first recipe I made from it was born of a need for simplicity. That Friday, was the Philadelphia Food Bloggers pot luck, and I’d been planning to make stuffed dates… and then just didn’t have any time to assemble them. So I went with an incredibly easy cream cheese dip instead.

Recipe 1 – flavored cream cheese with crackers
I made two side-by-side bowls of dip.

Garlic & Parsley Cream Cheese

Garlic (3 cloves minced black garlic in one, 5 cloves mashed roasted garlic in the other)
12 ounces neuchatel cheese
large bunch of flat leaf parsley, minced (the last from the summer garden)
2 Tablespoons finely minced purple onion
pinch of salt

So with exactly the same recipe, I set out to see what people thought the differences were.

First off – after a full day at work, the cream cheese with the black garlic needed to be mixed up with a fork again to be presentable because the brown color had seeped out into the surrounding cheese. (And with the leftovers, it continued to spread and blend into the cream cheese until there was an even mocha color – I might recommend making this 2-3 days ahead for maximum joy)

No one thought there was a licorice flavor to the black garlic spread. Descriptions tended more toward round and dark and complex, but no one could quite name the difference. That said, people loved them both equally, but separately. They were not interchangeable at all.

Recipe #2 – flavored butter
So since it melted to well into the cream cheese, I figured I’d try mixing it with butter, too.

Now, I’d already read Diane’s entry from White on Rice where she found that it didn’t infuse well into oil, but I figured it would not only be useful to confirm her results, but also be useful for extending the experiment – since I’d only acquired 2 heads of garlic.

And, no, the garlic didn’t melt into the butter at all. But it was still tasty spread on bread. My favorite experiment at this stage was making toast with the black garlic butter and a thin smear of thick, smooth Frontera salsa.

Texture: The reason so many descriptions of black garlic evoke licorice is that’s exactly what it looks like coming out of the papery husk. The paper skin is so thin, there’s not more than a single layer between you and the clove, but the clove has shrunk down to a thick black nub. It’s dry and squishy and a bit sticky/tacky as you but into it. Putting it in the freezer doesn’t change its texture much at all and doesn’t make it easier to slice. I ended up resenting the fine layer it would leave behind on my knife because I had so little to work with.

Experiment #3 – Black garlic in mushroom barley
I’d been trying to hold out against a Black Garlic Risotto recipe because that would be too ridiculously easy. How could black garlic not be tasty in that set up? But I caved because the taste matched exactly a Roman barley recipe, which I made for my last Roman cooking workshop (and, huh, never got around to writing up) and had promised myself I would revisit. So a cold night and much starch and there was a tasty, garlicy meal of joy. Guaranteed crowd pleaser. I’ll get my copy of Apicius and try to remember to make a separate entry for that one, but trust me – it’s a lot like risotto.

Taste: So it doesn’t taste quite like garlic, so what does it taste like? Well, darker and rounder and definitely umami… but that’s not helpful. The best description is that it tastes like garlic breath – everything around the flavor of garlic, without the obvious front taste. It’s dark and musky, but it’s all around the edges of flavor without confronting you directly.

Experiment #4 – Chocolate Truffles
Now I was a little dubious about this from the start, but the Marx Food people has promised this would be useful for savories or sweets. And they had even offered up a chocolate truffle recipe. Having read it, I’m kind of dubious about their preparation – which has a regular truffle center, rolled in minced black garlic. I think the garlic would end up too chewy and right there on your tongue.

So I set about to make the garlic part of the filling. I mixed together butter and garlic again, and I added as much chocolate as necessary to keep it from being overwhelmingly butter. I added enough sugar to make it feel like dessert, but I also added some salt and smoked paprika to bring out the smokier notes. I chilled this and dipped it in a pretty dark chocolate coating (a ratio of 2 squares unsweetened to 1 square semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate) and then garnished with a dusting a regular paprika.

And… it turned out bad. Not devastatingly bad, but not something I want to eat. Other people who tried it described it as a flavor explosion. But it wasn’t a pleasing one by my call, and I threw out the untried ones, instead of taking them home with me. (right, and I also need to write up the other, more sucessful, truffle recipes)

Experiment #5 – Black Garlic omelet
So I had just one clove left, and I decided to go with something I knew would be good. I sliced it very thinly, and I fried them crisp in a teaspoon and a half of bacon fat.

note: it was hard to track their cooking progress because they were already black. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but yeah worth pointing out.

And then I scrambled together an egg and almost an equal quantity of light cream. Poured in just enough to coat the pan, pulled the garlic slices back into the pan so they were evenly distributed, and rolled out a soft, luscious omelet of pure bliss!

(Note: this same trick of frying slices of garlic was also used in Steamy Kitchen‘s experiment, where she made Scallops with Black Garlic)

Conclusion: This was a lot of fun to try, and I’d definitely use them again… but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll feel the need to seek out.