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Friday, October 8, 2010

House Fix Update C! More pics from the kitchen build

Just thought I would toss out a few pics of the kitchen to date!  Things are finally coming together as they should and we're on for being finished by winter.  Hopes remain high... 

The walls sheetrocked and primed then painted a nice cypress green

The chase that held the old cabinets.  Straitening and wrapping them with pine planking

Lighting and a pull down extension cord for power on the central island

 Just finished!  Can lighting under the pine wrapped chase to light the counter and shelves

Finally in the home stretch it looks like! Next step: the tile floors.  

Onward and upward!

Friday, September 17, 2010

~Candied Amber~ The fastest growing and most delicious of semi-precious gems

Cut to the kitchen, just days pre-gutting and still all clean and shiny (if a bit old...)  I wanted to get one last recipe in before the chaos ensued but it had to be a good one.  No plans had been made previous so I jetted off to the store real quick to see what might or mightn't spark some interest!  Indeed something did...

~Vanilla Bean Jewel Candied Kumquats~
Printable Recipe

Adapted from Sprinklebakes' Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Candied Kumquats

 2 C Kumquats (roughly 10 oz)
 1 C Water
 1 C Sugar
 2 Teaspoons Honey
 1 oz Rum
 1 Vanilla Bean
 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

 Special Tools: Mesh Strainer
                        Medium Non-Stick Pot

Kumquats, silly name and all, are a wonderful little fruit.  Shaped like a grape but tastes like an inside-out orange/clementine with a sweet rind and a sour, tannic, semi-pithy interior.  One of my personal favorite things to bring on a road trip for sure!  These little fellows are also quite versatile when it comes to culinary adventuring.  From marinades to ice creams (pasteurized juice) you can always add a more complex orangey flavor for a spin on classic recipes.

This recipe is one of my all time favorite ways to use them and I think it really makes them shine as an accent to many both sweet and savory dishes!

Start by popping out the little green stems, either by hand or the edge of a paring knife then slicing them length-wise and cutting out the seeds.  These seeds are, like any citrus seeds, quite bitter and can lend that same tannic, bitter mouth feel/flavor to the final product if you don't get them all.  Don't worry if the fruit gets a bit rough looking in the process of seeding.  It will plump up in the process of blanching and candying and they will return to their nice, rounded, grape-shape.

Once you've got all the fruit prepped for candying, we've got to blanch them to reduce the bitter (tannic) mouth-feel, bring out certain sugars and bring up colors to prevent dulling while cooking.

Food Science Notes - Tannic Acid Chains 

To blanch your fruit properly, toss them in a pot and add just enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a good boil for about 30 seconds then drain.  Repeat this process two more times then rinse quickly and set aside.


Many, many cooking processes involve blanching the required fruit and or vegetables but what really goes on when we "blanch"?  From a scientific standpoint, blanching is a process of quick immersion in rapidly boiling water then of immersion or rinsing in cold water all in order to inactivate certain enzymes that can harm the color, flavors, smells, and structure of the food.  Often with fruit, blanching also destabilizes and washes out certain complex organic molecules (such as tannic acids) than can yield some fairly unpleasant flavors and mouth-feel.  But lets go with vegetables for now...
Just as in our body, enzymes (highly complex protein catalysts) act to accelerate chemical reactions that break down, restructure and build organic molecules.  In food, we worry less about building and more about damaging and reshaping

An enzyme's tertiary structure
Lets take one molecule involved in color of almost all vegetables and its foil: Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllase.  Chlorophyllase is an enzyme common in fruits and vegetables that acts to reshape the Chlorophyll molecule in a way that makes it water soluble.  In this state,  chlorophyll can be more easily affected by pH extremes that dull color or simply be dispersed into the cooking liquid.  In blanching we both wash out certain macromolecules and acids at the same time Denaturing the Chlorophyllase (destroying its functionality) via the boiling heat.

Chlorophyllase is also partly responsible for fall color change
So there we have food trial-by-fire so to speak...  Blanching = heat + water = inactivation/removal via liquid of negatively influential protein macro-molecules = nice, pretty colors, scents, flavors, vitamin profiles in long-term stored food.  SCIENCY!


Now that we've finished prepping and blanching let's make the syrup for candying.  If you are going to use a vanilla bean, slice the bean length wise and scrape the seeds with the trailing edge of your knife.

Toss the seeds and the pod into the pot along with sugar, water, rum, and honey and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally to break up sugar lumps, until the liquid becomes clear then remove and discard the vanilla pod.  Bring your hot syrup to a rolling boil, add the blanched fruit, then turn heat down to a slow boil.

Cook your fruit for about 15 minutes or until it becomes translucent.  Never be afraid to taste it as it starts to loose opacity.  You'll want to stop just tender enough for your liking.  If you go too far, the fruit can begin to become mealy and over-soft.  Yuk...

Drain your fruit with a mesh strainer into a heat proof container and conserve all that lovely syrup for later use.  The wonderful byproduct of this recipe is vanilla kumquat simple syrup which of course can be used for all kinds of things from cake moistener to liquid sugar for sweet teas!  The fruit itself can be canned via the boiling method along with a small amount of syrup and stored for about 9 months in a cool, dark place.

These little amber-like jewels are a wonderful addition to all kinds of desserts and savory dishes, especially ones involving chocolate or other bitter ingredients such as coffee ice cream, Tiramisu crepes, or even paired with a good pork chop or two.  They're fun to play with so don't be afraid to try!  You can add almost any kind of flavoring or whole spices o the recipe when you start cooking the sugar&water from vanilla beans to cocoa nibs and whole cloves.  Keep on experimenting and as always...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kitchen Update 2.0! Nearing Zero Level At Last!

Been some time since I've had much to say here since I began the tear out of the kitchen.  Time flies when your pulling down the house around you as the old saying goes...  I though I would go ahead and post some of the pics of the kitchen remodel for anyone who might be interested.  Almost at the absolute bottom level!  Sneaking up on it:

 Cruddy old paneling all removed and disposed of revealing 100 year old plaster

Stove pulled out and cabinets pulled for gas range 6" clearance!

 Chase around ceiling opened up and ready for new recessed lighting!

 Back wall ready for new switches/plugs/Sheetrock and final open shelving!

 Just as a side note...  interesting wiring never been replaced before...  Need to have that fixed but ugh!  Like some kind of Nonsense Poem for an instruction manual.

So that's where we are right now...  crawling from the wreckage and ready to head back up toward finished kitchen!  Visions of cedar lined lighting chases and new Ikea fixtures abound!  
As far as food posts go:  I have no kitchen still BUT my close friend is letting me use her kitchen so I will have some short posts coming up soon!  

Thanks everyone for sticking with me through this remodel and thanks for reading!  More to come with food and remodel fun!

Friday, July 30, 2010

~Quick Update~ Kitchen Makeover Edition

So as of last weekend, my father and I finally started our kitchen destroying in the process of renovating it...

As I write this update, we've taken off two layers of linoleum floor covering: 1980's followed by 1950's creating a veritable cheapo-floor time capsule.  Today we began installing the underlayment and ordered tile!

Alas, this work means not too many post for some weeks.  Hopefully it will go fast and I will post as post can with help from some great friends who have offered kitchen space, but it may be slower than usual...  I truly apologize for delays and I wanna thank everyone for sticking with me through this trouble!

Among following recipe posts, I'll definitely toss up some updates with pictures of the progress.  Thanks again everyone for bearing with me!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

~Pizzaπr∙Round!~ At home alternative to expensive, delivery, pizza-like objects

With the Tomato and Chevre Tarte Tartin post, I was skirting the crusts of really pizza-like recipes.  This time I thought I would go all the way and try my hand at copying one of my favorite things in the world: The Cheese Board's sourdough, thin-crust, goat cheese and tomato pizza!  With my herb garden really rolling and the Farmer's Markets full to the brim with fresh, sun-ripened-sweet cherry tomatoes, the phrase "no time like the present" holds water...  or olive oil as the case may be...

~Herb Tomato & Caramelized Onion Sourdough Pizza~
Printable Recipe

1 3/4 C Sourdough Starter
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Oregano or Marjoram
1/4 Teaspoon Basil
1 Small Clove Garlic
1 1/2 C AP Flour

Caramelized Onions:
     2 Large Sweet Yellow Onions
     1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
     1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
     1.5 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
     1 oz Butter
Slow Roasted Cherry or Plumb Tomatoes:
     10-12 Cherry or Plumb tomatoes
     2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
     1 Teaspoon Chopped Oregano
     1/2 Teaspoon Chopped Basil
     Ground Black Pepper
Garlic Infused Olive Oil
10-12 oz crumbled Chevre cheese
8-10 Baby mozzarella
Finely Chopped Fresh Thyme and Oregano
Black Pepper

SPECIAL TOOLS: Pizza Pan or Stone
                              Cast Iron Skillet
                              Pizza Peel or Large, Thin Cutting Board or Cookie Sheet

Yield - 1 Large Pie (8 to10 servings)
Preheat your oven to 350f. Preheat your pizza stone (if you plan to use one) on the lower rack of the oven to allow one free rack near the top for roasting.

This recipe is my first foray into the world of at home pizza making, but with the help of my culinary school notes I feel it turned out well.  The trick with a sourdough crust is getting it thin enough because the sourdough starter can make it rise more that I at least had predicted...  All in all a minor issue but one to keep in mind.  Of course you can omit the herbs or substitute any spices you want to try!  Lets get going!

Begin by separating herb leaves and chopping them as fine as you like.  Remember that with stronger spices (like marjoram and oregano) the finer you chop and mince, the more cut surface area you have exposed to the other ingredients and the stronger the flavors will be. Mince garlic fine and combine with olive oil and herbs in a small bowl to "steep" covered for about 10 minutes at room temperature.

Thoroughly combine flour, salt and sourdough starter in a large bowl then add your herb olive oil and stir with the hands until it comes together and forms a slightly sticky ball.  Add a small amount more flour if needed.  It shouldn't cling to the fingers too much but will be slightly tacky.  Turn the lot out onto a well floured work surface and knead a few times just to get an even consistency, then wrap in plastic and let sit at least 30 minutes in the fridge.  Don't knead too much or you run the risk of bready, overly chewy crusts...

While that chills out for a bit, lets get to getting on the toppings!  You can use any combination of these you like but this is my recommendation based on an educated guess at the cheese boards recipe!


First for the tomatoes!  Cut them in half and toss with salt, pepper, oil and herbs.  Distribute them evenly in your cast iron skillet and roast at 350f for 1.5 hours or until just before done as they will bake further on the pie. You can also roast quickly at 425 for about 30 to 40 minutes if you're in a hurry but be mindful that this method doesn't develop the sugars as well, so they will be less sweet.

While the tomatoes are roasting, start caramelizing your onions.  Skin your onions and slice them in half, then into strips.  Place along with olive oil into a large skillet and cook slowly over low heat, stirring gently all the while until they become transparent and start to turn golden.  This may very well take up to an hour but don't be tempted to turn up the heat prematurely.  I always get a high stool to sit on, put on Beethoven's 9th symphony and make a time of it.

~ FOOD SCIENCE NOTES: Pyrolysis acting in caramelization of sugars in the onions

Once the onions smell sweet and have a nice, even golden color, turn up heat just slightly and add butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook further until the onions have absorbed most of the liquid and the remaining syrup is thickened and very sweet.  I use quite a bit of balsamic but if you aren't as big of a fan as of it as I am, you can easily cut the amount in half.

Now that most of the hard work is done, its pizza time in earnest!  If you slow roasted the tomatoes, turn up your oven temperature to 400f.  Remove your  pizza dough from the refrigerator and let stand 10 minutes to take off the chill then punch down into a fairly flat circle.  Toss or roll out until its just under 1/8" thick and place on a well floured pizza peel or baking sheet to work.  The coarser the flour the better for this.

Rub the tossed pie with olive oil and minced garlic. Top with caramelized onions and herbs then add tomatoes, Chevre and mozzarella cheeses however you like it.  Season with a small amount of black pepper and bake on your pizza stone or pizza pan 15 - 18 minutes until the cheese is melty and the crust is golden brown!

Pizza is one of those recipes that can be easily compared to many household chores...  it can seem intimidating but once you get yourself going on it its a lot of fun and can be much simpler than it seems.  Pizza dough also just happens to be one of the most versatile things in the culinary world!  Once you have pizza dough, you can add practically anything you like to it and it will turn out great!  You can even make a sweet pizza by adding honey, cinnamon, and lots of Raisins and apples to a plain flour/water crust!  As always, don't go taking my word for it!  Go and have fun with it and experiment, experiment, experiment!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

~Onion's Day Out~ Walla Walla Onion Festival Farmer's Market Extravaganza!

This last Saturday was the not only the Farmer's Market but the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival on downtown Main st.  Despite roaring Walla Walla valley July sun really rolling up its sleeves and getting down to business, it was drowned out by the roar of the crowds of local and visiting folks gathering for the festivities.  Live music, great food, hot sun, cold drinks and all kinds of fresh, local produce make for quite a day out!  Here are just a few of my favorites from my visit!

Gotta make mention of all the wonderful produce first and foremost!  Beautiful local rainbow chard at half price right when I arrived!  One of my favorite things from when I was small and the only way I would eat vegetables (according to my mom) was steamed chard with lots of onions and bacon!
Fresh local Oregon strawberries, blackberries, loganberries, sylvan berries, marionberries raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, black currants, red currants...  Only berries that I didn't really see this time (and sadly so) were black caps.  Win some, lose some I guess... but I'll count this week in the big win column!
Also picked up a seedless Hermiston-grown watermelon and a few little jewel sweet cantaloupes (from Bellinger Farms) for a little summer punch later on...  more on that later I promise.

You'll find no bigger fan of high quality apple cider than me any day of the week but I often shy away from flavored ciders natural or no.  They often take away from the apple too much but that isn't the case with Sheffield Cider's Cherry blend, heirloom apple cider!  
Subtle and fresh with a tangy "cherry pie" flavor tone (from tangy pie cherries of course!)  Sheffield's also makes an apply Classic Sweet, a slightly more tannic Vintage Dry, and a fresh harvest grape and apple cider called Harvest Crush.  Check it out and you'll be glad you did.


Another can't miss at the regular farmers market is Stone's Throw Farm's booth.  Located just a few miles out of town on Frog Hollow rd, Stone's Throw focuses on growing both their farm and all their produce using local, sustainable, honest practices and materials with heirloom and seed saver stock.
Just getting their orchard up and running, this year they're offering delicious raw juice for thirsty market goers.  With any combination you like of loads of apple, carrot, beets, and fresh ginger, raw juice lovers and folks just searching for a healthier alternative to soda or sugary lemon drinks will not have far to look!


Last but by far not least was a little trip to satiate my love of cheese!  I'm not gonna deny it...  Monteillet Fromagerie, the first true farmstead fromagerie in the Walla Walla area, creates artisan cheeses from a blend of high butter-fat, pasture-fed Freisan-Lacaune sheep and Alpine Goat milks, ensuring the creamiest, most flavorful and of course additive free end products.
While browsing and making my choice, I sampled 3 different cheeses from Monteillet including a paprika crusted subtle, tangy, tender-soft cheese; a Larzac nutty, semi-soft cheese divided by a layer of grape leaf ash; and (I think my favorite) a mild, earthy, soft, D'affinoise-like creamy Cardabelle Chevre!

These and so many other taste treats, along with as many skilled local musicians, potters, painters, and other craftsmen, all come together for a definite good time!  Summer inferno be damned!  If you're in Easter Washington and it's summer time, stop by.  I don't suspect you'll be disappointed!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

~Choco-Nanner Cup... Breads~ Chocolate banana flavor for summer fair season!

So it seems like chocolate banana is the flavor combo of the season on a LOT of blogs, with all the local fairs and festivals and their chocolate dipped banana sensations.  I personally have had a long time love for that blend so I went in for making my own variation on a classic with a touch of early childhood nostalgia: Honeybutter+Peanutbutter sandwich spread goodness!

~Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Honey Peanutbutter Buttercream~

3 Mashed Old or Roasted Bananas
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 C Melted Butter
1/3 C Water
1/4 C Vegetable or Canola Oil
1 1/3 C Cake Flour + 1/3 C Non-Dutch-Processed Cocoa
1 C Bakers Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Fresh ground Cinnamon (3/4 Tsp pre-ground)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Peanut Butter and Honey Butter Cream

                               Paper Cupcake Pan Liners 
Two-parter this time!  You can always use whatever frosting you like but this Peanut Butter and Honey Butter Cream is one of my favorites!  You can even use a banana buttercream (great stuf btw) if that sounds better.  The one problem I had was that my kitchen was a tiny bit too warm near the end of the 

Lets get started with the cakes!

Start by preheating your oven to 350f unless you are going to roast bananas ahead of time.  If you do roast them, follow roasting instructions then turn your heat down and let the oven cool while you prepare the batter.  I like to roast them especially when making a chocolate banana recipe as I think the "roastedness" complements the cocoa flavors!

FOOD SCIENCE NOTES: Tannic Acid Chain Oxidation

In a  large bowl mash Bananas then add beaten egg, water and oil as needed.  You can add less or more oil and egg yolk as you like here where more will give you a more cakey crumb and less will give you a more bready or brownie-like consistency.  Speaking of...


Guess its been a while since I talked about something new here!  Only so many different common food science issues I guess but there are always more if you look deeper!

When it comes to cakes, especially sponge cakes, we want fluffy, light, flavorful crumb.  The true trick to getting what we want is a finely played balancing act between sugars, flour, eggs, fats and liquids.
Sugar to fat ratios are important in forming air bubbles for leavening through creaming but uneven ratios can cause the butter to melt too slow or too quickly giving you too much or not enough leavening.  
Excess sugar, more importantly high sugar to egg/flour ratios, can also interfere with protein structure formation, yielding a crumb that is too tender to hold its own weight after the initial rise in the hot oven and collapses into an undercooked puck... bleh.
Fat to egg protein ratios are also integral to proper crumb.  As fat acts to tenderize, keeping the eggs (as well as flour) from forming excessively long and complex protein networks, the eggs act to keep the fat emulsified, preventing dougeyness and large air runs/pockets....


As simple as a cake may seem, there are a LOT of factors, all balancing each other and maintaining cakey-delicious equilibrium!  Like a delicious chemical equation.  Bet you'll never be able to look a cupcake the same way again...  and if so, I feel I've done my job!


Whisk to oil, eggs, banana to blend thoroughly then whisk in butter and set aside on room temp.

Twice sift flour, sugar and cocoa to be sure its all evenly distributed.  Be sure to sift thoroughly whenever using large amounts of unsalted cocoa, especially non dutch-processed as it likes to clump and there's no joy in a clump of dry/burnt/bitter cocoa in the middle of a cupcake or cookie. 

Stir together spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt then sift everything once more.  I like to blend these together then add them to the other dry ingredients to guarantee a more even distribution.  Like taking all the hearts out of a deck of cards then shuffling them back in evenly but far less illegal.

Add dry ingredients in two parts, whisking to blend completely after each addition.  Don't worry if it looks a bit lumpy from the bananas.  Any lumps will bake out as heat softens all the ingredients.  Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full for proper rising room and even heating...  Enter the most troublesome part of cupcake baking:  Filling the cups evenly and without getting batter everywhere.  My own answer to the problem is simple and I suppose apt in its scientific approach.

Whilst fiddling around aimlessly I found a type of veterinary saline syringes that really fit the bill, having graduated cylinders for even measuring and long, wide-mouth tips fit for extruding even the thickest of cake batters.  With this method, I ended up filling the cups with about 60cc (or about 1/4 C) of batter.

Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans half way through, until a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  De-pan and cool on a wire rack before frosting.

These little cakes have a versatility in what you can add to them as well as what you can put on them that comes from the original banana bread as well as the cake-like variation.  You can frost these with almost anything whether it's berry buttercream paired with the chocolate, banana cream, peanut butter cream with the banana, or even double up on the chocolate with a ganache frosting or simple glaze.  They can even be made to act like muffins, just tossed in the oven then sliced with butter or jam or even dipped in coffee for a breakfast treat!  Don't let me keep you!  Go on and try it and see for yourself!