Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's coming...

I hate to make doomsday-esque predictions, but like I said before, it's coming and there's little we can do to stop it.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

The apple of my eye...Part 1

The months of September and October in this part of the world means apple season. Many New Yorkers (the city folk) will make their annual pilgrimages to points north in order to spend a day apple-picking in their favorite orchard.

For me it means getting a huge bucket of apples from the Rose home. My parents happen to have quite a few older apple trees in their yard that yield so many apples in some years that Mama Rose can be found giving buckets to every person she meets (I’m not totally kidding here).

Looking at my bucket exploding with apples, I had to think quick with what I was going to do with them before they started to go bad. Since they are MacIntosh apples, they’re really not great for baking pies (Mama Rose has made several attempts, no luck). They are, however, great for applesauce.

Applesauce is also so simple and easy to make. It can be jarred and then gifted to friends and family.

I’ve been in a "spice mood" recently and I really wanted to do something different with my applesauce. I hate to use this phrase (since I find him pretty irritating as a food personality), but I wanted to “kick it up a notch”. I looked on my spice shelf and pulled out a few of the usual suspects. I peeked into the fridge, but found nothing interesting to add. Then I opened the freezer and there it was, my farmer’s market jalapeño pepper. Perfect!

I found that this "spiced up" version makes a great topping for plain low-fat yogurt or just a snack by itself.

Rose’s Spiced Applesauce

This recipe does not really have measurements because it’s all about taste preferences. Some people like a whole lot of spice and some don’t. I prefer to use the jalapeño pepper, but if you have a favorite type of pepper, go for it and change it up. I used about one pepper for every 8 medium-large apples.

Since this year’s crop turned out really sweet, I didn’t even have to add sugar, but if your apples aren’t as sweet, you can always add it after the initial boil.

Apples (peeled, cored and diced)
Jalapeño peppers (finely chopped with seeds removed)
Sugar (optional)

1. Place the apples and jalapeno peppers into a pot. Fill the pot with water till it reaches the top layer of apples. Place pot on stove and turn on high heat. When the water starts to boil, turn it to low heat and allow it to simmer (stir occasionally) until all the apples are very soft and mushy.

2. The simmer time depends on how many apples and water was added, but the sauce should reduce to 3/4 of the initial volume. While it simmers, add cinnamon, nutmeg (and sugar) to your desired taste. You can also mash the apples with a ricer (a tool used for mashing potatoes) at this point or wait till the water level reduces.

3. The sauce should reduce to about 2/3 of the original volume (or even a bit less). Allow the it to cool before placing in jars or cans.

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Introducing "Fridge Check 2005"

I hardly ever watch any television anymore. A lot of it is due to the atrocious programming the networks seem to be producing; honestly, the "reality" of reality TV is that it's pretty boring. The Food Network is often what I turn to when I actually watch television. And even that frequently bores me (I can only take "Baam!" so many times).

But one night, soon after I returned to the US, I was fighting off jetlag and watching of all things, MTV's Cribs. Anyone who is not familiar with the show, it's basically celebrities giving a tour of their home. Most often it is a gigantic ball player with a Disneyland-esque theme park in his backyard showing the viewer his gadgets and toys (albeit big and very expensive ones). Quite frankly, I could care less about the posh cars and decked out rooms that hold 400 people at once. I just wait for them to show their KITCHENS!

And boy, are there some kitchens in these homes. Besides being just plain huge, they're often setup with unique cabinetry and cool appliances. I loved one kitchen's French antique stove (granted, it may not have been a very good stove for cooking but it was so cute!) and another person had this really sleek Sub-zero refrigerator that I'd put in my fantasy kitchen, the kitchen that can be found only in my dreams.

That day may never happen, but inspired by one aspect of Cribs, I've come up with a new series for the blog. You see, every celebrity who does this show always opens their refridgerator to show the audience the contents. So give a warm welcome to a new reality blog series: FRIDGE CHECK 2005.

My blog audience will get to check out what I have in my fridge from time to time and maybe what my friends have in theirs (if they'll let me in). So here's the first one:

Yes, those are two 18 piece cartons of eggs. Somehow I managed to use them up within 2 weeks. Milk and blueberries for my favorite breakfast--cheerios with fruit. And unfortunately you've caught me, those are Lender's Bagels, EECK! I know, I know, no self-respecting New Yorker would eat them--but I'd like to mention that I didn't BUY them. However, I did eat one--tastes just like it looks, rubbery. No one's perfect okay?

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It's only a matter of time...

...before the bird flu reaches our shores.

Globalization at its worst.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

What have you been up to Rose?

I'm resting here in my living room with the Food Network on in the background. This week has been exhausting: my first exam of the semester, Rosh Hashanah, all the work I had to make up because of the holiday and battling a bad head cold through all of it. I had little time or energy to cook this week, so after a nice sleep last night I was ready to cook something exciting, something with a bit of a kick.

Since returning to the US last month, I've been slowly catching up on the latest issues of Cook's Illustrated. The Thai Chili Beef recipe (July/August 2005) sounded both simple and tasty with the "kick" I was looking for. I had ordered the blade steak last week from Fresh Direct as well as having bought and freezed a handful of jalapeño chiles at a local farmer's market.

Making this dish was fairly simple, although I realize I need to get a new garlic press ASAP (I accidently put my old aluminum one in the dishwasher. Oops!), I'm just not very good (or quick) at mincing garlic the old-fashioned way. I love cilantro in just about any Asian dish (and Mexican for that matter) and there's lots of it in this recipe.

One of the best things about recipes from Cook's Illustrated is that they have been tested so many times so that the kinks have been worked out and it's all explained in clear and simple language (which isn't always the case with many recipes in magazines and even the most well-known cookbooks).

To accompany the beef dish, I made both Chinese white rice (I think jasmine rice would have been better, but I've run out of it) and another recipe from the same issue of Cook's Illustrated: Mango and Sweet Pepper Salsa with Toasted Pepitas. The sweetness of the mango and the acidic kick of the lime juice plays really well against the Asian chili-garlic paste in the beef recipe. The pepitas add a nice crunchy texture to the soft mango and of course I added lots of cilantro.

So I'm rested and well fed. The best way to end a very busy week.

Stir-Fried Thai-Style Beef with Chiles and Shallots serves 4 with rice

(adapted from Cook's Illustrated-July/August 2005)

Beef and Marinade
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 lb. blade steaks, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips (against the grain)

2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. Asian chili-garlic paste
3 med. garlic cloves, minced or pressed thru garlic press (about 1 tbsp.)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 serrano or jalapeño chiles, halved, seeds and ribs removed, chiles cut crosswise 1/8 inch thick
3 med. shallots, trimmed of ends, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and layers separated
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, large leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
Lime wedges for serving

1. For the Beef and Marinade: Combine coriander, white pepper, brown sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl. Add beef, toss well to combine; marinate 15 minutes.

2. For the Stir-fry: In small bowl, stir together fish sauce, vinegar, water, brown sugar, and chili-garlic paste until sugar dissolves; set aside. In small bowl, mix garlic with 1 tsp. oil; set aside. Heat 3 tsp. oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking; add beef to skillet in even layer. [Here's where I changed up the recipe a bit because it didn't want to cook the beef in batches like the recipe called for.] Cook without stirring, until well browned, about 2-3 minutes, then stir and continue cooking until beef is browned around edges and no longer pink in the center, about 30 seconds to a minute. Transfer beef to medium bowl.

3. After transferring the beef to the bowl, reduce heat to medium; add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to now-empty skillet and swirl to coat. Add chiles and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until begining to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Push chile-shallot mixture to sides of skillet to clear center; add garlic to clearing and cook, mashing mixture with spoon, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir to combine garlic with chile-shallot mixture. Add fish sauce mixture to skillet; increase heat to high and cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 30 seconds. Return beef and any accumulated juices to skillet, toss well to combine and coat with sauce, stir in half of mint and cilantro; serve immediately, sprinkling individual servings with portion of peanuts and remaining herbs, and passing lime wedges separately.

UPDATE: Calling me around 4pm,, right around when I cooked this dish, my good friend D.B. called to invite me to a Nada Surf concert at the Bowery Ballroom later that evening. The ticket was her treat and dinner was mine. I packed the beef, peanuts, herbs, lime wedges, and mango salsa in separate containers and headed to her place on the East Side. We dined nicely in her living room watching the Food Network, no less, and catching up on 'girl stuff'. The concert was great, even with the weird 50 something guy rocking back and forth into D.B. A delicious and fabulous night in NYC.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A few images from my trip... peak your interest in what I've eaten and seen on my travels through Taiwan. I ate some...

...delicious vegetarian wontons in Puli, as well as...

...encountering loads of shrimp crakers in Tainan and finally...

...devouring fruit and ice in Taipei.

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