Thursday, July 18, 2019

Farmer's Flatbread

Yesterday I got to make another amazing Raddish meal using some of our garden produce! We have had a large garden this year, and almost more cherry tomatoes than we can eat. This recipe, Farmer's Flatbread, is perfect for adapting to whatever veggies are in season. It uses a winning combination of homemade flatbread, homemade white sauce, a combination of cheeses, vegetables and basil.
The flatbread comes first- a simple dough, although it takes a while to knead. Then comes the white sauce, which just may have been my favorite part and could be used for many other recipes. It uses ricotta cheese for texture and rich flavor, then heavy cream to smooth it out, and lastly spices to give the sauce depth. Once the flatbread is assembled, it is crowned with mozzarella, Parmesan, and lots and lots of cherry tomatoes! We substituted in some bell peppers (from the garden as well) that added some nice crunch.
The white sauce and cheeses were the perfect hearty complement to the fluffy bread, and the white sauce accented the cheese wonderfully (even though we used inexpensive, bagged Parmesan). We added garden-fresh basil to the top, and the tomatoes were like the cherry on top. This will definitely be a "make-again"!
Image may contain: Samuel Cross, smiling, child, food and outdoor

Image may contain: food

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Raddish Review- Pad Thai

Pad Thai is one of my favorite Thai dishes, so I was excited when it was included in their Thailand box. This rendition was marked by a strong fresh, cilantro flavor, which I enjoyed but found to be too much since there was little savory flavor to balance it out. The recipe included soy sauce, brown sugar, and chopped peanuts as the only savory components, and those were drowned out by the bright and sour flavors of the green onions, limes, and cilantro. It was pretty good, but not to the standard I typically hold to Raddish recipes. If I make this one again I will add in some spice and some umami flavor!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Raddish Review- Tapas

Tapas are a traditional Spanish dish that I took a stab at (using the Raddish recipe supplied in their box) a few days ago. They are typically served in between meals, but I cooked three of them for a snacky lunch.
Tapas probably originated in the 18th century, as “lids” of bread and meat to cover drinks at bars. The saltiness of these toppings also helped the bartenders sell drinks. Now, this style of snack has transitioned into a plethora of savory appetizers. Some of these include Spanish Olives, Croquetas, Gambas al ajillo, and Albondigas. I made a selection of Bacon Wrapped Dates, Patatas Bravas, and Pan con Tomate.
The first dish I cooked was the bacon wrapped dates. They were an amazing blend of rich sweetness, reminiscent of brown sugar or molasses, and savory crisp bacon. However, the date-to-bacon ratio was a bit off; when I make this treat again I will halve the dates to keep the candied flavor from being cloying.
The Patatas Bravas were an easy appetizer of baked fingerling potatoes served with a simple smoked paprika sauce. The potatoes are cooked with a crispy skin on the outside and a soft, pillowy mash on the inside. The rich smoked paprika set off the milder flavor of the potato, and was accented with the tomato paste in the sauce.
Lastly, the Pan con Tomate was another simple appetizer- toasted baguette with grated tomato on top. I gave up on the grater after a while, and just finely chopped my tomato. The lighter flavors of this dish helped to balance out the stronger ones of the other two.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Shrimp Moqueca with Bell Pepper, Spinach, and Rice

This aptly named dish was the last recipe in our eat 2 explore box- Shrimp Moqueca with Bell Pepper, Spinach, and Rice. It is a one-skillet, one-pot, and one-cutting board operation made out of the aforementioned ingredients, plus a few finishing touches to make it pop. Small amounts of vinegar and lemon juice are added, and their burst of acidity makes the umami and earthy vegetable flavors stand out. My brother's astute observation- “I like how there’s a little bit of kick to it.”

The dish is constructed similarly to a soup, with the ingredients being layered on top of each other according to their cooking time needs, and a broth building around everything, all the juices combining. I decided not to drain my diced tomatoes, which made more broth and added even more tang and acidity. The base of the broth was coconut milk, made from a mix that came in the eat 2 explore box. It added a bit of richness and helped to tie everything together.

Unfortunately, I was paying too much attention to building the Shrimp Moqueca and slightly burned the rice it was served on, but fortunately for me the shrimp was good enough to mostly override that mistake.

I loved the layering of flavors and textures in this adaptable recipe! It featured all sorts of veggies without being overridingly herbivorous, and was a fun and easy dish.

Note: Attached is a picture of my little brother with his unique shrimp-eating utensil (an ice cream scoop!).

Another note: All thoughts and opinions in all the eat 2 explore reviews are my own.

Last note: Thank you so much for reading!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Feijoada with Rice and Collard Greens

The second Eat 2 Explore meal from their Brazil box that I cooked was the Feijoada with rice and collard greens. Although it at its roots it is a very simple dish, this recipe layered umami flavors on top of each other to make a savory, rich, balanced flavor profile. The feijoada is a mixture of smoky bacon, chorizo adding depth and a bit of spice, onion for its bright flavor, and chicken to tie it all together and add substance. Beans are added after the meats cook, bringing a creamy texture and earthy flavor. Then the whole thick, rich, savory mixture is spooned beside a warm, fluffy mound of rice. Wilted kale and sliced oranges accompany them on the plate. A mixture of farofa, a crumbly toasted flour mix, is sprinkled liberally over the feijoada to bring in a tad of crunch. 
This was a dish with a remarkably balanced flavor profile, especially for featuring so many savory meats. The orange served on the side helped to mellow the savory, adding a bright burst of acid. The kale also complemented the rich flavor. I will definitely make this dish again!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Pasteis with Tomato Watermelon Salad

I am going to be doing a review on the new recipe box, “Eat 2 Explore”, over the next few days. Each box explores foods from a different country, and the box I am reviewing centers around Brazilian cuisine! They provide recipes and gadgets in their box, along with spice mixes for your recipes and information on the country that you are cooking from. The box is very cute as well- with a world map and fun illustrations.

The first recipe I cooked was Pasteis with Tomato Watermelon Salad. A pastel (singular of pasteis) is the Brazilian spin on a savory pastry, made using flaky puff pastry dough. The filling is made of ground beef and onion, along with tomato paste and lime juice- but the thing that makes this basic filling special is the spices that are added. The “Pastel Mix” that came in the box was made of a mix of predominantly cumin and cinnamon. I was surprised at adding cinnamon to beef, but the result was a warm, hearty slightly sweet flavor that was perfect with the flaky pastry. It was a sophisticated comfort food- hearty, aromatic, with depth of flavor in the balance of savory, with notes of mellow sweetness throughout.

The tomato watermelon salad was a fun, simple to make, but remarkably complex to eat dish. It was made from bite sized pieces of watermelon and tomato, then topped with a balsamic vinegar glaze- olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, and vinegar. The acidic tomato and vinegar combined with the light, fresh watermelon and the indulgently sweet honey made for very multi-dimensional flavor in every bite. Although the flavors contrasted, similar to opposite colors on a color wheel, they were beautiful paired together.

The one thing I would have changed about this recipe is that the pastry gadget was a bit to small and not sturdy enough for the hearty pasteis, but that was offset by the wonderful recipe.


Friday, February 22, 2019

The most recent meal I cooked was staple Indian cuisine- naan, yellow rice, and Tikka Masala. First I chopped onions (which made me sob for the next ten minutes), grated ginger, and prepared my ingredients. This was one of the more time-consuming parts of the recipe, so next time I’ll recruit some of my siblings to help.

Then I started cooking the rice- although using a different method than I had expected. Before the actual rice is added, diced tomatoes, garlic, onions, ginger and a wonderful array of spices are sauteed until soft. Then is added the rice, and it is stirred until coated with the vegetable mixture- and lastly broth is poured over the whole thing and the rice is cooked until tender. A few minutes before it is ready, frozen peas and carrots are poured over the top, and mixed in at the end of the cooking process. The result is perfectly cooked rice, full of lovely flavors and textures. The ginger, garlic, tumeric and garam masala play off of each other nicely.

While the rice was cooking, I prepared the Tikka Masala to go with it. Tikka Masala is a flavorful dish of chicken and curry, typically served over rice and/or with naan. As with the rice, the first step in this recipe was to saute onions, garlic and ginger until soft. Then tomato paste, brown sugar, chicken, and a variety of spices- more garam masala and tumeric, in addition to cumin, paprika and salt join the mix. The chicken is given a few minutes to cook partly through, and then crushed tomatoes are added to cover the whole dish and create a luxurious sauce. The chicken simmers for about 10 minutes (mine required more time because my pot was deep), until cooked through. Heavy cream is added to the dish at the end, making it even more silky and rich. The curry is just thick enough- not too soupy and not too thick to coat the rice. Although the rice and Tikka Masala both have strong flavors, the similarity in their ingredients keeps them from clashing. The chicken is cooked through but tender, and the sauce is so aromatic it fills the whole house with a mouthwatering complex blend of scents. The spices build off of each other in a crescendo of contrasting and coordinating flavor.

The last item on our menu for the night was naan. I started the bread before I cooked the other dishes- mixing and kneading yeast, water, flour sugar… and a more unusual ingredient, yogurt. Yogurt gives the flatbread a slight bit of tang and substance, and adds to its melty, buttery flavor. I allowed the dough to rise until the other dishes had finished cooking- around 45 minutes. Then I rolled it into small balls, rolled them out, and brushed each doughy disk with a blend of butter, oil and salt. The naan cooks in a skillet rather than in the oven, until the dough starts to bubble and brown. Then it is flipped and repeated- and finally, it is served warm with the Tikka Masala and rice. It is buttery, tangy, and light, a perfect complement to the bold flavors of the curry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Chicken Parmesan Meal

Today I’m going to write about a meal that I made- chicken parmesan and garlicky green beans, followed by chocolate and caramel fondue.

The chicken parmesan was a dish that I had never prepared before, made up of flattened chicken breasts coated in parmesan (hence the name) and with a hearty coating of marinara. The first step is to cut the chicken breasts in half, then put them inside a zippered bag and pound them, and pound some more. Then the chicken is coated in a variety of substances- first flour with salt and pepper, then egg, then panko bread crumbs and parmesan. After that, they are coated in marinara and even more cheese and baked. The coating protects it, and its flat shape helps it to cook evenly, so it was well cooked without being dry. The coating was savory, and the marinara added nice texture, along with the breadcrumbs.

Next I cooked the garlicky green beans, a very simple but delicious recipe. Lemon zest, toasted panko bread crumbs, garlic, salt, and parsley are combined to make a coating for the green beans. (The recipe actually called to add parmesan cheese as well, but since I coated the chicken a bit too thoroughly we were out). After the green beans are cooked, they are coated in the bread crumb mixture. This results in a lot of flavor, something I find to be lacking in many green beans. Add this to their easy prep and they’re definitely something I will make again!

Lastly, I cooked the fondue. The chocolate was extremely easy- cooking chocolate and heavy cream until melted, then adding vanilla and salt- but the caramel fondue was a little bit harder. You add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup (I substituted honey!) and salt to a pot, until melted. This results in a dreamy, thick paste with a remotely sand-like consistency. Then it is boiled, and heavy cream is added. Both fondues tended to turn out watery, so if I re-create this recipe I will probably add less heavy cream. We served the fondue with strawberries, apples, and marshmallows. The chocolate fondue was overpoweringly chocolate-y, so next time I will probably use milk chocolate rather than semi-sweet. The caramel fondue tasted lovely, and the honey flavor blended in nicely. It was a bit thin, but it still clung well to the strawberries and apples.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rendang Restaurant Review

Instead of Christmas gifts this year, we had the gift of an experience - one 24 hour trip alone with a parent. Mom and I went to Tulsa to explore and see the sights - among them Philbrook Museum and the Gathering Place. One of my favorite destinations was the Indonesian Bistro, also known as Rendang, which an Indonesian friend had recommended to us. The timing for our trip was amazing- the restaurant had opened just the day before. I had never tried Indonesian cuisine before, but this was a marvelous introduction to the culture’s food.

The restaurant was unassuming from the outside, but inside the smell combined with colorful tapestries and flowers on the wall, along with a beautiful map of Indonesia set the scene. We were able to learn about the history of the dish Rendang through a very interesting plaque on the wall, which I enjoyed.

The waitress that greeted us was very friendly, and talked to us about the foods as we ordered. We tried Rendang, the dish that became the namesake of the restaurant, along with Bakmi Ayam Bakso (an egg noodle and chicken dish with meatballs on the side) and Bakwan Sayur (a kind of vegetable fritter).

The owner of the restaurant talked to us as we began on our food, and he was extremely friendly, giving us more information about his restaurant with a warm smile.

The first thing that I tried was the Bakwan Sayur. It was a light fritter with vegetables inside and a creamy taste. It was a good palate cleanser for the bolder flavors of the other dishes.

The Bakmi Ayam Bakso was full of subtle flavors that built on each other- nuttyness and sesame, along with a hint of sweetness and spice. The noodles were full of these flavors, despite the absence of a sauce, so even a bite without chicken in it was packed with umami sensations.

Along with the Bakmi Ayam Bakso was served a dish of meatballs in a clear broth. I was interested to try them, because a clear broth typically doesn’t indicate flavor, but I could tell this one was different by the smell. The meatballs themselves were good, but a bit too salty and chewy to be exceptional. But the broth… the broth, despite its coloring, was meaty and rich, complemented by the lighter flavors of green onions.

And now for my favorite part… the Rendang. It was a beautiful dish, the star of which was pieces of beef coated in a flavorful paste. Chilis made it slightly spicy, but not overpoweringly so, and the other flavors of other seasonings, nutty flavors, and umami came through. It was served alongside perfectly cooked rice to balance its strong flavor, and tomatoes and lettuce added splashes of color to the plate. I could easily see why Rendang is Indonesia’s national dish, and why it was was voted the World’s Best Food by CNN in 2017.

Although Indonesian food is a new style for me, it is something I will definitely be coming back to. I am so glad that I tried it!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cream Puffs (French Feast)

Finally, this French feast concludes with a favorite dessert- cream puffs. This version
of the classic dish features ice cream as the filling, and boasts a melted chocolate
coating on the top.

The cream puffs were baked with an amazingly simple list of ingredients- water, butter,
salt, flour, and eggs. It is the method of cooking, rather than the ingredients, that make
this dish unique. First the water, butter and salt are combined in a pot and melted and
boiled. Then the flour is added, and the dough is quickly removed from heat. The result
is a smooth, thick dough in a matter of minutes.

The next step is to add eggs, but not directly to the pot. First the eggs are whisked by
themselves, until thoroughly thrashed, and then they can be added to the dough.
Whisking the eggs separately first introduces air bubbles to the egg white, which is
important to the cooking process.

After the dough is thoroughly mixed, the cream puffs go into muffin cups, then in the
oven. My cream puffs rose incredibly well despite their lack of yeast, baking powder or
soda, bubbling up far over the top of the muffin tin. After the desserts have cooled, they
are cut into halves and chocolate is melted. Then all that remains to be done is to
assemble the cream puffs. First the tops are covered in melted chocolate- then they are
sandwiched around scoops of ice cream. I used salted caramel, but almost any flavor
will work.

The cream puffs consistency was light and airy, but also just slightly rubbery, like an English Muffin.
It paired very well with the ice cream, and made a delightful ending to our French meal.

Amazing recipes for all these dishes can be found from Raddish Kids.