Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Three Course Farmer's Market Brunch

The Piedmont Park farmer's market has a pastry stand that always looks wonderful and that I usually resist. This morning I decided that I wanted a pastry, dang it, and so didn't eat breakfast before going and decided I would find brunch there.

The first course consisted of a blueberry danish (they were out of blackberry) from the pastry stand, a fresh peach from my usual bag of peaches, and a cup of locally made yogurt (because the peach and blueberries were screaming for something cool and creamy to go with them and the yogurt stand was right next to the peach stand). I sat on the grass and ate this course while listening to the live music they always have and people watching. It was lovely.

At 11 they have a cooking demonstration where a local chef comes, makes something, explains how it works, and then lets everyone try it. Today we had Chef Jeff from SoHo. He made a salad with mixed greens, watermelon and cherry tomatoes, topped it with citrus cured and then grilled salmon and garnished it with a Benne Wafer (a crunchy sesame cookie). It was absolutely fantastic. This was course 2.

Before he started preparing the salad, Chef Jeff mixed up a peach cobbler. It ended up needing to bake slightly longer than he expected, but it was still done not too long after the salad. The concoction wasn't quite what I would usually call a cobbler, but I'm not sure what I would call it other than delicious, so I guess the term cobbler will do.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Visiting the Northeast

I thought my plan was to hang out with friends in the Boston area and then go to Mt. Holyoke to visit MathCamp. In reality I also went hiking in New Hampshire and swam in a gorge in Ithaca, New York. MathCamp was full of math and fun and silliness and good people as usual. The whole trip was fantastic.

New Hampshire

Ithaca, New York

Mt. Holyoke

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

Sorry for disappearing like that. The last couple of weeks have been fun - I'll post something about them once I have sorted through the pictures.

For now though, it is post day for the Daring Bakers again. The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home. The recipe can be found here.

My birthday is in July but I knew I was going to be out of town for it, so we took on this challenge as an early birthday party. We also, predictably, got somewhat carried away.

The first part of the challenge was to pick flavors. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately in this case?) the friend I was brainstorming with and I are both horribly indecisive. This lead to the idea that we should clearly create something like the cupcake version of the challenge so that we could make lots of different flavors. Initially we thought this meant making them in muffin tins. When we were ready to assemble them we decided it actually meant making them in mini-muffin tins. This produced ice cream cake bombs that were about 2 bites each. It was fantastic.

Step 1 was to shrink the swiss rolls. To accomplish this we scaled the cake recipe back to 2 eggs and baked it in a 10x15in pan (mostly because that was the size we had). We made a chocolate batch, a cinnamon batch, and a plain batch. We think we slightly overcooked the chocolate and slightly undercooked the plain, but we managed to get mini swiss rolls made from all three. For fillings we made mint-lime whipped cream, almond whipped cream,chocolate whipped cream, and chocolate-cayenne whipped cream. Trying to cut reasonably thin slices of these tiny guys with a knife was a mess, but dental floss worked nicely.

For the ice cream we made chocolate following the challenge recipe and then made the rest as custard based. The custard flavors were cinnamon (Note that milk, sugar and ground cinnamon produce a somewhat stringy mixture which is, unsurprisingly, reminiscent of cinnamon roll filling. It still freezes up reasonably nicely), cayenne (which was really interesting and turned out to be a friend's favorite), lime (like frozen key-lime pie filling, mmmm...), blueberry (I love berries so much...), and peach (obviously, given that I am in Atlanta). All came out delicious, though the chocolate never quite got hard (though it did thicken somewhat). For sauces we made butterscotch, fudge, and mango.

We made a cinnamon-almond swiss roll with peach and blueberry icecream and butterscotch sauce version in the muffin tin before switching to the mini muffin tin. The extra tiny ones were small enough we didn't want to take up space in the cup with the sauce, so we served them with the sauces. This meant that people got to choose their own sauce and was generally a wonderful time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daring Cooks: Nut Butter!

I mentioned a few weeks ago (when I posted about the chocolate pavlova) that I have joined the Daring Kitchen community.

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

This means that I have been eating rather more nuts than usual. The recipes they gave us to work with can be found here. There are four recipes - I have made (variations on) three of them:

Asian Cashew Salad
I followed the recipe for the cashew dressing almost exactly (I added a jalapeno instead of hot sauce) and it was amazing. For the rest of that recipe, I kept the spirit of rice noodles, meat and raw veggies, but didn't pay much attention to the specifics. I used chicken as the meat and red bell pepper, zucchini, and bean sprouts as the vegetables. It is good cold and makes for a very refreshing meal in the summer heat!

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
I debated for quite a while whether or not I was going to try this one since I'm not generally big on mushrooms. However, I have been getting better about that and figure that part of the point of joining the daring cooks is to convince me to try things I would not otherwise decide to go for. My conclusion is that this is not something that I am likely to make if I am just cooking for myself, but it was not bad and I would be happy to eat it again. I will certainly keep it in mind as a way to make something strongly reminiscent of stroganoff that manages to be completely dairy free. Personally, I think the sour cream in stroganoff is amazing, but there are times when it would be nice to be able to avoid it (and the pecan sauce really is wonderfully creamy).

Tomato Almond Curry
This dinner was inspired by the fact that I realized I had a couple of potatoes that really ought to be used soon. I finely diced an onion and pealed and chopped the potatoes and put them in my frying pan with some butter to start cooking and started a pot of rice. While they were cooking I made the almond butter. The cashew and pecan butters both came out beautifully, but the almonds seemed to want to remain as finely ground almond rather than as as butter. I went ahead and added the 1/3 cup of milk that the recipe called for and continued processing. The result was a thick but smooth almond cream. By the time I got that sorted out the potatoes and onions were cooked, so I added the spices (increasing the quantities of everything but the cinnamon and adding a dash of cayenne) and garlic and then went to find the tomato sauce. I had thought I had a large can, but it turned out that I had 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes and one 8 oz can of tomato sauce... I decided to just add one can of tomatoes and the can of sauce (and enough water to rinse the cans). Once everything came to a gentle boil I dumped in the almond cream and added about half of a 16 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach. The result was fantastic. I am afraid I do not have any pictures of this one for you - I was hungry and wanted dinner, so I was focused on cooking rather than taking pictures. It really does come together quite quickly though!

On a non-food-related note, the Phantom of the Opera is currently at the Fox Theater! Photography is naturally not allowed during the performance, but I got this picture of the chandelier and part of the beautiful Paris Oprah House set during intermission :-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea...

...almost. I was at a conference at Stanford last week. The campus there is lovely, as are the nearby bay lands.

Today I was back in Atlanta for the 4th and went down to Centennial Olympic Park to listen to the concerts and watch fireworks.

I don't think the show topped the Szt. Istvan show I watched from the banks of the Duna in Budapest, but they nevertheless made impressive use of the space they had to work with. I think this was the first time I have watched a fireworks show that was coming from 3 sides. Adding to the effect is that this building

was on my right. You will note that there are light fluffy clouds reflected in the windows at the moment. Those windows are also quite good at reflecting fireworks. Before we get to the fireworks though you may remember the giant CocaCola bottle I posted a picture of a while back. Its lights are usually programmed to "empty" and "refill" the bottle tonight something different happened when it got dark

Ok, now you can have fireworks. The pictures don't come close to doing it justice, but I got some that are better than most of my previous attempts at fireworks shots. I took pictures the first few minutes and then decided that I would rather just enjoy the show than take lots of pictures, so I don't have too many.