Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Importance of Yogurt and the Deliciousness of Raita

College move-in is full throttle now. People are starting classes and for us poor freshmen it's exciting but kind of an upheaval. Which is why I am turning to yogurt.

The public is in full swing about why yogurt is important: because it works to enhance levels of good bacteria which can help your digestive system (especially good at stressful times such as college move in). But, it is lost on quite a few why healthy digestion is so important. Digestion is an important factor for seemingly unrelated things such as mood. I don't mean you have a stomach ache therefore you are unhappy. I mean that how well your digestion tract is working can determine the chemical balances in your brain. Other bacteria such as my favorite, Lactobacillus acidophilus (bionerds anyone?), can determine such remote things as stable estrogen levels.

Moral of the story: eat yogurt.

I will also quickly go beyond that and say if you can, eat plain yogurt. Not plain yogurt plain, necessarily, but plain yogurt usually has fewer fun and unneeded chemicals than flavored yogurts. Try eating yogurt with favorite jams or preserves. Honey is also a fantastic complement. Yogurt is great with granola or flavored syrups.

If you're more of a savory kind of person try this recipe for Raita, as it is called in Hindi, or Tzatziki, as it is called in Greek. There are small differentiations between the two such as type of yogurt used and in what proportion to the rest of the ingredients, but they both follow the same idea. The recipe I use here is one I wrote up during a class last year while paying attention to the lecture...

  • 1.5-3 cups of plain yogurt depending on how chunky or soupy you like your Raita
  • 1 firm cucumber
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic (I did 2, but I love garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried coriander or about 10-20 leaves cilantro
  • 3-4 large mint leaves
  • Salt
  • Optional additions: sprinkle some dill or some cinnamon
-Mix the yogurt until smooth.
-Slice cucumbers in half, seed, and slice thinly
-Place cucumber in a strainer and salt (i.e sprinkle salt on top of all of the slices so that it can remove excess water) for about 30-60 mins or until the cucumber slices are mostly dry
-Crush/mince the garlic and mix with yogurt, cucumber, coriander, mint, and if opted for dill and/or cinnamon.
-For really good melding of flavors, let sit overnight. This will also take the overwhelming bite out of your garlic.

Eat it with bread or chicken or salad. Actually, Raita can be eaten with almost anything, and it can almost anything absolutely delicious.

Omnom, everyone! And for those of you in college now hope it's awesome!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Panda Bread (kinda sorta)

Not every cooking adventure can be perfect. I accept this; I have had to, because bread in the microwave is not the easiest thing to figure out.

My friend asked if I could figure out a way to make Panda Bread, which she found at
Perfect Pandas, in the microwave. She says that "i want pandas in college." I figured, I've made cake, so why not try bread. It was not a failed could use tweaking.

First step
was changing the ingredients from grams to measurements the average ones of us could understand. Thank you, WikiAnswers. I've listed the exact measurements I used, suggestions for previously mentioned tweaking in italics.
  • You will need a microwaveable circular container, if not circular some parts will cook more than others.
  • 1 egg yolk then fill up with milk to 7/8 a cup
  • 4 teaspoons melted butter, brought back to room temperature.
  • 1.5 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2.5 tablespoons sugar I would add more sugar, maybe even double it.
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3.25 teaspoons Matcha powder mixed in 2 teaspoons boiling water I would increase the amount of Matcha (and proportionally the water), because the flavor in my bread was like a tease; flirtatious but nothing happened.
  • 3.25 teaspoons cocoa powder mixed in 4 teaspoons boiling water I would increase the cocoa powder for the same reasons. Silly coquette flavors.
Beat the yolk with the milk, then microwave on high 30 seconds. Let cool to a warm temperature, closer to room temperature than anything. Add the yeast, mix it in and let it sit for a few minutes. Mix in the melted butter. Pour the mixture over the flours, sugar, and salt and knead together. Take out half of the dough and knead in the Matcha paste. Take out a quarter of the remaining dough and knead in the cocoa paste.

Now, here comes the tricky part: proofing. I didn't quite proof correctly, so when I baked my bread went from fitting perfectly to that fun image on the right. I would go by this recipe from, where every 10 minutes you microwave on 50% intensity for a minute until the dough rises to about twice it's size.
Moral of the story? Proofing is important.

Alright, so your dough is all proofed, lovely and full of flavor. Now, you can arrange your different doughs. We'll just rely on the original images for that.

Baking is not so complicated. That same recipe says to bake for 10 minutes, but after about 4-6 minutes you want to keep a close eye on it because it can dry out quickly. Trust me.

All and all it's not bad, and really cute. Oh, also pretty good with milk. I'll take my drier pieces and make french toast tomorrow probably.


Monday, August 17, 2009

What to eat with your friendly, neighborhood, Fontina cheese.

I've heard a lot about Fontina cheese, but never actually had it. To put it simply, this made me sad. So, while I was in San Francisco, I stopped by an Italian shop and got some.

Wiki said "Fontina has a mild, somewhat nutty flavor, while rich, herbaceous and fruity," so I decided to try making a sandwich with red grapes and, later while peering through the fridge, a red onion.

It was pretty darn good. It was/is also fantastically simple.
You will need:
  • 2 pieces of bread sliced
  • enough red grapes to cover a piece of bread while still leaving holes for cheese to melt through - sliced in half
  • red onion slices enough to probably twice cover the bread, because onions shrink in heat and lose their kick to sweetness
  • thinly sliced Fontina, amount depends on the strength of your cheese. The first Fontina I had was very mild, so I piled it on. The second Fontina I got was really strong, as in one of those cheeses whose smell is still on your fingers after several washings and hours later.
Pile everything on as shown in the picture and grill your Fontina grilled cheese according to previous post, Grilled Cheese! With an Iron!.

After working with Fontina, I've decided it's not a bad cheese and is great for grilled cheese especially since it melts really easily.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mojito (who keeps her legs together)

Another San Francisco inspired recipe. This one from Luna Park on 18th St and Valencia in the Mission. I almost didn't get it (specialty drinks are always so expensive!), but I did, it was fantastic, and here we are. As Wiki could easily tell you, a mojito is a drink typically made with ice, lime, mint, sugar, soda water, and of course alcohol, namely (correction, thanks to Anon. and Tastespotting ) rum [Fig. 1].

But, Luna Park, in all their wisdom, cut out the alcohol, and presented instead the second most fantastic thing I've had so far in San Francisco (the first was the pastrami sandwich, the third I'm drinking right now, cocoa from the Sugar Lump, more about them later.)
Figure 1. A lime, leaves of mint, and sugar. (Had to).

So here, based on the list of ingredients from our Luna Park waitress and some Sugar Lump aid is the really good and really clean mojito.

For 1 glass you will need:
  • About 2/3 of a lime! Make sure that it is washed thoroughly.
  • About a cup of seltzer water
  • Roughly 3 large fresh mint leaves
  • A handful of (preferably) crushed ice
  • (have you noticed I love exact measurements?)
  • 2ish tablespoons of sugar
  • 4ish tablespoons of boiling water (use the microwave!)
First, pour water into sugar; stir mixture until sugar's dissolved. If you were to boil off most of the water this would be called a Simple Syrup; we'll call this a Simple Syrup, But Who Really Has The Patience (or Stove). Set this in your MiniFridge to cool.

Figure 2.
Cut lime wedges and mint in ribbons.

Take your 2/3 of lime and slice into squeezable pieces [Fig. 2]. Take the mint and cut it into ribbons [Fig. 2, again].
Put your handful of ice into a glass, squeeze the lime slices on top of the ice and then drop the whole slice in. Throw the mint on top. Now, pour in the cooled Simple Syrup BWRHTPS. Pour the seltzer water on top. Taste test to see if you might need more Simple Syrup BWRHTPS, I would actually recommend making extra just in case. Let it cool for best effect before drinking.

Enjoy [Fig. 3]!

P.S. Sugar Lump is the fantastically cool cafe near the corner of 24th and Florida in the Mission. The girl working there showed me how to make the Simple Syrup BWRHTPS and gave me some for free! I'm drinking a hot chocolate from there right now. So good! If you're in the area, go!

P.P.S. If you happen to be in the area, go to Luna Park! They have really good Luna Park Fries.

Figure 3.
YUM! Glass, presentation, and plastic monkey courtesy of Luna Park.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pastrami! (Not quite a recipe, but interesting re-creation possibilities.)

I promise, the recipe is coming. However, until then try re-creating this incredible sandwich that I found at Lulu Petite at the San Francisco Ferry Building (I will be asap).

So, from what I saw preparation was pretty easy. Here's the MiniFridge conversion method:
  • Take two pieces of good crusty bread and iron one side of each for about 20 seconds until nice and crunchy.
  • Build your sandwich from bottom to top like so: piece of bread, browned side in, spread a mix of olive oil, the teeniest
    bit of lemon juice, and dried sage.
  • Stack pastrami slices, chopped romaine lettuce, and lastly some thinly sliced Gruyere cheese (my favorite).
  • Put on the second piece of bread, browned side in.
  • Iron according to Grilled Cheese! With an iron!
  • Omnom! This was seriously one of the best sandwiches I had ever had.
I will say, in the one I had at Lulu's the marinade was named a "Lulu's Preserved Meyer Lemon, Fennel, and Sage Marinade." However, I don't think an exact replica is required because the pastrami and Gruyere were very dominating, if fantastic
flavors. However, it is why I suggest only a small amount of lemon juice; Meyer lemons are milder, and preserved-ness
lessens the acidity.

San Francisco really does have great food =)
Oh, and because Moxie tagged me on favorite 6, I'll list my favorite 6 food blogs:
  1. Hot Knives
  2. No Recipes
  3. Foodie at Fifteen
  4. Closet Cooking
  5. Bitchin Camero
  6. The Jewels of New York

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Philly Foods: Char Siu Bao

Oh, char siu bao! What a food! This is the fabulous, delicious, probably really unhealthy, pork bun. It's pronounced kind of, kind of like Chaucer (as in Canterbury Tales) with a New England accent, i.e Chauceh, and the bao is pronounced bow. Congratulations, you've just learned a pretty tonally inaccurate
Cantonese phrase.

Anywho, bao are a sweet, eggy, white bun filled with chunks of barbequed pork, barbeque sauce, and onions, and then painted with more egg for that perfect glaze. Best part is that for the often (especially in Chinatowns) bao are cheap. I've found two bakeries (which are basically right next door two each other) which both make really good bao.
  • Mong Kok Station Bakery: 153 N 10th St in Chinatown. Huge bao, pictured. Very sweet. 80 cents. You want to get there decently early because they do sell out. The bakery in general has great food and nice people. The decor is also pretty fun.
  • Lhong Ghang Bakery: 127 N 10th Street in Chinatown. Smaller bao and not as sweet (sorry no picture, I was really hungry), but has huge chunks of pork, which the Mong Kok ones do not. These are only 70 cents. Once again nice food and people. I would also recommend their egg custard cake which is a thick yellow egg custard in a pan fried mochi; really yum.
If I stumble upon better bao than these, I will let you know. I realize most of you aren't actually Philly-dwellers, so I'll be sure to get a recipe up this week, too. However, if you happen upon some no matter where you are, for the most part they're pretty good. Some bakeries will use pork fat chunks instead of actual pork, avoid these! That is not what bao should be.

So, go, explore, omnom.