Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cake

Yesterday I made my first cake, ever. The cake is essentially a flourless-chocolate cake, but on Epicurious, it is filed under Dark Moist Chocolate Cake.

Before I go on, I must apologize to Ms. K. for not using the recipe she sent me. She sent me a similar recipe, but hers required a roasting pan, and this is something that does not live in my kitchen. On top of that, I just bought a springform pan, heatproof bowls and a dutch oven, so I just couldn't go out and buy a roasting pan. Sorry Ms. K., do forgive me! I did refer to your recipe while I used the Epicurious one, and I used cocoa powder for decoration.

My cocoa powder dusting was not very pretty, but it was better than the flat piece of white chocolate I tried to make. It ended up cracking when I tried to pull the parchment paper off, and then I really messed it up with a poor attempt at writing-with-chocolate.

Alright, back to the cake. It turned out pretty well, and everyone at the wine pairing dinner liked it. It's just extremely heavy for a non-chocolate-lover like me, and if you want to do a pairing, then use a Muscat.

16 oz. semisweet chocolate (the recipe calls for good quality, but I used Baker's brand)
10 T unsalted butter
5 extra-large eggs

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line the bottom of an 8.5 inch (I used a 9 inch) springform pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Coat inside of pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Chop chocolate into pieces. Cut butter into small chunks. Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over just simmering water. Melt, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk eggs and a pinch of salt in bowl with an electric mixer, until mixture triples in volume, about 8 minutes. Fold chocolate mixture into egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. The center will still be a little soft. Remove from oven. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. The center will sink a little as it cools. You can refrigerate the cake for up to 2 days (let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pancetta and Tomato Sauce

It's been a good week of home-cooked dinners for me and Seth. We started off with the Betty Crocker version of Country French Beef Stew in a crock pot, then America's Test Kitchen pork broccoli (think beef broccoli with pork tenderloin) and then Giada's Pasta with Pancetta and Tomato Sauce. All three dishes were pretty tasty, but my favorite was the pancetta and tomato sauce.

It's a simple dish, and if you are a better chopper than I am, it will probably take you only 30 minutes. Or, you could save time and buy the pre-diced pancetta sold at Trader Joe's. I had a difficult time finding pancetta at the grocery store that wasn't going to cost me $10 for six ounces, and I ended up buying half-a-pound from an Italian deli for $5.50.

Which brings me to the changes I made to the recipe. Instead of six ounces of pancetta I used eight, and instead of a pinch of crushed red pepper places, I probably used at least a 1/2 teaspoon (we like things spicy). The pancetta from Lucca's also had pepper around the edges, so this was a pretty peppery dish. I also used fusilli noodles because I have a thing about the way linguine looks. All in all, this was a flavorful and easy dinner to make--we will definitely be eating this again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Friends Visit

I love when friends visit. Beyond the catching-up and the good times, there's the food. These visits always seem to center around meals, which is especially wonderful when your friend are foodies.

Over the past two weekends, two different friends from high school visited the Bay Area, and they are both foodies. One came from Denver and the other from Hawaii. Both friends had specific food types in mind that they wanted to try, and so I did the asking around for recommendations and Yelp searches.

My Denver friend wanted sushi since he and his wife don't really get fresh fish in Colorado, so we tried Tsunami in the City's Panhandle. Sushi is not a favorite of mine, and I really can't comment fairly on good or bad sushi (I don't care for sashimi), but I think my friend liked it.

My Hawaii friend wanted Italian. Now, Seth and I have a favorite Italian place, but it's in Oakland, and we were meeting in San Francisco. So, I asked around and did more Yelping. Among numerous recommendations in the City, one stood out, E'angelo. The big pluses for me were:

  • E'angelo is located in the Marina, and not in North Beach.
  • It's a hole-in-the-wall.
  • They make their own pasta.
It was quite the nice evening. I was a little worried that we would be rushed out; when I called ahead to inquire about a corkage fee (it's $13), the girl who answered the phone said they turn tables pretty quickly and usually only have a 10-minute wait. But, we weren't rushed in any way, despite the steady stream of customers.

Now for the food. The three of us shared the burrata. It was lovely. The burrata was served with toasted bread, prosciutto and a bruschetta-of-sorts. One friend ordered the eggplant dish, the other ordered the linguini with clams and I had the bolgonese. It was a good. I think it's pretty easy to make a bland bolognese, and this was not bland. Rather, it was hearty and tasty. For dessert we shared the tiramisu and the torta. Both were good desserts, but I am far from being an expert, so I won't expand any further. All in all, E'angelo is the best Italian I have had in the City (Lococo's in Oakland is still my favorite), and I would go back--especially because the staff is so nice and friendly.

It's been fun having friends in town. They give me a good excuse to try new restaurants, and it's always amazing to me how easy it is to slip back into our friendships--it didn't feel like much time had passed between visits. Which is a bit astonishing considering how much time had, especially with my Denver friend.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adventures and Misadventures in Cooking

Have you ever seen the magazine rack at Costco? It's a wonderful little spot in a giant warehouse, and on that rack you can find a magazine like America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers for up to 30% off. But be warned, you can also be easily tricked into buying Betty Crocker's best-loved Casseroles, also for up to 30% off.

I should have known better than to buy the Betty Crocker magazine, but it must have been a particularly cold day, when I thought I might want to eat copious amounts of cheap cheese. It is a recipe out of this magazine that took me on a misadventure.

Earlier this week, I made the Easy Beef Short Rib Supper. I have been searching for a short rib recipe, especially one that called for a crockpot; and Betty Crocker had what I thought I needed. Unfortunately, in preparing this dinner, I ruined my appetite for the entire week. As I mixed the cream of celery with the chili sauce and garlic, an unpleasant smell assaulted my nose. And, I really have a thing about bad smells. I kid you not, I felt like throwing up but somehow managed to hold it together. All day long I thought about how gross I felt in the morning, and I did not want to eat this dinner. But, I did. It was okay, but I will never be making the Easy Short Rib Supper again. Hopefully the Country French Beef Stew redeems this particular purchase.

Of course, the America's Test Kitchen magazine lived up to its promise (I have fared very well in the kitchen with their cookbook). I tried out the Chicken with Bacon and Vinegar. Yum. I must admit that I broke an ATK rule and substituted an ingredient--something they highly encourage against since they have taken the time to test out different recipes and come out with the most tasty result. But, what can you do when you cannot find sherry vinegar at the store and it's raining? Well, you come home, turn on the internet and Google for a substitute. The internet experts recommended balsamic vinegar, so balsamic vinegar I used. I will definitely be making Chicken with Bacon and Vinegar again. By the way, it was really easy and is great for a week night dinner, if you only need to serve four people.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's One Egg in Metric?

It's award-season in Hollywood, and during this time of year, Seth and I are usually trying to play catch-up on all the potential Oscar nominations we can. Tonight, we finally watched Julie & Julia. It was quite nice.

I think it was the food. Or maybe, it was just Julie and Julia's love for food and cooking. Or maybe it was that the movie appeals to food lovers of all sorts (and not just so-called "foodies") in the same way that Julia Child's methods appeals to cooks of all sorts.

Beyond the food and the cooking, there were little moments of movie bliss.

When Julie Powell says, "Is there anything better than butter? Think it over, anytime you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining and you say 'What's in this?' the answer is always going to be butter. The day there is a meteorite rushing toward Earth and we have thirty days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter," my final word on this is exactly.

And then there were the moments when Julie's mom hangs up on Julie at the end of their phone calls without saying "bye." These are such small moments to love, but I loved them because that's just what my mom does to me. It's always the little things.

If you need a more whimsical escape from real-life, do watch Julie & Julia. At the very least, it's an interesting glimpse into Julia Child's journey to occupy herself in Paris: From searching for a French cookbook printed in English to mastering a quick chopping technique to converting metric measurements to English measurements--it's fascinating.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm not quite sure how I feel about Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood. I borrowed it from the library because Neil Gaiman tweeted about Holdstock's passing and this book in November 2009.

While it was an interesting read, but I didn't quite get it. In the beginning of the book I found myself a little spooked and mystified by the mythagos and Ryhope Wood. Part of my confusion may stem from the edition I read, which was the book club one and the book jacket's synopsis reversed the character names. Instead of "Chris Huxley pursues his beloved huntress through this mysterious altered reality, always challenged by his brother Steven, who has become as primitive and powerful as the savage, dark mythago characters whom Steven now leads," the jacket should read, "Steven Huxley purses his beloved huntress...always challenged by his brother Chris."

It was difficult to become totally invested in the characters and story, but I was entertained enough to finish the book despite my library due date. In the end, I find myself intrigued enough by the references to Arthur and Robin Hood to read more of Robert Holdstock's books.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

In 2005, my Manoa-School-friend, Cory K. told me about a book he was reading, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John. When Cory told me about a couple who skipped their daughter's wedding because she scheduled it on game day, I went and bought a copy.

I love this book. It appeals to the sports fan in me, and I saw myself in the anecdotes St. John shared. I even sent an email to Mr. St. John, thanked him for writing the book, and told him how I too was a fan of my dad's team (the Yankees in this case) and how the University of Hawaii football team could make or break my weekend. How thrilled was I when "he" (or maybe someone on his staff) wrote back? The sports dork in me loved it.

Rammer Jammer has been percolating in my head for the past few days with all the hoopla surrounding Thursday's BCS National Championship Game. Between lamenting over not being able to watch the game (I have to work an event) and hoping that Dan Patrick interviews St. John this week, I think I need to re-read the book. As far as who I want to win, I don't normally cheer for the Longhorns or the Crimson Tide, but I'm going with the Tide on this one, just for Warren St. John.

Monday, January 4, 2010

To Consume

By definition, consume means "to destroy or expend by use" and maybe that is why I have a hard time using some of the things I buy.

One of my Christmas gifts was a Twilight-themed notebook cover and pencil case by pinkladydesigns, and they both still sit in the ziploc bag they came in. Of course, my sister highly encourages me to make use of them, but if the consumerism of Christmas is why I have these two lovely items, then doesn't that mean I will eventually destroy or expend them with use?

Don't worry, I'll break them out of the plastic bag. Eventually.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Halberstam's The Powers That Be

The Powers That Be The Powers That Be by David Halberstam

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Having already read David Halberstam's The Summer of '49 and the Teammates, I knew I already liked him as an author. But those two books are non-fiction works about baseball, a sport I dearly love; and The Powers That Be is about the media and how it changed American politics and society. The media is not something I know much about to begin with, so it was daunting to pick-up this 736-pager.

Why read this non-fiction monstrosity (I say "monstrosity" because the hardcover version also features a smaller font)? Well, I watched a special on PBS about the Chandlers of The Los Angeles Times, during which Halberstam is often quoted, and I was interested in reading more about the Chandlers.

I think it took me over a month to get through, but I am glad I did. Essentially the book begins in the FDR era and ends with President Nixon and Watergate. It was amazing to read how Time Inc., CBS, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times played such a large role in shaping America. This is by no means a light, uplifting read. In fact, when I think about all that these media giants did and the influence they had, it makes me a little scared, and I begin to see where all the conspiracy theory comes from. Yikes.

At any rate, this is a great book for anyone who loves history.

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