Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Just so you know why it's a good thing that Foodgoat does all the cooking around here, when GoatSpawn was directed to eat eggs daily, I asked Foodgoat, "So, how do you cook a hard-boiled egg?" 

And then when I was by myself, I looked it up in a cookbook, too.  Just in case I remembered the instructions wrong.

I've now made hard-boiled eggs for GoatSpawn many times.  Foodgoat's method is to put in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and let boil for ... whenever.  Five to 10 minutes.  Cool it down with cold water

Others recommend against this, because if you boil it too long, the egg cracks.  So the method I've taken to using more is to put the egg in cold water, bring to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat for 15 minutes, then cool.  It takes a little longer, but it uses a little less energy, and if I end up getting distracted by, let's say, GoatSpawn covered head to toe in flour, and forget about the egg in the covered pan of hot water for a while, not much harm done.

Simple, right?

Well lately, I've been looking up ... how to cook a hard-boiled egg.  Because with either method, I sometimes end up with a perfectly cooked egg ... that is annoyingly hard to peel the shell off of.

One suggestion is to let the eggs age a few weeks before cooking them - old eggs are apparently much easier to peel than fresh eggs, since dehydration causes the egg to shrink a little from the shell. 

Well, I'm not going to use old eggs.  They might be easier to peel, but I can't imagine that the nutritional value is helped much.  Plus, we go through a dozen eggs in a week or less.  They just don't sit around that long here.

Another suggestion was to poke a small hole in the egg prior to boiling - a tiny hole just in the shell, not the inner membrane, to allow water to get in between.  So I tried it, just the sharp tip of a small knife.

Wait, what's that?

Hmm.  Looks like I poked through the membrane after all.  So a bit of egg white oozed out while cooking.  Yeah, that looks weird. 


But, it did turn out to be very easy to peel.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In the Medicine Cabinet

It's the season for sickness in the Goat home, and along with Kleenex and a humidifier and soup, we have been calling up soothing honey sticks to the front lines.  GoatSpawn will occasionally tolerate them, which is more than I can say for almost anything else we try to give her. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fontina Cheese, Where Have You Been All My Life?

I have a new favorite cheese right now: Fontina.

We have GoatSpawn to thank for this new discovery - she changed the TV to a different channel, which happened to have a cooking show on that mentioned Fontina cheese, which neither Foodgoat nor I had tried before.  The next time he was at the Italian deli, what should he spy in the cheese counter but ... Fontina cheese.

I'm glad he picked some up, because Fontina is a delicious cheese.  Made in the Italian  Alps, in the Valle d'Aosta, since the 12th century, it is a cow's-milk cheese with a nutty taste and creamy but firm texture (versions made in other countries such as the U.S. and Denmark tend to be younger and milder in taste).  It is wonderful all by itself, but it also melts very nicely, as well - becoming smooth, and not turning stringy or crusty or separating.  I would say it's not unlike Gruyere, or maybe provolone, but tastier. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ohio City Burrito

One of my wishes is to find a really good burrito place close to me on the east side of Cleveland, because while I am sometimes in the mood for burgers and sometimes in the mood for pizza, I am always in the mood for Mexican. 

Well, I still haven't found it.  But we did find Ohio City Burrito, which is near the West Side Market, making it a nice stop for lunch after our monthly Market ventures. 

The burritos were large and delicious and the hot salsa suitably fiery and the guacamole did not cost extra, which is a sore point between me and Chipotle.  It's a small place with a small menu, but what it has was tasty and left me satisfied. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beer Is Delicious: Brewing Beer At Home

Last year, I gave Foodgoat home beer brewing equipment and kit for his birthday.  

They sat, unused, for months.  

Until, a) he got a really big pot, which I had neglected to include in the equipment set, and b) he watched this video on youtube that demonstrated how to make beer at home.  The video was great because it  showed, more clearly, than any written instructions could, how to use the equipment and what each step of the brewing process was and how really simple it all was.  Plus, it has a rocking song at the end.  We set up the laptop in the kitchen and played the video while making the beer, pausing and rewinding and replaying when needed, which was helpful. 

Once he made the first batch of beer, Foodgoat was hooked.  Since then, he has made several more batches, with many, many more on the horizon (he recently went on a hops buying binge).  

Brewing beer at home isn't hard at all, and anyone who enjoys beer should consider trying it.  In fact, more people do seem to be catching up to the idea - homebrewing was listed as one of the top food trends for 2010.

Here are the essential steps.

The key to making good beer is cleaning - and this stuff, Straight-A, or its even easier version, One Step, works great, especially at taking off old labels. Remember to clean/sanitize all your equipment that you will be using for after the boiling stage - because after the boiling stage, any foul bacteria introduced can ruin your beer.  So sanitize everything (tubes, buckets, bottles, etc).  It's the most tedious part of brewing, but it's important.

The beer kits have the grains already crushed, but Foodgoat sometimes crushes his grains in a food processor.  And it smells like the best batch of cereal EVER. 
This step of making beer is basically like making a big batch of tea.  Put in the crushed malt grains (in a cheesecloth bag) until it reaches 155F and let it steep for 20mins.   Then take out grains.  Do not let it get over 165F.

Bring your beer tea - I mean, the wort - to a boil, then add the liquid and dry malt extracts.

Watch out - it may boil over!!  But like making dumplings, once the foam breaks you are good for the rest of the day.  Also like making dumplings, using a very big pot and a very big spoon helps.

Add the hops and let boil 1 hour- then add finishing hops for a few minutes.

Bring the hot wort to room temperature as quickly as possible - while using a whisk to stir.  Foodgoat uses an ice bath - the kitchen sink filled with a bag of ice and cold water. 

Next, add yeast - and fill water in the gas exchange thingy.  Close and let sit for 5 days at 65-80 F.  What's it doing?  Fermenting!  Turning sugars to alcohol! Yum!

Transfer beer from the primary fermenter to either a secondary fermenter (using a clean tube to siphon) or go straight to bottling (adding a priming sugar, which makes the carbonation, to the bottling bucket) like Foodgoat did the first time.  

Add a tube to the spigot of the bottling bucket with the filling wand attached and fill the bottles.

Cap it!  Foodgoat generally gets about 4 cases of beer per batch.

Now real hard part - wait 3 weeks and enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Making the Full Manti (Turkish Ravioli)

Foodgoat recently picked up the practice of trying out a new dish - one he hasn't made before - each week.  His first one was meatloaf, the second was the scallops.  Both turned out so well that for his most recent experiment, he went ambitious - making a dish he not had never made before, but one he had never tasted before.

The dish was manti - Turkish dumplings which are basically a variation of ravioli.  At the moment he casually mentioned needing an idea for something new to cook, I happened to be reading an article, with a tasty looking photo, about manti. 

So he did something I rarely, if ever, see him do: he followed the recipe.

Generally, if Foodgoat ever looks at a cookbook or recipe, it's only to get a general sense of the ingredient list or technique, then it's into the kitchen with just his intuition, and not a recipe, to guide him.  

But in this case, since he had no idea what the end product was supposed to be like, he had to follow the detailed recipe. 

Well, somewhat.  He did change one of the main ingredients - instead of lamb, Foodgoat based the meat filling on pork instead. And he used his own recipe for the chicken broth that the manti is cooked in. 

This dish was also ambitious in that, unlike the super-quick scallops, manti was one of those dishes that take days to make.  You could do it all in one day, but it will be a long day.  Instead, on the first day, he made the dumplings.

First, you put 2 eggs, 1 2/3 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 cup water in a medium bowl and mix until it forms a ball.  Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, then divide into 4 balls, covering with a damp cloth, and letting them rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you make the filling by combining 1/2 lb of ground pork, 1 chopped onion, 2 T of chopped fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper.

Then you take one of the dough balls, roll it out into a square about 11" x 11", and cut it into 1" squares.
Into each square, put a tiny bit of filling, and fold opposite corners together, exposing some of the filling. 
Repeat with all the squares, and all the dough.  

That's enough work for one day!  At this point, Foodgoat put the dumplings in the fridge (you can also freeze them), until the next day. 
The next night, Foodgoat preheated the oven to 400 degrees and put the dumplings into a big greased dish in a single layer.  He baked them until golden, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, he brought about 4 cups of chicken stock to boil.  He then poured the hot broth over the dumplings, covered the dish with foil, and baked until most of the stock had been absorbed, abouut 25-30 minutes.
While the manti is baking, Foodgoat made the sauce - mixing 2 cups of plain yogurt with 3 garlic cloves crushed with salt, a handful of fresh chopped mink, and a tablespoon of chile flakes. 

He then spooned the sauce, along with some melted butter, into bowls and top with the sauce. 
The manti was a hearty, comforting kind of dish that was wonderful for the cold weather.  The dumplings were warm and tasty and filling, and the sauce gave it spiciness and tanginess and some unexpected flavors.  It was delicious - something I hope Foodgoat makes again!
GoatSpawn, in particular, loved this dish.  We are used to having to coax a few more, just a few more!, spoonfuls of food in her, but not the manti.  We had to refill her bowl twice, she ate so much. 
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thanks to a comment from Thomas on our recent post, Foodgoat came up with the perfect Valentine's Day meal - a nice bottle of Zinfandel and a selection of delectable hot dogs from the Dog House on Coventry. 

On this second go-round at the Dog House, new hot dog styles we tried included the Some Like It Cold (relish, bacon, cheese, & coleslaw), the Southern Comfort (cheese, bacon, sauerkraut and brown mustard), and the Case (onions, BBQ sauce, and cheese).  We also enjoyed the sweet potato fries, which were dusted with a little sugar.

Friday, February 12, 2010

GoatSpawn's First Cooking Job

Foodgoat remembers his very first task in helping his mother cook was cutting up green beans for green bean stew.

GoatSpawn's first cooking assignment (age: 16 months) is peeling the onions.  It is a job she claimed for herself soon after seeing Foodgoat do it once or twice (he has taken to doing many of his kitchen tasks sitting on the floor with her) and one that she takes very, very seriously.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Convert to Scallops

Foodgoat was surprised to learn, after he made them for dinner, that I generally don't care for scallops.  When I've had them before, they have tended to be tough, or overcooked, or reminded me a little too much of fish balls (which I can't stand).

Scallops are mollusks, much like oysters.  In most other countries, they are sold whole and in the shell (which is that traditional seashell shape like the Shell Oil logo), as oysters are, but in the U.S., scallops are usually sold as just the trimmed, white, meaty adductor muscle (this muscle is much bigger in scallops than in oysters because scallops are active swimmers and migrate!). 

But the scallops he made, simply sauteed in a hot cast iron skillet filled with butter, were delicious - smooth, soft, and delicate.  Almost creamy, and a little bit sweet.  He put them on a bed of lettuce and spinach couscous and topped them with a simple white sauce and a slice of lemon.  Not only was it delicious, but it was an incredibly fast meal to prepare - it took Foodgoat, on the outside, maybe twenty whole minutes. 

Easy, quick, and most importantly, so yummy.  Enough to convert me over to being a fan of scallops.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Reminder to Clean Out Your Old Spices

Foodgoat only uses dried parsley when he has run out of fresh parsley, a rare occurrence since he has taken to keeping bunches of parsley leaves in the freezer.

Although he still had plenty left, Foodgoat decided to pick up a new batch (cost: $2 for an ounce) because he had had the old parsley for ... well, a long time. 

As you can see, the fresh batch looks considerably better than the old batch.  It's actually green.  And smells like parsley.  And tastes like parsley!

Although herbs and spices don't spoil in the same way or with the same speed that dairy products do, for example, they do lose their potency and flavor.  And flavor is the whole point of herbs and spices.

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If properly stored in a cool, dry, airtight place, whole spices can keep up to 4 years, ground spices up to 3 years, and dried herbs up to 1-2 years.  

Yet this is something I always neglect to do.  The last time I did, I found a spice jar that was at least 10 years old.  

How can you tell if it's still good to go?  Smell.  If it still smells the way it's supposed to, you can probably still use it, although you might want to use more of it to overcome the decline in strength.  Somewhat stale spices can also be revived by toasting lightly them in a skillet and using them right away. 

If not, throw it out or compost it or donate it to your child's play ingredient shelf, and buy some fresh spices. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stocking Up at the West Side Market

What with the snow, the cold, and the unpredictable baby moods, we have not gone to the West Side Market nearly as often as we used to.  At one time it was a weekly trip, then an every other week trip, and now it's about once a month if we're lucky.

So when we go, we really stock up.  We came from from last Saturday's vist to the market with:
  • Coffee beans
  • Sour cream
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Pistacios
  • Almonds (both whole and as a butter)
  • Chocolate covered raisins
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Parsley (fresh and dried kinds)
  • Peppercorns
  • Scallops
  • Tilapia
  • Squid
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Honey (jars and sticks)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chicken
  • Ground turkey
  • Beef (London broil, ground, and brisket)
  • Pork
  • Bacon
  • Ham shanks
  • Hungarian peppers
  • Potatoes (Yukon, Idaho, and fingerlings)
  • Garlic
Foodgoat carried all this with GoatSpawn, who was singing away along with the band on the balcony, on his back.  And now we have ample supplies to last us a few weeks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Dog House, On Coventry

We are always on the search for excellent wine, fine chocolate ... and a good hot dog.

To that end, Foodgoat recently checked out the Dog House, the new-ish hot dog place over on Coventry.  It doesn't have quite as a good a name as Mustard's Last Stand, but the hot dogs were excellent.  Here's the Some Like It Hot and the vibrantly colored Chicago Dog, both of which were yummy and left us wanting more.  We'll definitely be heading back there soon.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mirtoga (Turkish-style Scrambled Eggs), for Fattening Up Babies

While I once again faced the new year with a few more pounds than I would like, GoatSpawn has been put on a diet that most of us would envy. It includes:
  • Eggs and butter every day
  • Spoonfuls of olive oil mixed into her food
  • As much whole milk as she will drink
  • Full fat Greek yogurt
Basically, she has to fatten up. 

So, when I came across a recipe for mirtoga, Turkish-style scrambled eggs, in an old issue of Saveur that called for an entire stick of butter per two eggs, I thought, well, it can't come any more calorie-packed than that.

Mirtoga is just scrambled eggs cooked in a roux, instead of in a bit of oil or butter.  You melt a stick of butter over medium heat, add half a cup of flour, and stir until the flour is incorporated and browned.  Add two well-whisked eggs to the pan, and then ... well, you scramble them until done. 

But when it came to it, Foodgoat objected to using an entire stick of butter, when it was entirely possible that GoatSpawn wouldn't even eat it, and since I'm allergic to eggs, that would leave him to eat something that was made with 800 calories of butter.  So we made the mirtoga with half a stick of butter and a quarter cup of flour to make the roux with two eggs.  Even then, it seemed like a lot of butter - especially since he usually makes scrambled eggs with just a squirt of olive oil. 

In any case, the mirtoga was a rich, toasty, heavy breakfast, perfect for babies who need to get fatter.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Favorite Technique of 2010: Bronco Billying

(Yes, it has been a long time since I blogged ... instead, I have been catching up on all five previous seasons of Lost, trying to live with a laptop that has a busted keyboard except for the "f" and the "9", pleading with GoatSpawn who is sick with bad head cold to please please pretty please eat something, and then being sick myself.)

bronco billy

A verb, To broil oils or fats to tasty heaven.  

As in, "Foodgoat declared, 'it's time to bronco billy this thing!" as he shoved the pizza into the hot broiler."

The last time we were in California visiting my family, Foodgoat picked up a pizza at a nearby neighborhood pizza place at the recommendation of my brother.  Walking in, Foodgoat knew right away that he liked it.  It wasn't a bland chain, it wasn't a run of the mill, ordinary pizza restaurant.  Bronco Billy's Pizza Parlor had character.

What really got Foodgoat's attention, however, was the pizza.  We found that the pizza was slightly burnt on the top - it was crisp and a little blackened, enough to curl the edge of the pepperoni and to give the cheese a bit of crustiness.  And it was ... soooo delicious. 

Since then, Foodgoat has been employing this technique of finishing off a dish with a few minutes in the hot broiler to give it a bit of burn on top with huge success.  It's particularly wonderful with dishes with cheese - pizza, both deep dish and pan pizza, have been especially good, as was the cauliflower gratin.  The extra high heat makes the cheese caramelize, and bits of burned cheese is bits of yumminess, let me tell you.