Learning As I Chop

A Night On The Town

Posted in General by R @ Learning As I Chop on October 12, 2011

While we wait for Baby LAIC to join us (still have a few more months), H and I have been cherishing the remainder of  life a deux. This might mean sleeping late (something you can’t do with a hungry three-day-old) or taking each day as it comes, without a plan or care in the world.  Two Saturdays ago, we ventured out for a night on the town and partook in the Food Network Food and Wine Festival. Our evening focused on restaurants from Brooklyn. Though I needed to stay away from the wine (I’m not one of those lax pregnant ladies who sneaks a sip here and there), there was much food to be had. Here are some highlights:

Above is a sardine or anchovy sampling (can’t remember which one) from Vinegar Hill House, a delicious restaurant in DUMBO. Fish while pregnant is a funny issue. You can’t have it smoked (sadly needed to avoid the ACME table) or raw (my personal favorite) but you can eat the type you (or at least I) would normally avoid, such as the ones mentioned above. However I was in the mood for adventure and decided to give it a whirl. Honestly? Quite good. I’ve eaten at Vinegar Hill House, so I wasn’t surprised, but the fish was satisfyingly salty. Reminded me a lot of caviar. Yum.

And then there were the tables that provided simple food, but had me coming back for thirds and fourths. Savory dairy has been my #1 pregnancy craving and I made no secret of it during the evening. I think the nice men from  D. Coluccio & Sons probably got sick of my face, but they were very professional and humored me every time. Especially when I asked if I could have a lot (I know, I know, I have no shame, but who says no to a pregnant belly?)

H and I also learned new words that evening. Any idea how to make headcheese?

We had no idea but quickly learned that headcheese  “is not a cheese but a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow), and often set in aspic” (source). Yeah, we stayed away from that dish. Though I will say that Colonie did manage to make it look rather appetizing considering the ingredients.

Saved for last, we finished our meals with amazing desserts. Besides the delicious and decadent cake from The Chocolate Room, my night’s favorite dish came from this place:

When I first saw their offering, I thought it was a small lemon tart – one of my favorite sweets. Can you see how I was easily fooled?

However I was wrong. Instead, it was a yummy honey pie topped with salt. Sweet and salty is one of my favorite combinations and I loved every bite of it. I also had never tasted a similar dessert, and I appreciated its unique quality without being overly weird. (Is that a culinary term?) In my opinion, bite-sized pieces were the way to go. Sweet but not ovewhelming. You can learn more here.

So those were the highlights of our evening. Other notable items included caramel apples and nourishing butternut squash soup. Hopefully we’ll be able to go again next year though I’m thinking our event of choice will probably be geared towards people who like their fruits and veggies pureed. In the meantime, I’ll continue sipping my decaf coffee and dreaming of sashimi. Enjoy!

A Comedy of Errors

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 30, 2011

I had lots of plans this past weekend. They included going to yoga, having lunch with a friend and baking for Rosh Hashanah. However what often happens when you make plans? Things don’t always turn out the way you intend. Rather than doing all of the fun things mentioned above, I wound-up laid-up with a cold for three days. This meant no fun except for lots of All in the Family reruns and homemade soup from H. I therefore went to Rosh Hashanah dinner with no baked goods and a feeling of disappointment.

The next day, I found myself with free time in the afternoon. So what did I do? I decided to set things right and enter the kitchen. I chose this recipe from Martha Stewart with the intention of baking an apple cake that H and I could enjoy after dinner. However a few problems. First, I had no springform pan. I really have no idea how to maintain them. Two down and two broken. After last year’s mishap, I wasn’t about to risk it. H and I went on a small search around the neighborhood but none were to be found. I therefore decided to use what I had and see what happened. Worst case, I’d have an interesting tale to tell you.

So I copied the recipe and moved into the kitchen. At 6 months pregnant, I definitely think I’m experiencing the fun syndrome known as placenta head. First, I misread the baking powder measurements and only added half of the needed amount.  Of course I realized this error after the batter had been poured over the shredded apples and into the pan. So I scrapped my first batch and started again. I’d say peeling (apples, potatoes, carrots) is my most hated kitchen chore, but I was willing to peel twice in order to make a good cake. And then I did it again – I misread the ingredients for a second time and only added one rather than two eggs into the batter. At this point, I was done. I wasn’t  about to peel apples for a third time. Plus, since I was already risking it with the wrong type of pan, I figured I’d roll my dice some more.

The result? Not so bad. The cake was pretty moist and it hit the spot. I wonder what would’ve happened if I had actually followed the recipe…

What To Do With Raspberries

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on September 23, 2011

A few weeks ago, we stopped to picked raspberries somewhere between Bartholomew’s Cobble and our lake house. Though there were too many bees, and a strong amount of sunshine, we managed to fill our pint and return home with our bounty.

Unlike blueberries or strawberries, I’m not totally in love with raspberries. They’re good (and healthy!) but not my favorite, so I wasn’t about to eat a pint in one sitting. Plus, I had a hankering for baked goods. So while Donald Young and Stanislas Wawrinka battled it out on the court, I put together a cake during commercial breaks. Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen:

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) well-shaken buttermilk milk
1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter (see Note) raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Since I wasn’t in my home kitchen, I lacked certain things like vinegar and lemons. It was a 20 minute drive to the nearest supermarket (such a change from NYC, where it’s a 2 minute walk from home!) and I wasn’t about to venture out when there was tennis to be watched. I therefore decided to make a few changes (as noted above) and brave it. These edits included skipping the top-layer of sugar, because frankly baby-girl and I don’t need that extra sweetness. She’d bounce off the walls, and I’m trying to avoid fun complications like gestional diabetes. I therefore decided 2/3 cup would do just fine.

Together with the help of my new baking “tins,” this cake was a success. Moist, fluffy and not too sweet – just how I like it! So if you happen to find yourself driving by a raspberry patch, stop-by and pick a few. Your tummy will thank you. Enjoy!