dichroic: (oar asterisk)

While writing about the pot roast I forgot to mention my other adventures for the weekend: On Saturday I made apple/pear fruit leather, and we visited a couple of local wineries.

The fruit leather was basically the Best Thing Ever: easy to make, uses up a lot of those apples and pears we keep getting from the CSA, and very tasty. First I made applesauce (well, apple & pear sauce), which is ridiculously simple by itself: peel and cut up 4-5 pieces of fruit, boil with with some water, sugar and cinnamon for half an hour or so, and mash it up. To make the leather, spread it out on a silicone baking mat and bake at 170F for six hours or so. I basically screwed everything up; I cooked the sauce for an hour and a half, after managing *not* to turn off the stove before starting a workout, so there was no extra liquid left and the fruit had a few blackened bits. This made it harder to spread out in a thin layer; it remains to be seen if being less liquidy made for better fruit leather texture. Then the oven decided it doesn’t like staying on for a long time at low temperature – it had the same problem Sunday while trying to cook the pot roast at 225F for 3 hours. Seems like the gas doesn’t always relight when it tries to – fortunately the gas does NOT keep flowing when this happens – and then the oven doesn’t realize it needs to be warmer so it doesn’t try again. But neither of those issues spoiled the taste any. We went out to the wineries, the oven was barely warm when we came back, so I turned it back on and gave it another hour.

The wineries were interesting too.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Another wine posting up: Montinore Almost Dry Riesling.

It’s actually kind of hard writing about wine, or really anything with a complex flavor (I think descriptions of coffee would be the same). Because of the complexity, it actually changes flavor as it passes through your mouth. Professional wine people have their own vocabulary, but if you use that it sounds snooty and incomprehensible to everyone else. Also, they keep referring to weird things, like “notes of elderberry with hints of overripe goat glands” or whatever. On the other hand, I don’t think the vocabulary Ted and I share (doesn’t every couple have their own?) is particularly comprehensible to outsiders either. I talk about leather flavors meaning the sharp acrid taste some actual leather has when you put it in your mouth (hey, I was a kid) and he refers to Asian pomelos, specifically, because he used to make himself fruit salads as a morning snack when we were in Taiwan. There are fruits there that you almost never see here, and some of them taste different – pomelos in particular are sweeter and juicier than any we’ve had in the US.

There’s also just a limitation of language: if you ask me to describe something I see, I can be very precise about its size, color, shape, texture, etc. Ask me to describe a taste or smell, and I just don’t have the precise vocabulary available to me. Not in English, and I suspect, not in any human language, because we are largely visual animals, and after that auditory ones. Dogs would probably be better at this, if they had words. So we end up with these weird descriptions, and it’s a little embarrassing but I think it’s OK; if everyone described tastes in their own words, maybe we could put them all together and get our understanding somewhere in the ballpark.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

The two wines of this weekend.

Also some notes about why and whether to hold a wine in your mouth for 30 seconds while tasting – warning, it can be unpleasant!

Tonight we had roasted cabbage and beets with our steaks, as well as some bread baked for a dough we forgot and left here at the lake house after Christmas. Conclusions: roasted cabbage is ok as a way to use up cabbage, but not worth buying it to make specially; and even though the recipe I use for bread is fine when you keep the dough for a week or even two, three weeks is definitely pushing it.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

These are things I’ve picked up about cooking – one I learned from my mom way back, one I learned more about today, most somewhere in the last few years. What are some of yours?

  • Always scramble your eggs before adding them to a recipe – just break them into a cup or small bowl and whisk with a fork. (In case it’s not obvious, this only applies to whole eggs, not if you’re adding only whites or only yolks.) Also, if you have to separate eggs, pour off each white into a separate cup before adding it to the rest of your mixture, to keep from getting any yolk in there.
  • To cook efficiently, do your mise en scene. Look over the recipe beforehand. Preheat the oven if needed, and either pre-chop everything that needs it or figure out where the recipe allows time for chopping. (I.e. if something needs to be cooked for 15 minutes and then garnished with scallions and parsley, there’s time to prep the garnish during cooking – you don’t need to do that ahead.)
  • Dough hooks are basically just a workaround for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty. The quickest way to mix most doughs is to squoosh it between your fingers – the only time I think a mixer is better is for things like pie crust that need to stay cold. (You can dip your hands in ice water, but that sounds painful.)
  • To cook rice without a rice cooker, pour rice into your pot until it’s up to your first knuckle (when you touch the bottom of the pot with your finger). Then add water up to the second knuckle. Some kinds of rice need more water than others, but this is a good place to start and you can always add more toward the end if needed or pour off any excess. (Everyone I know who eats rice a lot has a rice cooker,but I don’t eat it often enough to feel the need for one and this method works just fine for me.)
  • A lot of baking recipes need you to be precise about ingredients, quantities and methods. Soups and stews are the polar opposite – if you like it, just toss it in. (Be careful with mushrooms, though. I’ve had some yuckiness ensue when I put them in the slow cooker with a dish that also had wine in it – not quite sure what happened there.)
  • Leeks and celeriac are suprisingly versatile. Celeriac has a fresh taste, kind of like celery but more noticeable, but has a much nicer texture when cooked, IMO. You can use it in soups or sauteed, and it cooks surprisingly quickly. Leeks can go in just about anything to add a subtle oniony flavor – soups, stews, stir-fries and sautees or even sliced finely in salads. Or finely slice the leeks, fry in oil until crunchy, and use as a salad topping.
  • A lot more vegetables than you’d think are good roasted or grilled. I just learned that you can roast cabbage – I want to try that this weekend, since I have some from the CSA I need to use up. Other things that are good roasted: potatoes and carrots (of course), beets, turnips, Brussels sprouts, asparagus. And grilled: corn on the cob, Brussels sprouts and asparagus again, zucchini. I have enjoyed grilled leeks and endive, but haven’t made those myself (yet). (I haven’t tried celeriac either grilled or roasted, but I bet it works both ways!)
  • You can made pesto out of greens instead of basil – kale, collard greens, radish or beet tops or whatever. Separate from stems, blanch (boil in small batches for 30 seconds then drop in ice water), puree with garlic, parmegiano, olive oil and salt. Tastes surprisingly like regular basil pesto, uses up the annoying amounts of kale CSAs send, keeps several days (cover loosely with plastic wrap and push the wrap down so it sits right on the surface of the pesto).
  • And a few things about cooking with or pairing wine:

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    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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