Monday, January 29, 2007

There's a Leek in My Pot!

No, but really there is. Of the vegetable variety of course.

But anyways, it has been a while since my last post, and considering that this is my 2nd food post, this is pretty sad. I have been terribly busy with homework and work, this blog thing does take some time. But really, I have had an absolutely wonderful week of food, and I would like to share the highlights.

First off, my absolute, most favorite-est Crème Brûlée is the Orange Blossom Crème Brûlée. I had it for the first time 3 years ago at a little Greek restaurant here in Rochester called Oasis. And it was absolutely divine! I was in love, and I absolutely had to replicate it! But how? Could I use just the zest of an orange and still produce delicious results? Well, an Orange Crème Brûlée does taste nice, but never, ever, ever so divine as the Orange Blossom Crème Brûlée. So, the key ingredient to my pleasure was the fantastic Orange Blossom water. But, I did not have any, nor could I find any. I looked for three years at every Indian, Middle Eastern, and whatever else store that I knew of locally for Orange Blossom water. And then, while I was visiting my parents in Boise, ID for Christmas, it happened! We went to a wonderful Middle Eastern market, the Kabul Market, in Boise. They sold wonderful baklava, goat meat, Assam tea, and (dun-dun-dun-duuuun!) drum roll please ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER!!! Yay! I was so happy! (Right now you’re probably asking yourself why I didn’t order it online, well, combination of reasons, primarily I don’t like ordering stuff online- afraid of identity & credit card theft and all that rot.)

And so, with Orange Blossom water in hand, I returned to my kitchen here in Rochester to invent my own Orange Blossom Crème Brûlée.

And so I did….

And it was AMAZING! It was every bit of perfection and deliciousness that I had ever hoped for. Now my wonderful food photographing friend, Ashley Poole, took gorgeous pictures of the Crème Brûlée, (as you can tell by my previous post, I am not a photographer, let alone a food photographer) but she hasn’t given them to me just yet, so they are forth coming. I will post them as soon as I have them. So that was my Crème Brûlée story.

(The funny thing is, after all this hoping and searching for Orange Blossom water for 3 years, guess what I saw in my local super market? Two days ago, on the second shelf from the bottom, in the baking/spice/oil/shortening/chocolate and everything else aisle, surrounded and crowded by all sorts of goodies, imported in a small, blue bottle from France…. Orange Blossom water. I think they just started carrying it, but I’m not sure. Enough said.)

Next, risotto! I love risotto, I think most every foodie does. And there are so very many varieties and variations. So, seeing as I had leeks in my fridge, I decided Leek Risotto would be the risotto du jour. So, using the basic knowledge that we all have of risotto, I added Leeks into the equation and it was delicious! (obviously my pictures suck and don’t give a good representation of my risotto, so use your wonderful imagination and think of it as looking a whole lot better, haha. Personally I like pictures, the more the merrier, even if they aren't that great.)

And on down the line…

Drum roll… Kaffir Lime Leaves!!! Oh how I have wanted to cook with these for the last 10 years! I first read about them when I bought my mom a Thai cookbook for Christmas. I was so intrigued with the Kaffir Lime Leaf, I wanted to smell and taste this lovely ingredient that is so commonly found in Thai food. But, being in Kenya, let me rephrase that, being in one of the most remote parts of Kenya, I did not have access to Kaffir Lime Leaves. Nor did I know of anyone who grew or sold them anywhere (accept in Thailand of course).

So, the other day while doing my weekly food shopping (same day I found out the store sold small bottles of French Orange Blossom water), I am strolling thru the veggie and fruit department. And what catches my eye? Surrounded (again) by many exciting and colorful vegetables and fruits, all vying for my attention, there are 5 little containers of Kaffir Lime Leaves.

WOW! I almost completely missed them. Could have walked right past them. They were so crowded out by other things; you simply wouldn’t have seen them. But on this day, I saw them!!!!!! Needless to say I was thrilled. And so, tonight, I made my favorite Thai Curry, which was delicious, and I added those wonderful Kaffir Lime Leaves for the first time ever, and I tell you what, it was Thai Curry perfection! So delicious, so rich, so to die for!

Maria’s Thai Chicken Curry

Basically I use any or all of the ingredients below depending on if I have them on hand, and I use them to my liking, so it is a very loose recipe:

Fresh ginger
Fresh Thai peppers (hot)
Sesame oil
Lemon grass
Coconut milk
Thai basil
Kaffir Lime Leave
Small dash of raw sugar
Spoonful of peanut butter
Lime juice (at the end for an extra limey kick)
And whatever else that strikes my fancy, such as snow peas and baby corns.

So that’s my Thai curry more or less, and man it is good.

What more could she possibly have to gab about? Wine tours!!!!

Yes, yesterday (Sunday) I spent the day with my Wines of the World class mates & teacher touring 5 wineries in the Seneca Lake region (Upstate New York). And what a blast we had!!! We went to Fox Run, Anthony Road, Fulkerson, Glenora, and Lakewood Wineries. We tasted a lot of exceptional wines (about 40 total I think, I lost count somewhere along the way). Riesling is living just fine here in Upstate NY, and if you ever get a chance to drink NY wine, do it! NY produces many wonderful wines, and has a lot of potential if only the world market would discover them. New York has over 200 wineries if I’m not mistaken. So, GO NY WINE!!!!

Finally, just one more piece of wonderful food news in my life, my new cookbook arrived in the mail (yes I ordered it). What cookbook you might ask? Well after reading Fanny’s many posts on Foodbeam about Pierre Hermé, I just had to buy one of his cookbooks. So ‘Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé’ it was! Oh it is so beautiful! I can hardly wait to make something out of it! I am so glad I bought it! Thank you Fanny for your inspiration.

Now, back to writing that Thermo fluids lab, ugh.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chapatis & Sukuma Wiki

One of my favorite food memories is chapatis and sukuma wiki...

I remember so many times, in the heat of the desert day, when ever we were in Lodwar, we would go out for chapatis, sukuma wiki, and a kubwa coca cola baridi sana (large coke cold very). It is some of the simplest food, shared all across Kenya, yet it is one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. It represents home and happiness to me. How I dearly miss my home in Turkana. So in a nastolgic mood, I was compelled to make this meal for dinner tonight.

This is my (and my mom's) take on the Kenyan meal of chapatis and sukuma wiki. Sukuma wiki is usually flavored with Royco Mchuzi mix, which as far as we can tell is bullion cubes mixed with other spices, so we did the same. Bullion cubes, corriander, cumin, and turmeric, tastes perfect. Sukuma wiki also needs to be made with what is known in America as collard greens, in Swahili, obviously, sukuma wiki.

As for chapatis, they are originally a whole wheat flat bread made in India. However, over the course of time, and with the advent of the spice trade in the middle ages, Kenya, being a coastal country, came into contact with such spice trading sea-farers. And so Kenyan cuisine reflects alot of Indian, and even Middle Eastern influences. And over time, Kenyan's adopted the chapati to be their national flat bread, served all over the country. The recipe I have here is one of the many, many, many, variations of the chapati recipe. Every region, family, tribe might make chapatis in a slightly different manner. I use a dough for mine, where I have met a man from a different tribe who claimed that he and his family prefered chapatis made from a batter. Well either way, I have never been disappointed by a chapati in Kenya.


Sift together in a bowl:

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups white flour
1 tsp salt

Cut in to make a crumbly mixture:

½ cup shortening

Add to make a dough (add the water gradually, you don’t want a soggy mess):

1 cup water

Allow dough to rest for 20 min, covered with plastic wrap. Then divide dough into 12 equal portions, and roll into snake coils.

Allow dough to rest covered for another 20 min. Roll snake coils out into flat rounds, be sure to use additional flour so dough does not stick to surface or rolling pin.

Heat a cast iron skillet till hot. Dry fry each chapati till cooked. You are looking for brown & black spots to appear, however you don't want to burn it not do you want to dry it out to a crisp. This should be a nice and pliable flat bread.

Brush each chapati with butter, place in a dish and cover with foil. Wrap dish with a clean dish towel to keep warm. Serve chapatis warm. In the event that you have left overs, you can store the chapatis in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. When you reheat them, you can either put the bag of chapatis in the microwave (with the bag open to vent), or you can heat them in your oven or toaster oven.

Sukuma Wiki

Fry in a large pan:

1 large onion, sliced thin
3 Tbl shortening

Add and fry for 2 minute or so:

3 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 bullion cubes
2 Tbl cumin
2 Tbl coriander
1 Tbl turmeric


2 large bunches of collard greens, chopped into strips

Stir, and then add:

1 cup water

Simmer and cook uncovered until the greens are tender.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

For the love of good food...

This blog thing is all new to me, however I was inspired by certain blogs that I have been reading about food, and I thought to myself what a fun idea. So here is my humble attempt at a food blog. I love food from all over the world, and cooking is my passion, so wish me luck.