Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Heaven in a Bowl

This is one of my daughter's favorites (she took the picture above), perfect for a hot summer evening. It's relatively quick and easy, and you can use sub-par strawberries, you know, the ones from Florida and California that you can all but bounce off the floor.

The credit: April 2008 edition of Bon Appetite Magazine. Here goes: Shell a pound of strawberries and cut in halves to quarters, depending on size. Put in a bowl with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter to a half cup of sugar depending on taste (we go more toward a half, although the recipe calls for a quarter). Mix.

Heat a large, heavy pan on high and add two tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add strawberries and saute for about two minutes or until the juices start thickening. Add a teaspoon of orange extract or zest. Return the strawberries to the bowl in which they were mixed (be sure to use Pyrex) and put in freezer for 10 minutes. Remove and serve over vanilla ice cream and/or strawberry sorbet.

FYI, the 10 minutes is on the money. Too long and the sauce isn't hot enough to just start melting the ice cream and the sorbet. Too short and it melts them too fast.

Heaven in a bowl.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wild Raspberries

It's wild raspberry season in Connecticut. We have a bunch of bushes in the wood at the edge of our property. This year, two plants took root next to the house I decided to let them grow at least until they bear. See one below.

The raspberries are small and little seedy and tart, but delicious nonetheless. My daughter especially loves them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Bagel Pics

I downloaded more bagel photos and thought them post worthy. Above is the finished product. Below is the rope with the tapered ends I described in my previous post followed by well-shaped exemplar.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Salt Bomb

About a year ago, I found in TJ Maxx of all places one of the best cookbooks I've ever used, "500 Chinese Recipes." As the name implies, it contains 500 recipes, although not just Chinese. Many are Thai, Filipino and other Asian food.

I have tried numerous recipes and most are excellent. Even the non-excellent are at least decent.

I had a hankering for shrimp, plus the green beans in my garden were coming in, so I decided to try a new recipe called "Long Beans with Prawns." It looked luscious: shrimp, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, lime, etc.

I followed the recipe, marinating the shrimp, stir frying them in ginger, garlic etc. The final step called for 1/2 a cup of soy sauce dumped into the mixture and cooked for about two minutes. It hit me that it might be a little salty, but I forged forward. I should have thought again.

The end result was tasty (looks great in the picture above, doesn't it?) , but the saltiness of the soy blew out all the other flavors and left the whole family panting like parched dogs on a broiling day in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Our tongues were all but hanging out the rest of the night as we quaffed glass after glass of water.

Would I make this again? Absolutely. But next time, I'd simmer the shrimp shells for about 15 or 20 minutes to make a stock and dump that with a tablespoon or two of soy sauce into the pan for final cook. I'll have to try it, but my guess is you'd get a superb dish.

Here's the recipe with my variation:

Shell and devein a pound to a pound and a half of medium shrimp, reserving the shells. Marinate an hour or two in 2 tablespoons fish sauce, the juice of two limes, two crush garlic cloves and lemon grass stick finely sliced. Put shells in a pot, barely cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 15 to 2o minutes.

If you like softer green beans, steam four to five minutes.

When the shrimp is ready, heat about two tablespoons of oil in a very hot pan and add one minced garlic clove and about a half inch of finely sliced fresh ginger. When it begins to color, add shrimp and cook until just done, about a minute to two minutes. Remove the shrimp.

Add another two table spoons of oil and half a thinly sliced onion. When the onion has begun to caramelize, add green beans, half a cup of the reserved shrimp stock and one to two tablespoons of soy sauce. Cook for about two minutes, add shrimp, toss and serve.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bagel Lessons

I've been making bagels every week for more than a month, experimenting with variations of my basic recipe. I've hit on a cinnamon raisin variety that is especially good. More on that later.

A few findings:
  • Vegetable oil or other fat is unnecessary in the dough. Many recipes call for a tablespoon or so, but I think it's perfectly fine without it. You want nice lean dough.
  • Proofing overnight -- another staple of many bagel recipes -- makes the insides airy, which I personally don't like. To me, a good bagel is chewy and dense. If you lighter bagels, good ahead and proof, but if not, you can boil and bake them after a 40-minute rise (20 minutes as dough balls, another 20 after forming into bagels).
  • Peter Reinhart in his "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" insists that barley malt is key to a good bagel. He recommends putting it in the dough instead of sugar. I've tried sugar and the barley malt and personally think that the sugar is a little better. Where the barley malt does make a difference is in the boil. A tablespoon to a tablespoon and half in the water gives the bagel outsides a nice glaze and slightly sweet, malty taste. So use the barley malt, but put it in your boiling water.
  • Tapering the ends of the dough is key to shaping a bagel that's even all the way around. Equally important is a vigorous rub and back and fourth on the counter to seal the ends. Otherwise, they can separate during boiling. The bagel still tastes good, but looks awful funny. And don't worry about one end of the bagels looking flat. They regain their shape during proofing and boiling.
So here's the recipe for cinnamon raisin bagels :

Mix four cups flour, two teaspoons yeast, one and half teaspoons salt, one and half teaspoons cinnamon, one tablespoon sugar, and about quarter to a half cup of raisins. Add a cup and half to three quarters of warm water and stir into a ball. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth, but not sticky. Cut into eight pieces, shape into balls and cover and proof for 15 to 20 minutes.

After proofing, roll the dough balls into ropes about two hand lengths long and tapered at the end. Wrap around three fingers and press the ends into the counter, briefly, but vigorously rocking back and fourth. Place on oiled baking tins (I put down tin foil). Cover and proof 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a tablespoon to a tablespoon and half of barley malt into a pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Once the bagels have proofed, boil a minute on each side, return to tins and bake about 20 minutes.

I personally freeze them (they freeze very well) and take one out each morning for breakfast. Enjoy!

Reader's Note

Until now, I have been religious about listing only recipes found in the Internet. I've concluded that this is too limiting. It keeps me from blogging about too much of my cooking and baking.

I have therefore decided to begin listing recipes not on the Internet, while being scrupulous about naming their source. This seems fair to me.

Hopefully, this make 5 Snacks After 10 a better and more interesting blog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joe Camel Foods

Remember Joe Camel? He was the ubiquitous, too-cool-for-school cartoon character that Camel used to market cigarettes to children. It was hugely successful. Studies showed that Joe Camel was one of the most recognized images among kids. Brilliant marketing, in an evil scientist kind of way.

Thankfully, the tobacco settlement of the 1990s banned cigarette marketing to kids (you'd think that corporations would consider such a thing immoral. Ha!) and sent Joe Camel back to the desert.

Libertarians and conservatives who attack the tobacco agreement truly puzzle me. I can respect their commitment to free speech and freedom in general, but using cartoon characters to hook kids on a product known to cause cancer and other deadly illnesses? You think that's okay? To me, it's like Rand Paul opposing the Civil Rights Act because he believes in the personal right to discriminate. I can understand it on a theoretical level, but practically speaking it's plum loco -- and unspeakably cruel.

Which brings me to today's news that the Obama administration is considering revolutionary new regulations that would effectively prohibit the marketing of many junk foods to kids. Okay, I'll acknowledge the principled libertarian stand. But I mean really. Trying to get kids to eat the equivalent of candy bars for breakfast or snacks with enough fat to kill a platoon of Marines? I'm sorry, but a 5-year-old can't make an informed decision. End of story.

While I'm heartened by the Obama administration's bold attempt to fight insidious marketing of junk to America's kids, I'm pessimistic that it will ever become a reality. I hope I'm wrong.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Funny how food evokes certain memories or thoughts. When I see mayonnaise, I often can't help but think of Lou Gossett, Jr. in "Officer and a Gentleman" barking "Mayo-Nnaise" at the selfish Zack Mayo, Richard Gere's character.

I love how the word rolls off Gossett's tongue, especially the emphasis on the second part, conveying irritation and contempt with just the tiniest dash of affection. Great movie.

But seriously folks, what's in mayonnaise? I had only a vague idea until last weekend when a minor crisis forced my wife and I to find out. We were having family over for dinner and suddenly realized that the mayonnaise I'd bought for the potato salad contained soy, a no-no for one of our guests. I considered running to health food store to buy a non-soy variety when it hit my wife: why not try to make our own?

My wife had seen it done old school. The mother of an old friend would painstakingly drip oil into an egg and furiously whisk, ever so slowly creating the emulsion that is mayonnaise. Luckily, God created food processors, one of which we have.

We pulled out our trusty Mark Bittman "How to Cook Everything" and found a recipe. I will respect the copyright, but it's incredibly simply: an egg, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and dry mustard. You put the egg in the food processor, turn it on and pour the oil in as thin a stream as possible.

We tried olive oil the first time, but the taste of the oil was overpowering, even a little bitter. We threw it out (heck, it's just an egg and some oil) and tried again with canola oil. This was fantastic: light, fluffy and tasty. It took all of 10 minutes, the best mayonnaise I've ever had. See below:

So kick Big Food in the butt and make your own mayonnaise. It's easy, easy, easy if you a have a food processor. Even more important, experiment. Find out what you like, not what the food industry trains you to like.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Tomato

Above is the first tomato from our garden. Summer is officially here.

We had a disappointing tomato crop last year as the garden store mislabeled the plants and I ended up with all cherries. They were good, but nothing like those luscious globes of goodness that are one of summer's greatest pleasures.

I may have overdone it this year to compensate. I have six Jet Star (a nice variety, easy to grow, good size, but not too big, delicious), one heirloom and one cherry. The cherry is already huge. The first tomato, pictured above, is an heirloom.

Can't wait for fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes! Soon, very soon.