Saturday, September 12, 2009

These little piggies went to the market...

Note: Photos are a mix of phone pics and regular digicam pics. Ooops. Thanks to C.C. for some of the market photos as I only had my phone camera!

Waiting for the free trolley to go downtown

This morning, my friend C and I decided to go to the Charlottesville City Market, located in the Historic Downtown Mall. I'd only been there once in April, just as the market opened for the season. Vendors were selling flowers, artwork, jams, cheeses, and specialty meats. When we went today, the market was bursting with all of that PLUS nature's summer bounty! Veggies and fruits overflowed their baskets. Now it was lookin' like a real farmers market, and we were ready to eat and sniff our way through the stands.
We met a retired bio researcher named Curtis who has a beautiful addiction to growing dahlias. He raises 71 different varieties about a mile away from the market. He does weddings if you're interested (434-293-5754).

another vendor's flowers
tomatoes being [french] kissed by the morning sun. bahahaimagine using these beautiful Willy Wonka-esque bell peppers in your next dish

Probably a little before 9am, C and I split a humongous spinach and cheese pastry (the sign said something about Bosnian treats just like your mother made 'em... but uh.. My mother's not Bosnian, so I can't say much about that). The pastry was probably even better fresh out of the oven (fryer?), but it was still flavorful. Buuut I'd pass on it next time for the $5 price tag and lack of means to reheat. You can see a bit of it in the background of the next photo.

A little before 10am, we had tacos al pastor.
For breakfast.
Not breakfast tacos, but tacos for breakfast. Understand? We're hardcore.
Washed the taco down with fresh horchata. Horchata is usually made from soaked and ground up rice (or a different grain, or nuts), sugar and cinnamon. I think I could taste some nutmeg in the one I had. Regardless of what went into the family's brew, I was into it. Creamy, sweet and spicy.

In addition to our "breakfast" and samples of cheddar, berries, etc., I took away some more spoils.. Mahaha

an assortment of tomatoes, parsley, black mission figs
If you've never had figs before, go try some. Are you scarred by dry and crumbly Fig Newtons from days of yore? NEVER FEAR! A fresh fig isn't anything like its Sloth Fratelli counterpart (if you caught the reference, I owe you a marble bag).
My total for the parsley and figs was supposed to be $5.50, but the vendor only charged me $5. He probably didn't want to wait for me to find the change, or he didn't want the possibility of having to give me change. Maybe he charges everyone $5-- but I'm gonna say it's because I look ah-mazingly beautiful early in the morn'. Mhm
Soft, jam-like flesh with crunchy little seeds... Sweeter than honey with a unique earthy flavor.

I cooked lunch for some of my girls today: linguine with chicken and tomato/cream sauce, sprinkled with the parsley and cherry tomatoes I bought this morning. Topped the whole shebang off with freshly grated Romano cheese and called it a meal. For dessert we had concord grapes from a VA vineyard and the black mission (best variety ever) figs, without any adornments. I was kinda surprised to hear that none of the 5 girls had ever tried a fig. The most common reaction after tasting was that they were "unique" and "tastier than they appear." Maybe the typical, boldly flavored fruits we've grown to love have turned us off of these yummy gems, but I call for a revival amongst the young'ns! HUZZAHHH! *pumps fist*


Random food fact (via Wikipedia): Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs.


Friday, September 11, 2009


There are few things more gratifying than making dough with your own two hands, feeling it, nurturing it, molding it.. then watching it become something magical, something that has brought hearts together throughout the ages and the world.

Making bread is such an intimate experience (no dirty thoughts yo). It is also a tasty one. Tonight, more specifically from 11pm-2:30am, I finally got around to using my forgotten stash of yeast. It went into some beautifully chewy, dense yet airy challah. Challah, more or less pronounced hal-lah (but start the first syllable like you're about to hock a tiny loogie), is a braided egg bread eaten on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.

All I gotta say is, HOLLA IF YOU LOVE CHALLAH!
I made a 3-strand braided loaf, a 6-strand braided loaf, and a couple knots. Some of the challot got brushed with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, thyme, black pepper and salt. Some got brushed with brown sugar and cinnamon.
The big kahuna (6-strand) was left unadultered. I kind of messed up the braiding, but as long as it tastes good..
"It looks like a dinosaur's tail!" -j. ku
I really didn't take my time with the photos, considering I was way too hungry to care and so were my apt mates :)

the savory challah speckled with black pepper, thyme, garlic powder, etc.Recipe here (make sure to use the appended version at bottom). Now back to studying..

Random food fact (via Wikipedia): On Rosh Hashana, the "Jewish New Year," challah may be rolled into a circular shape, symbolizing the cycle of the year.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crème de la crème

A few weeks ago, my dad gave me this pocket torch just in case. I wasn't planning on soldering anytime soon, so I used it for something even better...

Photos taken with my phone again. Sorry!
Crème brûlée. The cream of the crop when it comes to custard-based desserts, IMHO.
With the tap of a spoon, the caramelized top shatters like glass and gives way to the cold, creamy custard hiding underneath...

It's like the scene in Little Women when that annoying girl falls into the frozen lake as the ice cracks beneath her skates... Yep, it's EXACTLY like that-- except this is more soul-satisfying, and no one gets hurt.

..And there's no lake or ice, or... Ok, that was a horrible metaphor.

This dessert is stick-to-your-ribs phenomenal, and couldn't be any simpler. The version below doesn't even require you to whisk the custard on the stove. To top things off (literally), you get to play with fire-- and only good things can come out of that. Add some fresh strawberries or any other fruit on top, and you have a lovely foil to the rich custard.

Crème brûlée
Technique based on Debbie Puente's Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee
Makes approx. 4 servings

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • hot water (for water bath)
  • 4 ramekins, custard cups, or disposable aluminum muffin tins (can be cut to separate cups)
  • extra sugar for caramelizing tops
  • blowtorch (the fancy cooking kind, or a regular one from the hardware store)
Preheat the oven to 300F. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and the 4 tbsp of sugar until mixture is pale yellow. Whisk in cream. Strain/skim to get rid of bubbles and pour into ramekins. Place a paper towel inside of an oven-safe pan and place ramekins on top of paper towel. Move pan to oven rack and pour hot water into pan until halfway up ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes or until custard sets on the outside and slightly jiggles in center. Cool to room temp and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Prior to serving, pour sugar on top of custard and shake to coat. Pour out excess and torch tops until bubbly and caramelized. Let cool so sugar can harden.

Random food fact: The Catalan version of crème brûlée is called crema catalana, and it is typically flavored with orange/lemon zest and cinnamon.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Grozen Frapes

Apologies for the lack of updates. I'm back at school, I'm living in a new apt, and I'm too lazy to find my charger for the camera. Oops! Consequently, this is a half-arsed entry and photos were taken with my phone. On to the grapes. I got graaaapes (if you know where that's from, you are a certified hyphy head in my book.. llllawl!).

If you've never had frozen grapes before, you HAVE NOT LIVED!!!

Okay, maybe you have lived sans frozen grapes-- but you will live with new gusto if you try em.*

When frozen completely, grapes don't take on the solid quality of ice. Instead of being brittle and completely rock-solid, the flesh becomes hard but creamy like a firm sorbet or popsicle.

Simply rinse and dry some grape bunches, place in a ziplock bag or tupperware, and stick them in the freezer. Red/dark grapes work best, and make sure they're awesomely sweet. And there you go: an instant, healthy snack or dessert. Frozen grapes are all the rage at snazzy luxury resorts and such... If they're good enough for that crowd, they're good enough for us simple folk ;)

A glimpse of what's to come...

What could that be for? You're probably guessing correctly... but for now, I gotta do some reading!

Random food fact: botanically, grapes are true berries.


* not guaranteed, but VERY LIKELY, HOMES!