Saturday, December 17, 2005

Going Conkers for Chestnuts

Mmmm. They good.

This year, I decided to boil instead of roast and it was much easier and the chestnuts turned out moister (more moist?). I cut the cross-hatch then boiled for about 10 min. The ones where I had perforated the pellicle (that inside softer shell) while cutting were easier to peel. I could have then sauteed them in butter or something, but they disappeared down me chestnut hole.

Conkers is a game that you can play with chestnuts. My dad was champion of the Bronx back in the day. Take that, Xbox!

Friday, December 16, 2005

What to Do With Brussels Sprouts #2

Fresh off the stalk. Some shredded, some pulled apart leaf by leaf for texture. Sauteed in olive oil, with lemon juice, lemon pepper and pine nuts. Simple, sweet and delicious.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Experiment Results: You Got Your Chocolate in My Mint!

After a great deal of deliberation and a sugar high that has changed my brain chemistry permanently, here are the results of the You Got Your Mint in My Chocolate and... I Want You to Leave it There Taste Test:

In last place...

Palmer® Bells. Oh. Nast. They do not taste like they have any actual cocoa in them. Not much mint for that matter, either. And see how the bell has a "chocolate" part and a "mint" part? Uh, no. It's all the same, just colored differently. A quick examination of the package helps clear things up: partially hydrogenated palm oil is the second ingredient. Run. Run far and fast and never look back.

For Fourth Runner Up we have a surprising (at least to me) result...

The Hershey's Miniature Special Dark: Mint Sweet Chocolate. Sweet is right. Gaggingly sweet. Too sweet. And far too minty as well. It's weird because I'm a longtime fan of the larger bars of regular Special Dark. I was expecting more. So much for having faith in the dark side.

Third Runner Up goes to...

Hershey's Miniature: Mint White Chocolate with Candy Bits. First of all, you have to be big on white chocolate. I'm not. I don't really consider it chocolate. This was also extremely minty and features some little embedded white-trash pink and green balls. Like, you know, those things on the top of Sno Caps. Take a closer look:

This might be ok if you are a chewer. But I am a melt-in-mouther and it left me with a mouth full of crunchy little tasteless sugarballs. Neh.

Second Runner Up goes to...

Ghirardelli Chocolate Peppermint Bark. Again, not a big fan of white, and this is very white-oriented. See how it's about 2:1 white chocolate to milk? Would be better if it was 1:2. And maybe dark chocolate instead. And this one could use more mint - there's hardly any. It's got a bit of crunch with those pink candy bits (which are just pure unflavored sugar as far as I could tell) and is more pleasing than the balls in Hershey's effort. All in all it was buttery and not bad, but just not what I'm after.

First Runner Up goes to...

Hershey's Miniature: Mint Milk Chocolate. Creamy and delish but on the edge of too minty (they really need to dial it back a bit). It definitely wins in the bag of Miniatures, but then you're stuck with the other lower-ranking ones. Ah well, at least now you know which ones to pick out and eat first.

And our winner is..

Chocolate Mint Hershey's Kisses! They are delicious. And my (educated) hunch was right - they taste different than the First Runner Up, even though they are both mint milk chocolate from Hershey. I bet the recipe is different. The kisses taste very cocoa-y and creamy and contain the perfect amount of mint.

So, Chocolate Mint Hershey's Kisses won this round for sure, but how do they stand up to the good ol' Mint m&m's? I say it's a tie. If you like a bit of crunch, stick with the m&m's. If not, go for the Kisses. Above all, do not buy nasty-ass Bells.

Oh yeah, these guys get an honorable mention...

The Trader Joe's Dipped Candy Cane Thingies. Upon tasting, I don't think they really qualify as Chocomint. They are actually candy canes dipped in Chocolate, not chocolate infused with minty flavor. But they are good, and they were free. And free makes everything taste better, no?

Today I learned that it is very hard to clear the palette of mint. Between each test, I swished water and ate a small, salty rice cracker. (What? You thought this was a joke? I happen to be very serious about these taste tests and I resent the fact that any of you think I might be over here just stuffing my face with chocolate and using this blog as an excuse.)

I know there are gourmet-quality mint chocolates out there. Probably all better than those tested here. And I know I skipped other good consumer-quality ones like Andes and Aero. But it is now irrelevant. I don't care for mint-flavored chocolate any longer. Onward, sweet toothius!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Experiment: You Got Your Mint in My Chocolate!

Previously, I posted about how much I love Mint m&m's and how hard they are to find. Well, I ate my last handful this week and set out frantically searching for more. I could not find them anywhere. But lo. Lo ho ho. Look who else has hopped on the Chocomint train!

There are so many insulin insulting choices.

And we need to find out who's our Minty Daddy.

Therefore, I now present to you the next in a celebrated history of candy taste-tests, You Got Your Mint in My Chocolate and... I Want You to Leave it There!

First up, the ubiquitous Hershey's Miniatures (which, of course, is just a big f*ing LIE of a name since everyone knows you have to eat at least 8 at a sitdown, which equals more than a regular-size bar):

There are THREE different minty choices in the Miniatures bag, each one deserving its own separate judgment. Note the Bag says "Chocolate Mint Collection". Oh. Excuse me. I didn't know it was a "collection." I just thought it was a bag of diabetes. Now I am doubly intrigued.

Then, we'll taste their cousin, the Chocolate Mint Hershey's Kisses:

Though you might think Hershey's is Hershey's... I suspect (based on years of candy-testing expertise) that this may not be the case. And both of the Hershey's products let us know how special they are by the "Limited Edition" mark.

Then, we'll slum it a bit with Minty Bells:

These are brought to you by Palmer®, and the fact that they have to write "with a rich chocolatey taste" as a selling point is a warning that things might get scary.

Then, we'll recover with some Ghirardelli Chocolate Peppermint Bark:

The back of the package alerts me to the fact that I can "Experience moments of timeless pleasure..." Ok. Bring it. Also limited edition, of course.

And to top things off, because they were handed to me as a free treat at Trader Joe's the other day, and free rocks... the Trader Joe's Dipped Candy Cane Thingies:

Stay tuned and get ready to fly on the magical carpet of Chocomint taste satisfaction. Results coming up in the next post. If you don't hear from me in 48 hours, I've fallen and I can't get up. Call for help.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Freeform Soup

In my last post I noted that I almost never use recipes, especially for soup. My cooking skills ain't all that, it's just... I don't have the patience to collect ingredients and follow directions. I reiterate that I have MUCH to learn, grasshopper, and I assure you my limited repertoire would most certainly benefit.

That being said, a friend who reads Easily Pleased asked how I can cook without a recipe. She says she never does, not even to make a salad! Whoa nellie. Since I happen to be free-stylin' another soup tonight, here's a typical session:

I begin almost every soup with onions and garlic in a little oil. Carmelize. Let's see what we've got in the fridge. Ah, some carrots. Chop chop. Now I'll pour in veggie soup stock and some additional water. How 'bout some dried, shaved bonito flakes (I just leave 'em in there, no straining) and yamaki somen tsuyu for a smoky flavor and some mushroom soup stock paste because we need a bit of salt. Needs... lesseee... dried ginger and a bit of dried coriander.

My friend would now say (because I know her), "But how do you know to put in those spices? And how much?" Well, the truth is, it just seems like ginger would be good since I seem to be going Asian-ish and coriander adds some... some... corianderness. Sorry I can't be more specific, but this is how I roll.

Now I need something substantial. How about the best squash known to humankind, the Kabocha. It is rich and nutty and sweet. Look for smaller, heavy ones. This one is an orange Kabocha from the Farmer's Market.

Also, some lotus root, which I buy frozen in a bag and looks like this...

Convenient and delicious and also nutty, though nutty in a different way than the Kabocha. Now I'll huck in a few dried shitakes and chop in some Red Russian kale.

Now, I want the soup to be a full-on meal, 'cause homie ain't makin' no side dishes tonight. The kabocha is probably enough for carbs, but there is no such thing as enough carbs, so... why not some matzoh balls (made from Manischewitz mix, is there another way?) which I'll infuse with dried dill before plopping into a separate broth (my good'ol standby, Vegeta) for cooking.

All done. I let it cool down and then re-heat. I don't know why. I've just noted that soup always tastes better the next day when has become a "leftover", and this is my way of faking the "leftover" process.

In the bowl, it looks like this.

I guess it turned out to be Pan-Asian Matzoh Ball Soup heretofore to be known as Nutty Russian Buddha's Balls! That's the thing about my cooking "style"... you never really know what you're getting until it's done. And sometimes when it's done, you still don't know what the hell it is!

But this soup was truly delicious. The Kabocha was so sweet, some of it dissolved into the broth resulting in a sweet nectar of enlightenment. Of course, one of the drawbacks (or, magical mysteries, if you will) to being recipe-challenged is that I could never make this same soup again.

Now, what utensil to use for such a soup?

Partner in Crime invented a truly multicultural method...

John Lennon, this soup's for you. ... and the world will live as one...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What to Do With Brussels Sprouts #1

Last night I made a delicious Brussels Sprout and Carmelized Onion Soup with about half of the giant stalk I bought at the Farmer's Market. It was super easy and tasty.

Here are the sprouties boiling away in their sweated and carmelized onions and veggie soup stock. They enjoyed their little sprout-spa.

Until I "massaged" them with the best kitchen appliance ever invented:

Hot liquification baby! Et voilá.

Served up with dollops of Greek-style yoghurt and paprika. Also some delicious Bezian's Moroccan Olive Bread.

I am not a big recipe person. I am much more the If-It's-In-the-Fridge-It-Can-Go-In-A-Soup type. But I should pay more attention to the pros because this soup recipe was bowl-lickin' good. Even Brussels sprout haters would eat this and have to admit it.

The soup was sweet and delicious and not only because of the carmelized onions. I think the info those people gave me about sugar in the stalk going into the sprouts was correct!

Lookit. I whittled away the woody outside of the stalk and the inside was nearly as sweet as sugarcane. For reals. You could use this core in a salad or grate some onto the top of a soup for a crunch (but I ate it all before I could do that).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Branch O' Brussels

Today I came across something I have never seen before (dollar bill for scale):

Brussels sprouts still attached to their stalk! In fact, before I saw this at the Farmer's Market, I sorta thought the little sprouts grew like mini-cabbages... something like this, but um,... like,... a LOT smaller.

This is a photo of a 75 lb world record-holding cabbage! (Woman's head for scale.)

I questioned a couple who was buying a stalk and they told me that the sprouts are much sweeter when purchased like this because the sugar from the stalk goes into the sprouts and that the small ones near the top of the stalk are the best. They said they remove the sprouts before cooking, but I thought it might be fun to baste the whole dang thing and roast it or BBQ it!

Gotta go. I need to research Brussels sprouts recipes. Suggestions accepted! Stay tuned.