Thursday, June 30, 2011

Phyllo Paper

After I finished watching Julia Child's cooking show, Everyday Italian came on. So I watched mindlessly because I had nothing better to do, and because Giada De Laurentiis is allegedly my brother-in-law's soul mate. Anyway, she was making these funny little things she called Smoked Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomato Cigars. Basically, you wrap phyllo paper around slices of mozzarella cheese and little sun-dried tomato bits and then bake them until they're crispy and delicious. They seemed simple enough and I'd seen a dozen recipes using phyllo paper, so I decided to try and make them.

I went to the co-op and found some organic phyllo paper and it came in a package of 20 frozen sheets. I really didn't need 20 cigars, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try some other things made out of phyllo paper.

I let it thaw in the fridge overnight and set to work the next morning. Giada recommends putting a damp towel over the phyllo paper so it doesn't dry out while you're working with an individual piece, so I did just that and attempted to pull off the first piece of paper to use. Key word here being attempted.

Little did I realize that phyllo paper is a HUGE PAIN. It sticks together, pretty much no matter what you do. So you end up with these holes in your sheet and one corner is completely stuck together so you end up just ripping it off like a pad of legal paper and you've got this huge chuck missing off the end.

On the other side, this isn't really that big of a deal because you end up wrapping the phyllo paper around the delicious inside so many times it evens out. So while this was seriously annoying, my laid-back approach to cooking just worked with it.

So anyway, I ended up with this as my final product:


They were pretty tasty and a cute snack. Aside from the phyllo paper problems they were very simple to make as well. But I still had 12 sheets of phyllo paper left and I needed to figure out what to do with it.
I pulled out some cookbooks and dug through to find some phyllo paper recipes. And that's when I figured out that most of those interesting phyllo paper recipes called for ridiculous ingredients that I would never have on hand. There was one that was like a fruit pie that I liked but it had a cream cheese filling, and I had no cream cheese. And I liked the Chinese football folding method of another one, but I didn't have salmon or whatever else I was supposed to put inside. So I thought for a moment and decided to somehow combine the two.

So here is roughly what I did:

Cut phyllo paper into 2-inch(ish) strips. Spoon a bite-size amount of fruit onto one end (I used cherries mixed with honey, peach pie filling, and blueberries mixed with honey). Fold into Chinese football. Baste with melted butter. Bake 12-15 minutes at 400°F. 


Basically I ended up with these cute (and tasty) little fruit tarts. They weren't the prettiest (mostly because I'd given up using proper strips of phyllo paper and resorted to whatever scraps didn't stick together), but I think they were still awesome.

And I wish the story ended here, but it didn't.

I had to run some errands almost immediately after making these gems, so I hurriedly put them in a storage container so they would be safe from germs and dirt and my dog. Little did I realize that they would turn into goop. The phyllo paper got all soggy from the fruit juices and everything just kind of squished together into this crêpe-y-cobbler-y mushy mess. It still tasted good, but it did not look anywhere near as good as when they first came out of the oven (which really wasn't even that good). Next time, I think plastic wrap/aluminum foil will be in order.

So I think it's safe to say I've figured out how to use phyllo paper rather effectively, and maybe if I try a little harder my treats won't come out so ugly. Maybe.

Poached Eggs, Revisited.

The other day I was watching TV and while I was flipping through channels I saw that Julia Child's cooking show was about to come on, so naturally I decided to watch it.

Hilariously enough, it was the episode in which she makes poached eggs, so I attempted to pick up some tips from the master and see if I could make any more sense out of her poached egg nonsense.

Basically, the entire segment was nearly word-for-word out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She recommended using that dang poaching spoon again. But she also offered a new technique: The vortex.

The idea behind this method is that you create a vortex in your barely simmering pan of water and the spinning motion keeps the egg intact so it doesn't end up being poached scrambled (see my first attempt at poaching an egg).

Huh...I thought. That sounds like fun to try. And so I did. And I attempted to document simultaneously, which probably led to the ultimate demise of this plan. Nonetheless, here are the results.

Notice how the whites are going everywhere while following the path of the vortex.

So once again, Julia Child fails at teaching me how to properly poach an egg. What's even funnier is that all of the eggs she cooked without the poaching spoon thing ended up about as bad as mine. Perhaps the best part of the segment was when she said (in her boisterous and seemingly drunk voice): "Theeeeeese eggs are nottttttttttt very pretty. They would not be gooooooood enough to serve unless yoooooooooooooooooooou have a lot of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauce on toppppppppppp of them!"

After my failed vortex, I made another egg using my co-worker's method of letting the egg poach itself.

The one on top that looks halfway decent is my co-worker's method. The one underneath with the yolk hanging out is Julia Child's method. You be the judge.

Despite this, I may have to continue trying to catch Julia Child's show. Just so I can have a good laugh.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nudo Olive Oil

Waaay back in December, my husband adopted an olive tree for me from Nudo for Christmas. Nudo is an organic grove and they produce their oil in small batches at the nearby press to maintain their local, artisan flavor. They also send me monthly updates about the grove, along with recipes and other fun tidbits. The idea is that you adopt a specific tree in an Italian olive grove (They gave me a map of where my tree is located and if I so desire I can hug it and take my picture with it or whatever else) and come harvest time I get all the extra virgin olive oil from MY tree! Pretty cool, if I say so.

Well, harvest time came last month and I got four cute little tins of olive oil from my tree.

*Insert giddy noises here*
Unfortunately, I hadn't yet finished my bottles of olive oil I already had, so I had to wait until now to break one open.  I started my taste test with a little cracked pepper and dipped my pesto baguette from the farmers market in it.


It was superb. The oil was so flavorful and lively, particularly because it was so fresh compared to what I buy at the store. The tins are supposed to help preserve the flavor and I could really taste the difference. Hopefully that will still be true three months from now when I get near the end. I'll also receive a package of flavored olive oils from their other groves in the fall, so I'll have about double what I got now altogether.
I was a little skeptical of the tins at first because I wasn't sure how they resealed once you opened them. But it turns out when you open it, a little spout pops up and the lid becomes a twist-on cap. It's perfect and incredibly cute. I will have to invite people over soon to try it out. Nudo recommends doing a side-by-side comparison of a store brand and I think that would be a lot of fun. Any takers?


I have been having a hell of a time figuring out what to do with rhubarb. The first couple bundles I bought this season I ended up throwing away because they went bad before I figured out what to do with them. But I really wanted to do something with it, so I kept buying it. All of the recipes I came across called for unusual ingredients or complicated preparation and so I just wasn't interested. Finally, I pulled out my Simply in Season cookbook for some inspiration. I found the Roasted Rhubarb recipe (p. 74) and thought, Ahhhh perfect! Below is the recipe in the book:

4 cups rhubarb (chopped)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange or lemon juice
2 tablespoons candied ginger or fresh ginger root (minced)
1 teaspoon orange or lemon peel (grated)

Combine in baking pan. Spread evenly and bake in preheated over at 450F until rhubarb is soft but retains its shape, about 25 minutes. Stir, cool slightly, and serve with ice cream or yogurt.

Okay, so this was actually far from perfect because I didn't have any candied ginger or fresh ginger root or fresh orange or lemon peel (remember all those unusual ingredients?!). And I definitely didn't have 4 cups of rhubarb either. But this was doable. So I tweaked it a little and made it work. Here is my modified recipe:

1 1/2ish cups rhubarb (chopped)
honey (enough to lightly coat rhubarb)
big splash of lemon juice
healthy sprinklings of ground ginger and lemon peel

Cook as stated above.

This was definitely a much smaller batch, so I may have over cooked it just a little, but it was still very good paired with some local vanilla yogurt. With the yogurt, it was just enough for two small servings.

So my next visit to the market, I decided to get some more rhubarb and try it again. I was at the Monday market (which is a lot smaller than the Wednesday market) and I saw some rhubarb and asked for a bundle of it. The farmer smiled sheepishly and informed me that I was looking at chard, not rhubarb. Oh, how embarrassing. Nobody had any rhubarb that day. The chard farmer said he almost brought some but decided against it at the last minute. Oh well.

I went to the market again last night and bought some legit rhubarb (and I can plainly see the difference between it and chard now). I also bought some strawberries, so I decided to tweak the recipe even more today. Here is my final version:

2ish cups chopped strawberries and rhubarb (I probably had 1/3 strawberries and 2/3 rhubarb, but a 50/50 ratio would be ideal)
honey (enough to lightly coat)
big splash of lemon juice
healthy sprinklings of ground ginger and lemon peel

Combine in baking pan. Then add the Better Homes and Gardens streusel topping from page 126:

In a small bowl stir together 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Sprinkle on top of strawberry rhubarb mixture (you could probably double the streusel recipe if desired) and bake at 450F for 18 minutes.

Pure Strawberry Rhubarb Heaven

Excellent on its own and probably even better with yogurt or ice cream, but I was out. I ate about half already, so I would say there are two servings without the dairy, three-to-four with it.
I'm pretty sure I have a new favorite summer dessert. Just saying...

Peas in a Pod

I recently bought some sugar snap peas at the farmers market. This was the first time I'd ever bought peas that were not pre-shucked, so I really had no idea what I was doing. I decided that I wasn't quite comfortable cooking them inside the pod yet, so I opted to shuck my small pile of peas and cook them like normal.

Half an hour later...
Talk about pathetic...

I brooded over my wimpy batch of peas next to the hulking pile of leftover pods. This isn't even one serving of peas, I thought. Nonetheless, I dumped my little mound into a pot of boiling water and prayed they would grow to a respectable size after absorbing some water.

Nope. Not really any bigger.

So apparently, these were not magic peas that would double in size with a little water. Despite this, I buttered and seasoned them up and ate them just the same. They were delicious, but there just wasn't much to them.

A few days later I found myself back at the market picking up another pint of peas, this time determined to cook and eat them in the pods. About a week later I bought some more peas and when I put them in the fridge, I realized I had not yet prepared or eaten the last batch I'd bought. So I immediately pulled the old batch out and got to work. Again, I wimped out and decided to shuck them, but these peas were a little more mature than the first batch (They'd gone through that whole 'potty joke phase' and were now discussing their college plans). As such, I had a much more reasonable portion of peas for an end result, but still only enough for about one person. Seeing as how I'm the only one eating these peas, this is probably for the best. I haven't yet made the most recent batch of peas, but something tells me I'm still going to shuck them.

I don't know what it is, but I just don't really have a fondness for eating pea pods...It's like eating an orange peel or something. I know I could cook them in a stir-fry and it would look perfectly normal, but I don't really care that much for stir-fry either. If anyone has any other great ideas for eating the pods, please share and I will try it out. Otherwise, I'm shucking them.

Monday, June 13, 2011


On one of my recent market visits, one of the farmers was selling kohlrabi for $1, so I figured I'd try it out. I've never had kohlrabi before, let alone made it, so this was going to be a new adventure for me.

I recently acquired a copy of Simply in Season, which is an excellent resource for all those unfamiliar fruits and veggies at the market. I looked up kohlrabi and it said to boil it for 30-35 minutes, then chop it up and serve with the typical vegetable fare (seasoning, butter, cheese, etc). So I did.

Is it just me or is it a little warm in here?
I boiled that ugly sucker for a good half hour, flipping it over halfway through so the stuff sticking out could be submerged too. And I think for most of the time I kept the lid on to try and steam it, or something. Then I pulled it out, cut it up into bite-size pieces, and added some melted butter, salt, and pepper.


I was a little wary of this stuff. I took a bite of it while it was still raw and it sort of reminded me of raw broccoli (not my favorite). I'd never had it before so I really had no idea what to expect of the final product, so I took my first cooked and seasoned bite and my initial reaction was "This tastes just like corn."

I figured it was just because I season corn the exact same way, but after my husband tried it, he said the same thing. So I think kohlrabi is the hybrid baby of corn and broccoli, and honestly, it's pretty delicious. I haven't been back to the market to pick up some more yet, but it's definitely on my list.

One bulb is just right for two regular-sized servings or one main course-ish sized serving. This is perfect for me because my husband still won't eat very much, if any, so when I get stuck eating a big portion, I'll at least be able to eat all of it. But if he does decide to eat a little bit, then there's enough to share too.