Friday, November 26, 2010

Gala Apple Cider


A couple weeks ago me and my friends Sarah and Amanda went to an apple orchard near Big Bear in southern California. They had great apple cider, and a TON of different apples. There were samples everywhere and it was pretty amazing to see how different the varieties of
apples were from each other regarding their various tastes and textures. The trip also inspired me to make one of my favorite treats,  hot apple cider. One of my favorite parts of going to the pumpkin patch as a kid was the steaming hot apple cider they'd give out to the visitors, I have many fond memories of me, my siblings, my mom, the cold fall air, and warm sweet cider. I've always loved it, but I never tried to make it myself, until yesterday that is! Yes, I finally ventured into the wonderful world of cider-making. It was marvelous. I'm very pleased with the turn out, and even though it took several hours to make, it was well worth it and I highly recommend making it as a comforting and tasty holiday treat.



Ingredients:

9 Gala Apples
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Whole Allspice Pods
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
Water
Cheesecloth


Cut two 6-inch by 6-inch squares of cheesecloth and rest them on top of each other so that there are two layers of cheesecloth. Place the ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice pods centered on the top of the cheesecloth. Fold up the edges of the cheesecloth, twist, and tie shut with a piece of cooking twine. Set it aside.


Wash the apples, slice them into quarters and discard the stems. Place the quartered apples at the bottom of a large pot and fill the pot with water until the apples are about 1 inch under the surface. Add the sugar, cinnamon stick and the spice pouch to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Allow the mixture to boil lightly, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


Lower the heat to a simmer and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for another two hours. At the end of the two hours, the mixture should look like the photo below. Remove the mixture from the heat and place a large strainer over a large bowl. Carefully pour the cider into the strainer, then remove the strainer from above the bowl of cider and empty the apple pieces into another medium sized bowl. Remove the spice pouch from the apple pieces and discard it. Remove the cinnamon stick from the apple pieces and place it in the bowl of cider.


Cut three 12-inch by 12-inch pieces of cheesecloth and layer them on top of each other. Scoop 1 cup of the apple pieces and place it in the center of the cloth. Fold up the edges to create a pouch, hold the pouch over the bowl of cider, and continue to twist gently until the cider stops dripping out of the pouch. You can also squeeze the pouch with tongs while twisting to get more juice out of the apples, but take care not to tear the cheesecloth. Discard the apple pulp left in the cheesecloth, add another cup of apple pieces to the center of the cheesecloth, and repeat the procedure until all of the apple pieces have been squeezed of their juices.


Pour the cider into a medium sized pot and place it over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter, and stir the cider constantly until it melts. Remove the cider from heat and serve it immediately.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Asparagus and Butternut Squash Pie

Because the payment from my new job, (business book summarizer for a publishing company...exciting, I know), has been rather sporadic, I have sustained myself off of wiener dogs, cereal, and the remains of a large amount of rice gruel for the past week in order to save money. This left me feeling sad, unhealthy, and overall pretty gross. Today, I broke my fast with this healthy and decadent dish, hoorah! Take that, budget!

...it actually wasn't very expensive to make, and since it is a gigantic pie, it will give me almost a week's worth of dinners. See? I think strategically now, thanks to those business books...

...those God-awful, heart-wrenchingly boring business books.

But enough about that! The pie came out really well! It had the perfect combination of vegetables with eggs, tasty cheese and crumbly crust. I tend to find vegetables kind of bland tasting, so creating a recipe that actually made them flavorful was pretty exciting for me in and of itself. I hope you all are inspired to give it a try, enjoy eating!!!


Ingredients:

1 Thawed Ready-Made Deep Dish Pie Crust
1 Small to Medium-Sized Sweet Onion, cut into thin slices
1 Shallot, minced
1 and 1/2 lbs Asparagus, with the tough bottoms trimmed off
8 Ounces Butternut Squash Cubes
2 Eggs
2/3 Cup Milk
4 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté the onion and shallot along along with the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat until the onions have softened, about 15 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 30 seconds, then remove them from the boiling water and immediately immerse them in ice water to keep them from cooking. Set aside 7 asparagus spears and chop the rest up into chunks. In a medium sized bowl, blend the eggs, milk garlic powder and salt with an electric mixer. Set aside.


Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese over the bottom of the pie crust. Add the onion and shallot mixture, butternut squash cubes, and chopped asparagus, then sprinkle it with the remaining parmesan cheese. Place the 7 asparagus spears on top of the pie and pour the egg mixture over the vegetables until the pie is full.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the whole asparagus spears are darkened, the egg mixture has set and the pie crust is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thai Rice Porridge


Last night I was up late with Jeremy watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Thailand, which combined one of my favorite shows with one of my favorite ethnic cuisines. Of course, afterwards I found it difficult to sleep with dreams of tom yum, duck curry, fish patties and pad see yew floating through my ravenous brain. I was particularly intrigued by a dish featured on the show made up of rice gruel served with an egg and various vegetable toppings. It was a staple of Thai breakfasts, their version of bacon and eggs from what I could gather. Anyway, it looked amazing. And easy too! So I decided to try my hand at it based off of what I saw them making it with on the show, as well as some tips I gathered from surfing the internet. With my different observations combined, I was able to make a pretty amazing rice porridge. I was honestly a bit nervous because the last time I tried to make an asian breakfast item, (asian omelette), I just didn't like the taste of it and ended up throwing it out, but this came out wonderfully. It was completely delicious, the right balance of fishy taste with hot rice goo and partially cooked egg, not to mention the great crunch of the fresh green onions. Perfection achieved at last!!! As a side note, the oyster sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha can be found at regular supermarkets in the Asian foods sections.

Ingredients:

4 and 1/2 Cups Water
1 Cup White Rice
(1) 10.5 Ounce Can Chicken Broth
20 Cooked Shrimp
12 Stalks Green Onions, sliced
4 Eggs
4 Shitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
(4) 1/4 Teaspoons Oyster Sauce
(4) 1/4 Teaspoons Thai Fish Sauce
Sriracha, to taste

Heat the rice, water salt and olive oil in a medium/large pot over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow boil. Allow to cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring every so often to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Shake the can of chicken broth to mix up any parts that may have separated, then open the can and add the broth to the pot. Bring the porridge to a boil again, and allow to cook for another 30 minutes, or until the rice has nearly disintegrated and the porridge is nice and thick, like in the photo on the left. Remove the pot from heat. Evenly divide the rice porridge into four regular sized soup bowls. Set them aside.


Now, cook the eggs, sunny side up, on a greased pan using vegetable oil or butter. Cook them until the white part of the egg is sturdy enough for you to place a spatula under it to pick up the egg, but keep the yolk nice and wet and keep a wet layer of egg white on top of the cooked egg white as well. Now quickly scoop the eggs out of the pan, one at a time, and place each egg on top of a porridge bowl.


Drizzle 1/4 teaspoon of the Oyster Sauce and 1/4 teaspoon of the fish sauce over each bowl, making 1 teaspoon of each type of sauce  total for the recipe. Add sriracha to taste as well, (keep in mind it's pretty spicy). Divide the sliced green onions and shitake mushrooms into four equal parts and place them in each bowl, then place 5 cooked shrimp in each bowl as well. Serve hot with extra Sriracha on the side.