Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Chocolate chipotle ice cream

I was totally inspired by a confection called the "firecracker" by Chuao chocolatier. It blows my mind with its awesomeness.

I tend to fly by the seat of my pants for a lot of recipes, so I went out and bought what I wanted -- canned chipotle peppers, Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet chocolate chunks, some sea salt (I had kosher, but wanted sea), and half and half and heavy whipping cream.

But ice cream is a little picky, so I consulted some recipes, too. There are actually many online recipes for chocolate-chili ice cream, some very labor intensive and others less so. I also looked at my Ben and Jerry's recipe book, but both their chocolate ice creams called for unsweetened chocolate, and I wanted to use my bittersweet.

I went with this recipe, more or less. Except I used 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate and about 8 oz of Mexican chocolate. So it's much more chocolate-intense than the original recipe would have been. Also, instead of adding powdered chiles after the dairy base cooked, I threw a single chipotle pepper in with the cream and cooked it, then threw it all in the blender. I used sea salt in place of the regular salt, and instead of bourbon, I used brandy.

I actually can't tell you how it turned out, as I'm still churning it, but just having tasted the base, I'm quite pleased. You can taste the pepper and there's a slight burn after you taste it (which may dissipate a bit as it gets colder), and the chocolate flavor is very strong (just as I like it).

Tomorrow we'll buy some popping candy to top it, and I'll let you know how it was.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Warm soba salad


1 package buckwheat soba noodles
3 large carrots
1 bunch asparagus
1 medium yellow onion
2 cups chopped oyster mushrooms
Firm tofu, 1/2 package, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce (or liquid aminos)
3 heaping Tbs white miso paste
1 tsp very finely minced ginger
a few shakes of chili-sesame oil (or plain sesame oil and a few red chili flakes or a shake of ground cayenne)
black pepper, to taste

Boil a medium-to-large pot of salted water. Cut the carrots into matchstick pieces and drop them in the water for 60-90 seconds, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Slice the asparagus into 1/4 inch pieces, drop them in the water for 60 seconds, and scoop them out as well. Then boil the soba noodles according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, slice the onion thinly and heat a little oil (or use cooking spray) in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and stir frequently until the mixture has taken on a golden-brown color and the mushrooms have shrunk.

Put the noodles, asparagus, carrots, tofu and mushroom mixture into a large bowl.

In another small bowl (I actually just used the measuring cup I had the olive oil in), whisk the last 5 ingredients together. Taste for seasoning, then pour over the noodles and mix thoroughly.

There's no hurry-up involved, as this is a warm salad.

It ended up delicious. I might have left the tofu out, but Sweetie loves tofu. Obviously there's a lot of room for interpretation depending on how much you like certain flavors. You could certainly increase the ginger or sesame oil. You could also probably leave out the soy sauce, as the miso provided plenty of salt.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lemon meringue pie -- first attempt

4 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 cup margarine
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs vinegar
1 egg
1/2 cup cold water

Mix together flour, shortening, margarine, sugar and salt.
Beat together egg, vinegar, and water.
Combine two mixtures, stirring until all ingredients are blended. Chill at least 15 minutes prior to rolling out.
(NOTE: This makes two crusts, so cut it in half -- yes, half an egg -- if you're only making one pie.)

Lemon filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups boiling water
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs butter
1/3 cup lemon juice

Combine first four ingredients (sugar through salt) in a medium sized saucepan and gradually stir in 2 cups boiling water. Stir until mixture thickens and comes to a gradual boil. Add 3 egg yolks and cook a few more minutes. Add butter and lemon juice and stir thoroughly.

3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Beat in vanilla.

Okay, here are the rest of the instructions, as cobbled together by me.

Roll out the crust to two inches wider than the pan you're using, then put it in the pan and flute the edges. Score the bottom and sides.

Pre-bake the crust in a 475 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes (my oven runs a little hot, and 8 was plenty). The instructions that seem to be missing from the filling include putting the saucepan on medium heat. I did medium high and I suspect the texture will be too gelatinous because it cooked too hot and too quickly.

Fill the crust with the custard, then put the meringue on. Bake in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes or until golden brown.

My mom said you really have to make triple-sure that the meringue is beaten enough, so I whipped the living shit out of it. I beat it until the peaks were stiff, then beat it a little more. I also saw some hints the other day that the way to make sure the meringue doesn't weep or shrink is to put it on the filling when the filling is still hot and spread the meringue all the way to the crust so that it's touching the crust all the way around.

I like the way my grandma always made meringue, with little browned peaks, so I tried it myself by spreading out the meringue, then touching it with the back of a spoon, then pulling the spoon upwards. I pretty much got the effect I wanted.

Mom says that crust recipe is absolutely the best one ever, and since I am pretty sure that's what she uses on her other pies (oh, just the thought of her cherry pie and pumpkin pie make me drool), I'm going to go with that.

Mistakes to learn from this time -- Obviously, the heat thing. I haven't tried the pie yet (it's for dessert tonight), but I have a strong feeling that the texture will be far too firm. And second, (this is a typical "me" mistake) I decided to use washed raw sugar since I had some on hand and it's of a very good quality. But I tend not to think things through, and the sugar has a brown tint, like brown sugar, which of course meant that instead of being a translucent pale yellow, my custard is brown. Mmmmm, appetizing.

A note on technology -- I have never whipped cream or eggs to stiff peaks by hand. I am lazy and puny. But the KitchenAid mixer is a good, reliable friend. I've also seen people make pie crust dough in the food processor, so I tried that this time. It worked like a charm. I pulsed the dry ingredients with the shortening until it was about the texture of sand, then added the wet ingredients until it barely came together. I was pleased with the results.

By the way, I love cooking and baking, but I've always left the pies to my mom, so this is actually a first for me.