Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sugared Peanut Butter Cookies (with chocolate chips)

The sugared peanut butter cookies from Ambition's Kitchen looked like something I could bake in my own kitchen. They resembled the spiced chocolate crinkle cookies I made for Christmas. Most peanut butter cookies are just plain, but the sugar addition sparkled these cookies like diamonds.

The only tweaking I did was adding about 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips, for my husband who's a chocoholic. Didn't affect the texture or flavor at all. And, the only problem I encountered was the amount of time these cookies should bake until they're ready to eat. The recipe said 10 minutes or until lightly golden-brown but do not overbake. That's a little hard to ascertain.

I wound up baking my cookies at least 20 minutes for the first batch. After only 10 minutes, in feeling the tops, they still felt raw. The scent of these brought me back to 7th grade Homemaking Class at Aiea Intermediate School. Peanut butter cookies were the first things we made.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Egg on a Hard Roll

Before my husband even made it over to the East Coast (for a cousin's wedding), we were plotting. Through the wonders of modern science, we can now order food from anywhere in the world and have it FED-EXed over in one day, sometimes even hours (for the filthy rich). What to bring back that wouldn't spoil and would last the flight?

Pizza? Best seconds out of the oven.
Bagels? Been there, done that.
Italian Ice? Ha ha.

Egg on a hard roll? Hmmm. The hard rolls, I mean. You can't really get the same kind of chewy texture anywhere else but in NY. So, on his last day, my husband loaded up on four or six hard rolls freshly baked from the Puerto Rican bakery in Staten Island (we used to frequent our last summer vacation). We've been eating his version of a typical NY egg on a hard roll ever since he touched down late Friday night.

When he visited a deli near his old childhood home in Babylon, Long Island, he tried their egg on a hard roll and even talked to the owner about shipping them over by FED EX. The owner said it can be done in a day if we wanted. When we run out of the hard rolls at home, we have their menu and just might do it.

Making an egg on a hard roll isn't hard. It's just an egg sandwich, really. But turned up a notch because of those special rolls. The closest to NY hard rolls comes from Food Emporium. By closest, I mean, they don't fall apart at the first bite (but maybe the third...).

His trick is adding a special sauce. As far as we know, in NY, they only put mayo on it. My husband puts together a concoction of mayo, Dijon, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. He leaves cheese out on his. Bacon, fried egg--popped or not at the last minute. It's unbelievably good. I could wolf down about 10 of these in one sitting. But, alas, there are only two rolls left.

As a bonus, he also brought back some day-old jelly donuts, also from that bakery. Next best thing to being there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Local Breakfast for Lunch

Ono, eh? This is a typical breakfast in Hawaii (although we eat this 24 hours a day; nighttime after graduation is especially awesome): Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice, with mac salad. Unfortunately, this -- L&L Hawaiian Barbecue -- is the closest thing to local I'm gonna get, living in the Pacific Northwest. L&L is alright. But it's not the best plate lunch place in Hawaii. If I had Byron's Drive-in near Honolulu airport... oh man, or even a McDonald's anywhere in the islands.

I wasn't planning on buying this at all, but I was out running errands and had to stock up on a specific kind of yarn found only at JoAnn's, which is near L&L, so... The mac salad was a little too gooey with mayo without much flavor. For some reason L&L on the Mainland seems to add soy sauce to the Portuguese sausage and the SPAM (for the SPAM musubi), which leaves them way too salty for me. It's overkill. You don't need to add anything, just fry the buggers. Btw, it's the mac salad which needed the soy sauce (big hint).

I would've rather gone to IHOP for my T-bone steak and eggs (got a fix on it after a radio talk show host said he was looking forward to having a T-bone for dinner), but I had to finish my columns (I'm a soap writer) and clean house, and it's now 1:14 a.m. No time, plus I'm beat.

At least I have L&L leftover to eat. Such as it is.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Does this look like the Melbourne sandwich I had at Wayward Coffeehouse last night? Sometimes, if the mood is right and all the planets are aligned (and I'm sick of how fat I've gotten), a certain winning dish will inspire me to seek out its ingredients and recreate the dish at home. This is what happened to me today.

At first, I tried the popular but elusive (its hours are like, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.), newly named Red Cup Cafe (formerly the Mukilteo Cafe and sold to its manager) on the way to Mukilteo's ferry. But as soon as I walked into its inviting doors, the eyeglasses-wearing waitress behind the counter nicely told me they were closed; I'd arrived 20 minutes too late to try their delicious, homey sandwiches with some deeply roasted fresh coffee. Rats.

Next stop: Food Emporium, for a bunch of items I loaded up in my mind to excuse the extra drive and cost. Cream for my morning coffee, we're out of bagels, need those, oh and maybe I can recreate the sandwich this girl made me from last night. For the only person behind the counter of the Wayward, she did an outstanding job taking all our hundreds of orders and churning the drinks and food out in record time with only one mini-toaster oven and a microwave. I locked in on the Melbourne because I liked avocado (avocado spread, which was so full of flavor and with just the perfect amount of salt), I liked cheddar cheese, and I liked how spare but healthy the non-meat filling was. The only added ingredients were fresh from an organic farm, lettuce and tomato--all on a warmed roll (ciabatta roll), crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

I couldn't find ciabatta rolls (they're at PCC) so I found one, last large ciabatta and figured I could cut it to size. I didn't make a spread but I squeezed lemon and flecked some olive oil, salt and pepper over the sliced avocado. It's not bad. I just need to flavor the avocado better because it's still not quite as full-bodied, meaty and intense as the Wayward's. I paired my sandwich with a tall green tea latte.

Both versions fall apart when you take bites, though, filling falling out everywhere.

I think I'm going on this pseudo-health kick for awhile. See where it takes me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Asparagus Primo is not a vegetable

Last night, I had a jones for this:

It's Pagliacci Pizza's house salad. I'm not sure how they put this together, much less came up with the ingenious ingredient combo, but it's fast becoming a favorite. The Dijon dressing is to-die for, paired perfectly with red bell pepper, tiny squares of Salumi salami, Kasseri cheese, red bell pepper, red onion, and what looks like some bib lettuce. The salad is so good that it makes the garbanzo beans more than tolerable, and I normally can't stand garbanzo beans.

Well, what I should've done, if I were a normal, size six, healthy adult female, was order a large Pagliacci salad for me and the cheese pizza for my son.

But I'd always been curious about Pagliacci's seasonal asparagus, the one with Prosciutto. Only, I found myself going for the Asparagus Primo because the operator suggested it and I thought it combined well with bread crumbs and Parmesan. I expected it to come in a nice little salad bowl, like a side vegetable, these gleaming, olive-oiled asparagus spears.

Here's what it really looked like:

Am I the biggest dummy or what? It's called Pagliacci Pizza, not Pagliacci Ristorante (although in the Queen Anne district of Seattle, it is more of a restaurant, where you can get pastas with different sauces with your pizzas).

I also threw in a Nonna's Pasta, because I was also curious about this baked penne dish with five cheeses (like Ina Garten's), but with grilled chicken chunks. I should've known better. I'm still not in an Italian pasta mood. At all.

The asparagus pizza was too heavy for me. But then, I didn't reheat it so the mozzarella (no Parmesan, just Romano) got cold and congealed, like snot on cardboard. Way way too heavy and rich. I barely ate two slices, but I devoured my small salad (small because the over-ordering cost me over $48).

I'm hungry now. But I don't want any part of the Pagliacci leftover. I never learn.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blueberry Cake for a Lord

I broke the baker's rule of never trying out a new recipe on a friend. And paid dearly for it.

It all started when I got the bright idea to put together a home-baked care package for an old high school friend recovering from back surgery. He'd seen pictures of all my previous baked goods on Facebook, so when I offered, he immediately said yes.

Instead of going with a tried-and-true recipe, like the ever-faithful banana bread or something from Ina Garten's cupboards, I went with a new recipe waiting to be made. It's from Italian Dessert Recipes by Lisa Marietta Gianotti. I fell in love with the exotic, interesting ingredient combinations: olive oil, citrus zests from lime, lemon and orange.

Instead of reading the recipe several times before shopping for ingredients, I just scanned it, looked good, and went to town. When it came time to baking, I'd also planned on baking a new blueberry bread recipe using orange juice (can't find that link anymore, but it's just as well, the recipe sucked... the batter came out more like bread dough, forcing me to improvise and add more oj and even whipped cream). My care package would contain the blueberry cake and some sort of cookie.

I ran into my first problem when I came to the part where it said to bake the cake for 15 minutes, then add the rest of the blueberries on the top, pressing gently into the batter so they won't explode during the baking. What? Where's the rest of the info? Shouldn't I bake the cake for much longer, and how do you press blueberries into the batter on top if the cake is already baked for 15 minutes? The recipe ends there. No mention of what to do after topping and pressing the remaining blueberries or how much longer to bake, or even what to do to help it unmold.

My husband suggested she meant bake for 15 minutes after I topped and pressed the leftover blueberries into the batter. And obviously, to bake longer than that. (It took almost an hour to finish in the end.)

I ran into my second problem when I poured the blueberry cake batter in the nine-inch cake pan, as the recipe instructed. The batter almost overfilled the pan. That shouldn't happen. But instead of holding back, I trusted the recipe, and left it alone. I also thought I'd be clever and sprinkle sugar on top. I placed the battered can pan on top of a sheet pan and then inside the oven, just in case it did overflow.

It didn't overflow, but the sugar glazed over and created a hard sheet over part of the top of the baked cake. I also did what I always do and began to panic about the time it took to cool. Because I had no instruction on how to cool the cake (in or out of the pan?), I rushed the gun and tried to unmold it prematurely. That was hard to do with baked cake like glue over the sides.

When the cake came out in bits and pieces, my heart sank. I did try to salvage it by shoving the pieces back inside a freshly greased cake pan and baking it over again. Didn't work. I was too busy baking chocolate chip cookies and I ran out of time anyway.

The pieces of this blueberry cake were divine, though. But there's no way I was going to UPS my care package to my ailing friend with pieces. I resolved to try again the next day, with another run to the grocery store.

Keeping in mind that I had our son's final soccer game to attend in less than five hours, I rushed to Albertson's, picked up more citrus and extra virgin olive oil and rushed back to start the batter. I was doing fine when I noticed the recipe called for "Virgin Olive Oil," in caps, more than once. Virgin olive oil? Did that mean olive oil plain? I drove back to the store to search for virgin olive oil. No such animal. Not even at the second store, Food Emporium, which has everything gourmet. Just olive oil and EVOO. I rushed back home, figuring EVOO was fine since the last cake I baked had it and it was delicious.

This time, I only filled enough batter/blueberries to leave a half inch or so gap at the top, to prevent spilling. I poured the rest in the smallest greased, glass loaf pan I could find. When the baking was complete, I left the cakes cooling in their pans on the rack until they were cold (which meant after the soccer game). Praying, I unmolded the nine-inch cake out without incident. I almost couldn't believe my eyes. Success! The loaf pan cake was harder to unmold, but I half didn't care about that as much as the main event, the round cake.

In the end, because I'm crazy, I also thought my friend would like oatmeal cookies better. So I also baked Ina Garten's oatmeal-pecan-raisin cookies for him. I raced home after the soccer game, checked/unmolded the cakes, threw together my care package (a paper bag full of chocolate chip cookies, another paper bag of oatmeal-golden raisin-pecan cookies, blueberry bread, and the pain in the buttinsky Italian style blueberry cake), and raced back out to make it to the nearby UPS store I always frequent before closing time.

I missed the 6:30 p.m. closing time by two minutes, but luck was on my side. A patron was still in there and the clerk waiting on her didn't mind waiting on me next. After a snafu with my friend's city, which I cleared up by using the UPS store phone, I was done and on my way home by 7 p.m. Whew.

I do all this because I'm a perfectionist, I love to bake and make people happy by feeding them something special, from scratch.

But as tempted as I was to swear off trying out new recipes, I still will. I just will never try anything else this Italian Dessert Recipes lady makes again. I will also make sure the recipes I do try has it all together. Sometimes, believe it or not, they can't write out a recipe for others to follow to save their lives.