Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Toy = delicousness!

So, I got a new toy. I've wanted this for quite awhile, and finally went ahead and bought it. When I tell people "I got a cherry pitter!" They say "do you pit cherries often?" That, is not the point. The point is that I can. For $15 I can pit a bag of cherries relatively quickly with an all but one success rate and little mess whereas before I've had to slowly go through and cut each one - creating a mess and getting bloody looking hands in the process.

And, what does one make when cherries are reasonably priced at the grocery store and you have a new cherry pitter?

Cherry Cobbler! Which I've also been craving (cobbler in general really. I've got to get to the peaches before they're gone). I have epicurious on my iphone and I wanted to get started when I got home, so I searched around on there for a recipe and found this one. I also followed the advice in the reviews and substituted in the recipe for the topping from the plum cobbler with cinnamon biscuits.

The best part about the cherry recipe was having to get a bottle of Lazzaroni Amaretto (made from an infusion of cookies?) which is a delicous addition to a cup of black tea. Mmm, or licking the cherry syrup in the pot (if I had a bigger pot I'd stick my head in it).

The only substitution I made was replacing the cream in the biscuit recipe with whatever "dairy" I had on hand, which happened to be Almond Milk. Oh, and I misread "1 tsp vanilla" for "1 tbsp" but no problem either way. I also don't know how many cherries I used. A bag and most of another from the store, however much that was.

The only difficult part was figuring out how to mix the dough, how to get it into the pan, and how to get it off my fingers!

Oh, I almost forgot - the real problem arose when I heard a sizzling sound from the oven and I realized that my container must not have been a 2 quart dish (or, too many cherries? too much biscuit?). The only thing I could do was to stick a cookie sheet under it and watch it boil over..

The end result was great and the spices really stood out. The biscuits were fluffy, the cherries were soft and... how do you describe that cherry feel? And of course, you can't have cobbler without vanilla ice cream.

The only thing I will do differently is to put it in a much larger container and lower the ratio of biscuit to cherries. In one review someone suggested using extra dough to make a separate biscuit, and I think that would be a good idea (they were definitely good enough to stand alone).

You may be asking yourself, really though, a $15 cherry pitter for the occasional cherry cobbler? Of course not! I perked up some plain non-fat yogurt by tossing in some pitted cherries, pureeing with my immersion blender, adding some more cherries whole, a bit of honey and had a quick, easy, and healthy ultra yummy snack.
And that's not all! Yes sir, this little gem will soon be working its way through a jar of kalamata olives! So delicious, yet so frustratingly filled with seeds! I salivate at the thought of some Greek inspired kalamata olive filled dish... (stay tuned!)

Friday, June 5, 2009


Yeah! I finally made congee/chao. For those of you who are in the dark, congee is a soupy rice dish served in (probably) every Asian country. Congee is the Chinese word for it. In Vietnamn its chao. My dad's Okinawan wife makes it for him when he's hung over or sick for some reason. My brother had a variant of it in Thailand for breakfast. Its sick food, comfort food, and food thats good for you when your mouth hurts.

One of the nutty Vietnamese guys I work with keeps saying "that's easy, any child can make that". Well, yes, it is easy, but any soVietnamese child was raised on it. Thats one reason its so great - it's so easy it was no problem to cook it up even though I was feeling lazy. I browsed around on the net for some basic ideas, and winged it.

Basically, here's what you do;
I guess I used too much rice - I used 2 cups jasmine rice and 8 cups water (you really want the rice to break down) but I could have used 1 cup rice and 6 cups water (so Hung tells me). I suppose that would have been enough too - I kept having to add more water, so who knows how much I ended up with. And it was still thicker than I've had it elsewhere.

I had about a pound of chicken thigh meat which I cut up (literally! who needs a cutting board?!) which I heated up a few pieces at a time in my beloved cast iron skillet before tossing them in the pot (perhaps this helped? I don't know).
I also cut off and peeled a nub of ginger which I thinly sliced and tossed in. I also threw in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. The only other spices/condiments I added were a few good pinches of kosher salt, a dash of soy sauce, some fresh ground pepper, a dash of crushed red pepper flakes and a light drizzle of sesame oil at the end. That sounds like a lot of flavouring, but its really not. Its very subtle. I think what you taste and smell mostly is the ginger and the jasmine rice. It not quite bland (which is good when your stomach is upset) but not spicy either.

Just before dishing it up I chopped up some green onion and tossed it in.

The giver of cast iron skillets has had a terrible sore throat lately and has been feeling very sick, and this is just what was needed.

It was filling, satisfying, mostly healthy (I wonder about that chicken thigh meat) and soothing. Besides all that, it was simple. A few cheap ingredients and very little prep work. Just toss a bunch of stuff and cook some meat on the side if you so desire. For a bit more work I've read that it is often served with a bunch of condiments like chopped cilantro, peanuts, chilies etc.

If you have any other congee suggestions let me know! I think I'll have fun playing around with this.

which is more important? i.e. which would you choose at the exclusion of the other?