Chef Profile: Alexa

We’re pleased to introduce our third chef to you — your intrepid chief blogger and second twin of the family… Alexa ! She’s kindly and cooperatively agreed to answer the same questions to offer you a better sense of her culinary personality

Favorite ingredient: Hmm fruit in savory dishes. No. Roasted red peppers. Also goat cheese.
Favorite foods: Red peppers and bread and Arizona green iced tea.
Favorite snack: edamame and roasted red peppers
Personal cooking speciality: soups soups soups. Also, crepes. Also, eating red peppers. Also taking on needlessly complicated projects.
Best/worse meals consumed: Ever? That’s a silly question, person who came up with questions. All Thanksgiving dinners, I guess. Also, other stuff. Worst is the same as Lucas’ — words cannot appropriately express the epic failure that was that restaurant in Christchurch. If we (and our honorary triplet who was also there) can’t think of anything else to talk about, we can always mention that restaurant and have a good chuckle. It’s, like, the perfect punch line in any situation!
Favorite meal of the day: Least favorite, I’ll answer. Breakfast. I do not like breakfast. Ugh. Eggs. Gross.
A cooking mishap: No mishaps. Perfect record.
General hobbies/interests: Books, boggle, crossword puzzles, belted galloways, outdoors, croquet, games, hiking.
Will not Eat…: Well, I eat most things. But not milk or eggs. (I mean, I’ll eat them in things — of course, but if you can taste the milk-ness or egg-ness of milk or eggs – Ugh! I’m out. Unpleasant). I still pride myself on being an excellent eater, despite that quirky quirk.

Look at all those edamame shells (I swear, there a lot there)! Took this picture to show off the excess of my edamame consumption to my fellow edamame lovers (that’s you, Ivana and Susannah!!) but I don’t think I ever sent it…

Wednesday Night Soup

Some of our dinner guests are dismayed by Alexa’s habit of making soup for — gasp — dinner. However! Soup is delicious. Alexa is still most tickled by the immersion blender she received for Christmas. Additionally, it is important to squeeze in as much soup as possible while it is still somewhat cool out. So, black bean soup was on the menu last Wednesday. Alexa loves Mark Bittman’s recipe for smoky black bean soup in How to Cook Everything but she is too diminutive to reach the cookbook shelf with any ease so she approximated.

The ingredients are more or less as follows:

1 Onion (We like sweet onions)

Some olive oil

Chili powder, to taste

4 cups black bean, drained/rinsed

4 cups chicken stock

Chipotle pepper in adobo

Lime

cilantro, sour cream, cheese for garnish

We suggest started by chopping the onion, pouring some olive oil into large pot, sautéing the onion in the aforementioned large pot until soft and sweet. One then adds the chili powder, however much one thinks is appropriate. Cook for a little more. Then add beans, stock, chipotle pepper — raise heat to high, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for ten ish minutes. I like putting in less stock and maybe adding more at the end as I prefer a thicker soup. Oh. Then blend it. You can do it in batches in a regular blender, and you can certainly leave some of the beans unblended. But past experience indicates that blendering soup can be dangerous. Oh – then squeeze in lime, to taste. We like to garnish with cilantro, sour cream and maybe some shredded cheese.

Because this was a light dinner, we also made sweet potato fries. We love sweet potato fries. We peel the potatoes, chop them into fry like shapes, put them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt, pepper. This time we also added some asiago cheese to bowl the fries and then baked them at 425 F for about 15-18 minutes on a side. There has been much discussion on how to get fries crispy. This time, we tried heating up the pan in the oven before hand and putting them on a hot tray. It sort of worked. Any other suggestions?

Monday Night Waffles

Tonight’s meal was inspired by a staple from the restaurant Sneakers’ (Winooski, Vermont) menu. The dish is sweet potato waffles and chicken and has been a source of inspiration on many cold college Sundays. The enthralling part of this meal is the unreal flavor that is imparted from the juxtaposition of culinary elements that don’t typically frequent the same social circles.  As the sweet potato waffles soften beneath the chicken gravy you begin to realize how brilliant this meal really is, but enough praise for Sneakers, below I will describe how I attempted this dish.

After some searching on the web of internets I came across a few suitable recipes and by borrowing the best points from each I attempted to turn mediocre into masterpiece.  The waffles required the following ingredients.

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

½  tsp salt

4 tspbaking powder

1 tsp spoon sage

3 eggs separated

½ cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

pinch of cream of tarter

2 medium sweet potatoes (chopped up, boiled until soft, mashed)

Combine the dry ingredients excluding the cream of tarter in a large bowl with a whisk. In a separate boil beat together the milk, oil, egg yolks and sweet potatoes. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry without over mixing. Finally, beat the egg whites with the cream of tarter until frothy and fold into the dough.

Follow directions on your typical waffle maker and cook waffles until browned on the outside.

The gravy I choose relies on the flavor of caramelized onions, make this ahead of time by cooking one large onion thinly sliced into rounds with olive oil over medium heat for roughly 40 minutes, if is taking too long or you want a sweeter flavor sprinkle some brown sugar on the onions to expedite the process.  For the gravy you will also need the following;

2 tbs butter

2 tbs flour

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup milk

1/3 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of nutmeg

 

Melt the butter and slowly whisk in the flour to create a roux. Then slowly add small amounts of liquid starting with the milk and alternating between each. Allow for the gravy to thicken and then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and finally the caramelized onions.

While stirring the sauce you should be simultaneously cooking the chicken. While this meal would traditionally be served with fried chicken I simply cooked it in olive oil in a skillet. You should dredge roughly a pound of chicken tenders in flour with paprika to taste and once the skilled is hot cook until tender and brown on the outsides.

Now all that remains is putting the pieces together which entails placing two tenders on each waffle and topping with sauce, I also served peas alongside which complemented the dish excellently.

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Profile: Lucas

Delighted to introduce you to one of the recently graduated twin child (ha!) chefs. This is Lucas. He is an excellent cooker. Lucas reports on the family survey questions (extra blogger commentary in blue):

Favorite ingredient: Butternut squash, balsamic vinegar, israeli cous cous
Favorite foods: sweet potatoes. (He makes excellent roasted sweet potatoes and phenomenal sweet potato fries)
Favorite snack: juice (he means fresh, homemade in a juice maker juice – expect a post on that!) chia seeds (Does anyone else eat these? They’re weird)
Personal cooking speciality: gingerbread houses (see photo below, impressive huh?)
Best/worse meals consumed: best thanksgiving dinner (family thanksgiving will definintely be a future topic – we eat chicken instead of turkey…intriguing, yes?) , worst in NZ (The twins spent a semester together in New Zealand and had the. worst. meal. ever at an Asian place in Christchurch. Comically bad. Should not have counted as food)
Favorite meal of the day (why??): dinner (Yeah, why?!)
A cooking mishap: the time sis made soup and broke the house (there was an explosion – broke is an exaggeration)
General hobbies/interests: running, cycling, winning, badminton, squash, snow
Will not Eat…: doesn’t really apply, best eater in the house (hmm… we’ll see if that is true)
Check out this gingerbread house!

Profiteroles

Was anyone else rather distressed when Mark Bittman ended his tenure as The Minimalist for The New York Times? Cause we sure were …don’t laugh, it really was upsetting. Sure, he’s still around on the Opinion pages but it’s just not the same as watching his videos – not only did I want to eat everything he made, but I wanted to make it, like, that very second. Everything always looked so much easier when he did it.

Anyway, he maintained that profiteroles were totally doable and, of course, The Minimalist was right. (See, that was the problem when he left – I just trusted him so completely — he was always right, and so comforting — that his departure felt a little personal. I’m getting over it, I promise.) Still, his recipe for choux pastry is super simple, and basically easy – if you don’t mind mixing and mixing and mixing. Also, the dough looks really unpleasant (like raw chicken, I think) when you’re in the process of working in the eggs.

See? Weird looking

You can find his recipe here.

Instead of topping them with raspberry sauce (our kitchen didn’t have any raspberries) we melted bittersweet chocolate (4 oz.) with a little water (2 T) and heavy cream (less than 1/4 cup) in a double burner and then threw some kaluha into the mix (about 3 Ts). We cut them around their equators, stuffed in some coffee-chocolate chip ice cream and drizzled some chocolate sauce over them. The Minimalist instructs you to let the profiteroles cool before eating but we are generally impatient and loved the hot/cold mix of the ice cream and fresh pastry.

 

Oops! In thinking about making these last night, I realized I got distracted by how frozen my stick of butter was and forgot that the recipe called for 6 tablespoons, not the entire stick. I think I just put the whole stick in. Must pay better attention to details. Easily distracted. Fortunately, they still tasted (and looked) delicious.

Chef Profile: Alison

We should probably introduce our four chefs, huh? We’ll start with Alison (see her back there?), since this was her whole idea in the first place and she’s the best resource for any of the family’s many cooking questions.

We offer the biased (but still true) report that she is an excellent cook and we are quite lucky that she fed us, almost singlehandedly, for a long time. Now, what’s her role in the family dinner preparation schedule? Well, she’s not as inclined to turn cooking into a competition and perhaps feels less need to prove her skills in the kitchen…making her meals no less delicious, of course.

She’s agreed to answer some questions regarding her food style/preferences/dislikes (and we’ve decided to include her idiosyncratic formatting) – here goes:

Favorite foodsI still like pizza a lot! roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar
Favorite snack: dark chocolate
Personal cooking speciality: chocolate chip cookies with everything
Best/worse meals consumed: I can’t pick favorites the best is the future when we are all making a component of a special dinner.
A fond cooking memory: everyone working together to make popcorn balls on christmas eve
Favorite meal of the day (why??): dinner of course.
A cooking mishap: does this have to be recent? pork caught on fire the other night. spilling boiling water on my stomach ending up on the kitchen floor in a ball of pain
General hobbies/interests: I’m kind of crafty (the biased narrator adds that she is VERY crafty, in the craft sense) — knitting, sewing, +cross country skiing, kayaking
Will not Eat…ketchup

We have big plans to make ketchup at home, so we’ll report back on whether or not she’ll eat that.

And here’s a picture of the popcorn ball cooperation she mentioned – a very fun family tradition on Christmas Eve.


Sushi action

Check out this action shot from sushi night — unfortunately, our diligent chef multitasked as the photographer…but we were collaborating on the salad!

Did you notice our color-coded cookbook shelf? What do you think of it?