Tag Archives: Food

Meringues at midnight

21 Aug

 

photoAugust 15th marks the annual National Lemon Meringue Day. I usually don’t jump on the bandwagon with these pseudo-holidays but lemon meringue just so happened to be Rey’s favourite desserts and something we’ve both been craving.

I got a late start to the day and didn’t begin until after dinner. Between the dough making, dough chilling, and custard-making, meringue pies take more than several hour to cook.  So although I wanted to make it happen before National Lemon Meringue Pie day was officially over, most of the “meringuing” happened after midnight. Since I was cooking in a man’s kitchen, and therefore without electric beaters, the meringue was the most daunting task. In the end though, meringue happened somehow and I now have a disproportionately strong right arm. I’ve never so badly appreciated simple modern kitchen tools or resented the concept of “medium peaks.” Rey also helped me whisk the egg whites to submission in between games of DoTA. Watching a muscular man beat egg whites to help you bake was one of the most pleasant and oddest things I’ve ever seen.
INGREDIENTS 

Dough 

1 cup + 2 tbsp cake and pastry flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 egg white, lightly whisked

Lemon Curd Filling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Meringue 

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/10 cup sugar
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

DIRECTIONS 

Dough

1. Sift the flour, sugar and salt to combine in a bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut in the butter by hand with a pastry cutter or on low speed until just small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture as a whole just begins to take on a pale yellow colour (indicating that the butter has been worked in sufficiently).

2. Stir the water and lemon juice together and add this to the dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling. Alternatively, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months and thawed in the fridge before rolling.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is in a circle that is just under ¼ inch thick. Lightly dust a 9” pie plate with flour. Press the dough into the pie plate and trim away any excess dough, pinch the edges to create a fluted pattern and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the chilled pie shell with tin foil and fill the foil with dried beans, raw rice or pie weights. Bake the pie shell for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights and bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes more, until the centre of the pie shell is dry-looking and just starts to brown a little. Immediately after removing the pie shell from the oven, brush the hot crust with a little of the whisked egg white. This will create a barrier to keep the crust crispy once filled. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.

Lemon Curd Filling 

1. For the filling, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot, then whisk in the cold water. Have the other ingredients measured and nearby. Bring the sugar mixture up to a full simmer over medium-high heat, whisking as it cooks, until the mixture is thick and glossy.

2. Pour about a cup of this thickened filling into the egg yolks while whisking, then return this to the pot and whisk just one minute more. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook until the filling just returns to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter then immediately pour the hot filling into the cooled pie shell (the filling will seem very fluid, but it will set up once chilled). Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to keep it hot. Immediately prepare the meringue topping.

3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed to high and gradually pour in the granulated sugar and icing sugar and continue whipping just until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.

Meringue

1. Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling, then dollop half of the meringue directly onto the filling (the filling will still be very soft, so work gently). Be sure to spread the meringue so that it completely covers the lemon filling and connects with the outside crust, then use a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl the meringue just a touch (this will secure it to the lemon curd). Dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and creates spikes. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes at 325 F, until the meringue is nicely browned. Cool the meringue completely to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.

Recipe adapted from Anna Olson.

Food and Social Identity

21 Apr

From celebrity chefs to specialty stores, the last decade has witnessed an explosion of food consciousness in modern culture. It’s a staple of popular media, resulting in the creation of omnimedia brands like Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay; while even inspiring entire networks devoted to around-the-clock programming. The hegemony of food in daily modern life means it’s been the recent subject of discussion and deconstruction from countless angles of serious academia to lighthearted social commentary. Of course food is more than sustenance, but I assert that it is even much more than a cultural, social or political phenomenon. It functions symbolically as a communicative and rhetorical practice by which we interact with others, forge relationships, and most importantly, it is a means through which we deliver rhetorical performances of selfhood in the creation of our social identities.

Clothing, hairstyles, and even zip codes are familiar to us as markers of social identity and self-expression. but food surpasses their non-edible counterparts in symbolic potential partly because it can be literally consumed and absorbed into the physical body. As an ingestible synecdoche of whatever social values and status we wish to embody, it’s distinguishable from an Audemars Piguet on his wrist or the vintage Lanvin on the crook of her arm. In the hyper-modern world of food, what we eat is personal—and in more ways than Savarin probably envisaged when he penned the words, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”

In fact, if sex is the instrument of species-reproduction, then eating is probably the means of self-reproduction. To exist can be boiled down to an activity of daily self-reproduction, and the material resource by which one performs this act is through food, both literally and rhetorically. For example, Recall Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s fantastical setting is rife with food objects, from tea cakes and potions to the infamous mock turtle soup. It’s fitting that Alice’s most significant interactions with Wonderland seem to involve acts of eating and dining with its locals. Her journey of transformation is both literal and metaphorical—while the cakes and potions cause her to shrink and grow, the literal consumption of food objects that Wonderland is furnished with occurs simultaneously with Alice’s development as a person and her eventual appropriation of Wonderland’s values of curiosity and absurdity. It seems as if even as early as the Victorian age, those like Carroll have been able to appreciate the rhetorical power of food as a symbol of self-transformation. Fast forward to the present age of the Self, it is no wonder that we have consciously or subconsciously unleashed the latent potential of food as a powerful tool for identity creation and attainment of social status.

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Alice at the Mad Tea Party

So how does food operate as a means by which we create and manage meaning in our lives? Historically, food was a powerful symbol of Britain’s identity as a colonial empire. Imported food like tea and citrus is compelling as a status symbol of Britain’s imperial reach because the evidence could be widely displayed upon virtually every dinner table in the nation, and reproduced every time those items are consumed by Britons. Today in practical terms, all you’d need to do is imagine the deliberation that goes into each time you labour over the question of where to take your date for dinner. What food you choose to place between you and your date is ultimately a decision to communicate to them what you believe they represent and what you can offer as a partner. The food that you share together is an act of simultaneous self-reproduction. What you eat together therefore symbolizes how you desire to grow together as a duo. I personally have difficulty accepting coffee dates while dinner plans will tend to signal to me that a man sees me as serious potential for forging a meaningful relationship together. To me, a dinner table can be read like a text, and what someone chooses to communicate through the text is a reflection of what they expect you to accept into both your literal, physical body, but also your sense of self. To me, anything short of a complete and meaningful meal is an interesting rhetorical signal to me that they value me as something short of a complete and meaningful person.

Lost in the upper-middle class fantasy of health consciousness and clean-eating, we are perhaps unable or unwilling to recognize the subtler reasons why we stand behind things like organic food movements and restaurants that inexplicably demand the most ancient and un-hybridized grains for a simple dish. These are perhaps better viewed as performances that help us actualize modern, desirable values of individuality and counter-culture.

But I digress, my point isn’t really to assert what exactly food symbolizes for us as social individuals—that would require an enormous amount of spilt ink. There’s a lot to think and talk about when it comes to food; the possibilities for food to affect self-transformation is potentially limitless. And since food is so intimately tied to production of self-identity, it is perhaps a personal experience of introspection that is worth at least some consideration. Chew on that thought the next time you eat.

 

Review: La Carnita

28 May

Hello this is Calvin! Megan is forcing me to write about our dinner at La Carnita. Instead of asking me nicely to write about our food adventures she just issues vague threats to me every few hours or so, which, I dunno, seems to working thus far so good for her I guess. Prior to La Carnita we were at High Park looking at cherry blossoms through our phones/camera lens, which turned out to be pretty meh since you really are just crowding around a bunch of pink trees with a bunch of other asians. I’d wager you’d get more out of it if you had a picnic there, or a ball to throw around, or something other than just going there to take photos of the cherry blossoms, because you’ll soon realize that they all look…the same. Anyway, we got hungry and headed to La Carnita despite much protestation from both of us because we are lazy and the restaurant was far (and we took the subway down so we didn’t have a car), so much so that we called Arthur (who was in Markham) and asked him to have dinner with us in order to manipulate him into driving us to our destination. Before we could reach him though, we somehow ended up on the subway and were already well on our way to our dinner. Arthur came down anyway.

La Carnita, like a lot of restaurants (for whatever reason) do not have signage out front that explicitly state the name of the establishment, which can make it a pain to locate them sometimes. Luckily, the exterior of La Carnita is all black, with a white Day of the Dead skull on the side of the awnings; the placemat at the front spells out the word GRINGO in bold white type. Pretty sure we were in the right place.

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I was a little bit disappointed when the hostess greeted us in English instead of Spanish to go along with the whole theme. Not that I understand any Spanish of course, but panic and confusion and desperate glances at your friends and awkward smiles are part of the fun when trying new things. We were seated near the back and very quickly settled ourselves and started to comb through the menu.

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The menu is anchored by a healthy selection of tacos (which the waiter recommended 2-4 for each person), complimented by a variety of starters and desserts. We ordered the Mexican Street Corn and Rice & Corn Frituras for starters, and since there were 3 of us, we ordered one of each taco (there are 6, excluding that of the daily special). The starters came and they were all well and good, although the corn was probably a bit overpriced at $8 for 2 pieces. The frituras were like Mexican takoyakis, only stuffed with brown rice and corn instead of octopus.

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Our half dozen tacos arrived shortly after. The server explained to us which each one was, but we weren’t really listening, because you know, hungry. We all picked one and went to town, and about 10 minutes later, no more tacos. And still hungry. So we ordered another half dozen, skipping on the ones that were just alright and doubled up on the ones we fancied. We also got the daily special taco, which had mixed mushrooms in it.

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Of the ones that we all tried (I think we all didn’t try at least one of them), our favourites were the Tostada de Ceviche and In Cod We Trust, but all of them are worth a shot. The tacos are not that big (and are priced accordingly, with most of them under $5), so you can definitely get away with ordering all of them without looking like a taco monster.

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We finished off with some churros and the bill came to just north of $100 for 3 people; if you order drinks then it’d be more, but the pricing is pretty reasonable. By the time we left the restaurant it was cold out and we were glad for Arthur’s companionship but mostly for the transportation that it came with. We sang loudly and poorly to Taylor Swift songs while he tried to get us back to Finch Station as quickly as possible. Overall, it was a good dining experience and we’d definitely come back, but only if Arthur drives us straight there. And maybe could take us shopping or something before that.

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 May

I might have over 60 batches of chocolate chip cookies under my belt, assuming an average of one every two months for the past decade or so. One of the best calculations I’ve ever had to do in my head.

But what I must have been chasing all this time has waited until now to finally materialize: the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I generally have a soft spot for sweet and salty combinations. Ever since I had Momofuku Milk Bar’s pistachio ice cream, I’ve been finding myself sneaking salt into a bunch of different sweets; so you know these cookies never had a chance.

Another thing about me is I find the crunchy type of chocolate chip cookie annoying. They crumble all over my sheets because of course I’m going to consume them  in bed, sometimes horizontally, to complete the gluttonous picture. Why go half way?

On the other hand, a thin crispy outer layer with a soft gooey center is positively dreamy. Finally, a generous chocolate chip-to-cookie ratio is a must.

Recipe

yield 1.5 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp sea salt 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup white granulated sugar 
1 tbsp vanilla extract 
1 egg 
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
 
Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt
3. Mix together melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and egg.
4. Combine dry and wet ingredients until just blended.
5. Stir in chocolate chips until well-distributed 
6. Drop dough 1/4 at a time on ungreased, unlined cookie sheet, slightly help mould dough into circular discs but not over-compacting. 
7. Bake for 15 minutes in oven until edges are lightly toasted. 
 

WIld Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

18 Dec

wild_rice_squash

Ingredients:

1 c. Wild rice 
2 acorn squash
shredded mozzarella
dried cranberries
butter
shallot
garlic
rosemary
cumin powder
salt
pepper

Directions: 

1. preheat oven to 450 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise and place cut side down on a aluminum lined cookie sheet.

2. place squash in oven and roast about 45 minutes or until the tip of the knife is able to easily pierce the skin

3. meanwhile, melt butter in a medium-large saucepan. Stir in shallot, garlic, and rosemary; season with cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until shallots become translucent.

4. Add rice and cook with 2 cups of water, about 20-25 minutes

5. remove from heat and stir in cranberries; fill the inside of each squash and serve topped with shredded mozzarella.

Game of Throne serves up delicious fantasy fare

10 Aug




Now that I have become a big, nerdy fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones since seeing the first episode a couple of months back, I have no choice but to produce something quasi-useful with this very time consuming obsession.

Despite upturning my nose at all things medieval and fantastical for most of my life, I now proudly raise my banners for George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (SOIAF) series, the books from which Game of Thrones is developed. I was working my way through the middle of the second book, Clash of Kings, when I realized that despite the incredible amount of unsavouriness in the books (incest, beheadings, chopping off of manhoods etc etc), reading SOIAF never fails to work up my appetite. To be sure, creamed herring is hardly considered a delicacy in my neck of the woods, but I often find myself drooling over paragraphs describing the many banquets and meals enjoyed by the Westerosi.

Though Martin has an obvious talent for chronicling the details of all sorts of things like clothing, scenery, and people, food has always been particularly lush in description and often quite rife with symbolism and foreshadowing. Aside from the stylistic appeal, there are other reasons why I think food plays an important role in his books.

For one, Martin does a great job of using the occasional meal to punctuate his plot progression. Since the books are often laden with bloodshed, plotting, and general unrest, both the weary characters and a reader benefit from a brief escape into the arms of food and its reminder of homely comforts. Whether you’re Dothraki, Lannister, Stark, or a Wildling beyond the wall, we all must eat--so it is this universal joy and necessity that Martin recognizes and wields in order to unite all those in the Seven Kingdoms and lands beyond the Narrow Sea.

I think i’m sufficiently inspired to possibly create some recipes for a meal with dishes mentioned in the books. So very excited, should be up in a couple of days I hope.

Eating: a paltry meal of Tim Horton’s sandwich and soup combo
Craving: Thai food and awesome malay curries


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