Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Rarity In These Hectic Days

I just received a call from Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC-Hawaii)i, my favorite Kona coffee producer, to make sure that it was OK if they put the receipt in my box...because it's being mailed to an address other than my billing address. This makes an impression because it's the sort of thing that I would think about. This is going to a different address, is it a gift? If so, it's tacky to have the receipt with dollar amount, a gift receipt for returns OK, in the box.

I'm getting ahead of myself...every year, I order a pound of good Kona coffee for future father in-law's (FFIL) Christmas gift. I order from UCC because I've been to the plantation, done the tour and roasted my own coffee. In short, I know they have good product...just the sort of thing to give to a FIL.

Did I mention that they called me last week to apologize for their ordering system thinking that they had ground pea berry in stock? And they understood why I couldn't order the whole bean (whole bean pea berry is in stock)...it's a gift and I'm not buying a grinder to go with the coffee.

Anyway, I was impressed with their customer service. Not e-mails...personal service, something I find a rarity nowadays (especially when you consider that it's just a $30 order). If you're in the market for high quality Kona coffee then I recommend UCC. They're friendly people that are passionate about coffee.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bucking Tradition

We will not have a turkey at Blackbird Tavern for Thanksgiving. DBF is cooking the meat and he doesn't do birds...which is fine because I don't do roasts. We picked up two boneless legs of lamb over the weekend and DBF should be picking up the last of the marinade ingredients. I don't have the recipe but I do know that the marinade involves 1 bottle of port wine (per leg), fresh garlic, rosemary, and ginger. And...Kahlua for the cook (apparently it's cheaper than Sheep Dip).

I will be making corn bread (more on that later), mashed potatoes, minted peas, asparagus and pumpkin pie. I was going to make buttered carrots for some color contrast but DBF's mom doesn't like cooked carrots. We sat down to dinner last year and, to my horror, I realized that other than the broccoli and cranberries we were eating a meal in shades of brown. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread and sausage dressing...brown, brown, brown... So this year we'll have two greens.

Corn bread...corn bread...corn bread. I will be making 5 pans (that's 2.5 recipes) of corn bread this year. Two pans for DBF to take to his office party, two for a Thanksgiving dinner I'm not attending and one pan for the one that I'm hosting. I made the first two pans last night and they do not want to pop out of their pans...hopefully this is not foreshadowing of events to come. I only have two pans! I can't afford to let them leave the house, I need at least one for my own dinner, and I don't want to pre-cut the cornbread because that will lead to dryness. Seriously, the recipe starts with melting 3 sticks of butter...and lubing up the pan...and they're still stuck!

DBF's parents will be here tomorrow. The house is almost FMIL clean and I narrowly avoided being sick. Hurray for OTC cold medications!

I'd like to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you're able to spend the day with people that you care about.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What evil lurks in the heart of a pumpkin?

None, it's just seeds and stringy stuff. As mentioned in my Monday post, I'm doing a test run on pies for Thanksgiving. DBF vetoed the gluten free pumpkin pie recipe (part 1 and part 2) so I used the recipe on the back of the can of organic pumpkin. My "family recipe" is the one of the back of the Libby's can. In my experience, the can recipes are all very similar...1 can puree, 1 can condensed milk, a couple of eggs and spices.

The crust was store bought, I'll probably make it from scratch for the big day, so the only difference between the two pies was the puree. Yes, the fresh puree was more yellow than the canned. They both...tasted like pumpkin. But when one's entire pumpkin experience is likely based upon consumption of the canned product...one does not have a good baseline for comparison. The consistency was the same, I was very careful to remove the stringy bits prior to puree.

A day of puree draining and an hour in the oven later...pies! As you can see, I used my ceramic pie plates. Can you guess which one is which? Hmm? Can you? The one on the right, green pie plate, is the one that I made from scratch.

As exciting as preparing to bake and actually baking the pies was...eating the pie is better. I conducted a blind taste test with DBF and Evil Minion.

Scratch: Spicier. More bitter.

Canned: Molassesy. Sweeter.

Evil Minion
Does not want me to watch her as she eats the pie...a reasonable request.

Canned: Tastes more vegetably. Sweeter. Molassesy.

KP Verdict
I don't know if it was worth the work to process the pumpkin. Either my pumpkins weren't very sweet to begin with or there's something in the canning process that causes the puree to become sweeter, probably the extra heat. If the goal is to capture the flavor of the harvest then yes, it is worth the extra work to prepare the puree yourself. If you believe, as I do, that the intentions of the cook can influence the flavor of the food then yes, cut out as much of the external processing as possible. If you only need to make one pie a year to keep the future mother-in-law (FMIL) happy then...make it from scratch or at least make it look like you made it from scratch. I have enough puree to make this year's pie from scratch but I might be dumping out a can of puree into a container that I can conveniently remove from the refrigerator when FMIL watches me bake. Me? Evil? Never...

Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Could Have. Should Have. Didn't.

“I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it.” - Samuel Goldwyn (1882 - 1974)

I have a couple of posts of actual substance kicking around in my brain but they aren’t fully formed, at least not enough for me to communicate to somebody that doesn’t know me in real life. What happened to the posting schedule? I could make excuses about how I had to work late, or how I’ve been cleaning the house, or I was agonizing over my contributions two “light lunches,” or that I might have had a gallbladder attack (bad Penguin didn’t go to the doctor). But I said I was going to do something and I didn’t do it; that seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately. I could have…should have…but didn’t…prepare a month of standalone posts that I could use if I didn’t have time to write a post prior to the “re-launch” of Kitchen Penguin. The past is past and the future will be here all too soon, the present situation is that I don’t have filler posts so I’m four posts behind.

What I do have is three pumpkins worth of puree sitting in a cheesecloth lined colander draining into a large bowl in my refrigerator. There will be pie in the office tomorrow! I used the method described on Eating Rules to process the sugar pumpkins. I also have a can of Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin so this will be a side by side taste test...is processing the pumpkin worth the effort? My initial observation is that the fresh pumpkin is yellower, because it wasn't heated in a can, but I don't generally go around eating unadulterated pumpkin puree so I don't have a good comparison on the flavor. The fresh puree tastes...well...like pumpkin. I wouldn't call it sweet but I wouldn't call it flavorless; it would make a good soup. There will be photos and reactions from my test subjects...DBF and co-workers...

T-10 days to Thanksgiving...are you ready?

Happy Cooking!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Waka For My Rice Cooker

I have mentioned my rice cooker before. The one I have isn't fancy; it doesn't have a warm setting, a timer, or fuzzy logic...it cooks rice and that's all I need it to do. It knows when the "sushi" rice, the basmati rice, or the brown rice is done and it has a home in the kitchen away from the active prep/cooking area. My rice cooker is probably the most utilized small appliance in the kitchen.

Steamy tendrils rise
One less thing that I can burn
Three cups rice washed plus
One knuckle water, press start
Itadakimasu, yum!

What's in your kitchen that's worthy of counter space?

Happy cooking!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Manic Monday

The kitchen is a mess and I have a migraine. No post today, check back Wednesday. Did you all have a happy Halloween? We had 10 trick-or-treaters at KP HQ...lots of leftover candy.

Happy Cooking!