Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recipe: Carrot Souffle

Mr. Bill Cook, founder of Cook Medical, and the reason I ended up in Bloomington, passed away on April 15th. I don't know if it was among his favorites, but I do know he immensely enjoyed this recipe. The way I've heard the story is this souffle was served at the Cook Employee Banquet one year and the attendees, including Mr. Cook, absolutely loved it. Next year it was gone and the attendees, including Mr. Cook, were not pleased. The following year it was back.

What Mr. Cook wanted, Mr. Cook got. But when you're an entirely unpretentious billionaire that doesn't care about money, I think people are generally alright with you getting your way.

Carrot Souffle
Adapted from the kitchens of the West Baden Resort
60 minutes, 45 minutes unattended
6 servings as a side
Difficulty: Easy

  • 1 lb. carrots
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Peel the carrots and boil them in a large pot of salted water until tender.
  3. Drain the carrots and place them in a food processor with the sugar, vanilla, melted butter, olive oil, flour, eggs, nutmeg and salt. Process until smooth.
  4. Pour into a greased 8x8 dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Leftover quality: Good

Tips and Tricks:
  1. To speed up the boiling, cut the carrots down from their full length before adding them to the water. Test the doneness with a fork – if it goes through easily, they’re cooked enough.
  2. You can bake the soufflés in individual ramekins if you’d like. Reduce the baking time to 30-35 minutes if you choose this method.
  3. If you’re baking in the 8x8 dish, you can serve the soufflé sliced from the dish, or you use a fork to whip the soufflé and serve it like mashed potatoes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Recipe: Romesco Potatoes

I am puzzled by how I have gone my entire life without having heard of Romesco sauce before a couple of weeks ago. Simply Recipes posted a recipe in their blog that I was immediately intrigued by. Roasted red peppers, garlic, almonds? Blended and roasted to perfection? Yes, please.

Once I dug around a bit more, I found that this sauce hails from the Catalan region of Spain. The most traditional components are the nuts and red peppers. Garlic and roasted tomatoes make typical appearances as well, but Romesco sauces are that kind of recipe that everyone has their own version of.  The sauce is not meant to be spicy and is meant to have a consistency more similar to a chutney than a smooth sauce.

After cooking this once and exploring some variations, I've settled on the version you see below. I have put the sauce over potatoes and pasta, but I'm nearly certain it would be delicious on almost anything you'd wish pair it with.  The potatoes are especially good because of their texture that holds its own and their flavor that begs for something to take it up a notch.

Romesco Potatoes
Adapted from Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen
50 minutes
3-4 servings

  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup almonds, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 12-ounce jar of roasted bell peppers, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and cut into large, bite-sized pieces. Spread potatoes out over a  well-oiled baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Bake for 25 minutes.
  3. Place the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.
  4. Saute the almonds, stirring frequently until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
  5. Place the contents of the skillet into a food processor with the salt, tomatoes, bell peppers, paprika and balsamic vinegar. Process until mostly smooth (the sauce should remain a bit chunky) and scrape sauce into a bowl.
  6. Remove baking sheet from the oven and spread the sauce over the potatoes. Use as much or as little sauce as you’d like.
  7. Return the potatoes to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Place any unused sauce in a sealed container and refrigerate.
  8. Remove potatoes from the oven and allow to cool briefly before serving.

Leftover quality: Good

Tips and Tricks:
  1. Top the potatoes with a dollop of Greek yogurt for an additional, cool flavor.
  2. If you want to just make the sauce, follow steps 3-5, then spread the sauce in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
  3. The sauce alone can be stored up to two weeks in the refrigerator and also freezes extremely well.
  4. Use sauce on chicken, pasta, as a spread, or anything else you’d like to pair it with.

Cooking for Beginners

Last Monday I kicked off my Cooking for Beginners class through the Bloomington Free School. I made it very clear to my students from the beginning that I am no expert in this field and have had no formal training. I'm just a gal who likes food and talking about food a whole lot more than normal people. No fancy titles for me. Just Emily Meade, source of endless food gab.

This is the first time I've ever done any formal teaching on food and cooking. And again, I made this clear to my students and apologized for the guinea-pig nature of what was about to be brought upon them.

Then I informed the room that in an effort to keep from lecturing at them, I wanted to make our time together very interactive and discussion oriented. Which meant I'd be asking a lot of questions and making them taste all sorts of weird things. And again, these troopers were game.

The structure and content for this class was developed in a true "stab in the dark" fashion. I'm trying to keep track of everything as I go along so if when I teach another session, it'll keep getting better.

The class is set up in three 90-minute sessions. The first covered kitchen basics, mostly equipment, tools and ingredients. I sat out on my back porch a few weeks ago in the beautiful springtime sun and devoted hours of going through a list of basic pieces of kitchen equipment and tools and discussing how to use them, care for them, shop for them, etc. And then I realized something. Even frat boys making ramen noodles have some cooking tools. They may not know how to use them most effectively, but they have them. Anyone with a kitchen most likely has something in it.

Feeling like a dummy (curse you, distracting springtime sun!) I quickly wrapped up my information on tools and moved on to the second portion of the class: Ingredients. After my kitchen equipment epiphany, I realized this is where I'd really be putting the meat on the bone. But unlike kitchen equipment, talking about ingredients needed to be much more hands on. There's a lot you can say about an ingredient, but because its ultimate utilization is going to be perceived through taste it made sense to me to spend time actually tasting the stuff.

During the class, I opened with introductions around the room that included what was the last thing you cooked and what would be your dream dish to learn how to make. I was relieved to hear all of the dream dishes were things I am confident I can teach how to make (yay!). After intros we went through the basics of kitchen equipment (I did spend all that time working on it, after al) and then moved on to ingredients.

For the ingredient portion I brought along the contents of my cooking liquid and spice cabinets. The first thing I did was a demo on making homemade popcorn. This was for two reasons: One, I wanted them to taste spices and bread didn't seem like the best vehicle for that and two: I felt like it would be a total cop out to teach a cooking class and do no cooking. Once we had popcorn, we went to town on using bread and popcorn pieces to taste various cooking liquids, spices and herbs. I asked them to sample something and then tell me what it tasted like. Was it sweet or salty? What flavors can you pick up? Do you like the taste? What does it remind you of? I wanted to get them out of the act of putting food in their mouths and into the act of paying attention to what that food said to them.

I shared with the ladies in my class my thought process for teaching ingredients in this way. I explained my rationale of ingredients being the biggest thing about cooking that people who aren't currently cooking don't understand. It's easy enough to figure out how to cook store bought pasta, but what is in pasta? They agreed that the ingredients were in need of the most demystifying.

For the next time around I plan to introduce more ingredients on the first day, but also provide a list of what they're tasting with space to write in their reactions to it so the students leave class with a list of ingredients they are now familiar with.

Next week we'll focus on cooking techniques. I'll be pulling from actual recipes to teach basics like boiling, baking, braising, sautéing, stir-frying, etc. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smells Like Bacon

Right now, my entire apartment smells like bacon. I finished cleaning up dinner hours ago. And yet the smoky-sweet aroma is still lingering.

It makes me think of when I was a kid and we'd go visit my Nana and Pa on the farm. My mother and her mother would always be up with the crows (as they'd say) and make a feast of a breakfast that the rest of us would graze on whenever the spirit moved us to finally get out of bed on a lazy Saturday morning. I, however, took no pleasure in sleeping in. I was always awakened by the bacon alarm. The second that smell drifted over my nostrils I would leap from my bed, run down the stairs, turn a sharp corner it to the kitchen, bolt halfway into the room and stop. I would then take a dramatic inhale through my nose and excitedly announce "I smell bacon!" to my mother, aunt and grandmother sipping coffee at the table.

I think I must have eaten a little too much bacon on one of those mornings once upon a time because my love for bacon mysteriously evaporated sometime before I hit teenage years. What a fool I was then. I don't love it as much now...or maybe it's just that I now understand arterial I don't eat it all that often, but when I do, it's kind of wonderful.

That is why I felt compelled to share with you the current state of the air in my home.

And now, to complete this cop-out blog post (because did I really just apostrophize about bacon that entire time?) I shall lead you to other people who will talk more about bacon:

The birthplace of the bacon martini:

A coworker of mine made these for a cookie exchange last Christmas...they were surprisingly delicious:

And some more bacon for y'all:

Regularly scheduled recipe posting to resume on the next entry. Please pardon the interruption.