Ville Crawl Delights

I don’t know about other college kids, but Swarthmore students love Hall Crawls. Every dorm picks a drink and the hall travels from room to room sampling different cocktails. A group of kids (myself included)who live off campus  decided that just because we want to escape dorm life, doesn’t mean we should sacrifice one of it’s best perks, so we arranged to have a Ville Crawl, to all of our apartments.

One thing led to another, and tastey tapas style bites were added to the plan. I jumped at the opportunity to make fun little snacks. With the help of my roommates (photos taken by Ming), we were pleased to offer Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Goat Cheese, Onion/Fennel Jam, and Dijon Phyllo Triangles, and Ginger Snap Ice Cream Sandwiches (Not Pictured.) Ming was our master bartender and made her deadly Berry and Citrus Spritzer.

I don’t really have recipes to give you for any of the snacks served, because it all stop and go type creative process. However, I will tell you that I used 8 cippolini onions and 1 large bulb of fennel (and a handful of its fronds), cane sugar, salt, and pepper to make the jam. Also, please try Anna’s ginger thins as the cookie for an ice cream sandwich if you ever want to dazzle friends in the easiest way possible.

Here are some pics. Note our newly acquired monogrammed napkins. Oh, and as a PSA type thing. I used a cleaned out salsa jar for my jam (not expiration date in photo), but I knew I was using it the next day so I didn’t boil it or anything like that. SANITIZE if you want to have your jam for a while. Thanks (love ff&f management).

Crystallized Ginger

Do you need a good after meal snack? Something to munch on in class or at work? A little added zing to your tea?

I certainly did, until I found crystallized ginger. A little spicy, a little sweet, a lot chewy, this has quickly become one of my favorite confections. Buy it in bulk at your local grocery store if you are lazy, or make it with this super simple recipe!

Crystallized Ginger

1 large hunk of ginger, cut into thin slices

A simple syrup of 1 cup of sugar to 1/2 of a cup of water

Sugar for coating

Boil the ginger slices in plain old water for about 30 minutes, or until it is soft.

Drain. Bring simple syrup to a boil and add in ginger slices. Let simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Drain again, reserving your brand new batch of ginger simple syrup (perfect for tea, cocktails, or poached pears!)

Toss slices with sugar and let dry a bit. Enjoy!

Pics courtesy of Ming Cai Photography Studios (see more of her work here)

Movie Recommendation: Play Time

I stumbled across this movie by Jacques Tati (known primarily for Mon Oncle) on my last trip to the library and am totally thrilled I did. IT is absolutely hysterical and totally gorgeous (due to the amazing shots and incredible set design.) While it isn’t a totally narrative driven film, which often means pretentious and difficult to watch, Play time’s structure adds to the humor and is totally engrossing.

Dark Chocolate Macarons

Maybe I’m just buying into a hype machine of cupcake proportions, but I LOVE Macarons. These titans of French pastry are airy, have limitless flavor possibilities, and, if made by a master, cost a fortune. After sacrificing lunch to try the macarons of Ladurée and Hermé, I knew I had to try them out for myself. Fortuitously, this obsessive desire to make macarons coincided with the need to procrastinate during finals season, leading to an extensive scouring of the internet for recipes and techniques. My friend Sarah, a fellow macaron maker, sent me a link to this article, Demystifying Macarons. In it, Helen Dujardin carefully walks readers through the process of making these delightful cookies.

For my first attempt, I decided to stay basic and make the Dark Chocolate variety. I followed Helen’s recipe as best as I could, though I have to admit I had to fudge the measurements with good approximations because I didn’t have a metric scale (I definitely need to buy one.) I will include my estimations, but please look at her recipe and article for real guidance. The egg whites were estimated because I used my leftover egg whites (aged perfectly at 2 days)  from my creme brulées and there were too many. I also used the French meringue technique to take the easier route on the first go around, though I do love tinkering around with my candy thermometer (and, apparently, sounding obnoxious online).

Dark Chocolate Macarons (Adapted from Helen Dujardin’s Recipe)

1/3 of a cup of Egg Whites (approximately 3, I hope.)

5 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 heaping cup of powdered sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons of Unsweeted Cocoa

3/4 of a cup of raw almonds, ground (turned into about 1/2 a cup of ground almond powder, which is pretty consistent with other macaron recipes)

Grind up almonds with the powder sugar until extremely fine. Pass through a strainer and regrind the larger pieces until everything (or near everything) passes through. Mix in the cocoa powder and set the mixture aside.

Prepare the meringue until it is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Remember to add the sugar gradually after the egg whites begin to froth, and everything should go fine.

Fold in half the almond mixture. This should fairly easily incorporate. Then add in the rest attempting to combine it all with as few folds as possible. This is what my batter looked like…

I am not very adept with piping, so I cheated by using a tablespoon sized ice cream scoop to make uniform macaron shells. I plopped them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let sit for 1 hour, to form the feet. I think the ice cream scoop is a bit less consistent, because some of the shell’s feet were huge and lopsided, and I ended up trimming them a bit. Also, I would suggest flattening the macarons out a bit more, because mine were too dome like after cooking. Here is what they looked like after being baked at 375 for 12 minutes.

Let the shells cool before fussing with them. Once cooled, match the each shell with a twin like partner and prepare for filling. I filled mine with a simple chocolate ganache. The most important part of a ganache is to use good and very dark chocolate. I had a block that was .46 lbs and I added just under a cup of hot cream to complete the ganache, but follow any recipe or just use your eye to make your own batch. Here is the end result. A bit too round, but cute nonetheless.

The result:

They tasted really really good, but weren’t quite right. A little chewy and too much ganache made them seem extremely American. As if the Cheesecake Factory decided to add them to their menu. Next time I will work my butt off to make them better… and Pistachio flavored. Stay tuned.

Imagine if you were…

… Martha Stewart in the morning. There must be a lot of pressure to look impeccable and eat well presented breakfasts. There are no bowls of boxed cereal or halves of grapefruits. Instead, I imagine crocks of steaming homemade porridge and carefully segmented citrus wedges composed in an even more carefully selected decorative bowl.

Sometimes we forget how hard others have it. This morning I decided to plate my breakfast in honor of Martha’s struggles.

I wasn’t initially anticipating the bagel chip, but I think it tied the presentation together and gave the dish a much needed crunch. Otherwise, its just a half an avocado filled with last night’s pico de gallo (tomato, red onion, cilantro, and a splash of lime) and 2 soft scrambled eggs.

Photo Series 2

These photos were chosen from 3 rolls of film I just got developed. I’d like to say that I grew as a photographer after each new roll, but I honestly just kept pointing and clicking and hoping for something nice to come out at the end. They were taken on a Canon A-1.

Milan

“Il Duomo”

“Milan Cityscape”

Paris

“Le matin dans l’Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés”

“Early Morning Stroll”

“Brasserie”

Berlin

“Installation by Qiu Zhijie”

“Haus der Kulteren der Welt”

“Ferris Wheel by Alexanderplatz”

Brussels

“Belgian Chocolates”

“Merry-go-round on Christmas Eve”

Bruges

“Ancient Tree”

“Flemish Roof”

Chicken Pho and Chicken n’ Mushroom Potstickers

One of my favorite food spots in Grenoble was a Chinese restaurant (more accurately a Pan Asian) called Tu Bong. My friend Laura and I were amazed by the spicy sauces, the homemade tofu, and the unbelievably cute family that runs the restaurant. I didn’t taste the Pho, the definite menu highlight, until the final week of abroad.

Pho is a rice noodle soup served in a rich and flavorful broth with garnishes of bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and chili peppers. I decided to whip up a pot of it today using chicken as the protein, along with a batch of chicken and mushroom pot stickers. I know it’s a lot of chicken, but that’s what my family likes and the flavors were all good, so I was happy to oblige.

I searched around for all different recipes, and adapted them into this one. It’s pretty low maintenance, and doesn’t involve par-boiling or stripping a whole chicken, so that’s good. The flavor was yummy, but not as good as the real deal recipes you can find online and at Tu Bong. Also, feel free to substitute pork or beef or tofu.

Chicken Pho

Two Skinless Chicken Breast cut into chunks

1 Large knob of Ginger

A bunch of fresh cilantro

4 cups of Vegetable Broth

4 cups of Water

1/2 of a red onion sliced

2 1/2 tablespoons of Fish Sauce

5 tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon of Raw Turbinado Sugar

2 teaspoons of Chinese 5 Spice

2 teaspoon of Ground Coriander

5 cloves

5 pepper corns

Rice Noodles (4 servings)

Garnishes: Fresh mint, basil, and cilantro leaves; chopped scallions, bean sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, chopped chili peppers, lime wedges, Sriracha, etc.

Marinade the chicken for 30 minutes to 1 hour in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, 1 teaspoon of 5 spice, and 1 teaspoon of ground coriander. Cook the chunks in vegetable until just slightly undercooked in a really hot soup pot, making sure to brown all the sides. Remove the chicken from the pot and reserve for later. Add a bit more oil and saute the onion and 3 large chunks of ginger in the same pot. Once the onions start to soften add the rest of the soy sauce and the spices. Cook until the soy sauce has mostly evaporated. Add the broth, the water, the fish stock, and the bunch of cilantro leaves. Bring up to a boil and then let simmer for at least an hour. Strain the broth to remove all solids and skim the top if it looks too oily. Feel free to add more fish stock or more sugar to achieve the right balance of salt/sweet.

Boil the noodles as per the directions on the box. Strain. Add the noodles and the chicken to the broth and let simmer together for about 15 minutes before service.

Chicken and Mushroom Potstickers

1/2 pound ground chicken

1 bunch of chopped cilantro

2 chopped scallions

1 lightly beaten egg

1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 generous squirt of Sriracha

Wonton Skins

1/3 of a cup of finely chopped sauteed mushrooms (I used babybellas but use whatever type you have around the house or like)

Soy Sauce/Rice Wine Vinegar mixed together in equal proportions for a dipping sauce.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for about an hour. To make the pot sticker place a small ball of filling in the center. Dab warm water along two adjacent edges of the wonton skin and fold the other to over to form triangles. Be sure to seal the edges very tightly.

Lightly grease a pan with vegetable and bring up to a very high heat. Add as many pot stickers as will fit. You will knock your pan isn’t hot enough if the pot stickers don’t make a crackling sound when you add them. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. The edges should begin to brown. Add 1/2 a cup of water and seal with a lid, cooking the potstickers for another 2 minutes. Add more water if they are still stuck. Place in a warm oven while you make the rest of the batches.