Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two-Tone Delight

October is a very fine month. Death brings bright splashes of color to deciduous trees, soft sweaters warm skin on chilly mornings, and squash grows fat and ripe. Today's recipe, Two-Tone Cheesecake, showcases the Sugar Pie Pumpkin. Unlike it's common counterpart, the Field Pumpkin, Sugar Pie Pumpkins are sweeter and more tender, better for eating than carving jack-o-lanterns.

Two-Tone Cheesecake

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
Combine cracker crumbs and sugar. Incorporate the melted butter. Press into bottom and sides of a springform pan using your hands. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 7 minutes.

  • 3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 8oz can pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin, baked and mashed)
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to taste
  • preheat oven to 350
Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Blend in eggs one at a time. Fold in the sour cream.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of this mixture and spread it on your graham-encrusted springform pan.

Add the pumpkin to the remaining cream cheese mixture. Add spices and mix together. As a rule of thumb, use more cinnamon than any of the other spices and use ginger the least. Add roughly equal amounts of nutmeg and cloves. Take it easy, and taste often until your tongue sings with joy.

Spread pumpkin mixture on top of cheesecake layer. To prevent cracking, place your springform pan in a water bath prior to baking. Bake for 1 hour (the center should be set, but jiggle like Jello). Turn off oven and open door. Let cheesecake slowly cool for about 20 minutes before removing from oven. This will also prevent cracking. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mouth Orgasm

When you undertake an intense cooking project, you tend to smell like your cooking. For example, after chopping onions and garlic and cilantro for salsa, you hands will smell of onion, garlic, and cilantro for days afterwards, even after repeated washings. Yesterday, I toasted some spices that Jesse bought for me in India and created my own Garam Masala. The aromatic toasting of spices penetrates your skin, your clothes, your hair. I awoke this morning smelling of fresh Indian seasonings. It was beautiful.

Yesterday, the Blue Plate Spectaculars witnessed miracles in the kitchen. I believe we should drop out of college and open an Indian restaurant. Who knew we had the mastery of Indian cooking deep within ourselves, waiting to be released?

Amy. Oh Miss Amy. How you outdid yourself. She made 3
delightful appetizers. The first was fried plantains, drenched in liquid caramel and spotted with chocolate. Second there was a deep orange mash of beans, spices, and mango, tantalizing our taste buds. And finally, Amy's own concoction of Mango, spices, and Tamarind Chutney. Lorenzo exclaimed, "This is the best thing I have put in my mouth in a long time." Had I been wearing socks, I'm sure they would have been knocked off.

Lorenzo whipped up some mojitos to keep us cool in the heat of the kitchen. He muddled sugar and mint, topped it off with rum, and added a splash of club soda.

Mike and I collaborated on the main courses. Mike made an outstanding (and delightfully spicy) curry dish with baked eggplant, lots of garlic and ginger, and yogurt. It was creamy and packed a kick. When preparing eggplant, be sure to lightly salt it before placing it in the oven. The salt draws out the bitter juices from the vegetable, making it mellow and perfect for drawing in the flavors of spices.

He also made Batsmati rice, following a recipe given to him by a real-life Indian grandmother! Grandmothers know there stuff. The rice gets cooked with lots of cumin, peas, red bell pepper, and onion. It was perfect for soaking up all of the pungent sauces.

Because I enjoy a good challenge, I decided to make Navratan Korma, featuring a homemade Garam Masala spice mix and homemade Paneer. Making cheese is an empowering experience. Watching milk and lemon juice transform into an Indian staple right before your eyes is incredible, and to k
now that you did it with your very own hands...mmmm-hmm.

I hate to toot my own horn, but it was AMAZING! Mostly because I followed an awesome recipe, but I followed it well my friends, I followed it well. If you would like to follow it too, here is the link for Garam Masala and Navratan Korma. I did not use Saffron in my Garam. Also, for the Korma, I could not find a Bottle-neck Gourd or Cluster beans. I tried out some funny Asian squash that looks like an Indian Bottle-neck Gourd, but it was very plain tasting,
so next time I make the dish, I'll leave it out. Also, instead of sauteing the dry fruits in ghee and then re-incorporating them into the dish later, I just continued sauteing them with the onions, which gave the nuts a nice, roasted flavor. And don't garnish with cream, it simply melds with the sauce and is unnecessary.

My recipe for Paneer is as follows:
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
Heat the milk in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. You want it to come to a boil. When it starts to boil, it will foam and quickly rise to the top of the pot. Remove from heat before you have a great big mess on your hands. Mix in the lemon juice and stir for a couple of minutes. Curds will begin to form (chunks). Let sit for 10 minutes to further curdle. Line a colander with a fine hand towel or several layer of cheese cloth. Pour the milk into the colander. When it's cool enough to handle, tie the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out the excess milk. Leaving it in the towel, place it on a plate and place another plate on top of it, weighted down by something (be creative). Let sit for 20 minutes. Move to the refrigerator. Stays good for 4 days.

Mixed Beginnings

So of course I'm way behind in posting. Oops. Blue Plate has already had it's second meeting, or should I say "dinner party," and I've yet to post about the first! Until now...

As I mentioned earlier, we took a crack at some Ne
w Mexican dishes a couple of weeks ago. I made Labor Intensive Beans, Lorenzo made Chile Rellenos, Mike prepared a salad with Red Chile Honey Mustard Vinegrette, and Alberto made a Mexican Bread Pudding called Capirotada. Here is the beautiful plate of comida.

My so-called Labor Intensive Beans were a bit of a disappointment. I cooked pinto beans with a mixture of roasted green chiles, a roasted serrano pepper, blackened tomatoes, sauted onions and garlic, and fresh cilantro. They were somewhat plain. A bit better the next day after sitting in the fridge overnight, but still not nearly as fabulous as they ought. I blame chef Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe, as he inspired this recipe. If you would like to send him hate mail, you may do so here .

Lorenzo's Chile Rellenos were made with a flourless egg batter. This makes them gluten-free (if it weren't for the peppers, this would be for you, B2). For some fantastic gluten-free recipes, check out Gluten Free Goddess. After roasting Green Chiles in the oven (for roasting instructions, see here), they are stuffed with jack cheese and coated in an egg batter. The batter is made with egg whites that are beaten until they're so stiff you can turn the bowl upside down and dance with it. Then they are fried in oil.

Mike's salad was a combination of lettuce, cilantro, tomato, jicama, corn, onion, cheddar cheese, and a delicious homemade dressing. I don't like creamy dressings, they are too rich for me. But I enjoyed this one. His primary ingredients were Dijon mustard, honey, and Chimayo Red Chile.

Following dinner, we had dessert. Capirotada. Repeat after me: cap-ear-oh-tada. The smell of Alberto's Capirotada baking in the oven made one wonder if perhaps he sprinkled a little bit of aromatic heaven on top. It was that good. A combination of whole wheat bread, eggs, milk, sugar, trail mix, and spices provided a perfectly sweet finish. The photo doesn't do it justice.