SFC: Evolution of a Green Veggie

                The one good thing about all these co-op veggies my fridge is being dominated by every other week, besides the healthier(ish) eating it encourages, is all the little things it forces me to try out so that I can actually eat all of it. And as such quite a few more recipe-related post ideas come across my way to better fill the time between Trucks (I really need to make another foray down somewhere… try and get a couple more reviews in).

                For instance! I was lucky enough to come across This Blog Post by the bake-loving 350 Degrees on a Paula Deen (yeah yeah, racist political conflict, whatever; the recipes are still tasty) Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. And right as I still had a Zucchini and Yellow Squash that needed using too! I myself still hadn’t actually had zucchini bread yet, but I love banana bread and thought it’d be fun to try.

                I’d list down the recipe before or after I began, but it’s a pure Paula Deen thing, I deviated from it somewhat based on availability, and there’s already a link (which is actually inside of the link… Link-ception! Sorta sounds like a Zelda movie with Dicaprio actually) in the previous paragraph. 

SAMSUNG

                Gotta start off by sifting all those dry ingredients of course.

SAMSUNG

                Before we get to the wet, gotta shred our produce fine; press those summer squash to the fine edge on the grater and work! Thank god this was so much easier than trying to do it for carrot cake… though boy that yellow squash had quite a bit of moisture (as such, I actually ended up adding a little more flour than the recipe called in hopes of balancing it out).

SAMSUNG

                Get those eggs in a bowl and beat it like a… ummm… Polaroid picture? No that doesn’t make sense… just beat them until pale; shouldn’t need an electric mixy, whisk’ll work fine.

SAMSUNG

                NOW we add the sugar; the recipe really calls for attention to these particular tasks to better improve the structure, with the later oil and other wet products really destabilizing what one has easily. Beat this now until it’s well-integrated, pale canary, and thick; a proper “ribbon stage.”

SAMSUNG

                We can add all the other ingredients now other than the dry. With mine, I ended up not having an orange, so I used some lime zest instead (it actually came out really nice with the zucchini).

SAMSUNG

                Besides that, I didn’t really feel like using the original-recipe nut addition, but purely chocolate chips like 350. Was probably gonna do Hershey’s, but found this interesting bag called “Guittard” in the store, though I’d try it out. They taste good btw.

SAMSUNG

                Mix in the wet, add all the dry, bada-bing bada-boom, we have batter. Lube up whatever pan one wants to use (calls for a single Loaf, the previous blogger used a Bundt, and I just used a few smaller loaves), or if you’re smart and able just line it with parchment paper, and pop into a 350 oven (only raise temperature to 375 if using REALLY small pans, like muffin or whatever).

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

                Mmmm, nice brown crust; should take about 50 minutes to cook, a little bit under if divided (way under if small and cooked at 375). Toothpick test of course; SHOULD note, when getting close one should make sure to really look at the toothpick even if wet. I had little pearls of the squash still sticking to some of it, despite it being fully cooked.

SAMSUNG

                Now we just let cool and flip. Whiiiiich didn’t actually come too easy for me… you see the previous pic where I’m pouring the batter into pans? Notice how the chocolate chips sorta collected to the bottom of the bowl. Weeeellll… seems they did the same thing in the pan.

SAMSUNG

                Yeah. Not a single one came out completely clean. I mean hey, they’re still fully cooked and VERY delicious; not to mention the outside crust was nice and crispy! Just the bottom wasn’t all that clean… and it sort of looked like a plain zucchini cake with a special lower layer vs the beautiful “studding” effect.

                If you’re looking to avoid this pitfall, I have a few main suggestions. 1: ensure your batter is thick enough to hold the chips in suspension. 2: use much smaller chocolate pieces. Or 3: try saving the chips on the side and sprinkling on top of the batter-filled loaf pan RIGHT before going in the oven. Hopefully you have better luck than I do, haha.

                So I’ve got a whole bunch of broken up, bottom-separated zucchini bread now, of which I can only eat so much as-is. What should I do with this moist bundle of goodness to turn it into something street food-reminiscent? Why, turn it into Fritters of course!

SAMSUNG

                It’s already broke up, so why not just chop it up a bit more and squeeze it into balls of moist cake and chocolate chips. And I mean SQUEEZE; these things did NOT want to hang together too easily (which is sorta surprising, considering how moist they were, figured they’d just wanna fuse).

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

                Got my itty bitty eanie-mini pot of oil up to temp, dusted the little balls in some flour, a little bit of cinnamon-sugar on the side to toss over afterward, and we good. Guess I forgot to take a pic of the actual frying process, but the results sorta speak for themselves…

SAMSUNG

                Yeah, didn’t wanna stick together too much before, REALLY didn’t wanna stick together in the fryer. Only last a couple seconds too to get that brown crust, so it wasn’t really all that crunchy either. Though it still tasted like a donut of sorts, so potential is there. Maybe next time I’ll use a batter-covering to fry, less direct… maybe use a simple bread with no chips either, keep it to moist pieces of the cooked dough (I wonder if just using the batter itself, if thick enough, could make a nice fritter…).

                Well, a couple more veggies used, another post up, and more food in my stomach; overall it was a pretty good experiment. Thanks to 350 for the post that inspired me! To all you rest, Good Luck and Good Eating.

SFC: To make a Caribbean Lunch

            Soon after I began my studies in the Culinary field, I started to develop this really weird obsession over Johnnycakes. These are the really old, historical traveling breads or pancakes (depending on when and where it was made) made from cornmeal and griddled. Though my foray into trying to figure out this food items didn’t last long, it was filled with compiled lists and attempted recreations of the mysterious cake. With many a recipe not yielding the results I so desired, I soon decided to give up and focus back on my studies.

            These memories all came rushing back to me recently, though, during my trip to the Caribbean, where we visited a local making the traditional “Dumb Bread,” a kind of johnnycake, at a Plantation tour. Not only was it finally what I was looking for, but we also got a recipe to make it back home! (adjusted for an oven, as opposed to frying)

SAMSUNG

            And here it is! Look at that tiny little piece of paper I saved all the way from the Caribbean! Didn’t even have to wait too long to take it out again; my Dad’s requested present for Father’s Day being a Caribbean Chicken dinner. Personally deciding to extend the idea past the main meal, I thought it’d be fun to try the recipe out for breakfast (especially since I’d have some leftover for a sandwich).

Baked Dumb Bread/Caribbean Johnnycake

3 cups Flour

1 cup Fine Cornmeal

½ c Shortening

½ c Margarine or Butter (if latter, probably Chilled)

3 Tb Baking Powder

2 Tb Sugar

¼ tsp Salt

1 Egg, Beaten

½ c Milk

            A very simple (in mixing at least) recipe, we start with combining not just the Dry ingredients, but the Fats as well.

SAMSUNG

            Yeah, that’s a pretty big pile of stuff. I of course can never understand the use of margarine, so I went for butter instead. Then again, as you’ll see later… I ended up with quite a few issues for my final product, and that could have been the cause of part of it. So if you choose to use butter as I did, don’t leave it out to soften, work that baby in chilled.

            Now, very important, really need to use that Fine Cornmeal. If one can’t find it, or already has the regular kind and is too lazy to shop for the special style (like me!!), we do have options. I myself took out my handy-dandy Coffee Grinder-turned-Spice Powderer (didn’t want to use “grinder” twice… and I like making up words).

SAMSUNG

            We of course start out with regular cornmeal.

SAMSUNG

            After a few long seconds of pulsing (in small batches of course), we get a nice yellowy powder. Probably not as small as flour, but for “fine cornmeal” it should do. If mixing soon after, this is probably when we’d turn the oven to 350F.

SAMSUNG

            Anyways, back to that actual mix. Once things are getting sorta together, start adding in that milk and egg. The recipe says “knead until smooth and ‘not sticky,” however mine wasn’t actually sticky to begin with, which lead me to only briefly knead it. If this happens to you, ignore it, as I’m pretty sure it’s what mainly f#$%ed up my final product: it was quite literally the texture of compressed cornmeal. Though it’s possible I may have overkneaded, I’m guessing what I really needed was a lot more gluten development for my bad boy. So don’t be afraid, don’t be doubtful, move that mass to the counter and started pushing and rolling that fella until it feels like DOUGH (get some flour down if it’s sticky); really the best advice for any bread making.

            As with any decent dough, gotta let it rest after those glutens get developed, so a 15-minute break (covered with plastic or a towel) is due. Once done, shape into a ball, or whatever shape one desired (should probably stay away from pretzel though…), and “press into rounded loaf 2 inches thick on a baking pan/sheet.”

            Again, I get to a point which screwed me over. Though my underkneading was sure to be a big contributor, it took at least twice as long (after cutting it in fourth partway through) to bake just so it wasn’t “doughy.” Seriously, at least on your first batch, press this down to 1in, maybe a little higher if you really want.

SAMSUNG

            Score the top or prick with a fork, and bake in that 350 for 30 minutes. Now, the recipe says “turn over” after 15 minutes, and I’m pretty sure that just means turn the pan 180, like with cookies. Maybe it means actually flip the dough over, like one was cooking it in a griddle, though it doesn’t feel right here…

            Alternatively, when mixed right, I’m sure one could easily break this fella into small little balls and press into a hot, well-seasoned griddle. Bet they’d cook up pretty similarly to Indian Frybread.

            Serve right out of the oven, spread with butter and whatever jams are handy! (Slathered in this case; though heck, with jam it didn’t taste that bad… just gotta try and do things differently next time)

            Of course, this wouldn’t be Street Food Corner if I didn’t make a sandwich or something out of this. Good thing I had some leftover Jerked Chicken!

            Actually making the Chicken was pretty simple, it’s just understanding the base ingredients to use in the mix. I myself don’t have a set recipe for this, but as long as one knows what to use they should be able to blend a nice marinade.

Required Ingredients:

Allspice, ground – the main spice component

Thyme – main herb

Lime juice + Zest – fresh, Caribbean flavor

Vinegar (Red, White, Malt, or Apple dependant) – nice acid component

Scotch Bonnets – main SPICY component

Need at LEAST 2, only use 1 for SMALL batches, I could barely get any in my final dish

Garlic + Green/Spring Onions – main Aromatics

Secondary Ingredients (ones often used in conjunction, but not always needed):

Brown Sugar + Honey – sweetness to counter the spice and vinegar – also glazes well

Nutmeg, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger (ground or fresh)

Onions, Chives

Worcestshire

Optional Ingredients:

Rum + Bitters

Orange juice/zest

Soy Sauce

Other Herbs and Spices

Other peppers (Jalapeno, Serrano, etc)

            Choose your weapons, place it in the blender and pulse away until smooth! Adjust for flavor as needed, and make sure there’s enough liquid to get all the chunky components (usually use a lot of onions) into a paste. I myself decided to give a hard sear and blackening to all my veggies beforehand for extra flavor. Once blended, it looked like this:

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

            Broke down my (nice and organic) chicken, tossed it all in a bag with extra herbs and veggies, and mixed with my Jerk for overnight.

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

            Hot charcoal grill to finish it off; starting in the hot spots to get that blackened grill, off to the warm spot to cook all the way through. We certainly enjoyed it all right afterwards for dinner, and I enjoyed it again on top of that johnnycake with a little mayo and jam (works really nice with spicy components).

SAMSUNG

            Now, just have to learn to make it properly next time…

SFC: Late Night Comfort Food

SAMSUNG

               Dinner for the night was my Mom’s “Chicken Noodle and Dumpling Soup” (yes, noodles AND dumplings… we like our starch), paired as always with a nice loaf of package-mix baked bread. This night’s was one of my favorites, Beer Bread, made with one of my own Doppelbocks. Sorta ended up tasting like that strong malt smell of actually making with wort…

SAMSUNG

                As with every dinner of hers, the amount of leftovers was noticeably high; not that I’m complaining of course. It always makes for some of the better breakfasts and lunches.

                Some of the best Street Foods are based off of home comforts such as this; either made as-is or twisted to better fit our hand. This thought gave me some inspiration late at night as I received that familiar craving for a little before-bed snack. With another almost-whole [small] loaf of Beer Bread and a giant vat of Dumpling Soup, I set out to make my own Street Food-like snacks.

                Still have yet to actually get to trying something with the dumplings (couldn’t find the darn recipe, plus I’m quite busy with studies as-is), so for now I settle on a nice, toasty beer bread sammich. Like I mentioned, ours came from a box, but it’s a really easy thing to make at home! Here’s a very simple recipe:

http://www.food.com/recipe/beer-bread-73440

                The great thing about this is one can use ANY kind of beer, soda, cider, or other Carbonated Beverage you want. Makes for some fun varieties and experimentation, as well as pairing possibilities.

                Had to think a bit about what I wanted to fill my little loaf with, but luckily for me I still had some Country-Style Pork Ribs (really thick) I recently used in my first Forray into Minion-style Smoking (See Patrons of the Pit for further reading into BBQ and Smoking). That figured out, had to look into toppings; if I had my choice, I’d immediately get some nice coleslaw or crispy, thin pickled vegetables, maybe even cilantro n jalepeno for a Bahn-Mi riff. Sadly that wasn’t the choice, but it’s not to say my options were horrible. A really thin slice of celery, some of this soft, pickled garlic we got from the neighbor, and a bit of the celery leaves in place of herbs, and I’ve got the making of something rich, smokey, crispy bright, and tart pungency from the garlic.

SAMSUNG

                With that, all I need is to manipulate my bread to make a sandwich. Since I want to spread some butter on the top n bottom and crisp it in a pan, I slice off the uneven top, square it off for a small little thing. If I had a whole loaf, and a big appetite, I might slice the entire top and make a small hoagie-like thing.

SAMSUNG

                Before we get to filling, a little word on slicing for the sandwich. Not a lot of people actually think about it, but what’s the proper ratio of thickness between the top and bottom slice of bread? We’re mostly used to, and quite accepting, of the basic “Same size, same thickness” idea, and if there is any difference (like in hamburger buns), it looks like the top is bigger. However, if one really wants to make the perfect sandwich, and are able to cut the bread for it, one should slice the bread at a Bottom/Top percentage of 60/40%, thus making the bottom piece slightly bigger.

                There are, arguably, two main reasons for this. In a construction sense, the bottom slice is what acts as the foundation, keeping all the ingredients on, with the top and one’s fingers simply acting as stability. As such, it logically comes that it should have more “structure” to it. The real reason, though, comes down to Anatomy. Our jaw, the lower row of teeth, is much stronger than the upper row of teeth, due to the actual muscle constantly working it up and down. As such, it can cut through food much easier than its weaker upper half.

                Some may still be wondering how this really matters; I admit, simple 50-50 sandwiches still taste fantastic. When you have the chance, though, try this: take two small, unsliced buns. For one, cut it where the bottom slice is noticeably smaller than the top, and the other do as I’ve already stated. Make a simple sandwich (make sure filling ratio matches buns) and try a bite of each. When applied, one can easily see this little lesson in biology can create a marvelous balance of texture and bite when eating.

SAMSUNG

                Well, that said, slicing just enough to leave a small edge connecting the top and bottom, I finally moved on to actually finishing my sandwich. Spreading some mayo and bbq sauce on the bottom for dressing, then topping with the Meat and Veg. Now that I think about it, sorta looks like it’d be a good Stoner Snack between meals…

SAMSUNG

                Fillings of course can vary, so can bread; heck, I probably could have sliced up some of those dumplings and put them between with a bit of the soup’s chicken, a little of the starchy broth to soak in, and some celery and parsley for starch and aroma. Woulda been a nice way to completely transvert the dinner into a Street Food twist-off.

                But for now, I still have yet to get to doing something with those dumplings. Maybe I’ll make a sandwich out of them, or maybe fill with something and skewer like Japanese Dango. I’ll post something once I figure it out.

 

For now, what’s some of your favorite things to do for Late Night Snacks? Any favorite Dishes made from Traditional Family Leftovers?