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05 November 2014

Winning Eyeballs

I don't love Halloween. I never liked dressing up, I don't like being scared, and all the gross/creepy things on purpose are not my cup of tea. But at work we had a Halloween party, and one part of the festivities was an "ugly food" contest with a promised prize, so I decided to get a little halloween-y and make something a little gruesome looking: eyeballs floating in a pool of blood.

And guess what?!

I won!

Sorry this is too late for y'all to make your own prize-winning eyeballs for Halloween this year, but here it is for next year.


If I did it again I would cut the recipe in half. I only made 12 eyeballs and then had tons of the panna cotta left over, which I poured into a bread pan for a mold, sliced and served with more "blood" sauce. It was delicious, but not everyone likes gelatin based desserts, so it was an excessive amount for our relatively small party.

You will need something spherical or semi-spherical-ish for a mold. I used mochi ice cream containers which were (luckily) just the right size and shape to work with the grape "iris", and it was a good excuse to get mochi ice cream from a certain specialty food store. You can also find them at some Asian markets.

I arranged the instructions into very small, very manageable steps; it looks like a lot, but it isn't hard.

Coconut Panna Cotta "Eyeballs" with Raspberry-Cherry "Blood" sauce
2 cans (400mL) coconut milk
2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin (1/2 oz or 14 grams)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
12 dried blueberries (more or less, depending on how many eyeballs you want)
6-12 green seedless grapes (more or less, depending on how many eyeballs you want)
fresh or frozen raspberries and/or cherries
a little more white sugar (just a teaspoon or two should do it)
Pomegranate arils (optional)

To make the "eyeballs":

1) Warm coconut milk in a saucepan, stir occasionally, or it will do some crazy splattering. Don't let it come to a boil.

2) Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan, let stand about 1 minute, then start warming this up over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin is dissolved.

3) By now your coconut milk should be hot, but not boiling. Pour the hot gelatin water into the hot coconut milk, add the 1 cup of sugar and keep stirring over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, it should just take a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let it start cooling.

While the mixture is cooling, start prepping your eyeball molds and with the other eyeball parts:

4) Make sure your mochi ice cream cups (or whatever you are using for a mold - see note above) are clean and dry.

5) Put the dried blueberries in a small bowl, pour boiling water over, let stand for a couple of minutes to soften.

6) Cut some grapes in half latitudinally, scoop out a small amount of grape insides, just enough to fit a dried blueberry inside.

7) Insert the soaked dried blueberry into the hollow you just made in the grape half, place the grape half cut-side down in the mold. Press down to make the blueberry and grape as flat against the bottom of the mold as possible.

8) Repeat with as many grapes and blueberries you need to fill all the molds you have to make as many eyeballs as you want.

9) Pour the coconut milk-gelatin mixture into the molds over the grapes. Hold the grape halves down with a finger while you pour so they stay centered and flat against the bottom and don't get pushed around.

10) Let the panna cotta finish cooling and setting up in the fridge, it will take a couple of hours. 

To make the "blood":

11) Warm up some raspberries with a little sugar (I used about 1 1/2 cups frozen) with a little sugar until the sugar is dissolved, the raspberries will break apart, but that is just fine.

12) If you want to use cherries also, place them in a blender (I used about 1 cup frozen) pour the warm raspberry mush in the blender over the cherries, blend together until everything is pureed, but not liquified. Add a little water if necessary to keep the blender from getting stuck.

13) Put the raspberry-cherry puree through a sieve to separate the good stuff from the seeds. Store the sauce in the fridge until you are ready to serve with eyeballs.

To assemble the "eyeballs floating in a pool of blood":

14) Unmold the panna cotta cups onto a serving platter. I had to gently pull some of them out with my fingers, they didn't all come right out easily when I flipped over the mold. Arrange them strategically on the platter.

15) Some of the coconut gelatin may have gone underneath the grapes/blueberries so that when you flip them over it is hard to see the "iris" and "pupil," kind of like a cataract (well, more like a pterygium), so you may perform surgery -- very carefully cut some gelatin away from the grapes so that they'll be visible. This can all be done ahead of time.

16) Just before serving, pour the sauce around the eyeballs artistically, and sprinkle the pomegranate arils around also, if desired.

Claim your prize and dig in!

Credit where credit is due: 

Recipe from here, but there are tons of coconut jelly/panna cotta recipes out there that looked amazing. I used this one because it was very basic and simple, just a few ingredients. And it really was delicious.

Coconut and fruit eyeball plus raspberry "blood" idea from here, but it seems like it wouldn't work with kiwi fruit since kiwis have that protein-disolving enzyme, antinidain.

Mochi ice cream mold idea from here.

Using grapes as irides idea from Lovemuffin who answered "grapes" when I asked "what can I use as a spherical jello mold?" (he's so cute.)

24 March 2014

Eggy Cheesy Toast

My new favorite breakfast, like fried eggs already assembled with bread and cheese.

Eggy Cheesy Toast
1 slice sturdy bread (I used rosemary bread from our local bakery brushed with a little olive oil, fluffy white bread probably won't work)
1 egg
2 slices of cheese, enough to cover your piece of bread
(I liked mozzarella the best, but cheddar was good too)

Preheat the broiler.

Place the bread on an oiled pan (I use my cast-iron pan) break the egg on top, put the cheese on top of the egg, put the pan in the oven, not to close to the broiler flame (I put the rack on the 2nd shelf, about 7" away from the flame), let it cook for a few minutes. The cheese will get nice and bubbly and toasty, and you can cake it out when the egg is at your desired level of cooked-ness, you can let the yolk get firm or take it out when it's still runny. Let it cool off a little before you bite into it, and enjoy.

I'm thinking next time I'll put some caramelized onions between the bread and the egg, that would be good.

13 March 2014

Getting Ready for Pi Day with Crustless Apple Pies

Tomorrow is Pi Day (3.14...  --> 3/14) and it's such a great excuse to make and eat pie, since pi is about circles, and pie is in the shape of a circle, it's only appropriate. (Although I guess there are other treats shaped like circles, but it's not the same. And apparently January 23rd is always National Pie Day, but we always forget about that one.) So, I'm really excited, we should have a lot of pies tomorrow at the office. (I LOVE my work.)

I'm planning to make apple and rhubarb tarte tatin (which I've wanted to try for a long time) based on this recipe, and I kind of want to try a buttermilk pie, because I have buttermilk in the fridge, and maybe I would add orange zest to it. That sounds good, right? I have my pie crusts made, and I did them differently this time, using this recipe, except I used buttermilk instead of sour cream, because of all the buttermilk in the fridge, so we'll see how that turns out. (Don't worry, I did some research, and there is such a thing as buttermilk pie crust, so it should be fine.)

And tonight, to get ready and share the joy of pi(e), I made these Crustless Apple Pies (because these are circles, too). I changed it up a little, we were feeding a gluten-free person, so no flour and no oats because oats are often processed in the same facilities as flour, and are often contaminated with gluten.

Mini Crustless Apple Pies (I'm calling them mini because the apples were pretty small)

6 granny smith apples, cut in half and cored (or any good type of baking apple)
handful of dried pitted dates
honey (sorry, I didn't measure it, maybe 1/8 cup, possibly even less, honey is super sweet)
1 tsp tapioca flour (you could use cornstarch or flour, but if you can get tapioca flour I recommend it, I use tapioca for thickening all my fruit pies now)
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Scoop out the innards of the apple halves with a melon baller - I never would have thought a melon baller would work so well on apples, but it's perfect, it's also just the right size for coring the apple halves - leaving about 1/3" of flesh inside of the peel, set aside the scooped out innards, treat the apple shells and pieces with lemon juice to keep them from browning while you work (I didn't have enough lemon juice so I filled up a bowl with cold water and a little white vinegar and let the cut up apples hang out in it).

Soak the dates in boiling hot water for a few minutes to let them get soft, cut into smallish pieces.

Mix together apple-innard pieces (you might want to cut these a little smaller than melon-baller size) and soaked dates, pour on some honey until it looks good (taste a piece of apple to see if its at a good sweetness level), add the tapioca flour, spices, lemon zest and lemon juice, stir it all together.

Place the hollowed out apple halves on a baking sheet, stuff this delightful mixture into each shell, dividing equally between all of them, it should be a little mounded up, but not overfull in each.

Mix together the sweetened coconut and melted butter (I whizzed the coconut through my spice blender for a few seconds to get it into finer pieces, I don't love the texture of it in long shreds), and divide out spoonfuls on top of each apple half.

Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, the juices will be going all over, and the coconut topping will be crisp, and the apples shells will be getting soft , but not collapsing. Let cool a little and serve, maybe with ice cream or whipped cream.

11 March 2014

Korean Style Vegetable Pancakes

Do you have in your life, or are you one of those difficult people with some kind of dietary restriction? Vegetarian? Gluten free? Lactose intolerant? Here's the recipe for you: meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free. And tasty and pretty filling. (Not vegan, though, sorry vegans.)

The basis for this recipe is from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," and I am loving it (I've probably made these 4 times in the last month). I multiplied it the original by 1 1/2 and should have done even more, because if you're going to stand over a stove cooking stacks of pancakes, might as well go big, like when you make crepes, always double or triple the recipe, you know they'll get eaten. 

This would be a good recipe for using up leftover difficult vegetables. You could probably even use one of those bags of prepped coleslaw or broccoli slaw mix. This time around I used shredded carrots, chopped onions, and slightly steamed cabbage. I think putting green onions in it gives it more of the Korean vibe, and I particularly like it with sauteed mushrooms, to give it a little meaty-ness. And it's an easy recipe to adjust, the egg : flour : water ratio is simple (1 : 1 : 3/4) and doesn't require complex math to scale up or down. And these are good the next day, and the next day after that, they just need a little rewarming, so go ahead, scale it up, and turn on a TV show or find a good book to read while you do some serious pancake cooking.

Korean Style Vegetable Pancakes

3 eggs
3 cups rice flour  **see note at bottom 
2 1/4 cups water
salt to taste
pepper to taste
any other spices you like (chili powder, coriander, paprika, basil, garlic, etc) to taste
about 3 cups? ( I didn't measure, oops.) chopped or shredded vegetables (carrot, summer squash, green onion, slightly steamed cabbage, peppers, regular onions, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, etc)

Whisk together eggs, rice flour, water, salt, pepper, and any spices you want. Add your chopped and shredded vegetables. There should be plenty of vegetable per batter, I wish I'd measured for you. 

Heat up a skillet to medium or medium high heat, lightly oil the skillet and scoop out some vegetable/batter onto the hot skillet. I used about a cup, maybe a little less, of the mixture in my 9" cast iron pan. There should be enough batter-iness to the batter to completely encase the vegetables, but it should still be plenty vegetable-y. I found that I had to quickly move rearrange clumps of vegetables to get them evenly distributed among the batter. 

batter in the pan a couple minutes before flipping

pancake in pan after flipping

Let it cook for a few minutes, the bottom should get getting a little color, and the top will probably be dry, carefully flip it over and let it cook a few minutes more until the top gets a little color on the parts that stick out, then gently scoop it off onto a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Be sure to flip gently, and don't flip before it's ready, especially if you are doing all rice flour, they will be more delicate than the regular breakfast pancakes you might be used to, because there's no gluten to hold it all together.

Cut into triangles and serve with soy sauce, sriracha, Thai sweet chili sauce (my favorite), or whatever else floats your boat. This size batch made 6 9" pancakes. 

**Mark Bittman says you can use all or part wheat flour, but I like the texture of using all rice flour best, and then you can feed it to your gluten-free friends or self. I get rice flour at the Asian or international grocery store, I think you can also get it at Whole Foods or in the special healthy section of a grocery store if you have a good grocery store.

05 March 2014

New Cookbook

Hello Friends. I noticed today on my blog aggregator that my own blog has become a dead feed. I haven't posted for at least 5 months.


So I wanted to share quickly, I just acquired a new cookbook! In between high school and college I worked at a cafe, it was a pretty great job, we made some awesome food, with some amazing recipes. My favorite was the chocolate pound cake with chocolate sauce and raspberries, and I've been looking for a long time for a similar recipe, but nothing I could find looked like it. And then, good news! My old boss has compiled and printed the most popular recipes, all the best ones, I bought a copy last week and I've already made 2 things from it, including, of course, the chocolate pound cake.

(I made it as extra large cupcakes instead of bunt cake. And I messed up the chocolate sauce trying to be clever, it didn't turn out saucy.)

I can't wait to make the Caribbean chicken and Thai chicken wraps again (sans chicken for me) and try the India wrap, a new-to-me recipe with lentils and yogurt dipping sauce, sounds delightful! And have fond memories of the spinach lasagna, and all the muffins, and the carrot cake, and the apple cake with caramel sauce and pretty much everything else. Mmmmm.

You can buy the cookbook from Linda by emailing msacookbook (at) gmail (dot) com.  Oh, and this is not a sponsored post, I am not being reimbursed for my opinions. :)

And, no promises, but soon I would like to put up directions for homemade ricotta, as well as 2 recipes to use your fresh homemade ricotta, let's see how long that takes me to get those up, shall we?