Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mochi with my Sister

I don't get to see my family very often anymore. This is, of course, compared to seeing them every single weekend or to living with them. Now, we get to spend a spare weekend together here or there, as our transportation and schedules allow. I work until Friday evening and train in Jujitsu Saturday mornings, so what weekend time we do have together is slim when we have it. Compared to waking up to my family every single day, I hardly see them at all now.
When we do get to spend time together, it's precious, rambunctious, and over stimulating all at once. Children standing as high as my hip and shorter wrap their arms around me like living straight jackets and bounce. Sister M and Sister R gather up their crafts or art projects to show them off to me. Brother P and Brother D ask me how I've been and what I've been up to- Brother D will ask in Japanese and I'll respond by telling him to make a muscle. Brother P will drag me out side for just a minute to show me some new trick he's figured out or to make me play with him. Sister H will be wiping off her hands from working in the kitchen of turn away from her computer for a bit to catch up with me. Mom will be working in the kitchen, dashing through house work, and trying to get a chance to sit with me and chat- all at once.
Eventually, the buzz will simmer down and we'll sit together for a family dinner.

Sometimes, we'll have the chance to squeeze in projects.
Once such weekend, Sister H planned and plotted so that she and I could make Mochi together.

Mochi is a Japanese sweet made of sugar and rice flour mixed into a paste, steamed, and then stuffed and shaped. It's one of my favorite things to eat.

We used this video tutorial as a guide.

Our mochi didn't turn out much like the mochi from the Asian Market I love so much, but I don't think that was the point for me. Rather than having just a normal, haphazard visit with my family that weekend, I can remember something special that my sister wanted to do with me. She carved out time, energy, and focus (not to mention mochi supplies) to spend time with me. Gifts like that are precious, especially when life is rambunctious or overwhelming.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cherry Scones at 7,000 feet

I spent last week in Santa Fe with the Boss Lady and Baby. We stayed in a pueblo style house up in the mountains, with vibrant lavender burgeoning in the front garden and an endless sky stretching on and on out the back door. Oh! it was beautiful.

Some days I could have sworn the sky was flirting with me. I mean, honestly, what am I supposed to make of this view?

Obviously take as many picture as humanly possible.

I took roughly 700 pictures that week, and most of them were of clouds.
I also took pictures of antique cars until my camera battery failed me (posting those in the future).
And I took pictures of these scones.

I think it's pretty clear what interests me; pretty clouds, pretty cars, and pretty food.

Baking at 7,000 feet above sea level is a different experience from the usual for this bayou city girl. Living that high in the clouds was a whole other adjustment.
The air was dry. I was thirsty all the time and my skin was uncontrollably thirsty too. My hands soaked up lotion; I would rub on two pumps worth of the stuff and in an hour I would need another dosing. The bottoms of my feet felt like Velcro sticking to the blankets when I got in bed. I was drinking water constantly
The air was thin. Dancing and running left me gasping and lightheaded. If I stood up too quickly after stretching, my head would feel like it would float away.
But that all made the fluffiest baked goods known to man. So it was a pretty even trade-off if you ask me.

Of course, there are ways to adjust for altitude in baking so that your end results maintain a certain standard no matter where you bake. I found a great little table chart from Pie in the Sky and High Altitude Baking.
I studied it well. Then I ignored it.
I had full intentions of following the chart, I swear. But when I got to the kitchen and found- after a good stint of exploring, searching, and nearly spelunking- there was no teaspoon, I gave up trying to exactly measure anything smaller than 2 tablespoons. The smallest measure that could be found was a 2 tablespoon measure. Anything smaller would have to be estimated.
So, I started my high altitude experiment with pancakes, estimating the measurements and not adjusting for altitude. I ended up with pancakes puffed high that melted in the mouth.
Then I moved onto scones.

Cherries were on sale at the grocery store, so we picked up a bag. I chose this recipe for fresh cherry scones from the Table for Two blog, but made up a different glaze from the top of my head.

Again, I had to estimate all amounts smaller than 2 tablespoons and did not adjust for altitude.
And, omaigoodness, these were good.

I'm sure they're great at other, lesser elevations, but at 7000 feet they were scone-clouds. Yum.
Julie from Table for Two uses an almond glaze for her scones, but I just can't bring myself to conform. That, and I couldn't find any almond extract (or almond anything) in the Santa Fe kitchen- even after spelunking in the pantry. I did find ground ginger and a couple cases of shockingly pungent ginger ale, though. Ginger + Ginger Ale = Ginger glaze for my cherry scones. I enjoyed the combination and, if you'd like to do the same, I suggest you follow Julie's recipe for glaze, substituting ginger ale for the milk and adding ground ginger to taste.

Let me know how these scones turn out for you at whatever altitude you find yourself baking in, and whether or not you adjusted for the elevation. We can make a grand experiment out of it. And give Mrs. Julie a visit as well, and tell her I sent you.

I have also discovered a new Saint- well, new to me. He lived in the 1500s.
St. Pascal Baylon; patron Saint of kitchens and cooks, a Fransican raised in poverty with a particular devotion the Eucharist. It's said that his pantry at the monastery was miraculously replenished.
"I joyfully celebrate the food I am given.
May it deeply nourish everyone I feed."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

And we all Live in the House of Jackfruit

This is Jackfruit.
Say hello.

This one was 14 pounds when we picked it up from Hong Kong Market, and it was the smallest one available.
The jackfruit has a thick, tough skin that oozes latex sap when cut. The fruit inside is surrounded by "rag," strong, soft fibers much like the equally inedible bits of the inside of an artichoke. The golden fruit encases a large smooth seed, which is further wrapped in a thin lining like hard vellum. The whole fruit smells funky- like an overripe bunch of bananas- and, while not strictly bad-smelling, it's certainly overbearing. The sap is a devil and a test of character. It gets on everything and only oil will remove it. It will cling to and coat your knives, hands, and counters. A thorough rub with peanut butter easily cleaned it up afterwards, but slicing the dang fruit was torturous.
Torturous, but worth it.

The golden insides do not stink or stick and they taste wonderful. It's firm and slick, tasting like perfect mangos and bananas with a hint of pineapple and pear, or an edible pina colada.
The seeds are edible, too, and there are dozens in one jackfruit. They are very starchy and should be boiled until tender in just enough water to cover them. They can be eaten as a snack with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of lime juice; or mashed with butter like mashed potatoes; or roasted like chestnuts; or added to a stir fry in lieu of water chestnuts. Just be sure to slip off the vellum-like casings before noshing.

Boiled in water to cover, cleaned of the outer casing,
and tossed with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

The fruit can be eaten plain, and I've taken to chopping a good handful into a bowl of plain yogurt with hemp hearts for breakfast. It can also be added to salsa the same way some folks like to add mango.

It's good cooked too. I've made a Chicken and Jackfruit Curry, Cheese-stuffed Jackfruit, and Caramelized Jackfruit eaten on vanilla ice cream.

Caramelized Jackfruit
Serves 2 generously.

1 tablespoon Butter
1 heaping tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup, well packed, Jackfruit Pieces

Melt the butter and the brown sugar together in a pan over heat, stirring until you have a warm, brown paste.
Add orange juice and stir together until all the lumps are gone.
 Bring juice to a simmer then add Jackfruit. Let it simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, swishing it around with a wooden spoon. Wait until the juices have become thick, syrupy, and reduced like in the picture below. Serve immediately on ice cream.

You'll start with this^, simmer it till it looks like this^

 Then spoon it over ice cream so you can have this!

It's caramel-y, fruity, hot, and oozey. Enjoy!

I'm sorry for going AWOL. I'm happy to be posting again.