Who's That Girl

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WHO'S THAT GIRL: A higher education obsessed foodie who is documenting her life in the kitchen. I love to cook delicious, gourmet-style foods for those I love and always welcome a challenge in the kitchen. With that challenge comes an impromptu nature. I tend to avoid following recipes to the exact, so you are not likely to find very many posted here. Being that I am a Libra and am learning to be free in the kitchen, the story always goes, "A pinch of this and a smattering of that!" Thank you for visiting -- and happy reading!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making Cheese, Making History

Holy moly! I made cheese!

OK -- in all honestly, it's not like I made cheese completely from scratch.

And, no, I didn't make history either. I was just kidding about that. 

In fact, I feel obligated to state that I didn't raise a cow to be a dairy cow, wait until she was mature enough, help impregnate her and then, she she had calves, sneak in and steal away with her milk.

Did you even know that it is most common when breeding cows for their milk, that the method is to breed them in a way that they produce a large yield?

As a consumer, and as a consumer who is not producing my own food, I am reminded that it is incredibly important to learn about food production and to make better decisions about product choice and consumption levels. It's yet another reasons to be aware and to make better decisions about food choice and consumption.

So, I decided I wanted to make paneer, which is quite easy. Paneer is common in parts of Asia and, to date, I have most often had it in Indian dishes. Saag paneer is one of my favorite foods, ever. I will someday make this at home.

For the paneer, you need a large pot, whole milk, some kind of citrus or vinegar, cheese cloth and patience.

You start by gently boiling the milk. You need to be careful not to burn the milk, so you have to stir pretty regularly. When the milk begins to boil, this is when you add the citrus or vinegar.

I was turned off to the idea of adding vinegar, so I had a few large lemons on hand. When you add the citrus or vinegar, the milk should start to kind of curdle immediately.

It didn't.

I added more of the lemon juice. It curdled a little bit, but not enough to get me excited. I added more and more and more until I had used all of my large lemons. By this point, I was aggravated. Wasted milk?! Never! I rushed to the corner market and got some vinegar. Yep, I had to turn off the flame and leave the half curdled make believe cheese on the stove.


But when I boiled the milk again and slowly added the vinegar it happened like magic. The milk curdled immediately! It was a lovely and amazing sight. 

It curdles fast when done appropriately. Next, I drained the curdled milk and put it into a double wrapping of cheese cloth. I then pressed this -- using an assortment of books -- for about 1.5 hours.

The result: Nice! Perhaps a little too firm, so I may have gone without adding the Julia Child cookbook. And those brown flecks? I burned my milk a little. I was expecting more of a nutty flavor. But, alas, not, it was quite plain until prepared in a dish.

I cut the cheese round into a few pieces, sauteed them in a bit of butter, and served the cheese with a nice cut of meat, some peas and a sweet potato puree. In all, a yummy meal! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Curry Catfish Fail

Before you go congratulating me, giving me pats on the back and nominating me for foodie awards or even trying this at home, know this:

I hated this dish.

Blecht! I didn't like it at all.

It had all the makings of things I didn't like: Breaded catfish, fried fish and heavy sauce. 

What was I doing, you might ask?

I was experimenting.

I'd had catfish curry at one of our local Vietnamese restaurants and thought I would try and duplicate this dish at home.

It was my first time having catfish curry, ever.

Hum...now I wonder if the chef was experimenting as well. I had never heard of curry catfish on a Vietnamese menu before -- not that I am the expert on Vietnamese home and restaurant cooking around the world. I'm not.

But I went for it. And, goodness, was it good. So good!

The chef did an excellent job. The batter was not too thick. The fish had a wonderful texture. And the curry was perfectly flavored.

I didn't bother asking how it was done. I decided to go off of memory.

I started by browning coriander seeds, later cooking them slowly with some sweet onions. I also prepped ginger and shallots.

Cooking the catfish was the biggest headache. I do not like battered fish much at all and I have never tried cooking battered fish at home.

I went the easy route. I seasoned the flour and beat a couple of eggs, dipping the catfish in the eggs, then the flour.

At the same time, I was working on the curry. I included mustard, paprika and cumin along with tomato sauce and a bit of curry powder.

When the sauce was at the correct consistency, and with the catfish all battered and fried (blecht! ...yes, again), I added the fish to the sauce and cooked briefly.

It just didn't fit. It was a culinary mismatch to me.

What did I do wrong?

What did the chef at the Vietnamese restaurant do that was right? So very, very right?

I do not know.

But, goodness, I will have to get back there, grab him/her by the collar and with swiftness, beg that the recipe be released to me before the police arrive and drag me away.


Until then, I will have to be content with this failure: Battered and fried catfish curry served over a bed of rice and sprinkled with cilantro.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sushi-Inspired Eggs

Oh eggs.

We all know that I have an undeniable obsession with eggs.

I outed myself with the post, My Secret Rendezvous: Late Night Eggs.

I can have them wrapped around cheese, or bacon or an array of vegetables.

I can have them poached, having been dunked into boiling water and plucked away before the yolks have completely solidified.

I can have them bare.

And, I recently learned, that I enjoy them served over rice with a dash of noritamago furikake (a type of rice seasoning). In this particular spread, it the boiled eggs went well with shards of seaweed, flecks of dried fish and sesame seeds. Decadent!

Reminds me of sushi -- a type of open-faced sushi, but made with eggs instead of fish, shellfish or eel.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Starter for Salad

I love the colors and the composition in this photo.

But it speaks to my technique.

Remember when I mentioned before that I once made basic and bland salads? Never again.

I find that for salads that call for tomatoes, the key is in allowing the tomatoes to sit in the dressing (or a little bit of seasoning, depending on the type of salad you are trying to make) a bit before tossing it with the other ingredients. Tomatoes can, at times, ruin a salad. Truth be told. If the tomatoes are too-too ripe, or too plump with juices or just bland, that's it. Boring salad.

So, I tend also to toss in the onions early and any other veggies I intend to have in the salad. So, if I am including mushrooms or peppers, for instance, I will "marinade" the tomatoes for a bit, then add the other vegetables before tossing the salad.

I find that this method results in a flavorful salad every single time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Light, Easy Dinner

Thanks to Stephen at The Obsessive Chef for the gentle nudge. I've been away from the blog for way too long. He did a marvelous job coaxing me back.

I have still been cooking. I'll never give it up. But I find that getting on with this Ph.D. and doing other research and presentations, doing my service work, working full-time and being a family woman at times converges in a way that I am unable to prioritize the site.

But I think of it often.

And I still love, love, love being in the kitchen. 

Because of my studies, I had to keep my cooking simple. Pesto chicken with a short experiment with a tossed salad with buttermilk ranch and Parmesean and plain rice proved to be a nice, easy meal, and nutritious and filling at the same time.

But I hope the summer months will bring more time to spare, especially time for more elaborate dishes.

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