Welcome to the adventures of a Culinary explorer...

Welcome to the adventures of a Culinary explorer...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tea Etiquette Quiz

If you read the previous blog, I promised to present you with an etiquette quiz. Test your manners on www.quizmoz.com/quizzes/...Etiquette-Quizzes/.../Tea-Etiquette-Quiz.asp - and tell me what score you got.

Good Luck!

My Cup of Tea

I do not recall ever waking up without the aroma of fresh tea brewing on the stove. Tea-time is a great way to socialize with friends and family, though beware my fellow tea-drinkers, this social indulgence doesn’t follow the average lemonade informality. The Skillet can help you achieve proper etiquette one sip-tip at a time.
Top Ten Commandments from The Skillet’s Tea Bible:
· First and foremost, NO pinkies out during tea! Sorry pinkies, but the act is now considered outdated and ill mannered. People only did this when teacups did not have handles. The pinky goes underneath the cup or straddles the side of the cup.
· The spout of the teapot/kettle faces the host, letting us know who’s in charge.
· Teaspoons aren’t just used for stirring sugar. Place the spoon across the cup, or beside the cup on the saucer if the cup is too big, to let the pourer know you’ve had enough.
· Do not, I repeat do not, sip from or lick the teaspoon. Yuck.
· Add sugar cubes with a tong, but don’t let the cubes slosh tea. Be careful not to dip the tong in the tea either.
· Place little tea snacks on a tea plate, with the cup on the side.
· Hold the cup in your right hand, saucer in your left. If seated, don’t lift the saucer while taking sips. If standing, lift saucer up to the chest. Be careful not to spill! (Tea stains are a pain.)
· Now as for the drinking, don’t chug, slurp (I frown, wrinkle my nose, and stick my tongue out while typing this word), or throw back tea as if it were a shot. Gently sip—this keeps the tongue from burning.
· Men can try drinking from a moustache cup (pictured above). Invented by Harvey Adams in the nineteenth century, this cup has a ledge in the shape of a moustache on the side of the cup, letting the gentleman’s moustache remain dry while he sips his tea.
· Respect your guests, indulge in intelligent conversation, and enjoy.

If tea had a best friend, “Scones” would be her name. Here is a simple, classic recipe I found on http://www.greatpartyrecipes.com/sconerecipes.html.
Basic Scone Recipe: 2 cups all-purpose flour1 tablespoon baking powder2 tablespoons sugar1/2 teaspoon salt3 tablespoons butter1 egg, beaten3/4 cup milk (approx.)
1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add butter and stir until the mixture resembles crumbs. Stir in the egg (this is a good point to add nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, cheese, etc. if desired).
2. Gradually add the milk until a thick dough is formed. (It may take more or less than 3/4 cup.)
3. Turn out the mixture onto a floured board and knead lightly. Roll out the dough to 3/4" thickness and cut into rounds with a 2" cookie cutter. Gather the trimmings and lightly knead, roll, and cut them as well.
4. Place the rounds about 1" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg or milk. Bake in a preheated 450° oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes 12 to 16 scones.

Well-made scones are flaky, sort of like slightly hard biscuits, and are eaten with butter and/or jam. I usually add slices of strawberries to my scones.
Like treating yourself to tea often? Try different flavors from Teavana at the Avenues Mall. Earl Grey and Darjeeling are my personal favorites. Brittany Stevenson, senior, sent us a recipe for a snack she enjoys with her tea. I made this many times, and it’s one of favorites.
Boisjolie Brie Cheese
1 wheel of Brie cheese
Chopped almonds
Raspberry preserves
Jam of choice
French bread

1. Preheat oven to 400˚
2. Peel rind off from the wheel of cheese
3. Slice wheel of cheese in half
4. Spread jam lavishly
5. Put wheel back together
6. Bake for 4 to7 minutes
7. Sprinkles almonds over the melted cheese.
8. Enjoy with a fresh loaf of buttered French bread and your favorite tea.

This recipe quick and easy recipe will please anybody who likes cheese. I replace the almonds in this recipe with apricots; they flavor the brie well. Never tasted brie before? Try refrigerated brie, cut into little pieces, and enjoy with fresh fruit.
Don’t forget to email your original recipes to theskilletda@yahoo.com. In our next issue, look for a review on Alex Stafford’s S’mores cake recipe. The Skillet will also be hosting a holiday food competition on Dec. 12 during lunch! Bring your favorite holiday food for tasting by selected teacher judges. Listen up for updates on the announcements.
Now readers can follow The Skillet on http://www.theskilletda.blogspot.com/, where you can try taking the Tea Etiquette quiz to see if you have the sip tips down.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bye Bye Liz

Elizabeth Van Hooser, former food writer for The Florida Times Union, resigned on Nov. 13, 2009, Friday. Call it a bogus myth, or just coincidence, but this Friday the thirteenth was most certainly an un-fortunate day for me.

Elizabeth, or "Liz" as she liked to be called, was the closest person I met to work a job I wish to own someday. I met her through Denise Dvorak, my jounalism teacher. Liz was most inviting when I first contacted her by email. We scheduled an appointment for meeting at The Times Union office, and there I was, dressed as what-a-visitor-should-dress-like-entering-the-Times-building, in black high heels and a dress.

Upon reaching, Liz had me tour the building. From the photography hall, ancient records library, meeting Ross Well, to dun-dun-dun... the buturing editing table. Their massive printing mashine was said to shake the building when it vomited many (I forgot the exact statistic) per minute.

I could totally imagine myself working there. The rush of writing was crawling over every carpet thread that covered the place. After the tour, Liz and I lunched at the office cafeteria and talked about... well food. Laughs, stories, advice, and encouragement filled our conversation. A week or so later, I modelled for one of Liz' articles for a picture. She also sent me cookbook review project, which was published by Bal Arneson, the cookbook author. The Skillet as a column followed, and now I took her advice to start a blog too.

Liz has a year old daughter, Amelia, and she is her currant everything. Liz wants her daughter experiencing her growing up, her Christmas', Thanksgiving, Birthdays, with her family. Amelia's grandparents live in Columbia, and that is where Liz is moving to. As much as I am happy for Liz and her daighter, I will miss her dearly.

Liz moving away is not budging my ambition to become a food writer. I will always remember her as one of my guides and inspirations.

Thanks Liz, and good luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let It Snow... in Florida

Ever wondered how snow tasted? Cool crystals melting on tongues, giving winter just the right flavor. So what if it doesn’t snow in our Sunshine state, we can eat blizzards of snow even in the Sahara, with a help from a refrigerator.
Here is a recipe by David Lebovitz from his book The Perfect Scoop, which combines freezing temperatures with a tropical coconut twist.

Quick Coconut Ice Cream with Saffron

2/3 cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
2 ounces (60 g) palm sugar, or 1/4 cup white or unrefined cane sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and chill the mixture thoroughly.
3. Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker. Once churned, be sure to scrape any saffron threads clinging to the dasher back in to the ice cream.

Review from The Skillet: The combination of saffron and coconut milk not only tasted delectable, the red and white colors added a dash of holiday cheer. And those who are afraid of trying saffron in their ice cream, note that saffron is a topping delicacy, originally only used in foods prepared for kings as a symbol of royalty and delicate flavor. I love saffron on my custard too, the French use the ingredient in many of their desserts.
Try adding dry-fruit to the ice-cream if you enjoy crunch like me. Pistachios were my pick, but their flavor was too strong against the coconut. (Although pistachios in vanilla ice-cream work really well.) Cashews would enhance taste, or even shreds of coconut before serving.
Serve three little scoops topped on one another and surprise your guests with a coconut snowman dessert.
And trust me, snow doesn’t even taste this good.

Not an ice-cream person? A holiday slushy punch should ice up the day.

Florida Fun Slushy Punch

Country Time lemonade (12 scoops of canned mix with water as per directions on can)
1 lg. can pineapple juice
1 lg. frozen orange juice with water as per can directions
2-3 c. sugar

Mix all together until sugar is dissolved, and store in a large container. (Don't use glass jars, the mix can be a pain to get out.) Put in freezer, and stir occasionally while it is freezing, to keep juices from settling. After about 8 to 10 hours, serve after crushing any big chunks of ice.
Some advice: To decorate, slice some fresh pineapple, or separate orange slices, cut half-way through the middle and place on the glass line.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My First with Sushi

Ever since I threw up after eating shrimp for the first time, I've suffered a horrible case of seafood phobia. I am fascinated with ocean life (my favorite biome), but the ocean on my plate was always controversial in my head. Living in north India most of my life didn't exactly provide an array of great seafood either.
Come Florida, a whole different story. I live in Jacksonville by the beach now, and not having eaten sushi was probably the biggest sin a Floridian can commit. 6th of Nov, 2009, Friday, about 5:30 pm, was the first time sushi touched my tongue.
I have to give it to Tyler Norris for being my encouragement and guide. The Sushi place in Five Points was where the tasting began. For a starter I tried the California roll which was basic uncooked salmon and asparagus, layered with tiny orange fish eggs. I have to say, the first bite is definitely a shock. Then you get over the texture and start enjoying the flavor. There was nothing uncooked about it, not like uncooked land-roaming-meat by any means.
My fumbling chopsticks then trooped their way to the "Dynamite". This roll was cooked, prepared with salmon, asparagus, and a step further--crab. And let me tell you, this roll was quite dynamite alright, my favorite of the four I tried. Probably because of the tangy sauce they had on top. The roll was fried, so the texture was crispy rather than soft.
The third roll was an uncooked salmon and cheese roll (Yes, by this time I was in love with salmon), which sadly wasn't the greatest. Stickier than the rest, I am more of a crunch-in-my-bite kind of person. This was more like a sushi flavored marsh-mellow so to speak.
Becoming more daring, the fourth was my bravest attempt. This roll was called... "The Green Dragon". Sound scary already? Exciting is the better word. This beautifully arranged sushi roll was made with uncooked (nope, not salmon) eel! Why I think this was brave because I used to own a pet eel. I won't go into any cheesy sentimental details, because I am about to tell you how I ate one. But I tried to keep my former pet feeling away and took a bite of The Dragon. And the dragon bit me back. For all those people who think they've had it all, oh you are so in the dark. I loved the taste of this ocean meat, it was just the texture I couldn't get over. Let's see... uncooked eel is like chewing a gummy bear steak. Appetizing?
I didn't even get close to finishing The Dragon, but I am sure to give the beast another try. Oh and if a sushi restaurant asks you to choose between soup or salad for the beginning, choose the clear soup! A salty watery sip of goodness.
I am falling in love with the ocean, so much I could eat it.
(P.S. Next on my list of adventures are shellfish. Suggestions for a tropical newbie?)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Welcome to The Skillet

I'm very excited for starting this blog about my new column called The Skillet in the Improviser, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts newspaper. The column addresses the exploration of the culinary arts, and encourages experimentation with food.
From here on out I will be posting the columns that get into the paper, as well as some of the recipes I try on my own. theskilletda@yahoo.com is the email where anybody can send me their original recipes for a star rating review. I will keep my readers updated with the experiences I go through while trying to cook the recipes sent, visiting different restaurants, some cookbook reviews, and all that yummy stuff.
Ok now that we have the basics covered, let me tell you about my first mission. I was checking my email and found a message with the subject line: S'mores cake recipe, sent in by Alex Stafford (Thank you Alex!). I am not much of a baker, but when you put s'mores and cake in your subject line, there's not much of a choice but to give in.
There are many stories coming up, like how I had Sushi for the first time only yesterday, what eel tastes like, how many stars Alex's cake received, and many more.
Tune in again for a fresh bite from The Skillet!

Henna Bakshi
Food Columnist