Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gazpacho Foam

For everyone who has been following Father of Food's health situation it looks like with exercise and therapy his swallowing is improving, and he is able to taste food again in the form of thickened liquids and purées, but he's keeping the feeding tube for now, because we know that his condition may worsen again.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about what he might be able to eat that could offer the taste and aroma and textures of food without ending up in the lungs, and it occurs to me that the answer may not be in bland hospital foods, but at the cutting edge of the culinary arts, in the field of "molecular gastronomy," experimentation with science and food--food that does not even attempt to satisfy hunger, but food for food's sake. The "thickened liquids" that Father of Food has been drinking, after all, are thickened with many of the same hydrocolloids that avantgarde chefs like Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz, and Wylie Dufresne have been playing with. Perhaps some restaurant critics think that Adrià's espumas and foams that became popular in the mid-1990s are a bit passé, but what could be more ideal for Father of Food than something intensely flavored and without any substantial mass? Of course we'll have to confirm that with his doctors and the speech therapists who work with him on his swallowing, but it seems promising, and it's always fun to learn to make something new.

Foams are typically made from liquids thickened with starch, fat, egg whites, or hydrocolloids like gelatin, agar agar, xanthan, carageenan, and other food stabilizers that may be familiar from processed food labels, but are generally naturally derived from plants or algae. They may be whipped with a blender or in a nitrous oxide cream whipper. A cream whipper like those made by iSi can whip cream to five times its original volume, or around twice the volume of cream whipped with a whisk or an electric mixer. The one that I use is the iSi Thermo Whip, which is also a thermos flask that can keep ingredients hot for three hours or cold for up to eight hours. The contents are protected by the nitrous oxide gas, so they taste and look fresh when dispensed.

While this all seems new and exotic, it is not that hard to make a foam. My first foam was simply mashed potatoes, served hot and whipped lighter than any mashed potatoes I'd ever had. It was perfect as a side dish where I might want the flavor and texture of potatoes without getting filled up on potatoes. It also worked cold as a garnish for a cold cucumber soup.

To make the gazpacho foam pictured above, blend at high speed about 1/3 cup chopped onion and one clove garlic with about 1/3 cup beef consommé and the juice of one lemon. Add about 2/3 cup tomato and an equal amount of peeled cucumber and blend thoroughly. Add marjoram, black pepper, sea salt, and piment d’Espelette or other hot pepper or Tabasco to taste. Dissolve 2g Knox gelatin in about 1/4 cup warm beef consommé, and blend into mixture. Strain and chill.

Pour one pint of the mixture into the 1 pint Thermo Whip, charge with one N2O charger, and shake vigorously, then turn the Thermo Whip upside down and shake a couple of times to bring most of the liquid to the spout. Release the foam gently at first to produce a controlled spray. If dispensed at this point, it will be drinkable. For a firmer foam that can be eaten with a spoon, allow Thermo Whip to rest in the refrigerator overnight on its side. Shake vigorously and dispense into a cocktail glass garnished with a cucumber slice and a spear of red bell pepper.

Garden Bento

I know it's been a while since I posted a bento picture, and today I felt inspired. I have been making the girls wraps at lunch and they just remind me of flowers.

Here is what is in this bento box:

Rice with Tumeric for the sunny sky.
Canned Green Beans for the grass
Fresh String Beans for the stems of the flowers.
Green Pears for the leaves.
Tortilla wrapped Turkey and Cheese for the flower heads.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tiny Deviled Eggs with Pancetta

I couldn't resist the quail eggs from Northshire Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, so this morning's breakfast, with a little inspiration from Thomas Keller's poached "Bacon and Eggs" from The French Laundry Cookbook, was deviled quail eggs with homemade pancetta. Keller's famous take on bacon and eggs uses poached quail eggs, which was a little more involved than I wanted to be before my first coffee of the day, so hard boiled had to do.

The pancetta is based on the recipe from Polcyn and Ruhlman's Charcuterie, which is a book I've mentioned before, but if you don't happen to be making your own pancetta, bacon or your favorite salty cured meat will work fine. Spam--why not? Go for the postmodern effect.

Quail eggs are about an inch long and have speckled shells, and can often be found in Asian markets as well as farmer's markets from time to time. To hard boil quail eggs, put eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 3 minutes, then chill in ice water and peel under cold water. The eggs have a surprisingly thick membrane, so the trick to peeling them without breaking the whites is to break the membrane and let a little water in to separate it from the white. It's a little tedious. I'm glad I restrained myself and only bought a dozen quail eggs, even though they were $3 a dozen, $5 for two dozen.

The egg salad is made from the quail egg yolks and whites that broke while peeling, a little mayonnaise, grainy mustard, and a brunoise (a fine dice--about 1/8 inch) of cornichons. I put the extra quail egg salad over cucumber slices. I filled the egg whites with the egg salad using one of grandson of food's baby feeding spoons. He hasn't needed that spoon for over a year, but I knew it would come in handy for something eventually.

The pancetta is diced similarly to the cornichons and then fried like bacon and drained on a paper towel before garnishing the deviled eggs.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Drink in the Desert

Aaaaahhhhhh, sweet food, have you ever seen such deliciousness?

This bowl of soup, pudding, jello, and thickened apple juice may not look like much to you but I can guarantee it is a huge improvement over feeding tube fare which does not even get near the mouth on its way to the stomach. Can you imagine what it would be like to taste the most simple of hospital purees when just a week ago you were not sure you would ever get to suck on an ice chip again? It would be like finding a drink of water after wandering through the desert for days without.

Wait... my Father is in the desert and he could not have even a drink for days and days. So it is exactly like that.

The state of things a couple of weeks ago when Father of Food first got his feeding tube was grim, but things are improving. Father of Food was moved to a regular hospital bed and is out of the ICU. He still has a feeding tube, but he has been working with a speech therapist who has helped him strengthen his swallow and speech. This has allowed him to progress to drinking thickened liquids. Thank you everyone who has sent cards, left comments on the blog, sent e-mails, visited, and called. It is better therapy than any other.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dean Supply

A dear old Friend has brought the Family of Food Blog to a cook's supply heaven which I must share with all of you. It is called Dean Supply, located in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and now on the world wide web. For those of you who are looking for those professional chefs tools, so hard to find at reasonable prices, Dean Supply is for you. All those supplying your restaurants, all the cooks out there with burgeoning catering businesses (I'm looking at you MandiCrocker), and all of those thrifty foodies who do it themselves, Dean Supply is for you.
Watch the video, you'll get the idea.

I am so proud to share this with all of you. This is a real service oriented family business that has been around for over 50 years. Any restaurant supply you need, you can get it at Dean Supply. Now with their developing website, you will be able to get their items around the country and I suppose, around the world. If you have any questions about cooking, catering, equipment, etc., just call them up and talk to a real person. Maybe the person you talk to will be my dear old friend.

Dean Supply - Cleveland
3500 Woodland Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
Local: (216) 771-3300
Fax: (216) 781-5992


Dean Supply - Pittsburgh
3300 Penn ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
PH: (412) 683-8500
FX: (412) 683-8550


Monday, July 20, 2009

30 Dollars and Change at the Ralphs

Ralphs has got some great "Loss Leaders" going right now. A "Loss Leader" is a product sold at lower than cost to attract customers into the store so that they will buy more profitable items while they are there. If you are careful, you can feed your family with the cheaper foods, while avoiding the more marked up items.

Here is what I got at Ralphs this morning for about $30 and change. I used my Ralphs Card but did not use any coupons.

2 1/2 Gallon Bottles of Apple Juice
2 Gallons of Skim Milk
2 Cans of Green Beans
18 Eggs
6 Bananas
5 Plums
4 Nectarines
1 Pint of Blueberries
1 Half Pint of Blackberries
2 1.25lb Packages of Tender Cut White Meat Chicken
1 Whole Grain Baguette

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Legacy of Soul

There are people who try to make the world a better place through good works or kindness or the creation of fine art. Chef Randy Hoffman did all three of these things through the medium of chili. Randy was the Owner of Chili My Soul, located in Encino California. He created over forty different chilis which were featured at Chili My Soul on a rotating basis. Randy often sat at the back of the restaurant chatting with the customers, expounding the merits of this chili or that. He was a craftsman who cared greatly about his work. Soul was one ingredient you could find in any one of Randy's chilis. Randy once told me that he was offered a lucrative contract to start a franchised restaurant, but he turned it down when he found out he would not be able to hire his own people or exercise control over the quality of his chilis.
As a gem in a mountain of rocks, Chili My Soul was one of the real inspirations for this blog.

Sadly, Randy Hoffman unexpectedly passed away on June 18th and the restaurant is currently closed.

We reviewed Chili My Soul in 2007 (Post).

Dad's Knife

Father of Food (that would be my dad) has pretty good knife skills, which I suppose he learned from his mother and improved a bit in a Chinese cooking class he took some 38 years ago, around the time he bought this Henckels 8-inch chef's knife from The Pampered Chef in Miami. We replaced this old, worn knife with a new Henckels 8-inch chef's knife on his birthday several years ago, but on our recent trip to Las Vegas, I found the old one in a drawer, and as you can see from the photo on top, it had been oversharpened so that a hollow had formed in front of the bolster, which is the thick part of a forged knife where the blade meets the handle. Periodically the bolster needs to be ground down to prevent this, but sometimes even professional sharpening services don't do this. The wooden handle has held up surprisingly well without splitting or cracking. I remember Grandmother of Food used to use ancient butcher's knives that probably belonged to her mother and had rubber bands to keep the handles from falling off. I grew up with this knife, and when I went to college some twenty-odd years ago and needed a knife of my own, I bought one just like it in the Henckels Four-star line with a molded polypropylene handle, which I still use every day.

I've been working on refining my sharpening technique and trying a few more advanced projects like grinding bolsters and reshaping worn out knives, so I thought I had nothing to lose by taking this knife back to New York with me and seeing if I could turn it into something usable again. I've reshaped a few old Sabatier carbon steel chef's knives successfully, but they are fairly easy to work. They are thinner than German style knives, so there isn't as much metal to remove, and carbon steel is easier to sharpen than stainless steel like Henckels "Friodur." It turned into a two-day project, and I still consider it a work in progress.

I started by grinding off most of the excess metal at the heel of the blade with a Dremel, cooling the blade in water as I progressed to avoid losing the temper of the steel. When it started looking like a knife again, I switched to a file, refining the curve to get back the characteristic bounce of a good chef's knife, and restoring the bevel along the edge. Then I continued sharpening and refining the edge first on a double-sided coarse/medium oilstone, and finished on a Japanese 1000/6000 grit waterstone. I tried chopping a bit and wasn't getting a good rock. The heel of the knife was striking the board too soon, so it was back to the file, and then another round of sharpening on both double-sided stones, and the result is what you see in the bottom photograph. The profile is narrower like a French-style chef's knife, but it's still got most of the heft of a German-style knife.

I used it to chop some carrots and garlic for dinner, and it felt like meeting an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time. It's not perfect yet, but it's not too bad for a knife that's pushing forty. I think I've got one more curve adjustment to get the rocking motion just right and a couple of more sharpenings to go to get the edge sharp all the way back to the heel of the knife, but except for the last inch or so, the blade is sharper than its been in years. If it turns out that the back part of the blade is too thick to hold an edge, I can still use it for heavy work like chopping through bones. When the edge is right, I'll probably shave a bit off the end of the handle to move the balance forward a bit, and then maybe I'll buff out the scratches on the blade.

Dad's old knife won't replace my newer knives that are in better shape, but my new knives won't take the place of this old friend either.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Attempt at the Most Dangerous Dessert

All week I had an urge to try my brother's recipe for his fruit tatin found here in this post: Mango Strawberry Upside Down Tart. We had some very ripe peaches about to turn bad and a box of plums following close behind, so this seemed like a perfect time to try this recipe out with the fruit on hand.

The carmelization process went beautifully. As you can see in the leading picture, deliciousness was sure to ensue. I made the crust ahead of time and got it atop the fruit mixture intact, and it baked beautifully in the pan.

The transfer process, the part that makes this the most dangerous dessert, didn't go as perfectly. Thank goodness for the part of the recipe that said "Toddlers out of the kitchen." My husband and I had to chant this over and over to keep the little ones out. We added a "Dogs out of the kitchen!" chant to the song, too. I wore plenty of protection, silicone gloves and my heavy apron, but I could still feel the heat of the molten sugars in the pan as I took it out of my 425 degree oven. I chose a heavy bowl just bigger than the pan to flip my dessert into, since we had none bigger, and it made me perhaps too cautious.

I ended up with a crumble, a crust, not on the bottom tart. A mush perhaps? Wait... I made a cobbler! Yeah, a cobbler. A pretty tasty cobbler, in fact. Why, that's what I was planning the whole time.

Thankfully, no dogs or children were harmed in the making of this dessert.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Father of Food

Dear Family of Food Readers,

You may have been wondering, where is Father of Food? Back in January we posted some updates, but he has been in a long term care facility since. Recently, he had a bad setback and is now recovering in the hospital, but he is not going to be able to be as active as even in recent months. His mobility is severely limited. He has been progressively losing muscle function which the doctor called today a dystrophy. What I am extremely saddened by today, the thing that I am reluctant to write, is the distinct possibility that Father may need to eat through a feeding tube. This would be very sad indeed. Father of Food without Food? It would be quite a loss of joy in his life. I would like any of you who know Father of Food or who have ever read any of his articles or tried one of his recipes to send him a nice word or two. If you know Father personally, send this to anyone else who knows him. If I get a bunch of comments I will bring them to him and read them to him for comfort and support. It really helps. If he can not have Food, at least he will have Food for the soul.

Thanks very much,
Daughter of Food

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