Recipe Review: Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce

If all vegetarian dishes had this much flavor, there would be a lot more vegetarians ūüėȬ† This dish is from Bon Appetit January 2012.¬† A head of cauliflower is cut into “steaks,” sauteed until golden brown, and then roasted in the oven at 400F until tender.¬† Some of the raw cauliflower florets are combined with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice in a flavor-packed relish.¬† The third component is a tomato sauce made with tomatoes and garlic roasted at the same time as the cauliflower, then blended together.

Harold McGee has written a great book that explains the science of cooking entitled On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.  Roasting leads to browning or caramelization, where amino acids react with sugars when heated, generating hundreds of complex flavor compounds in a process called the Maillard reaction.  The transformation of cauliflower in this dish is highlighted by the complex, tender, caramelized, roasted cauliflower steaks contrasting with the crunchy raw cauliflower florets in the relish.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Meze Platter with Hummus, Cucumber Salad, Roasted Red Peppers, Artichokes, and Olives

This is a collection of several easy recipes from Bon Appetit magazine, from which you can pick and choose to create a platter of Mediterranean appetizers.  There is home-made hummus made from blending chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and spices.  The cumin and paprika are a nice addition, and the raw garlic gives the hummus some bite.  There is a simple cucumber salad with sliced cucumbers, non-fat Greek yogurt, feta, and oregano.  I roasted some red peppers and also served store-bought marinated artichoke hearts, olives, and toasted pita bread.  There is a shrimp salad recipe too, but I skipped this since I was serving shrimp as a main course.

Link to recipes here.

How to Roast Red Peppers

Roasting red peppers enhances their sweetness and transforms their texture. They are good as part of an appetizer platter, salad, or sandwich.  Sweet red, yellow, or orange peppers are better for roasting than green peppers, which are too bitter.

I used to roast peppers whole in the oven under the broiler, turning several times to evenly roast the peppers all over.¬† However, I recently learned this technique from The New Best Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen where the peppers are flattened and roasted on one side, which is much more even and efficient.¬† After roasting, the peppers are placed in a sealed container that steams the peppers and loosens the skin for removal.

1. preheat the broiler

2. cut off the top of the pepper.

3. cut out the core of seeds

4. make one cut along the side of the pepper from the top to the bottom of the pepper

5. flatten the pepper and remove any remaining ribs and seeds

6. place pepper skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet and put in the oven about 4-6″ from the broiler

7. roast until skin is mostly well charred, about ten minutes

8. put the roasted peppers in a covered container, which traps the steam and helps loosen the skin

9. once cool, the roasted pepper skins can now be easily taken off, and the peppers can be used in any dish

I used the roasted red peppers in a Mediterranean Meze appetizer platter.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Graham Ice Cream

Momofuku Noodle Bar and Milk Bar serve many creative flavors of soft serve.¬† I once had the delicious Olive Oil and Pickled Cherry Twist, which was served with crushed saltines, Ritz crackers, and chopped dried apricots on the bottom.¬† The Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook contains several of Christina Tosi’s interesting, non-traditional ice cream recipes, including Pretzel Ice Cream, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Cereal Milk Ice Cream, and Graham Ice Cream that are based on the Mother Recipes in the book.¬† I decided to tackle the Graham Ice Cream, which conveniently utilizes a 1/4 recipe of Graham Crust (I used the other 3/4 for Brownie Pie.)

Graham crackers are made with graham flour, a type of whole wheat flour that gives graham crackers their distinctive taste and texture.  The three components of the wheat grain (endosperm, bran, and germ) are ground separately.  The endosperm, from which white flour is made, is finely ground, the bran and germ are coarsely ground, and then all three are combined together.  The graham cracker was invented by a Presbyterian Minister named Sylvester Graham in 1829 to encourage healthy eating with whole grains.  However, modern supermarket graham crackers are typically made with a combination of refined wheat flour and graham flour.  Thanks Wikipedia!

The ice cream graham flavor is achieved by steeping baked Graham Crust in milk, similar to the technique for making Cereal Milk.  The graham-infused milk is mixed with liquid glucose, sugar, salt, heavy cream, milk powder, and bloomed gelatin.  The ice cream base is definitely non-traditional as there are no egg yolks.  Instead, gelatin is used as a thickener and stabilizer.  The thick liquid glucose makes it a little difficult to whisk the mixture into a smooth ice cream base.  Once mixed, the ice cream base is spun in an ice cream maker and frozen.

I liked the Graham Ice Cream, which has sweet graham flavor and goes well with the Momofuku Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Crumb.

Recipe Review: Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa

A healthy and easy recipe with Mexican flavors from Bon Appetit January 2012 using easy to find supermarket ingredients, including canned black beans and rotisserie chicken.  The black beans are cooked with onion, green peppers, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and chicken broth.  The beans took about twenty minutes to thicken instead of the 8-10 minutes suggested in the recipe.  The green apple salsa made with red onion, lime juice, and cilantro is a cool and refreshing contrast to the hearty beans and rice.

Link to recipe here.

Restaurant Review: Umami Burger

Umami was discovered as the fifth taste (along with sour, sweet, salty, bitter) and represents “savory,” which biochemically is the presence of glutamate amino acids and ribonucleotides such as inosine monophosphate and guanosine monophosphate.¬† Foods that have high concentrations of these substances and thus high umami content are bonito, soy sauce, and shiitake mushrooms in Asian cuisine and cheeses and tomatoes in Western cuisine.¬† Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an additive used to impart more umami to food. ¬†Like the other tastes, specific G-protein coupled receptors expressed in the taste buds of the tongue have been identified for umami.

Umami Burger is a burger chain based in Los Angeles that recently opened a location in the Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco. Their goal is to serve burgers with high umami content.  For example, the signature Umami burger is served with a parmesan crisp, roasted tomato, shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, and house-made ketchup.  The server said they prepare almost everything in house, including grinding meat for the hamburger and making their own cheese, pickles and condiments like the ketchup and a garlic aioli. The menu has a lot of interesting burgers, like a bacon-wrapped scallop burger with pork belly and a truffle burger.

So how were the burgers?  I had the Umami burger, which was juicy and delicious.  The brioche bun was a little bit rich.  The fries were crisp but a little salty. This place is a bit pricy, with the Umami burger at $11 and fries for $3.50, and a Coke for $3.  The burgers ranged in price from $10-15.  The decor was modern, tables were not too crowded, and service was friendly.  I would go back to try some of the other burgers and other items on the menu and would recommend this place if you are in the area.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Brownie Pie, Graham Crust, Fudge Sauce, Chocolate Crumb

Nice Brownie Pie recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.¬† The soft brownie pie filling is intensely chocolate, with 72% chocolate and Valrhona cocoa powder.¬† Crunchy graham crust is great.¬† The book suggests using Fudge Sauce and Chocolate Crumb for a fancier presentation, but they are not absolutely necessary.¬† The Fudge Sauce is pretty easy and uses the same 72% chocolate and cocoa powder as in the Brownie Pie, and I had some left-over Chocolate Crumb, both of which provide a contrasting texture of chocolate.¬† All sub-recipes are pretty straightforward.¬† A stand mixer is the only required equipment, but a blender is also useful to make crumbs out of graham crackers for the crust.¬† So…much…delicious…chocolate…

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Grapefruit Pie

One of the great things about a well-written cookbook is the learning of new techniques and their application to new flavor combinations and dishes.¬† The humbly-named Grapefruit Pie recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is actually a fairly sophisticated recipe, with a Ritz Crunch crust, a passion-fruit sabayon with individual grapefruit threads as filling, all topped with a key lime pie-like layer of thickened grapefruit-sweetened condensed milk.¬† Chef Tosi writes that they tried many different flavor combinations in their test kitchen, and grapefruit was the winner, and so we readers get the benefit of the all of the chefs’ experimentation in the test kitchen.¬† All of the techniques are very well explained, making them doable in a home kitchen with no special equipment required except for a blender.

First there is the Ritz Crunch as pie crust.¬† Ritz Crunch uses one of Tosi’s signature techniques of transforming a store-bought ingredient into something uniquely hers.¬† It’s really simple: mix crushed Ritz crackers, sugar, salt, and milk powder, then bind together with butter and bake.¬† The ratios of ingredients just works, and the resulting Ritz Crunch is like a sweet, buttery, crunchy Ritz Cracker candy that is insanely delicious.¬† It’s used here as the pie crust, but it is good by itself just to snack on.

The passionfruit-grapefruit thread filling is really interesting.  Passionfruit puree is mixed with sugar and an egg is whisked in over low heat to incorporate air and thicken the mixture.  Then gelatin and cold butter is cut in using a blender.  This is, I think, an easier variation on the sabayon method where egg, sugar, and citrus is whisked over a double boiler and butter is then whisked in.  For the grapefruit threads, sections of grapefruit are cut away from all of the pith and membranes.  The individual threads are loosened over low heat and mixed in with the passionfruit mixture.

The topping is pretty easy, a mixture of grapefruit juice, sweetened condensed milk, salt, and citric acid.¬† The citric acid provides tartness and helps thicken the mixture, which is similar to key lime pie filling with the use of sweetened condensed milk.¬† Citric acid can be ordered online or can be found at specialty baking shops like Spun Sugar in Berkeley, CA.¬† Regular grocery stores such as Safeway or Trader Joe’s do not have citric acid.

In the finished pie there is nice contrast between the sweet Ritz Crunch crust and the tart layers of the pie.  The grapefruit threads are a really genius addition that provide little bursts of flavor and textural contrast.   The Grapefruit Pie recipe is a nice example of the creativity and deliciousness that is beautifully illustrated in this book.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Cinnamon Bun Pie

I had a 1/2 recipe of “Mother Dough”, Christina Tosi’s versatile bread dough, left over from making Momofuku Bagel Bombs, so I decided to use the rest on the Cinnamon Bun Pie recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.¬† In this recipe, the “Mother Dough” is used as the crust of a pie.¬† There are two additional sub-recipes, Liquid Cheesecake and Cinammon Streusel.¬† Liquid Cheesecake is a pliable version of cheesecake filling that is made of cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg, and milk.¬† The book calls for baking the liquid cheesecake in plastic wrap, but in my previous experience making Liquid Cheesecake for the Carrot Layer Cake, the plastic wrap melted at 300 F, so I baked it in parchment paper instead. Cinnamon Streusel is really easy: mix together dry ingredients (flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon) and then mix in melted butter to make a crumble.

To assemble, the dough is rolled out and placed in a pie pan.  Brown butter is spooned on top, then liquid cheesecake, then more brown butter, brown sugar, cinammon, and salt, then more liquid cheesecake, and finally a topping of cinnamon streusel.  The whole pie is baked at 350 for about 40-45 minutes.

I thought the final Cinnamon Bun Pie was good.  Each individual component is tasty, but the final product with the layers of brown butter, brown sugar, cheesecake, and cinnamon streusel is a little over the top in sweetness and richness for my taste (shocking, I know).  Good recipe for someone with a (really) sweet tooth.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Bagel Bombs

Momofuku Milk Bar Bagel Bombs are based on the book’s “Mother Dough” recipe, which is simply flour, salt, active dry yeast, and water, kneaded in a stand mixer and proofed for 45 minutes.¬† The first time I tried to make a 1/2 recipe, because that was all that was required for the Bagel Bombs, but the dough ended up being too wet.¬† I remade the dough using the full recipe and it came out appropriately.

The Bagel Bombs contain a surprise inside, a plug of cream cheese, bacon, and scallions.¬† These are frozen and then wrapped in the dough.¬† An egg wash is applied, followed with a sprinkling of Everything Mix (garlic powder, onion powder, dried onions, salt, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds).¬† Then into the oven, although at the recommended temp of 325 mine didn’t brown.¬† For my second batch I used 350; your oven temp/time may vary.¬† As you can see, some of the cream cheese explodes out of the bagel, but Christina Tosi says that is to be expected.

Fresh out of the oven, these Bagel Bombs are delicious.  The Everything Mix on top is nicely balanced, the dough is reminiscent of a bagel, and how could you go wrong with a warm, gooey center of bacon-scallion cream cheese?

Link to recipe here.

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