Food Science

August 25th, 2011 by admin

I was at a farmers market a few weekends ago, and there were a lot of meat venders there.  One person was selling ground buffalo, another selling ground elk, and a third selling ground grass fed beef.  Exotic meats fascinate me, so I bought all three.  I ended up with three pounds of meat.  One thing I love more than exotic meats is science.  So, I decided to set up a taste test so I could figure out what the best meat was.

Eighteen people, six pounds and three hours later, I ended up with some results!

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March 12th, 2011 by admin

I love delicious food. I love ridiculous themes. I love math. So, Pi day, a holiday celebrated around the world by nerds and math teachers, holds a special place in my heart. I commented to a friend that we should have a Pi day party, and she said she was already throwing a party and we should incorporate Pi. How could I say no?  What’s nerdier than a comic and pi party?  The whole Pi Day thing was my idea, so I had to bake a pi(e)…



Update: I entered the Serious Eats Pi Day Contest:
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Sous Vide Tilapia

January 17th, 2011 by admin

I just returned from an adventure in Mexico, but I didn’t have my fill of fish. On my last evening we went to a fancy restaurant called El Dorado, and I got their titular dish. It was a piece of fish with plantains. It was delicious, and I have been day dreaming about making some delicious fish myself.

So, I went to the Fresh Market and got myself some tilapia and scallops for my fish, some white and purple asparagus and garlic for my side. I threw the tilapia and scallops in a bag with dill and sous vided them for a few hours. I then roasted the asparagus with pepper and the garlic. I fried the tilapia and scallops for a second or two to brown them.

One thing about fancy restaurants is that the food is so pretty. I decided to try to do the plating myself. I think it turned out pretty well:

I put the scallops in between the alternatingly funny colored asparagus, piled the tilapia that I tore up (by accident) on the bottom and put the one intact piece on top.  I tried drizzling balsamic vinegar on the asparagus, but it was cheap vinegar so it wasn’t thick enough.  I don’t think I’m at the Top Chef level, but it looked pretty good.

Sous Vide Dill Tilapia and Scallions with Roasted Garlic White and Purple Asparagus Drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar and Lime (Marked Up)

It tasted pretty great.  Roasting asparagus makes it nice and crunchy.  The scallops were the least impressive, I should have browned them more or something… or maybe sous vide isn’t right for them?  They ended up bland.

The fish itself was good.  I added some dill, but not enough.

I have two more tilapia fillets preseasoned in sous vide bags in the freezer, hopefully the next adventures will be even better.

Pea Ice Cream

October 10th, 2010 by admin

I love peas.  I have a long standing theory that peas make everything better.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that peas are the greatest food ever — I’m just saying that this equation is true:

X + peas > X

I have done a number of different experiments in the past:

  1. Peas  with Macaroni and Cheese (Add in some tuna, and it’s heavenly)
  2. Peas with Spaghetti and Marinara
  3. Peas in Burgers
  4. Peas on Pizza
  5. Peas with Peas (More peas!  Delicious!)

All of tests were wild successes.  Dinner and lunch have been defeated.  But, there was always the question, “What about dessert?”  Pea Ice Cream?  Is that heresy?

Note: All of the charts and graphs are using Tableau. This is neat, because it allows all of the graphs to be interactive. Click on different parts of the graph to do extra filtering or get extra information. On the flip side, the main page may take a moment to load and requires JavaScript.

Update: Tableau, although an awesome tool for making graphs, is not that awesome for embedding. It doesn’t work with Google Chrome, and it takes forever to load on any other web browser. I replaced the graphs with static images. If you want interactive graphs, click on them

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Dessert Island

September 26th, 2010 by admin

Final!  X Marks the spot

I was invited to a pirate party last night.  There was a costume contest, a scavenger hunt, three legged peg legged races, grog, anti-scurry shakes, along with other adventures planned.  This brought up the question:  As a guest, what do I bring?  I’m not much of a costume person, and the drinks seemed covered (Except for rum, I couldn’t really think of a piratey drink).  So, I thought a dessert was the way to go.

So, I went to Price Chopper to get some ingredients.  I didn’t have much of a plan, but I thought the super market might inspire me.  I already had a lurking suspicion I wanted to make a cake.  To be more exact, a desert island cake.  Wandering the isles, I had two ideas:  A traditional cake, or a carrot cake.  The carrot cake was appealing since I could then use a carrot as the obligatory palm tree.  But, I couldn’t find a mix for carrot cake, and the recipes looked too involved for my time frame (I only had three hours to complete the cake).

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Alan Ruins the Internet

September 8th, 2010 by admin

I like internet recipes.  When cooking, I am often intimidated without something to start with.  But, at the same time, I find recipes too constricting.  I never listen to the recipes very carefully.  Sometimes, it works out, but not always.

I saw this recipe for some fresh marinara sauce.  But, it required four pounds of tomatoes.  I had a little over a pound and a half.  It asked me to mince my carrots, but I like big chunky pieces of carrots.  I also had some husk cherries, which are really just tiny little ultra sweet tomatoes.  While cooking, it smelled delicious: Fresh, and delicious.  It looked pretty good:

But, the taste was eh.  Not bad, but not great.  The husk cherries were just too sweet, and overwhelmed stuff.  And I think I cooked it too long, so the freshness went away.  I probably should have either cooked it longer to let the flavors really come together, or less to make it taste fresher.

Next, I tried to make some Moroccan Chicken.  This one was pretty much doomed from the start.  I didn’t have any chicken thighs.  I couldn’t find my oregano.  I didn’t have any preserved lemons.  A smart man would have given up.  I am not very smart.

I used chicken breasts instead of thighs.  I used real lemons instead of preserved.  The opinions were split on whether fresh lemons were appropriate:  “No, fresh lemons cannot be substituted for preserved lemons — they are totally different.” or “I just tried this dish with fresh lemons … and it came out quite well.” So, I was impatient and I made it:

It really had a lot of potential.  But it was just too bitter.  I am very touchy about bitterness, and I found it overwhelming.  I’m pretty sure the hour of cooking the lemon skins filled the entire dish with too much bitterness.

Next time?  I am going to try a different recipe for the tomato sauce, maybe this.  For the chicken, I think I’m going to try again, but with lemon juice instead of the whole lemons.

Accidental Korma

August 30th, 2010 by admin

Serious Eats had an article about curried meatballs with tomatoes.  I had a bunch of tomatoes from my CSA, so this was quite fascinating.  But, even though I had a bunch of tomatoes, I was missing some of the ingredients.  I didn’t have any cardamon, and no fresh ginger.  I also threw in some carrots, since carrots are awesome.  I also added some fresh spicy peppers because, well, they too are awesome.

Things were going pretty well until I reached step four that told me to run the sauce through a food mill.  I do not have a food mill.  I also prefer chunky sauces over smooth sauces, so I ignored that step.

The sauce:

Curried Meatball SauceCurried Meatballs Sauce

The meatballs:

Curried MeatballsCurried Meatballs

All together now:

Curried MeatballsCurried MeatballsCurried Meatballs

The results?   Not too bad.  Tasted just like a delicious korma.  Except much spicier than I get at most restaurants.  Also the meatballs mixed things up.  The next day, it was even more delicious.  My only regret is that I should have added peas and potatoes, it would have been much more exciting.

Eggplant Caviar

August 29th, 2010 by admin

My CSA has been forcing me to try a lot of foods I don’t particularly like.  Eggplant is one of those foods.  I don’t know what it is about eggplant, but it doesn’t really do it for me.  So I needed to find something to do about it.  David Lebovitz had a post about eggplant caviar.  I love hummus, so it sounds fascinating. So, I tried making it:

Eggplant Curry

The results?  Tastes like eggplant.  I probably shouldn’t be that surprised, but I was hoping that it would make a magical transformation into something awesome.  Oh well.

On an unrelated note, my account somehow got infected with some wacky Russian spyware or something.  I’m not really sure what happened, but it’s a little scary.  I think I cleaned out all of the edits, and I have changed my password, but it is scary that it happened at all.

CSA Week 5 and 6

July 29th, 2010 by alan

CSA Week 5 was kind of weak, to be honest…

The green beans were pretty good.  The dill was nice.  But I am sick of squash.  Probably because I don’t particularly like it at all.  And eggplant scares me.  It’s all purple and weird.  Most of my usage of the CSA this week was in salads.  Good salads, but nothing to write home about.  Also, last week I got The Flavor Bible.  That book is awesome.  It told me that dill went well with grean beans, and it did.  I threw some cashews in there too.  Pretty awesome.

This week my co-CSAer is going to Puerto Rico, so he didn’t want his half of the share.  I gave away a good amount of food (Most of the zucchini and squash), but I kept 90% of the potatoes and the entire onion.

I don’t know what the big bok choi looking thing.  Maybe they’re fordhook?  Carmen?  Who knows.  I haven’t tried them yet, so it’s still a mystery!  I did put the potatoes, onion, basil, garlic and some chicken in tinfoil and threw it on the grill.  The chicken ended up a little dry, but the veggies were quite nice.  Onions were still pretty flavorful and the potatoes were cooked almost perfectly

Yum.  I still have the eggplant from last week.  I think I’m going to make a little bit of eggplant caviar… Then I need to figure out how to use my half pint of currants, plus I have a lot of beets left…. Not sure what to do about those bad boys either.

CSA Week 3 and 4

July 15th, 2010 by admin

Two weeks ago, I got:

According to the website, that includes: Mei Qing choi, Fordhook or Rhubarb Chard, Lincoln leeks, Purple mizuna, Parsley, Sugar Snap peas, Peppers, Multipik and Cashflow Squash, Hakurei turnips.  Mei Qing choi, purple mizuna, Multipik?  Are they just making stuff up.  Plus, look at that purple pepper.  That thing was awesome looking.

Unfortunately, purple peppers taste like green peppers.  In other words, gross.  For food, I had some salads and what not.  Plus made some stir fry:

It was all right.  Most exciting thing:  I got some delicious snap peas.  Boy, do I love snap peas.

This week, we got:

CSA Week 4

Most important thing of note:  I got more snap peas!  Hurray!  Stir fried up some chicken, cashews and vegetables again.  This time I added some cinnamon and tumeric.  I was hoping to recreate my last Moroccan adventure.  I don’t really know what I did wrong, but it was not nearly as awesome.  Maybe the lemon I added last time was a stroke of genius?  It wasn’t bad, the chicken wasn’t quite as juicy.  Although the vegetables were quite fresh tasting, and it grew on me throughout the meal

Stir Fried Veggies with Chicken

I must say, CSAs are pretty fun.