Monday, June 18, 2012

A Treat for Dad

It's a pretty well-known fact that I inherited my insatiable sweet tooth (and snacking tenancies) from my father. When I discovered that I would be treated with a Father's Day visit from my parents, I immediately got to work, swapping my cook's hat for that of a baker -- admittedly, a more familiar character for me to play. In keeping with the season, I first decided to whip up some fresh strawberry ice cream. Perhaps that would have been enough, but my inner baker had been pushed to the back burner for too long of late, and she stubbornly insisted I do more. What would satisfy my poor, neglected oven? And what could go with a sweet, creamy ice cream? If you're thinking profiteroles, you're absolutely right. Time to face down the puff pastry challenge.

The ice cream was easy enough to pull together, as the recipe I used did not include egg yolks. Sugar, dairy, and a bit of food-processing later, I had a milky mixture sitting in the refrigerator awaiting its time in the ice cream machine.

Go, chopper, go!

With the main event chilling away, I began my prep for the puffs. The recipe I used suggested using a hand mixer as an alternative to transferring from stove to mixer bowl, so I seized the opportunity to use mine -- or rather, the one I "borrowed permanently" from my mother. It's used so rarely these days, I had almost forgotten why.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seafood (and Eat It)

Confession: I dislike fish. I can nibble a bit of salmon if it's cooked just right, but put anything else that swims with fins in front of me and I'll politely take a pass. But my aversion to fish is amply compensated for by my love of shellfish and other seafood, namely clams, scallops, mussels, and lately lobster & shrimp. J shares my love of seafood, but is also a fish lover and will happily order mahi-mahi and cod, or will munch away at a tuna sandwich (as far from me as possible).

Needless to say, J has been hounding me to make something of the seafood variety for quite a while. I'm not entirely sure why I've been avoiding it, but late last week I resolved to break my habit of ocean-creature-cooking avoidance. After considering -- and dismissing -- the various possibilities, I decided to go easy on myself and settled on shrimp.

Once I chose the little pink crustacean, I knew what I wanted to make: angel hair pasta with shrimp & veggies in béchamel sauce. I still had some of the peas & carrots from the pot pie, so I figured I could splurge a little bit on the shrimp. And besides, a pasta dish is always a good weapon in an exhausted cook's arsenal, and it was high time I added one to mine.

The speed and timing are what make this dish so pleasant to make, so J quickly set the table while I prepped.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Balancing Act

I wish I could say that this post included a fabulous towering cake, a perfectly puffed pastry, or at least a stack of gooey cookies. I suspect that at least one of those treats will make an appearance in the future, but right now the balancing act I'm working on isn't nearly as tasty -- or as simple.

I'm talking about balancing time and money. As a relative newcomer to the home cuisine domain, I'm understandably enthusiastic about my hobby and newfound love of all things kitchen. But with that enthusiasm comes a sudden need (read: desire) for new cookbooks, new gadgets, and of course new ingredients. I frequently salivate over exotic dishes and novel techniques, but more often than not these involve food & gear I simply don't have... and certainly can't afford to buy.

This leaves me a little sad, on occasion, as I feel that certain dishes are off-limits to home cooks on a budget just because they include one or two "special" ingredients or ultra-specific gadgets. I'm sure that, with careful management, I'll be able to buy a treat or two. I certainly don't skimp on quality when it really counts (chocolate, anyone?). But someday it would be nice to try the grass-fed fillet, the truffle oil, or the $38-dollar-an-ounce cheese... even if only for one special meal.

As far as budgeting my time goes, lately I've had enough spare moments to make some of the more time-consuming dishes (I'm looking at you, pot pie). But in the very near future that time will be drastically reduced, and I predict that my energy levels won't be far behind. I hope to push through it, get myself motivated, and set some time aside just for me and my kitchen. But if I don't, and I find myself serving salads with a side of mac n' cheese, well... try not to be too hard on me. I will continue to look for new things to make, even if they don't get made right away. And hey, you never know -- maybe I'll end up cooking long into the night, bringing the fruits of my labor to work in the morning! Hollandaise, anyone?