Friday, November 23, 2012
3 Kitchen Conquests "Bucket List"
While it's true that I've made a massive variety of dishes in my gobs of time spent cooking (and to a lesser extent, baking) thus far -- from the most common to the most obscure and from just about every continent, save Antarctica, which doesn't possess its own native cuisine due to a lack of a native population ;) -- contrary to popular opinion, I haven't baked or cooked everything under the sun. Lol. That would probably require a few lifetimes to accomplish, or maybe one lifetime spent doing nothing else but cooking. ;)
However, I'd still like keep exploring and expanding my repertoire to take it as far as my palate and time spent here on earth (or anywhere else in the universe for that matter -- Hey, BBQ on Mars, anyone? ;) ), will allow. After all, you never know when île flottante or perhaps something even more exotic -- say, ants à la mode or sautéed sheep's eyeballs?! ;) -- might come in handy. JUST kidding about those last two suggestions, although I wouldn't be adverse to trying something daring, albeit maybe not going to quite such an extreme. Think I'll leave that type of culinary exploration to Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain. ;)
Anyhow, towards that end, I decided to make a culinary "bucket list" of sorts, which was inspired by Brown Eyed Baker's post entitled "My 100." Don't worry, I'm not going to make a similar list of 100 items here (that would make for an extremely long post!), nor am I going to just copy her list and check stuff off [because most of her selections are either quite fattening or dessert-centric, or both (!)], but I'll start with a much smaller list of my own ideas, and then maybe move it over to a blog tab if the list becomes too unwieldy. Some of these will probably be made into original recipes for the blog &/or some of my upcoming books and cookbooks, while others probably won't for reasons that will soon be made obvious (below). So, here goes (by continent/cuisine type, with each cuisine listed in alphabetical order):
- Matoke. I keep talking about making this one and then immediately forget about it 5 seconds later, after resuming whatever else it is that I was doing at the time. ;) Got to remember to make this! So, that's why it's going on the list. :) Matoke is basically considered to be Uganda's national side dish; it's made with green plantains that are mashed for about 8 zillion hours (yes, that's a rough estimate - Haha!) in a large churn and then served in a savory "groundnut" sauce (usually made of ground peanuts). However, just because the dish calls for plantains, don't expect it to be sweet; green plantains have a savory taste, unlike their ripened (i.e., yellow) form. The dish tastes a bit like mashed potatoes. And, oh yeah, it's absolutely DELICIOUS! :-D Had the rare and wonderful experience of eating this dish for the first time at an Ethiopian restaurant in Uganda. (There are a lot of Ethiopian expats/refugees in Uganda.) Even though matoke is Ugandan and not Ethiopian, the restaurant was in Uganda, so that probably explains in part why it was on the menu. :) I actually ate it multiple times during an extended, work-related stay there. Anyhow, that's a story for another time.
- Lentil sambusas, i.e., Ethiopian lentil turnovers. They sort of resemble samosas or fatayers in that they look like a popover, but have completely different fillings. Meskerem (a restaurant in DC) makes some mean lentil sambusas. Of course, they taste best when washed down with some Ethiopian mead (i.e., honey wine). :-D
- Injera, a.k.a. the spongy, fermented, crepe-like bread that's used to pick up whatever foods are part of your Ethiopian meal. :) It's typically placed on a platter underneath a selection of various wat, or little piles of meat &/or vegetable that have a stew-like consistency. Have to admit, never had the patience to attempt this one before, but who knows, maybe I'll get some (patience, that is) and then make it. ;)
- Bao/baozi. Love these! Bao (or baozi) are Chinese steamed buns that often have sesame seeds stuck to their exterior, with various savory &/or sweet fillings), specifically doushabaozi (bean paste filling), naihuangbaozi (sweet yellow custard filling), and zhimabaozi (black sesame paste filling).
- Cheung fan. These are Chinese steamed wide rice noodles rolled with various fillings and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Can we say YUM?! Have had these at many a dim sum. :)
- Egg custards. Yes, if you haven't guessed, there are going to be lots of Chinese/dim sum selections on this list. :) This one's probably not going to be on this blog, unless I can find a way to make it in a healthy way and still make it taste like the real deal. The butter in the pastry shell alone is probably a lethal dose that would block one's arteries like an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. ;) Oh well, will save this one for a special treat, to be eaten after a 14-mile run. :-D
- Kung pao chicken. Another Chinese restaurant standard, made the healthy way, but of course.
- Sesame chicken. Yes, more Chinese food. Big surprise. ;) Again, I'll be making the healthy version.
- Peking duck with spring onions, plum sauce, and pancakes. Duck is very fatty, so again, this will probably be a one-time deal saved for a special occasion. :)
- Moo shu vegetable pancakes with plum sauce. And speaking of Chinese pancakes, this one's another long-time favorite that I still haven't made from scratch. :)
- California rolls. I have the nori sheets, rice, pickled ginger, wasabi, and the bamboo mat, but have just never got around to making sushi before. Yes, I know that's incredibly lame and almost embarrassing to admit. ;) I've eaten it a zillion times before, and so this project is really way past due. This grave culinary oversight is almost enough to make someone want to take away my "chef's card" and then beat me over the head with it. ;)
- Ramen. Of course, I've made ramen noodle soup before, but now just need to create a recipe for it. And no, I'm not talking about those "el cheapo" instant ramen noodle soups in a styrofoam cup nor those ramen noodle blocks with seasoning packets wrapped in brightly colored, plastic packaging. ;) Ramen is a high art form in Japan -- chefs who get the balance of flavors and texture right are treated with a Zen-like reverence. So, when it comes time to post the recipe, I really better not screw this one up. Lol. It's got to be nothing less than sublime, or else it's not getting posted. How's that for some self-imposed pressure?! Ever see Tampopo or The Ramen Girl (starring Brittany Murphy)? Then you'll know what I'm talking about. ;)
- Moo guk, a.k.a. Korean beef and radish soup. OK, I made this once before and had even created a recipe, but has that recipe ever seen the light of day?! Nope. :) Well, the ugly truth of the matter is that I still need to rewrite the recipe and do another take, because my first attempt just didn't cut it. So, this one's not scratched off the list until I get it right. It was just one of those "off" cooking days (hey, it happens to everybody) in which I forced myself to cook when I really wasn't in the mood. And that's almost always a really bad idea. ;) Better to eat raw, cut-up veggies and fruit for dinner than to attempt to cook when you're feeling rushed and uninspired and would do almost anything to get out of cooking. ;) Yes, Julianne, I know you've now been waiting three thousand light years for me to publish this one, although you've most certainly forgotten about it by now, and clearly so had I. Oops. ;)
- Phở, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup that comes with all sorts of condiments (sriracha, fish sauce, lime wedges, mung bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, etc.). That'd have to be a #12, preferably. ;) A friend of mine says she makes a mean bowl of phở, so I might have to take her up on her standing invite to cook it together the next time we happen to be in each other's neck of the woods. :)
- Shrimp shu mai. Probably self-explanatory for most, unless you've never been to dim sum before. ;) If you still have no clue what I'm talking about, here's the answer: they are Chinese steamed (or pan fried) dumplings with shrimp inside. :-D
- Cantonese/Hong Kong-style salted shrimp in their shells, also sometimes simply referred to as salt shrimp, or salt and pepper shrimp. City Lights of China in DC makes some of the best I've ever had. Consuming them in their shells makes for a delicious, if somewhat loud, eating experience. :)
- Bean paste (or pineapple) buns. We used to get these at a Chinese bakery after eating at the phở restaurant next door. :) OK, talking about all of these dishes is making me hungry for Chinese food. :)
- Tinolang manok (Filipino-style chicken soup with green papaya). Several friends are still waiting for this one to manifest itself on this blog. :) Made this dish eons ago but it needs a revamp and a recipe rewrite. I didn't have the chicken on hand at the time, so it was only made with chicken broth, papaya, and most of the other essential ingredients. #fail #do-over
- Triple Delight Soup. It's practically on every Chinese food menu in America. ;) Beef, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables in a fragrant broth that's been simmered to perfection. What more could a person want? :)
- Cabbage kofta, a.k.a. Indian cabbage fritters. A long, long time ago, I'd actually attempted to make them once before with besam/gram flour (a.k.a., chickpea flour), but it turned out disastrously. So, clearly that doesn't count, since it wasn't a successful attempt. Wasn't in the mood to cook that night, so that didn't help. ;) Didn't want to fry the kofta either, since I don't make a habit of frying food (as in, EVER), which also made cooking it a bit tricky. Note to self for future attempts: Use a binding agent or else you'll have to get out the broom and dust bin, yet again. The last time, there were basically little kofta crumbs everywhere, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. Had to clean it up quickly before our cats got curious. ;)
- Daal mahkhani, a buttery tasting Indian, legumes-based dish, often made with kidney beans. I've been cooking Indian food since 1997, but don't ask me why I haven't made this dish yet, which is standard fare as far as most Indian restaurant menus go. I've made a ton of other Indian standards but, for some reason, just missed checking this one off from the list. There are a TON of standard dishes in Indian cuisine, so it can take a while to get around to all of them. :)
- Dosas. These are Indian "crepes" which can be stuffed with all sorts of yummy fillings. At a South Indian restaurant Erik and I sometimes frequent, they offer potato dosas, which contain other vegetables and are seasoned with cumin seeds. They are simply delicious!
- Kulfi, i.e., Indian "ice cream." :) I've made other Indian desserts (like kheer and carrot halwa/halva, etc.) before, but not this one.
- Naan. (I would love to make it in a tandoor, but since that's impractical, I'd settle for a trip to India. Lol.) Eons ago, a friend of mine (who was born in India) once promised she'd show me how to make this, but then I left the company where we both worked and we lost touch a year or two afterwards. If I prepare this at home, I usually "cheat" and just buy the frozen kind at an Indian grocery market. And you might not believe it but the frozen kind can be surprisingly good. However, when I do this, it doesn't take long before the little
annoyingly perfectionisticgourmet chef angel perched on my left shoulder can't take it anymore and yells at the "slacker chef" devil perched on my right. ;) Then, inevitably, the battle ensues. They usually end up trying to throttle each other and then I have to break it up. Lol. The tie-breaker argument usually goes something like this: shortcuts are only worth it if they don't "shortcut" your lifespan. ;) Sure, we've all felt tired and not in the mood to cook, but I'm a big believer in the idea that health should trump convenience in the end. Pay now or pay later. ;)
- Biryani, a (basmati) rice-based dish made with spices, vegetables, and frequently also meat, seafood, &/or eggs. The catch is that I want to make it the authentic Rajasthani/Mughal way, i.e., in one of those big-ass metal drums that are filled with alternating layers of meat/vegetables and rice, and then sealed with dough. If you've ever seen this method, it's quite a production. Thus far, I've only witnessed it on international travel-cooking shows. :) First, I'd need to find a way to get a hold of one of those drums, and secondly, I need to find someplace where people wouldn't mind me making a fire pit. ;) In the DC area? Yeah, right. Maybe that one would be best saved for when I visit friends and family that live in rural areas. :)
- Mukhwas. OK, don't ask me why I want to make this. I just do. Mukhwas is an Indian post-meal "snack" that's used as both a breath freshener and digestive aid. So, for example, if you've eaten way too much garlic, onions, legumes, or curry, and now are the olfactory equivalent of a flatulent, fire-breathing dragon that hasn't bathed in a week, then you'll probably want to reach for the mukhwas as soon as possible after your meal, lest all of your dinner companions run away screaming and holding their noses. ;) There are many different varieties, some of which are made with ingredients that can only be found in (or, if you're lucky, special-ordered from) India. However, the kinds commonly found in Indian restaurants will typically contain fennel and anise seeds coated in sugar, and betel nuts, all of which have been seasoned with peppermint oil and a pinch of salt. It has an almost indescribable perfumed scent. You'll usually see these after-dinner "mints" placed in small metal dishes by the exit/entrance of most Indian restaurants. If you've ever noticed these little trays of seeds, nuts, and brightly colored, candy-coated "licorice"-flavored pieces before, and have wondered what they were called, now you know. :) Just a word to the wise: mukhwas are supposed to be eaten after the meal. So unless you want to look like an uncultured idiot, it's probably best to grab them on your way out the door. Hahaha.
- Lassi, particularly the mango and rosewater flavored varieties. I've made similar drinks but never an authentic lassi before. Shameful, I know. ;) They're so easy to make, so there's really no excuse, aside from the fact that they have to get in line, in back of the other bucket list items. ;)
- Garjar ka halwa (carrot halwa/halva). When made correctly, this stuff tastes great. My first attempt? Not so stellar, but that was a long time ago, as in the late 90's. ;) Think I can do a LOT better now. :)
- Mushroom masala. I've already got it in my head which exact version I'd like to make. A few years ago, we used to go to this so-so Indian restaurant down the road. However, there was one amazing dish. You guessed it: the mushroom masala. :) It was made in a style similar to mattar paneer (peas with Indian cheese), which I typically don't like. However, instead of the thin, soupy sauce used in mattar paneer, the dish had a much richer tasting, slightly thicker sauce. There was no cheese, but the spices were very similar. It was fantastic! If I could, I'd kidnap the cook and tickle them mercilessly until they relented into giving me the recipe. ;)
- Chicken Paprikash. But only because it makes me think of the movie When Harry Met Sally. ;) I've had this dish before in a Hungarian restaurant. It was decent, but nothing to write home about. All the same, I'd like to try making it myself, just for the heck of it. Clearly, not high on the priority list. ;)
- Topik, i.e., Armenian "meatballs" made with chickpea paste, flour, and tahini, etc.
- Simit, i.e., a circular bread with sesame seeds that's both crunchy and chewy. If you need any more convincing of its potential for yumminess, just look at this picture. :)
- Turkish Delight, or "Locum" as they're known in Turkish. To this one I say, "Yes, please!" There are so many different varieties that it can be a bit overwhelming at times to contemplate them all. With ingredients like pistachios, chopped dates, hazelnuts, rosewater, etc., it'll be hard to choose just one. :) The first time I had these, I was on vacation with my family. About half-way through the trip, my mother decided to open a small box of them she'd gotten as a gift (a rare treat!), and it was almost impossible to stop eating them. I swear these things should come with a warning label. :) On second thought, I'd better make a batch, eat a few, and then quickly give the rest away. Lol.
- Homemade farfel (for matzo ball soup). Now, I'm not talking about the kind of farfel with the noodle-like consistency that some people think of when they hear the word "farfel." I mean the really good, crunchy stuff that's made by companies like Streit's that's now almost impossible to find at a local grocery store. If I ever get this recipe right, there'll be no more need to search, and this will also make several people I know very, very happy. :) Another somewhat related item is soup nuts, but at least those you can still find at the store.
- Buffalo mozzarella. Not too long ago, a friend of mine named Charlie was telling me about his first few cheese-making attempts, which intrigued me. Normally, I probably wouldn't bother making my own cheese, as my free time is limited/precious (and even more so now!). I mean, seriously, most people, myself included, would probably rather go to the supermarket/deli to buy fresh mozzarella versus making it from scratch. It can be a rather time-consuming and labor-intensive process. However, I might be more tempted to make it with friends on a low-key weekend afternoon, which would definitely be a lot more fun. Nothing like a bunch of friends who have zero idea how to make cheese putting their heads together to try and figure it out. :) A little reading, a little guesswork, some experimentation, and a little bungling here and there -- isn't that what experiential learning's all about? ;) No matter if you make it or buy it in a market, after you've had fresh, it's hard to go back to eating those big, tough mozzarella balls that they sell in the refrigerated aisles next to all of the cheeses which aren't gourmet. Lol. Heck, if I'm going to expend the effort to make buffalo mozzarella from scratch, then maybe I'll just make burrata instead. :) Oh wait, that stuff is solid mozzarella made with a cream filling. So much for the "healthy" in healthy gourmet. Lol. On second thought, maybe it's safer to just sample that one from an Italian deli display case and then keep moving along. ;)
- Paella. Another "I-can't-believe-you-haven't-made-this-yet, wall-of-shame selection." ;) I really should've made this one by now, but if you look at all of the other recipes on this blog and see all the dishes I did cover, then maybe it won't seem like such an omission. :) I was going to get around to making this one anyhow (there's actually a draft post for it on this blog -- it's been there forever), but now that I'm drawing up this list, it does seem like a glaring omission. After posting 327 recipes, I guess this one just slipped through the cracks. ;)
- Italian, French, and German breads, particularly Italian sourdough, focaccia, and ciabatta, boule, ficelle, pumpernickel, and rye.
- Sauerbraten mit kartoffelklöße, spätzle, und rotkohl (pickled roast beef with potato dumplings, noodles, and braised red cabbage). This meal selection is very traditional German fare. Erik's paternal grandmother used to make this for him, and apparently, it was legendary. :) Like a lot of German cuisine, the ingredients in these dishes are the stuff of offensive linemen, Olympic weightlifters, and sumo wrestlers. ;) If you're trying to pack on the starch for a super heavy-duty carbo load, you'd better have a marathon lined up first before making and eating (!) this kind of food. Lol.
- Orange scones. How very British. :) I owe Steve S. this recipe from many moons ago. No doubt he's completely forgotten about it by now, but nonetheless, this project has yet to be completed. Early on, I attempted a sugar-free, fat-free version (as a first attempt), but completely botched it. (Ah, yes, the early days. Lol.) And, lucky you, I've got the pictures to prove it. :) Be forewarned; they are not for the faint of heart. ;) I submit into evidence, Exhibit A, the title of this post: "The Case Of The Botched Orange Scones Experiment -- Or, Attack of the Killer Scones, Part 1." Now, do you still want to see the photo?! :) There's nothing like a good old-fashioned kitchen disaster to keep oneself humble. :) Or, if you'd prefer to play it safe, you can always view this amusing scones-related anecdote instead. However, even though I'd completely forgotten about this recipe until just now, I'm not beaten just yet. A future attempt will be scheduled at some as-yet-undetermined date. Yes, there will be scones. :)
- Labneh. (Labneh is a strained Mediterranean yoghurt 'cheese' of sorts, which has been more recently marketed as "Greek yoghurt.") Sure, why the heck not. :) I'll try making almost anything once, within reason. Lebneh is apparently a LOT easier to make than mozzarella. And how would I know that, since I haven't made either yet? The answer: cooking shows and YouTube demos. :)
- Burma, a Lebanese/Middle Eastern dessert made with pistachios and phyllo dough. Yum!
- Börek/bourek/burek, baked phyllo pastries filled with cheese (i.e., feta), vegetables, or meat. I'd more likely make it with the first two fillings. Very similar to spanakopita in some ways. This dish is probably not a good candidate for the this recipe blog, due to its artery clogging potential, but nonetheless, I'm curious to try it as a special, one-time treat.
- Traditional baked beans (with molasses and tomatoes, etc.). Yes, believe it or not, I've never made these before. I've eaten the ones my mom used to make us as kids, but then grew out of them as an adult. This one will not really be much of a challenge to make, but I just want the satisfaction of being able to say that I've made them before. Also, I've watched Jamie Oliver make them in a large kettle on an outdoor hearth during one of his "American Road trip" episodes, and it looks kinda fun. So, that's why I started thinking about them again after about 5 zillion years. ;)
- Poi. I've never eaten it before, let alone made it. (It's made from taro.) Why didn't I try this the last time I was in Hawaii?! No idea. Note to self: You'd better try this the next time you go there! :) (My mind is now wandering to Poi Dog Pondering. Haha.)
- Shrimp and grits. The old Southern classic. I've never eaten it before and have never made it either. My friend, Michael recently tagged me in a Facebook picture of this dish in order to point it out to me, and it actually sounded pretty good. So, it's going on the list. :) Thank you, Michael!
- Po' Boy (fish) sandwich. Another one of Charlie's favorites. :)
- Dandelion tea (or soup). Never tasted it or made it before, but have always been curious. Guess it's better than letting those 'weeds' in the yard go to waste. Lol.
- Recipes with unusual herbs, spices, and berries I've never used before, i.e., elderflower, juniper berries, lemon balm, etc.
- Oven-fried buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce. (Add carrot and celery sticks and you're good to go!) Specific flavors I'd like to attempt: Cajun-style, atomically hot (doused with lots of hot sauce!), terriyaki, and garlic-Parmesan. It's very hard to make these in a healthy way, but I'm up for the challenge. :)
- Jugo de maracuyá con leche (passion fruit juice with milk). I had this South American drink in a Colombian restaurant a few years ago. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the experience was transformational. :)
- Caruru de camarao com coentro (shrimp and okra with nuts and cilantro). This is a Brazilian dish that I'd planned to make eons ago, but was missing the manioc meal and dried shrimp, that is, until now. :)