Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gourmia GPM 630 pasta maker review

A Philips pasta maker was the first that caught my eye on the Williams Sonoma website, then I googled automatic pasta machines and read all the reviews I could find. I eventually bought a Gourmia GPM 630.
The jury is still out but getting warmer :)
The first three batches I made were abysmal flops and I was tempted to just ship it back, like another friend of mine, Laura, did with another brand that she just bought and failed with. But, stubborn individual that I am, I refused to fail. The first batch (spaghetti,) was good. This disc they described as linguini but is more what I would call fettuccini.
The main reason I got this one was because of the reviews (suspect a lot of them were Gourmia employees' now :) ) and the large variety of shaping discs (13).
How is the pasta?
First impression is that the pasta itself is not as light as the pasta I make by hand. Part of this, I think, is because the recipe that I had success with had olive oil in it - not something I add when I make it by hand - I do have a manual pasta maker and cutter and a manual extruder. The manual extruder is more finicky about the dough too.
That said: I think with a little tweaking I will come up with a lighter dough that will work. As far as resting is concerned, this machine gives you the option to not use the automatic function - which kneads the dough and immediately extrudes it. You can use manual function to mix the dough, let it rest and extrude it later.
Oh, and don't try to use the dough recipes that come with the machine - they failed - I tried using the measuring cup that came with it as well as weighing the flour and liquid (egg and water) - both sucked.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different: Jean-Georges in NYC

Ryan didn't want anything for his birthday, so I offered to take him out to a nice restaurant -- I mean, a really nice restaurant -- instead. We decided on Jean-Georges in New York: it's a French restaurant with an incredible three Michelin stars, allegedly (according to whom I have no idea) the #3 restaurant in the United States and #51 in the entire world. That's quite a lot of hype. 

I may never be able to afford dinner there (hell, I had to allocate money from my last three paychecks to even be able to afford what we ate today) but they have a comparably reasonable pre-fixe tasting menu for lunch, so that's what we did. Here are some pictures of world-class food!

First, this morning we got haircuts and then got all dolled up.

Jean-Georges is located at 1 Central Park West, inside the Trump International building (boo) at Columbus Circle. I didn't take any pictures of the inside of the restaurant because I felt like enough of a tourist as it was, but suffice it to say that it was extremely beautiful. Here is a picture I just lifted from the restaurant's web site:


Ryan and I sat on the left side, between the two dark sections (which are actually cozy little cubbies with their own tables.) 

The service was completely incredible. The hosts and the serving staff seemed like they were choreographed -- I didn't see a single wasted movement from anyone who served us. In fact, as we finished our courses, two bussers would come and one would remove each of our plates and silverware in order to clear the table as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible. I can't imagine the experience and training required to get a job in a restaurant like this, but I can say that every single person we encountered was a consummate professional.

All right, so there have been a lot of words so far with precisely zero pictures of food. Let's fix that. First up was a little amuse-bouche, provided to everyone, to prepare us for the freaking amazing food we were about to eat. The first item is a little radish on top of some fresh olive butter. (Yeah, mom -- olive butter. You would have died.) Below that is a corn fritter with some kind of chipotle sauce. Both of them were absolutely delicious.

(By the way: I don't know if there are enough superlatives in the English language to describe food like this, so you all are going to have to accept me overusing the words amazing and incredible like a broken record. Sorry about that.)

Also part of the amuse-bouche was a tiny amount of some drink made out of watermelon and cucumber. It was a little bit spicy from the black pepper and totally refreshing. I'd like to find a way to recreate it.

Next up was the first real course. I've never eaten in such a nice restaurant before, and I have no idea when I'll be able to again, but what really stood out to me about all of the dishes we ate was the absurd quality of all of the ingredients, particularly the fruits and vegetables. I don't know where they get their produce from, but I can imagine Jean-Georges Vongerichten standing over boxes of tomatoes every morning with one of those little jewelers' magnifying glasses. I wouldn't be surprised if they played, like, Vivaldi ("Spring," clearly) for the watercress or some shit.

Anyway, all of that was to set up the fact that I figured a good first course would be something vegetable-based. I got some gazpacho made out of the single best tomatoes I have ever eaten in my life. Good move, Em. 

Ryan, being the number one mushroom fan in my life, naturally got the fresh mushroom salad as his first course. I had a bite of it and it was pretty awesome. I have no idea what they put in that vinaigrette, but I need more of it in my life. 

All right, so here's the second course. I got the parmesan risotto, which was topped with parsley chiffonade, grated parmesan, grated lemon zest, and fried shallots. You can't see them in the picture, but there are artichoke hearts in the risotto.

I don't have anything else to say about this except oh my god.

Ryan got the foie gras, which was topped with nuts and surrounded by dried, ground strawberries. I had a few bites and I think I liked it better than he did, although this was his first time eating foie gras and I don't think he knew what to expect. It was smooth and wonderful. 

Another observation about this kind of food: aside from the precious plating, which is an obvious hallmark of fancy restaurants, what really stood out to me about everything we ate was the emphasis on having different flavors, textures, and even temperatures together in one bite. You're really supposed to use all of your senses to experience this food. I couldn't deal with that for every meal, but for a once in a lifetime meal like this, it really was a thing to behold.

Here's the third course (technically the main course.) Ryan got seared sea bass, which was crusted with nuts, on top of braised mushrooms with shallots and some grape tomatoes. The vegetables were in some kind of demi-glace which was pretty much the most savory, amazing thing I've ever tasted. I was a little envious because it was better than mine. 

However, "better than mine" is really a relative term. Mine was still awesome. I got king salmon with creamed fava beans, watercress salad, and lime. To be completely honest, I don't know what the lacey thing in the middle was, but of course it was good. It was so fresh and summery. 

We couldn't resist getting dessert. Up until now, we tried to each get different things so we could sample as much as possible, but when we looked at the dessert menu we both knew immediately that we didn't want anything other than chocolate, so we each got the chocolate dessert tasting. The middle was a milk chocolate ganache, and we were instructed to dip each of the toppings in it. The toppings are, starting with twelve o'clock:

- Chocolate and peanut crunch (basically, a fancy deconstructed Reese's cup)
- Olive oil powder (I was so fascinated with this! How is this even made? What else is it used for? When you put some in your mouth and swish it around, it turns back into olive oil. It was actual magic!)
- Crystallized rose petals (so good)
- Candied Meyer lemon peels
- Mini lava cake (how is this even possible, I don't know)
- Hibiscus sorbet on top of crushed peanuts
- Chocolate crunchy things (?!)
- The softest, sweetest strawberries I've ever consumed

They also gave us macadamia nut milk as a little palate cleanser. It was really good, dude.

And if that wasn't enough, the server was nice enough to bring Ryan some chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate gift box with a white chocolate placard. Just look at it!

We weren't full until dessert came. Then dessert did us in. This isn't even all of it! They also gave us some complimentary candies and house-made marshmallow, but we couldn't eat it. We had to get it to go. I don't think I've ever had too much dessert before. I didn't think it was possible.

Afterwards I thought about asking the wait staff if they could wheel me out onto Central Park West in a wheelchair, but they were so accommodating that I was afraid they'd actually do it.

Look. It was really expensive, and probably not for everyone. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little uncomfortable and out of my element when we first walked in. I recognize that being able to come here is an experience afforded to very, very few people, and the nagging, Puritanical, middle-class part of my brain wondered if it wasn't a little privileged and wasteful thing to do with that money. But, hell. You only have one life, and Ryan and I are going to remember this forever. 

Happy birthday, kid.

Monday, May 9, 2016

My passage to India

We were on our way to Circle B Bar Reserve last week for a much-needed nature walk to clear our heads after the trauma of living through the death throes of the Tampa Tribune when I noticed an Indian grocery store in a little shopping center in the middle of Lakeland.

After a day of alligators



 and Green Herons

 I had forgotten about the shop, but William had not  - he knows how much I love funky food stores :)

My original intention was to buy some garam masala and cardamom, two spices that are either hard to find or too expensive in our local American grocery stores. Even though they had both spices for good prices, they had to be bought in bulk and I didn't want to buy them because I knew most of it would go stale since they aren't spices I use very often.
I wanted to buy something to support the place, there just aren't enough non-chain groceries in my opinion, and want to do my part to keep the ones that exist on their feet.

While we were perusing the aisles, the shopkeeper brought out a container of food and popped the lid to reveal what looked like some kind of corn bread with greens on top and started eating. When I remarked that the food smelled wonderful and looked deliscious, I was offered a taste in a small bowl.
Wow, was it good.

Khaman Dhokla was the name of the dish, and the nice lady from the store told me it was made from chickpea flour., so I bought some.

She also told me I could find a recipe on a website called Bhavna's Kitchen, and here it is:

Instant Khaman
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 4 people
Instant Khaman

A quick and easy version of the traditional khaman.


For the batter:
1 cup Besan(chickpea flour or bengal gram flour)
11/2 - 2 tbsp rawa(Semolina or sooji)-More rawa can be added if you like crumbly texture of Khaman.)
1/2 tsp Citric Acid(Nimbu ke Phool)
3 tbsp oil
3 teaspoons sugar - can be reduced as per your taste
1 teaspoon green chilli-ginger paste
1 1/2 teaspoons Eno's fruit salt
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
About 1 to 11/4 cup water or as needed. Make cake consistancy batter
For the tempering:
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds (til)
2 green chillies, chopped
a pinch asafoetida (hing)
For the garnish
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or coriander leaves(Dhaniya)
Shredded coconut(Optional)

Mix together all the ingredients for the batter except the fruit salt using enough water to make a easy pour consistancy(Not too thick or thin) batter.
Add in the fruit salt, sprinkle a little water over the fruit salt and mix well.
When the mixture rises, pour it into a greased thali and steam for about 15 minutes.
For the tempering, heat the oil in a small katori and add the mustard seeds, sesame seeeds, green chillies and asafoetida. When the mustard seeds crackle, and pour this over the steamed dhoklas.
Garnish with coconut and finely choped cilantro.
Cut into pieces and serve with green chutney.

!Tips: You can use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or 2-3 tbsp dahi(yogurt) instead of the citric acid crystals.

As soon as I can find Eno and asafoetida, I am going to try making this myself.

Friday, February 26, 2016

William's favorite Peanut butter pie with a chocolate shell

Peanut butter pie with a chocolate shell

1-1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (20 cookies)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

1 pre-made Keebler Oreo Cookie Crust
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter or (or chunky - I like smooth)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 container of Cool Whip (Extra creamy)

Combine crust ingredients; press into a 9-in. pie plate. Bake at 375'F for 10
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth. Fold in whipped cream or Cool Whip. Gently spoon into crust.

When the pie has chilled, make the chocolate shell and pour over the top of the pie then refrigerate until the shell has hardened.

Homemade Magic Shell
Coconut Version
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Butter version
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons butter
1. Place coconut oil/butter in a small bowl along with chocolate chips. Place in microwave for 30
seconds, stir. Be careful as the bowl will get quite hot. Repeat until both are entirely melted,
creating a semi-thick sauce.