Hot chocolate: theme and variations

January 13, 2008 at 9:49 pm (Beverage, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, My brain, Other, Soymilk, unrated)

If you love chocolate, get cold easily, and live in Montreal (in January), then there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of hot chocolate before bed. But a word of warning: don’t buy any prepared hot cocoa mixes. Even the “upscale” sounding ones like Ghiradelli list sugar as the first ingredient.  I understand that sugar is much cheaper than cocoa, but these mixes are just wrong. The “chocolate” tastes more like dirty sugar water than hot cocoa. Make your own mix to keep in the pantry, or just whip together a cup when you happen to get a hankering (or when you’ve just walked home in -10 weather). Hot cocoa seems like such a simple thing to make, and yet there are a surprising number of bad recipes out there.

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Fennel Salad

January 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm (Salads, unrated, Website / blog)

I really like the idea of a fennel salad, but haven’t yet made a fennel salad I really like. Last week I tried making a salad inspired by this recipe: spanish fennel and orange salad from Cooking Light. Unfortunately, I started off poorly because the orange I bought weren’t the greatest: they were not very flavorful and kind of stringy. I didn’t have red onions, or orange juice, so instead added in some minced preserved lemons. The preserved lemons were a mistake; the brininess and aged flavor did not mesh with the bright flavors of the orange and mint. In general the flavor of the salad was just too muddy–too many different things going on. It needed to be simpler with fewer ingredients. Probably mint and fennel would be a good combo, or coriander and fennel, or orange and fennel, but not orange and mint and coriander… The yogurt didn’t add anything, just muddied up what should have been a salad with a crisp, refreshing texture. The salad wasn’t terrible the first day, but the next day the oranges had gotten totally soggy and pretty unappetizing, and the whole thing was a soupy mess. I had to toss it.

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Vegan French Toast

January 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

I know, vegan french toast sounds like an oxymoron, right? But I had a lot of leftover chickpea flour and was looking for something to do with it, and came across this recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance.

To make the french toast you mix together soy milk and soy creamer (I used all soymilk), cornstarch (I used arrowroot), and chickpea flour (besan) into a slurry. You soak your sliced, stale bread in the slurry briefly, then fry the bread in an oiled cast iron skillet.

The recipe worked surprisingly well. I wouldn’t say it tastes exactly like egg- and butter-based french toast, but it was certainly reminiscent of traditional french toast, and tasty. I mean, how can you go wrong with fried bread? This recipe has basically no nutritional content, so I might be more inclined to use it as the base for a dessert rather than breakfast, but it’s certainly an interesting recipe, that I’d like to work with. If I make it again I’d definitely add something: perhaps cardamom, or cinnamon, or a fruit compote. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know this recipe has the potential to create a very tasty, and also very interesting dish. I’d like to hear anyone else’s ideas of what to do with this recipe. I’d love some way to incorporate in some vegetables, if possible. I thought it perhaps could be used to make a layered vegetable bread pudding, but I’d be afraid it would get soggy, when one of the appeals of this recipe is the crispness of the bread.

I’d also like to try it without the chickpea flour, not because I think it’s unnecessary, but because I’d like to understand better exactly what role the chickpea flour is serving.

Note that although there’s no added salt in the recipe, I found the french toast plenty salty, I’m not sure why. Where is the salt coming from?

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