TGRWT #19: Tomato and Black Tea


I promised you some real science this time, and well, you will get it but not really in the way I originally intended. I had something else in mind, but deadlines are deadlines. And October 1st is the deadline for monthly cooking challenge TGRWT #19: Tomato and Black Tea hosted by Pablo at Medellitin. TGRWT (They Go Really Well Together) was initiated by Dr. Martin Lersch, a chemist with an interest in finding new and fascinating flavor combinations based on "the hypothesis that if two foods have one or more key odorants in common it might very well be that they go well together and perhaps even compliment each other." Essentially this stems from the fact that an estimated 80% of a given tasting experience comes from odor. Read more about pairing by odor on Martin's blog here.

I decided to try my hand at this month's TGRWT, tomato and black tea. Not an easy combination of flavors, I would say, since I've never heard of any dish combining the two. Actually I have to admit that I never had a sweet or savory dish that used black tea at all, except tapioca milk tea which doesn't count as a dish really. So to start with, I decided I wanted to do a sweet dish, and in particular a souffle for a couple reasons. For one, a souffle is a bit of a "blank slate" similar to ice cream where one can infuse almost any flavor, and souffles are even more versatile since savory flavors are readily accepted. And second, I've only made one souffle in my life--at a cooking class with my sister, where all 20 or so of the students' chocolate souffles fell--so why not take on a new challenge? Lastly, on the first episode of the show After Hours with Daniel, Daniel Boulud serves this unbelievable-looking, super-tall green tea souffle for dessert. Green tea... black tea souffle?

Upon searching online, I found two recipes from which to base the souffle off of: this jasmine tea one by Ming Tsai and, of course, one by Daniel himself. I decided to leave the black tea flavor largely untouched in the souffle (just a tiny bit of vanilla), and used tomato and plum in the caramelized sauce.

Black Tea Souffle with Caramelized Tomato-Plum Sauce

For the sauce
2 plums, peeled
4 tomatoes on the vine
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp butter

For the souffle
2 Tbsp black tea
1/4 c + 1 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp whole milk
Splash of vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp sugar, plus extra for dusting the ramekins
Butter to grease the ramekins
  1. Peel plums and blanch tomatoes to peel them, by plunging in boiling water for a several seconds (until you start to see splits in the skin). Cut both plums and tomatoes into medium-sized pieces, then puree with blender.

  2. For the sauce, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar spoonful by spoonful and stir, waiting for each to melt before adding the next. Then add half of puree, wait for sugar to melt once more, and add remainder. Let reduce by about half, then take off of heat and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat cream, milk, vanilla and tea to a simmer. Then take off of heat and let infuse for about 20 minutes. Then strain mixture, add 1 Tbsp sugar, and put back on medium-low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk yolks until pale yellow. Add a ladle of hot cream mixture very slowly into yolks while continuing to whisk. Then add yolks and cream to saucepan and keep stirring over low heat. Mixture should thicken in a few minutes, then refrigerate for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, making sure the rack is at the bottom. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Then take egg whites and whisk until glossy. It should form stiff peaks when you remove your whisk from the bowl. Use a spatula to combine the egg whites scoop by scoop into the cold cream mixture, making sure they form a fully homogeneous mixture, but do not overmix.
  6. Butter your ramekins and dust the insides and rims with sugar. Carefully scoop your mixture into the ramekins up to the rims. Bake on lower rack for 15 minutes. They should rise, but with firm tops and jiggly centers.
  7. Warm up the sauce, and serve with the souffles.

First, the good news: The souffles tasted really good (pretty much like tapioca milk tea in a warm and fluffy form), and so did the sauce (tartness of the plum, sweetness of the tomato). And did TGRWT? Overall, I thought this was an eccentric but successful pairing. When I first smelled the tomato and black tea together, I thought it made sense--it reminded me almost of a tomato and herb combination. Implementing it was more difficult, but nonetheless, I thought the bold and earthy black tea was offset well against the sweet and tart tomato-plum combo. The tomato here showed off its true "fruitiness", being treated as such in the puree, but it also kept its distinctive "heartiness" in the aftertaste.

The bad news: The souffles fell! Sadness all around:

I tried to mask it with the sauce here, but you can still see the sad wrinkles on top. Clearly, I failed to whisk the egg whites long enough on one hand (I did it by hand... arm cramps), and on the other, I didn't bake for long enough (I did 12 minutes instead of 15) for the outside to set. This isn't the end of the souffles for me, I'm determined to make them as good as Daniel!

Next up: A different way to cook a household staple!


Momofuku's Cereal Milk Ice Cream


During my last trip to New York City, I felt inspired by a number of mouth-watering foods: freshly made spicy guacamole at Dos Caminos, frisée Lyonnaise (with chicken livers and a poached egg!) at Bar Boulud, a flight of chilled red wines at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar, and Shake Shack's 'Shroom Burger--a portobello mushroom and hunk of cheese breaded and deep-fried. In terms of dessert, my sister and I went to Momofuku Milk Bar for some of their trademark (literally) cereal milk soft serve, which was delicious and interesting with a definite essence of cereal milk in it. But I wondered how the overall effect would be as a more solid ice cream rather than as a soft serve, and figured it should be quite easy to make.

So I did... and it turned out decadent and rich, with the sweet taste of Honey Bunches of Oats (my chosen cereal) contrasting the slight tartness of pure milk. I decided to use a higher cream-to-milk ratio than I did with the previous ice creams, to try something different. I personally thought it was a bit too rich (as in, I probably couldn't eat a whole bowlful), but others preferred the thicker texture.

Momofuku's Cereal Milk Ice Cream

1 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1 c cereal of your choice
3 egg yolks
1/4 c sugar (approximately, depends on sweetness of cereal)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine cream and milk with cereal of your choice. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.
  2. Strain cereal out and discard. Put mixture in saucepan with sugar (to taste) and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.

As I mention above, the amount of sugar (and overall flavor, of course) will vary with the cereal you choose to use. I chose Honey Bunches of Oats because that's what I've been eating lately, and I had it handy. Also I thought the honey flavor would go well with the "pure milk" flavor. I think Milk Bar has made cereal milk ice cream with Fruity Pebbles and some other cereal I can't remember right now. But I could easily see making this ice cream again, maybe with a chocolate flavored cereal, and also because it is so easy to make compared to other ice creams. No pureeing or major straining/juicing involved!

Next up: Some real science!


Eat Your Ice Cream: Peach Cornbread


Peaches are officially out of season now, but I saw a few remainders at the fruit market and thought I would try to make something that went with the sweet corn ice cream from a few posts back. As I mentioned in the post, a scoop of the ice cream over a warm piece of cornbread would be simple and delicious, and seeing as I was inspired by a recent taste of the best cornbread ever (at Woody's Beach BBQ in Chincoteague Island, VA), I decided to make some peach cornbread.

The thing is, this cornbread I had wasn't your typical kind--it was very sweet and had the texture of a cake, with almost no grittiness. So I tried to find a recipe that called for less cornmeal and more flour, and found this one. The description sounded like what I was looking for, but unfortunately (and by no fault of the recipe, just not the type I wanted) it was still too gritty and not fluffy enough. It also wasn't as sweet as the Woody's cornbread. But as a regular cornbread, it was still okay. Next time I would add more sugar and probably increase the flour-to-cornbread ratio.

Peach Cornbread

1/2 c white cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 peach, diced
3/4 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter, melted
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. In one bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg with milk and melted butter.
  2. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and gently whisk together until just combined with minimal lumps.
  3. Fold in the diced peach, and pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

After the cornbread was done, I let it cool slightly and then cut a square, placed a scoop of the ice cream on top, and surrounded it with pieces of peach sauteed with some sugar and honey. The peach and corn flavors melded very well together and was a nice summery combination, although I wish the cornbread had been more cake-like.

Next up: Copying a famous ice cream...


Cinnamon Beet Ice Cream


I promised a unique ice cream, didn't I? A few posts ago, I mentioned that I picked up some things that looked good at the farmer's market without having ice cream in mind, then thought "what if...", and the first item was sweet corn. The second thing I bought was a bunch of beets to maybe make a beet salad. I had never worked with fresh beets before, and now I understand why people complain so much about everything turning red in their kitchen after peeling and cutting fresh beets. Imagine using an immersion blender to puree your beets--I had plenty of red splatter marks everywhere, including all over the very laptop I'm typing on now.

Beet ice cream doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking about what to use beets for, but I also didn't think it was such a stretch. Beets go well with "sweet", for instance in beet salads often there will be a sweet component like honey or fruit. And indeed I found recipes online for beet ice cream, most of them riffs off of a recipe by Thomas Keller. I followed the recipe for the most part, but decided in the end that it was a bit too "pure beet" for my tastes and added some cinnamon and a little vanilla.

Cinnamon Beet Ice Cream

About 1 pound beets
1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c cream
3 egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Peel and dice beets. Puree with blender (or juicer if you have one). Strain with a sieve, pressing down on pulp, and set juice aside.

  2. Remove pulp from sieve into a saucepan with milk and cream. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then remove from heat and let infuse for up to an hour.

  3. Strain the mixture and place the liquid back into the saucepan. Discard beet pulp. Turn on medium-low heat once more, and add 3 Tbsp sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, beat 3 yolks and remaining 3 Tbsp sugar in a separate bowl until it turns a bit frothy and pale yellow in color. Pour about 1 c of the simmering mixture slowly into the yolks while whisking to prevent scrambling. Keep whisking for a few minutes, then transfer all back to saucepan.
  5. Keep stirring the mixture until it thickens to a custard, and coats the back of a spoon. Then refrigerate overnight.
  6. Take the beet juice from earlier and reduce to about 1/8 c over low heat. Also refrigerate overnight.
  7. Combine the custard and beet juice, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

The ice cream certainly tasted very strange, a much stranger sensation than the sweet corn ice cream. The beet flavor is overwhelming, even with the cinnamon added in, and and first I thought it was too weird for me to enjoy. But as I had a few more bites, it started to grow on me... earthy and sweet, with a bit of spice. My sister also enjoyed it, and said it reminded her of sweet potatoes. I still would say that beet ice cream isn't something I would make all the time, but with the right food pairing, it could be delicious. Any ideas?

Next up: Something to eat your sweet corn ice cream with!


Make Your Own Horchata


Whenever I go back home, I try to visit a Mexican place downtown for two reasons--amazing guacamole with housemade chips and the horchata. Horchata (at least in the form served at these Mexican places) is a refreshing rice-based drink with a hint of cinnamon and nutty flavor. Kind of like rice pudding in milky drinkable form, and since I'm a big rice pudding fan, I thoroughly enjoyed horchata from the very first sip. I didn't know whether the horchata I'd previously had was housemade or not, but after my attempt to make my own, I have to assume it was probably store-bought in a powder form. Not to insult the taste or quality of it, but rather to say I found horchata much more difficult to make than I thought it would be. A lot of work for a drink! I made some mistakes along the way as well, unfortunately.

I based the recipe off of this one from Rick Bayless, except I ended up adding more ground cinnamon as the flavor from the stick alone wasn't strong enough. My first mistake was trying to blanch the almonds myself. Various sources claim that after pouring boiling water over the almonds and waiting for 5 minutes, the skins "slip right off". I must have done something wrong because I resorted to rubbing them one by one on a grater to start with, then peeling the remaining skin off with my fingernails (plenty of almond got up under them too, which hurt). Even if the skins on all the almonds came right off (some of them did), what a pain to have to peel a tiny skin off of 1 1/4 c of almonds--more than this many:

Horchata De Almendra

2/3 c rice, medium or long grain rice (I used jasmine rice)
1 1/4 cup almonds, pre-blanched
3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Ground cinnamon to taste
2 c whole milk
2 1/2 c hot tap water
Sugar to taste (about 1 c)
  1. Combine rice, almonds, water and cinnamon stick in a bowl. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Blend on high with about 1/2 c sugar until the mixture is as smooth as possible, until the graininess is very fine.
  3. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, trying to get out as much liquid as possible. Pour into a pitcher, add milk and more sugar and cinnamon to taste. Serve over ice.

The second mistake I made was using just a sieve to strain out the remaining solids of rice and almond. It ended up too grainy, and I had to let the drink sit for some time and then ladled the liquid off the top (I had no cheesecloth with me). I would highly recommend using the cheesecloth. But overall, the horchata itself still turned out delicious and refreshing, and I dare say better than the horchata I've bought in the past. (Note: I also saved the pulpy solids from above to try my hand at an horchata ice cream. Will report back later.)

Next up: A unique ice cream, for real this time!


Sweet Corn Ice Cream


As I mentioned in my first post, I recently bought an ice cream maker (this one) with the idea of making interesting flavored ice creams. At first I thought of the flavors I've had in the past that were less common but enjoyable such as ginger or red bean, but then I thought, what would happen if I made some really off-the-wall flavors that could maybe work, but would nevertheless be a totally new taste experience?

I decided to trek forward with this thought in mind as I started with some ingredients I already had from the farmer's market, the first of which was sweet bicolor corn. Now I'm kind of a corn fanatic. It is one of those "go-to" foods, that I can never get enough of, and often order a dish at a restaurant simply because of the presence of corn. I've been stuffing myself with bicolor corn all summer, and now that we're at the tail end of it, why not celebrate with a refreshing treat that combines two summer essentials: sweet corn ice cream.

Having never seen or eaten sweet corn ice cream before, I found some recipes online (these two) to start with, and went my own way from there. I decided not to add vanilla or any other flavor accompaniment because I wanted the pure fresh taste of "just corn" to shine through, and I also didn't want it too sweet.

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

1 ear sweet corn
1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Shuck corn, cut kernels off into a bowl, and break the cob into thirds.

  2. Put cream, milk, kernels, and cob pieces into a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp sugar and bring to a boil. Remove cob pieces into a bowl and blend mixture with immersion blender until kernels are fairly pureed. Infuse for up to 1 hour with cobs added back in.

  3. Meanwhile, whisk yolks with 1/2 Tbsp sugar until they become lighter in color and airy, about a minute or two. Bring corn mixture back to a simmer, then turn off heat.
  4. Slowly pour in 1/2 c of hot corn mixture into the yolks while whisking to prevent eggs from scrambling. Keep whisking for another minute, then add back to saucepan over medium-low heat.
  5. Make sure to keep stirring the mixture until it thickens to a custard, and coats the back of a spoon (it took 10-15 minutes). Then put custard through a sieve, pushing it through thoroughly, and refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours.
  6. Freeze in your ice cream maker and eat!

I made a small amount because I was experimenting, but I thought (and others too!) that the ice cream turned out fantastic. Not overly sweet, and bursting with the crisp taste of fresh corn. Also would be delicious scooped over a warm slice of cornbread or with honey drizzled on top.

Next up: Another unconventional ice cream!


Eat Your Radish: Vietnamese Sticky Chicken

So after making the simple pickled radish, I needed a meal to eat it with. I found this recipe for "Vietnamese sticky chicken" in a lettuce wrap style that uses a similarly pickled daikon. However, I don't own a benriner (a Japanese-style mandolin), which is suggested in order to thinly slice the chicken. I would like to buy one, but since I just bought an ice cream maker and subsequently also an immersion blender (this really cheap one, has worked out great so far!) for the ice cream bases, I should probably lay low on purchasing kitchen appliances for awhile.

So I sliced the chicken in thin pieces by hand instead, and didn't use a real grill which I'm sure would have made it taste better. Also made some modifications to the recipe in terms of accompaniments to the chicken. But overall, not bad. Not as "sticky" as I would have expected but I did enjoy the marinade. I would also recommend marinading for longer than 30 minutes.

Vietnamese Sticky Chicken

For chicken
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Pickled daikon radish
Fresh herbs: Cilantro, basil, mint
Seaweed squares and/or romaine lettuce leaves
  1. Combine garlic, sugar, fish sauce, oil, lime juice, and Sriracha sauce in a large bowl. Mix until sugar is dissolved, then add chicken slices and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Afterwards, put chicken on grill batch by batch (I used a George Foreman grill) with tongs, and cook thoroughly on both sides for about a minute. Then remove from the grill and onto a plate, then cover to keep warm.
  3. Then arrange and eat with accompaniments however you please, usually with some rice, chicken, herb sprig, and radish on top of a lettuce leaf or seaweed square.

Here's the spread of the chicken with various accompaniments:

I tried every combination and this was my favorite:

Seaweed square + rice + chicken + radish + cilantro. I did think this was a dish that highlighted the crispness of the fresh pickled radish.

Next up: Interesting ice creams!


Make Your Own Pickled Radish

A coworker gave me a bunch of daikon radishes the other day and encouraged me to try pickling them, saying it was super easy to do. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to try, they had wilted badly and refused to even peel properly, so I bought a nice new one from the fruit market. I used this recipe, except I replaced the canning salt with kosher salt (which is OK, but regular table salt is a big no-no for pickling). Also the recipe is for radish and carrots, but I wouldn't recommend the carrots. They seemed a bit out of place to me, and I ended up just eating the radish.

Pickled Daikon Radish

1/2 pound daikon radish
1 carrot
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 c water
1/4 c distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Peel the radish and carrot, and cut them into thin (1/4-inch) half circles.
  2. Sprinkle the salt on the cut veggies, then mix them around with your hands. Let them sit for 30 minutes to let some water out. Afterwards, squeeze them handful by handful and get as much water out as possible.
  3. Pour over the mixture of vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes.

  4. Pack the veggies in a jar, refrigerate overnight, and they will be ready to eat the next day (but taste better after a week). Can be stored for up to 4 weeks.

Overall, they turned out quite tasty and not too spicy, but it is really worth making them a week or so in advance to allow them to develop a sharper flavor. Coming up, a meal to eat them with!


First Post

I decided to jump on the food blogging bandwagon mostly as a way to document all the little things I want to try in the kitchen as well as out. Things like... interesting ice cream flavors (just bought an ice cream maker!) and making food you would normally buy (pickles, butter, etc.). Plus whatever random thing outside of the kitchen I feel like trying. Enjoy!