Sorbet can be traced back as far as 3000 B.C.E. Somewhere in Asia, some crazy geniuses were mixing crushed fruit with ice. A bit later in Egypt, pharaohs offered their guests fruit juices mixed with ice to beat the heat. Later still, fine cuisine loving Italians used sorbet as a palate cleanser in between courses. Eventually, it morphed into the gorgeous, healthier-cousin-of-ice-cream it is today. I would like to thank everyone involved. You personally helped get this spoonful of grapefruit sorbet into my mouth.
As a Seoul dweller, I experience virtually no wildlife and rarely get to see animals other than street cats and tiny white dogs. So, when I met this little fella on a recent trip to the countryside in Chungju for an amazing day of learning about and eating fermented foods, I had to snap a photo. Praying mantises have always seemed like tiny (frightening) sages to me. The way they turn their wee heads all the way like they do makes me feel like my soul is being read, judged and thusly, condemned. Alarming. Maybe I need to reel in my imagination a bit.
The day trip, hosted by Kinfolk, was the dream baby of my fabulous friend Jacqui. A group of about 20 were swept away to a beautiful meditation retreat center that is also dedicated to traditional Korean fermentation recipes and techniques. We tasted soy sauce, garlic, vinegars, eggplant wine, various leafy plants and kimchi all brewing in large pots in the sun. Participants were able to help prepare some dishes, such as stuffed rice balls and tofu skin wraps for the feast at the end of the day. After sampling all the fermented goods, it was pretty astonishing that were able to consume more. But, oh, we were able and, oh, we did.
It was a glorious day and even thinking about it helps remind me that I need to get out more often. Living in the city is… challenging. Since starting my newest job four months ago, my commute has gone from a five-minute walk to forty-five minutes of walking, riding the subway and walking again. It is no surprise, yet still shocking how much a longer commute saps ones energy. Further, my commute is on one of the most packed lines on the Seoul Metro. One day last week, it was so mind-numbingly packed and people were being tossed around so hard that some ladies were wincing and yelping as they were trying to get off (imagine a disturbing mix of sex noises and dog cries). I practically ran off the subway car at my stop, very dramatically, tears in my eyes, feeling depleted, defeated and stressed. I wondered if I would be able to survive this commute to the end of my contract.
Luckily, most days are, at least, bearable. I force myself into a numbed state most every time I get on, determined not to let the daily violations of my personal space get the best of me. I’ve seen people who have. It ain’t pretty.
Quince is a curious fruit I’ve never really had the time for. When there are other trusty fall fruits like pomegranate, tangerines and persimmon about, who has time to be excited about an unassuming green rock of a fruit such as quince? I have since mended the error of my ways and become mildly fascinated with the most awkward member of the Rosaceae family.
Before I learned that quince isn’t exactly edible/digestible when it is uncooked, I, of course, ate lots of it raw. I even brought it as a snack to work, gaining the attention of the older and hungry elementary students. After some initial trepidation and reactions to the astringency, they were begging for more. I was too, after they devoured the lot. Buggers.
I’ve never particularly noticed quince on sale here in Seoul, but I now live close to several traditional markets that provide produce that is seasonally sensitive, so they’ve made appearances everywhere. I bought a few and tried Food52’s version of quince tarte tatin. I usually dislike pies with quince’s sweeter cousins apple and pear, (I know, I know… I’m just really picky), but quince really hit the spot. The fruit not only kept its deliriously tart goodness, but it sweetened just enough to be transformed into a unique dessert. Another interesting feature is that the white flesh of quince also turns red once cooked. It has tempted me to experiment with it more.
Quince Tarte Tatin
For Poached Quince
- 4-5 quince, peeled and deseeded
- 6 cups of water
- 1 lemon, cut in a half and juiced
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- 3 vanilla beans
- a pinch of sea salt
For Quince Tarte Tatin
- 1 pound puff pastry
- 3-4 poached quince (depending on the size of your baking pan)
- 1 ¼ cup quince poaching liquid
In a large pot, add the sugar and water and bring to a low boil. Once the sugar dissolves, add the lemon, lemon juice and vanilla beans.
Peel and deseed the quince then cut into quarters (or sixths, depending on the size of your fruit. Gently drop the quince into the liquid and cook until tender, which can take about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and scoop the quince pieces from the liquid with a slotted spoon.
Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas mark 5.
Pour about 2 ½ cups of the poaching liquid into a non-reactive skillet -most Teflon or heavy bottomed stainless steel brands will do. On medium high heat, reduce the liquid until it develops a syrupy viscosity. Be careful not to burn it, or you will have a terrible mess to deal with.
Arrange the quince pieces in a baking pan, cutting them further if needed. You may need to place several layers of the fruit so they fill the pan adequately. Drizzle the reduced liquid on top of the quince.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a third inch thickness and lay the sheet on top of the awaiting quince. Cut away excess pastry.
Bake the tart for about 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and fully cooked. Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes. When ready to serve, place a plate that completely covers the pan over top of the tarte. In a quick, fluid motion, carefully flip the tarte onto the plate so it is completely removed from the pan.
Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if desired.
Oh you poor thing! Too many homemade graham crackers lying around? I understand. I’ve had the same problem countless times.
Here’s what you do:
Take 2 crackers.
Insert your favorite ice cream.
Attempt to eat in a dignified manner.
Go take a shower to clean up.
Spring in Seoul has brought along a reemergence of cherry blossoms and (for me) chocolate (not that my relationship with chocolate ever actually went into hibernation… but … whatever).
Here’s what it looks like right now.
One of my elementary classes recently read a book called “The Story of Chocolate” by Usborne books, which is a fun little thing full of interesting facts. Most of the books I am forced to read with my students cause uncontrollable eye rolling and confusion on my part. They often include bizarre Korean publications of classics like Pinocchio where our protagonist has a nose made from a sausage and is born from a talking log (a few slight liberties where taken from the original). You can imagine my excitement when I began reading The Story of Chocolate with my students and found I was actually interested and (gasp) learning something.
Apparently, the first chocolate eaters were monkeys. The clever little guys ate the luscious white pulp from the cocoa pods and spat out the bitter beans found within. Mayan farmers saw the monkeys doing this and copied them. They continued to discard the beans until they discovered the pleasant aroma coming from the beans that were left to roast in the hot sun. They tried the beans and realized they weren’t so bad after all. The beans were ground into a paste and turned into a drink. Cocoa beans became the drug of choice and were soon worth more than gold. It was even used as a currency. The Mayans eventually shared their secret with Aztec traders, who were conquered by some Spanish guy who stole a bunch of beans and brought them back to Europe and so on. We’ll call this the abridged version.
So anyone who hasn’t been living in cave all their life has tried chocolate at some point and probably loved it. Humans have had a major love affair with chocolate and we will do just about anything to get our grubby little paws on some. Understandably so. It turns out that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and has the ability to make us happy in more ways than one. Heyyy!
Pink peppercorns (baie rose) pair rather well chocolate and are also an aphrodisiac. Heyyy! Thought to be part of the piper family tree, pink peppercorns aren’t actually related to pepper. In fact, they are the dried berries of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree and have been confused due to their similarities in size, shape and pungent flavour.
Where pepper has an intense, sharp and biting taste, pink peppercorn has a softer and more delicate flavour that adds sophistication to any dish. And just look at the stuff. They are elegance incarnate.
Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs
- 1 quart of heavy cream
- 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate
- 2 tsp of vanilla extract
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ tbsp of coarsely crushed cocoa nibs
- 1 tsp of crushed pink peppercorns
Whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. TIP: Perform stiffness test by dipping whisk into the cream and lifting up. If the peaks keep their form, it’s done.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When melted, add salt and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, take 1/3 of the whipped cream and gently fold in the chocolate. Once fully incorporated, add another third and continue to fold. Repeat with the rest of the cream and fold until the mousse is uniform in colour. Then, fold in the cocoa nibs.
Sprinkle pink peppercorn bits on top when serving.
I knew vaguely for some reason that graham crackers were meant to be a “healthy” food. I’m not sure if it’s something I was told from my childhood or a belief held by society or what. This has always confused me because the modern graham cracker of today certainly doesn’t look, feel or taste healthy. They’re loaded with sugar, use uber refined ingredients and are mass produced by the bajillion. Considering that most people eat (or at least associate) them as S’mores, cheesecake crusts and piecrusts, the health label seems like another lie people tell themselves. Another delicious lie.
Well, apparently graham crackers are meant to be healthy. MEANT to. A health nut minister named Sylvester Graham invented graham crackers in 1829. He was an advocate of vegetarianism and believed that an unhealthy diet would lead to uncontrollable, carnal urges and sexual excess. He swore that physical lust was harmful for the body (as any good minister should) and caused consequences as dire as pulmonary consumption, spinal diseases, epilepsy and insanity. So, to Graham a high fiber, vegetarian diet was the key to purity and chastity, while meat and refined foods meant debauchery, destruction and non-stop sex. Hmm… tough choice.
No. Not really.
Like most North Americans, I have yo-yo’d with my weight and my ideas of (read: dedication to) a healthy lifestyle. From a heavy set youth to starving myself to eating everything in my path to severely restricting my food intake, I’ve gone through the self-hate-through-food thing for a good portion of my life. So many of us have. Eating disorders are a fairly new phenomenon in the history of human kind. Born out of excess (something that didn’t exist for anyone other than royalty until the middle class appeared) we binge, we purge, we starve and we judge our food.
The puritanical reactions to unhealthy lifestyles aren’t really any healthier. As an ex-raw foodist, I remember convincing myself (many years ago) that certain foods were evil and that my pure insides would surely burn and melt if I consumed a piece of white bread or grain of refined sugar. I didn’t realize until much later that these were thoughts of someone who hates food.
The whole thing is such an old, tired story full of clichés and I’m sick of it. I LOVE food. I LOVE cooking and I LOVE eating. I took a stand against the horrid cycle and found something that feels balanced and real. Here are my guidelines:
Eat in moderation.
Try anything I want.
Always choose fresh, real ingredients.
Don’t deny myself (denial responds with feelings of rebellion, resentment and guilt)
This has worked for me for several years. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in ages and I feel more balanced and happy with my relationship to food. Hail Mary.
These graham crackers were made using a somewhat similar recipe to Minister Graham’s original recipe. But as I’m not one to deny myself of a tasty idea, they also contain chocolate. A bit of balance goes a long way.
Homemade Graham Crackers with White Chocolate Frosting
- 2 ½ cups graham flour
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/8 cup molasses
- 1/3 honey
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp anise powder
- 5 oz of white chocolate (optional)
- licorice candy powder (optional)
Melt butter. Add honey and molasses to the butter and mix.
Add eggs and water to the mixture and mix.
In a different bowl, combine salt, baking soda, flours and spices. Stir.
Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well incorporated and smooth.
Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.
Find a clean surface to roll your crackers and spread flour over it to prevent sticking. Make fist sized balls of dough and roll evenly to a 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut your crackers into small squares or rectangles, about 2×2 inches.
Use a fork to mark those satisfying graham cracker dots.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
If you wish to add white chocolate, melt some in a double boiler and spread a thin coat on the back of your crackers. Refrigerate to harden.
If you wish to add licorice powder, sprinkle some to the layer of chocolate before cooled.
Makes 20-24 crackers.
Eat with love.
On a completely unrelated note, here are a few photos my friend Dilwara and I took not too long ago. The moon was full and we were drawn out into the frigid night air to gawk at the blanket of night she covered the land with. With long exposures and fast moving clouds, the results were, as you can see, orgasmicly gorgeous.
I was asked to make a gluten free cake for an event I was cooking for at The Abode this past Fall. I was given a choice between making carrot cake or frosted banana bread. I completely despise everything about bananas, so it was sort of a non-choice, really. My distain for bananas goes so deep; it’s practically become part of my identity. Habiba: The Girl Who Hates Bananas. My young Korean students were always so confused that anyone would not like bananas, it became one of the class jokes. My mum told me that as a child, I cried if someone offered them to me. Sometimes I tear up in horror a little bit still.
Banana lovers are very sneaky with their yellow torture devices and more than once I’ve been traumatized by the ill placement of said fruit. Banana haters can expect to have to double-check the ingredients of a smoothie, cookie or sweet cake, and even though it’s disappointing, it’s not horrifyingly shocking. But, when eating a vegetable stir-fry, pizza or chicken enchilada, one shouldn’t have to be on guard for bananas! I have had the misfortune of experiencing each of these normally fine dishes with the addition of bananas, rendering them useless. I am exceptionally good at detecting even the smallest amount of banana, which promptly ruins whatever food I am eating. If I could pass a ban, I would.
I made a carrot cake (banana free!) with maple cream cheese icing. It was a gorgeous texture, not too dense, and full of flavour.
I’m very skeptical with gluten free foods (probably because of the early attempts of gluten free enthusiasts to recreate comfort foods and ending up with a mouthful of something chalky, hard and tasteless) but I was very pleased with the flour I used. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour uses garbanzo bean flour as its base. Sounds like you’ll end up with a cake that tastes like falafel, but I didn’t detect a thing.
Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing
Ingredients for 50 servings
For the cake:
- 12 cups gluten free flour
- 3 tbsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3 tbsp cinnamon powder
- 3 tsp nutmeg powder
- 3 tbsp ginger powder
- 3 ½ cups canola oil
- 8 cups sugar
- 24 large eggs
- 10 cups grated carrots
- 3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
- 2 cups raisins (optional)
For the icing:
- 3 cups of softened cream cheese
- 2 cups of softened butter
- 4 cups icing sugar
- 2 cups maple syrup
Ingredients for 8-10 servings
For the cake:
- 2 cups gluten free flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 ¼ canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups grated carrots
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
For the icing:
- 1 cup softened cream cheese
- ½ cup softened butter
- 2 cups icing sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.
In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together.
In a separate bowl, whisk sugar and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in eggs one at a time.
Slowly stir the dry mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until smooth.
Stir in carrots, nuts and raisins.
Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes. To check if the cake is fully cooked, poke it in the center with a fork or skewer. If it comes out clean, it is finished.
Let the cake cool. To remove the cake from the pan, use a knife to scrape the edges and ensure it is not attached. Put a plate or tray on top of the cake and flip them together. Ice that bad boy.
Last week, I celebrated my 33 and a third birthday. 33.33. I know it isn’t commonplace to celebrate a fraction of one’s birthday, but turning exactly one third of a century was too good to pass up without festivities. An old roommate and friend of mine from Montreal invited me to her 33 1/3rd birthday some years ago. It really struck me as a perfect event to celebrate; after all, three is a magic number.
Three. Past, present and future. Spirit, mind and body. Mother, father and child. Beginning, middle and end. The Three Furies, the rule of three, triangles, etc. 3 or 33 has appeared as important numbers in history, science, astronomy, sports, spirituality, nature, math and even geography. It symbolizes balance, clarity and wholeness. Threeness had overwhelmingly sold itself to me as something awesome. I was determined to do something great when I hit the big 33.33 and since my actual 33rd birthday was kind of a non-event, it was even more reason to party.
So, I did. My real birthday is on July 12th. I added a third of a year (4 months) to find that the precise date of my 33 1/3rd birthday was November 12th, 2012. In lieu of all the threeness, I decided that the theme of the party would be: (surprise!) 3’s! Here’s what I did:
Invite: I thought a party with a 3 theme could possibly be confusing and overwhelming for some of my guests, so I outlined the requests of the evening very simply in the hopes that my guests would interpret the theme in their own way. I asked everyone to dress up and bring food with 3 in mind. I told them that this was a very loose idea and could be interpreted in any way they like. It could be as simple as wearing three colours and bringing a 3-bean salad. I encouraged their creative ideas and humour to lead them more than what they thought I was expecting. It was all about fun.
Note: I wanted to celebrate on the exact date, which landed on a Monday. I asked my guests if they could manage coming on Monday or if they preferred Sunday. I tallied the votes before making the decision. Luckily, it worked out to be Monday. The official start time was 3:33pm, but I told everyone to come later.
Ideas: I encouraged my guests with a few ideas to pique their interest. Actually, I really just googled “things in threes” or “common threes” and loads of lists came up such as:
3 minute egg
3 piece suit
3 ring notebook
Small, medium and large
On your mark, get set, go
Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil
The list was pretty long. But effective!
Some of the dishes we ended up with were Shepard’s pie (3 layers), dip (also 3 layers), 3 different snacks, tri coloured soup, multi layered cocktails (details on those to come) and multi alcohol cocktails.
Food: My guests were most confused about food. I guided them with a few ideas like:
My main contribution to the food selection was the grapefruit cheesecake with lemon licorice and vodka cream (with the crust it qualifies as 3 layers). Gorgeously balanced in flavour and decadently rich.
Grapefruit Cheesecake with Lemon Licorice and Vodka Cream
- 2 cups crushed graham crackers
- 2 tsp grated grapefruit zest
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 grapefruits
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp agar agar (powdered)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 pound (16 oz) of softened cream cheese
- 1 ¼ tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp grated grapefruit zest
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 3 tbsp licorice powder (NOTE: I used hard candies I had brought back from Iceland and powdered them in the food processor. You could experiment with various different licorice candies to see which ones crush and/or melt well).
- 2/3 cups vodka
- ½ tsp lemon extract
- 3 cups heavy cream
Mix crust ingredients until evenly combined. Press the crust to the bottom of the pan you will be keeping your cheesecake in (about 9 inches).
Combine agar agar and water in a pot and heat on high. Stirring constantly, allow the mixture to boil and remove from heat. Separate 2 eggs. Combine the yolks and remaining whole egg, sugar, salt and 1 tbsp of the juice in a double boiler. Stir regularly. Remove from heat when thickened. Combine this mixture with the agar agar in a bowl.
Beat the cream cheese with the remaining grapefruit juice (½ cup) and lemon juice/rinds. Combine with the egg mixture. Lightly whip heavy cream. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the cream and egg whites into the cheese mixture.
Mix licorice powder, sugar, lemon extract and vodka in a bowl. Stir until well combined and smooth.