Friday, May 29, 2015

"My Mother-In-Law's Spicy Chicken Soup"

I realized that I hadn't really done many soups on this blog, so I decided that in honor of the warm weather, I would write about my experience making one. The name led me to believe that it was merely a family recipe. However, I discovered that this particular soup is actually a very authentic dish originating from Yemen. I have always loved chicken soup, and was excited to try a different variation than what I was used to.

The recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces, but I just used three fairly large chicken breasts. Allowing the whole breast cook with the soup creates a much more prominent chicken flavor in the broth itself, giving the flavors of the two a nice unity.

Seasoned Chicken
The most prominent spice in this recipe is cumin. I added about 5 teaspoons of it, and then 2 more of ground turmeric (also an undefined amount of salt and pepper). I coated each breast with the spices, and then seared them for about 7 minutes.

Once the chicken was seared, I added 7 cups of water, and then the tomato and peeled onion. I ended up cutting the onion in half because I thought it would give off a stronger taste. Once the mixture was boiling, I let it continue for about an hour and a half.

Shredding the Chicken 
Once the timer beeped, I took out each breast one at a time and shredded the chicken after discarding the bones from the meat. I then added the chicken back into the broth.

This part is optional, but I thought that I might as well add a green vegetable. I sliced the zucchini relatively thin, and then let it cook in the soup for about 15 minutes. However, before adding it, I discarded the tomato and onion.

Finished Product
I served this dish with a slice of batch bread made by my mom. (Recipe from the My Irish Table cookbook.)  The flavors of the soup combined to form a delicious concoction. The chicken and broth shared a certain unifying flavor, and the tomato and onion offered a nice undertone. However, I am not a very big fan of zucchini, and, considering it was added in the last 15 minutes, it did not feel incorporated in the flavor. In my opinion, the zucchini was just in the way. Although I didn't like the zucchini, it did not take away from the overall taste of the soup. I would recommend this dish to anyone who wishes to enjoy a light, delicious soup. My only suggestion would be to not bother with the zucchini (unless you like it).

Beat and Baby Lettuce Salad with Jicama

This salad is one usually served during passover, or, in my case, my brother's birthday. He really likes beats, and so I thought this would be a perfect side dish. Also, I had never heard of jicama, and I like to try new things. Although this recipe calls for Baby lettuce, I used lettuce given to us by our neighbors instead (I'm not sure the kind, but it looked good). Unfortunately, I realized about half way through that I forgot to take a picture of the ingredients.

I started by adding 2 large beats into a pot of water under heat until it boiled. After that, I turned down the heat, allowing the whole thing to simmer for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I decided to prepare the jicama. The jicama was a bit difficult to peel, but after it was done, it cut like an apple (and kinda tasted like one). I chopped it into small sticks, and did the same with the other half.

Jicama and Lettuce 
After the Jicama was cut, I added it to the bowl of lettuce.

Chopped Beet
Once the beets were done, I chopped them into wedges.

The Dressing 
The dressing consisted of lime juice, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Although it was simple, it was very tangy and delicious.

Finished Product
The salad was very simple yet good. The dressing added a nice flavor to the beets and lettuce. However, I felt that the jicama had a strange texture, and didn't add much to the dish. I feel as though something else could have taken its place, such as feta cheese. I would recommend this dish to anyone who is looking for a side that does not require much physical labor.

Chocolate Marble Cake

I chose this recipe not because of its cultural authenticity, but because I love marble cakes. The name caught my attention immediately, the image of chocolate and vanilla swirled every bite made my mouth water. This recipe calls for cake flour which I didn't have, but I will show in this blog post, along with the cake, how to make cake flour at home in less than 5 minutes. The only other marble cake I'd made was a marbled pumpkin cheese cake (very delicious), so I was excited to see how this cake would turn out.

The ingredients were relatively straight forward for a cake: nothing out of the ordinary. 

Floured Cake Tin 
The recipe calls for a 9 inch spring-form pan, which I buttered and floured. 

Cake Flour: Step 1
Start by removing 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup you use. 

Cake Flour: Step 2 
Next, replace the discarded flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. 

Cake Flour: Step 3
Finally, after mixing in the cornstarch, put all of it through a sifter into a separate bowl. So there you have it, the key to never having to buy cake flour again. I learned this technique from a different blog that my mom likes, Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Finally Starting the Batter
The first step was to cream the butter until it clung to the sides of the bowl. The recipe suggests using unsalted butter, but I always use salted butter because it's better for everything. 

Adding the Sugar
I added the sugar in small increments to the butter until the batter became light and fluffy.

Incorporating the Eggs 
I added 3 of the eggs one at a time while the batter churned slowly, except for the 4th one. I whisked it in a separate bowl, and then added it directly after the other eggs. I'm really not sure why the recipe instructed for this to be done, but I'm sure there was some reason behind it. 

More Sifting
The recipe calls for baking powder sifted into cake flour. There's no such thing as flour that's too light when it comes to making a cake, so I didn't mind. 

Finished Batter
Once all the flour and baking powder was sifted, I added it in three batches to the batter, along with a teaspoon of vanilla. Although somewhat dense, the batter tasted delicious. 

Marbling: Step 1
I started by separating out 2 cups of the batter and adding another teaspoon of vanilla. 

Marbling: Step 2
Next, with the remaining batter in the bowl, I added about 4 ounces of melted semisweet chocolate. 

Marbling Step: 3
I had my doubts when I looked down and saw more pan than cake, but my worrying was soon resolved. I continued by doing another layer of chocolate and vanilla. 

Marbling: Step 4
I shook the pan around and banged it on the counter until the batter was evenly distributed. Once this was done, I could actually begin marbling. 

Marbling: Step 5
I used a butter knife and swirled through the entire cake until the entire surface was covered in thin wispy lines. 

Finished Product 
The cake had a perfect combination of chocolate and vanilla. That's what I love about marble cakes; they offer a different ratio of flavor in every bite. Sometimes the whole thing is chocolate, sometimes vanilla, but one thing that is consistent is the unifying delectability. The two are only one ingredient apart, so they still share many of the same fundamental flavors. I would recommend this dessert to anyone whose in the mood for a light cake and has an afternoon to spare.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jewish Cooking

For this next section, I decided not to do one specific country, but a group whose influences are not limited to just Europe. Judaism began in about 2000 BC, and has spread across the globe ever since. Although their history is not free of oppression, the Jewish people have thrived in all areas where they were permitted to work. Being that their population integrated all over Europe and the Middle East, many cultures' cuisines have been influenced by Judaism. I will be using 1000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy as my guide.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


I wanted to make a German dessert that was authentic as possible. When it came down to it, I had difficulty deciding between black forrest cake and the one titled "German Cake". I had eaten plenty of black forrest cakes very happily, but the mystery that comes with a name as generic as Kuchen, it was hard to resist my own curiosity.

I was surprised by how few ingredients this recipe called for. However, the scarcity only added to the mystery of the final product.

Floured Tin
I used an 8-inch cake tin, buttered and floured.

As most desserts do, this one starts with creaming butter and sugar. 

This recipe gives the option of choosing between almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts. Since I'm not a fan of almonds or pecans, I chose hazelnuts. 

This recipe calls for both the juice and zest from a lemon. 

I added the lemon, and the the eggs one at a time. Finally, I sifted in the flour. The batter was very simple and light, making me wonder more about how the final product would taste. 

The topping was also very simple, consisting of chopped hazelnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. 

Oven Ready 
I sprinkled the mixture onto the surface of the cake evenly. 

Finished Product 
The first thing I noticed about this cake was how light it was. When I took the first taste, I sensed a perfect ratio of tart and sweet. An equilibrium that resides in the middle ground of two extremes. This recipe, although simple, cuts right to the point of satisfaction. It does not try and impress the consumer with extravagant flavors, but instead chooses to be subtle. It is a light, perfectly structured cake, nothing more and nothing less. It is the tune sung by the birds that exhibits nothing but beauty. I would recommend this recipe to anyone who looks to impress, but at the same time not stress over the production.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bavarian Cheese Toast

When I first read the title "Bavarian Cheese Toast" I was thinking that it would be something like a glorified grilled cheese. I was curious to see just how similar the two dishes were, so I chose it to make as a German dinner for my family.

The title suggests that this recipe would consist of two elements: cheese and toast. However, I was suprised at the number of ingredients that it required. The cheeses that I'm using are emmentaler and swiss, and the bread is a vermont whole wheat which I lightly toasted ahead of time.

Egg-Milk Mixture
This mixture consists of eggs, milk, brown mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg all whisked together until frothy.

I used a boneless ham steak from Whole Foods, and then diced it into small cubes. The cheese was shredded, which made it easy to add it as a topping for the toasts.

Toppings on Toast 
I tried to distribute the ham as evenly as I could to ensure that every bite was accompanied with a piece of ham. I also aimed for the cheese to cover both the surface of the bread and the ham, as to ensure that it becomes embeded in the overall flavor.

The Egg-Milk Mixture
This is where that mysterious egg-milk mixture comes into play. I drizzled it over the top until every piece was covered, and then I put the whole thing in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Finished Product 
Although simple, this recipe proved to be delicious. The smoky flavor of the emmentaler complements the flavor of the ham and the egg mixture very well. I have never really been a huge fan if grilled cheese, but this does not fit into that catagory of displeasure. With every bite the flavors evolve into a flavorful unity that I have grown to love in German cooking. I would definitely recommend this recipe to anyone who wants a delicious meal but doesn't have the time to take on a huge project.


For the next country in my exploration of European cuisine, I decided to move east into Germany. German cooking has had a major impact on American dishes due to the migration of German immigrants in the mid 1800's. I have tried many German dishes before, and have noticed that they contain a hardy aspect that usually leaves me feeling satisfied. I will be using "German Cooking" by Marianna Olszewska Heberle as my guide.