Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Holy Grail

Dear Allison,

Well, my dear, it's finally happened: we've graduated and parted ways, supposedly to forge our separate paths in life. To find fame and fortune and fulfillment. Well, I've got the "fulfillment" part covered, anyway--as part of our Epic Trek Through the American South, my family had lunch in Savannah at none other than The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant! Now, you know how I love all things southern, but southern food can sometimes be problematic from a vegetarianism standpoint. I was impressed to see that at The Lady and Sons, there were three whole vegetarian entrees on the lunch menu! That may not sound like much, but when you're used to making do with a salad and sides, it's exciting.

First things first: The Lady and Sons is in downtown Savannah, which is a quirky and awesome city full of antebellum architecture, indie boutiques, and hipsters who attend SCAD.

Now, in true Paula Deen fashion, our meal didn't begin with plain old bread. Rather, it started with a fried corn cake (there was maple syrup at the table to go with it), and a cheddar-garlic biscuit, both oozing with butter. Um, delicious is putting it lightly.

Here's what the interior or the restaurant looks like: there are three stories of dining rooms, and we were seated on the top story.
We started off with fried green tomatoes, which were garnished with a roasted red pepper sauce and a vidalia onion relish. These were so. good. Crispy and surprisingly delicate, and I loved the onion relish. I really want to try and re-create them when I get home
For my main course, I went with the asparagus sandwich which, according to the menu, is "a favorite of the New York Times." The sandwich was filled with asparagus, red onion, jack cheese, and thousand island dressing, grilled between two slices of rye bread. It was served with cole slaw (which was garnished with green tomato pickles), and in the background is my lemonade with mint. This sandwich was homey and comforting and, most of all, different, which to me is the most important theme in a world of token portobello burgers. The cole slaw wasn't that special, although it was spicy and a step up from normal restaurant cole slaw.

And then there was the macaroni and cheese: since I promised you would try it, I forced my father to bring some back from the buffet (which, as you can see, was mostly populated by vegetables-cooked-with-bacon). This macaroni and cheese was pretty awesome, and I'm about 95% certain the secret ingredient was mayonnaise. Actually I'm about 95% certain that Paula Deen's secret ingredient is always mayonnaise.

Then there was dessert: a pecan pie so flaky, creamy and caramely that it was like looking into the face of god. Okay, maybe not quite, but it did come with a scoop of honest-to-god-not-from-a-can whipped cream on the top, which was pretty freakin' awesome.

So I hope your summer is going well so far, Allison! I can't wait to hear about your fancy cooking job and anything else that happens in your life. Keep me posted!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Secret Password into the Rosenthal House

Hey Kathryn,

So, it's been over a week since we graduated. Here's a portrait of my life, by the numbers, since we received our diplomas.

20 - times that I played "Don't Stop Believing."
17 - episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8 that I have watched.
2 - Listen Hear episodes that I have listened to.
3 - cards that I found from you while cleaning my room.
16 - Bagels that I made.

That's right. I've followed through on the promise promise in my previous post, and I made some crusty, chewy bagels. Though I haven't had a New York bagel in awhile, I think these ones came pretty close to the real deal. They certainly beat out Panera's/St. Louis Bread Company's, which let's face the truth, are Parker House Rolls masquerading as bagels. I would bet my Great Aunt's collection of medical advertising cards from the 1800s that they do not even boil them before baking them, which is the way that all true bagels are made.

This a really great recipe for channeling stress/aggression/graduation angst. This is the toughest dough that I've ever had to knead. I blasted some Yeah Yeah Yeahs and started kneading, and suddenly, ten minutes had passed. I really love that feeling of complete absorption into the cooking process, and it reminded me of a conversation that I had with Amanda about why we love to cook. We discussed that we liked the immediacy of the process, and how you have to devote your full attention to the food at hand. I think that's how I want to live, one fold, one push, one breath, at a time.

Aren't they cute?

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking:

6 3/4 cup white bread flour, plus more as necessary for kneading
1 tbsp salt
1 package yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 tbsp sugar (or malt extract, if you happen to have it on hand)

To a large bowl, add the flour, salt and yeast together. Stir to combine and create a well in the center. To another bowl add the sugar, oil and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones all at once and forcibly mix. When the mixture starts to ball together into a dough, with your hands, start to knead it together to incorporate all of the flour into the dough. Turn out the dough onto a dry surface and knead the dough together, adding more flour if the dough seems too wet (don't worry - the dough should be drier than other bread doughs). Knead for at least ten minutes, or until the dough becomes smoother, suppler, and easier to work with. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and flip the dough around on both sides so that it has a thin coat of oil. Cover with a clean dish towel, and let it rise for an hour.

After it has risen, punch down the dough, and turn out onto your work surface. Cut the dough in thirds, and then again into fifths, so in the end, you have 15 portions. Roll each piece into a log, and then pinch the ends together to form a ring. Make sure you get a tight seal so that they don't fall apart when you boil them. Set aside on a baking sheet and cover with a clean dish towel. At this time, set a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. Add the sugar or malt extract and wait for it to come to a rapid boil. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or its highest setting. Once the oven has come to temperature, and the water is boiling, and the bagels have rested for at least 15 minutes, oil two baking sheets and set them aside. Drop the bagels into the water four at a time using a slotted spoon. Once they have been in the water for 30 seconds, flip them, and wait another 30 seconds. Retrieve them from the water and set them on the baking sheet, making sure they are well spaced. When you have filled up a baking sheet, place it in the oven, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.


Also, before you set off to make these, make sure that your oven is clean. Our oven had some burnt bits at the bottom, and so with oven temperature at 500 degrees, those scraps turned into smoke. The bagels ended up being fine, and some even had some slight hints of smoke flavor, but my sister was not so fine with being awoken from her nap because of the fire alarm going off. Just a normal day at the Rosenthal house, I guess.

I hope you are doing well at the beach - I miss you so much.

Take care,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My recipe box

Hey Guys,

This update comes to you from Burling Library, where I am working on my last ever college paper. Mama needs a break, so I wanted to show you guys some of the recipes that I am dying to make once I return to Iowa City.

It's a bird, It's a crab, No It's Tempeh Cakes!
Broccoli Slaw

And, maybe Nigella Lawson's Bagels.

Also, I came across a tin of sardines from Portugal this week (ah, the perks of the museum world...), and if anyone would have a use for it, I would be more than happy to give it away. Let me know, by commenting on this entry!

Good luck to everyone!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BACON MANIA?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Hey Everyone,

I would like to channel all of my Hell Week (what we call the last week of classes at Grinnell)- Finals-graduation-frustration into one big rant about bacon.

I know I'm biased since I've never even tried bacon before, but, whatever, I can judge if I want to.


Y'all should eat salads. Not porcine carcass.