...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sardines in Avocado

I lifted this shamelessly from a Hungarian food blog for my English-speaking audience here...

2 avocados
2 small tins of very good quality sardines in olive oil (I used Portuguese sardines from Kroger's ethnic grocery isle- for about $1.50 a box)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar (sherry vinegar if you have it)
juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon, generously
fistful of fresh parsley (in a pinch dried one will do as well), finely chopped
salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper or red Aleppo pepper to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Mix in a small bowl broken-up sardines, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and grated rind, chopped parsley. Season with spices to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to get the flavors to blend. If you prepare it for dinner, mix this as soon as you get home then do the other chores until your Other Half gets home.
When ready to serve, cut avocados in half, lift seed out and spoon sardine salad into cavity. Decorate with the onion slices.
Serve with toast and butter on the side.
One word: yum. This would make amazing appetizers for a fancier dinner party as well, using 1/2 avocado per person, and decorating the avocados with some longer green stalks of the green onions. I realized too late that I should have taken pictures!!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Coffee Roasting

I meant to blog about this a week ago, but what with family moving to town and such, I didn't quite have the time.
Simply, I got fed up with the stuff stores and the office tries to pass out as coffee these days, and after doing some extensive research and calculations regarding investment in time and monies versus quality and eventual return, I went ahead and ordered a home coffee roaster, complete with 8 different types of 1/2 lbs. green coffee, each single origin from different and very exciting corners of the world.

This stuff is fun; it takes me about 20 minutes every 3rd day or so to roast my own coffee fresh, and let it stand for 24 hours; sometimes more, so I always have 2 different types running; that way I have fresh coffee all the time. Then I grind right before brewing in the morning and in the afternoon when I get home from work, and either use the drip coffee brewer, or the French press, and transfer what we don't drink at once into a thermos. You would NOT believe the difference. We already have our favorites:we both really liked the Brazil estate coffee I roasted the first time, and the Mokha Java mix I made out of 50-50% Sumatra Mandheling and Yemen Sana' ani mellowed out after 48-72 hours to a very powerful and yet rounded blend that is excellent in the morning.
SO--here is the process of coffee roasting on my Nesco Coffee Roaster.
This is the roaster before pouring in the beans:

This is the roaster with 4 oz. Peru Norte Especial in the roasting chamber, ready to go. Once you plug in, you select the roasting time (on this machine it included 5 minutes of cooling time when after the roasting is complete, a high-speed fan switches on and starts rapidly cooling the beans so they don't overrroast. After setting the roasting time, you press 'Start' and it is a go. You can add or subtract minutes during roasting if you realize you set it too dark or not dark enough:
On the picture below the roasting process is at about 4 minutes, and the beans start to smell like warm hay. This is good. The Nesco has a very effective smoke eliminating filter, but I still had to disconnect the smoke detector in the kitchen while roasting. However, by all accounts I read, this is still the best that there is, and you actually cannot see the smoke at all. See how the beans swirl? There is an agitator in the chamber that spins them around while heating, and it makes the roasting very even:

Here below the color definitely started to change. This setting for this bean was a light-to-medium roast at 22 minutes (that's 17 minutes roasting plus 5 minutes cooling fan time). Generally, when you roast to a light to medium roast, the characteristics of the origin are much more pronounced and the differences between the coffee beans can really be felt. Now I am NOT yet at the stage where I can definitely feel all the nuances the coffee professionals describe these beans (and let me tell ya, they are just as poetic about it as wine tasters are...), but there are definitely differences that you cannot feel when everything is French roasted to death:

And on this image you can definitely see (despite the blur) the color..this was about 13-14 minutes into the roasting time, when the coffee starts to go through what they call 'first crack' expanding and releasing water, essential oils etc. This marks the time where, once completed, the roast can be stopped any time. The fluff in the chamber is the stuff called chaff, and it comes off the green beans as they roast. There is a LOT of it, but thankfully the Nesco's chaff collector is rather good, so the majority of it I can just shake from the collector on top to the compost crock after emptying the roasting chamber. There will be some on the counter inevitably, but it's easy to wipe up:

After the cooling cycle is complete, this is what it looks like:

Pretty isn't it? I just empty the beans into a stainless steel colander with a plate beneath (to catch the chaff remaining in the chamber), and stir vigorously for a while to cool down:

After all that, when the beans are room temperature, I transfer to an airtight container (the one with a rubber gasket seal around the rim, a mason canning jar is perfectly fine actually), and leave it open for 12 hours so th beans can outgas CO2. After that, seal, and store for 12 more hours before enjoying it. Some beans need more time to fully develop, but right after 24 hours when you open that jar, it really hammers it home just how much better it is.

I actually drink less coffee now that we have the roaster because the less is more intense, and frankly, after having freshly ground coffee at home, restaurant coffee is just horrid. I tried. I'll stick with tea from now on when I am not home.

The fun part of it is the my brother-in-law has a La Pavoni espresso machine, so as long as I roast the beans, he'll have fancy beans to make into lovely doppios and cappuccinos for us...hee-hee.

The bad part of it is that now I want a burr grinder, a new drip pot, and an espresso machine for myself. How long is it till I got my summer bonus check again?


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Welcome to Texas!

My brother-in-law and his wife has finally arrived to their new home from San Francisco over the weekend--as our neighbors two houses down. We are very excited to have them here...I am sure they will be too, once they recover from moving shock. Until then-welcome to Texas, Jim and Maddie!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

I woke this morning to sunshine; it was still cold from the unexpected cold snap that hit Texas over Saturday, but the light filtered in through the curtains, drawing stripes of hope and joy on the walls...He Has Risen!

Happy Easter, y'all!

Friday, April 06, 2007

For Good Friday

For your contemplation

Monday, April 02, 2007

Oh My God Brownies

No, really. Trust me.

You will need (no typos!)

1.5 cups of butter
5 ounces (squares) of unsweetened chocolate (do not skimp on the quality, use Baker's, Nestle or even Callebaut if you have it)
6 eggs, large
1 3/4 cups of sugar ( I used 1 granulated, 3/4 brown)
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

In medium bowl, microwave butter and chocolate suares until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in between; stir after, set aside to cool.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line 13x9 baking pan with aluminium foil (enough so you can lift the brownie out of the pan after baked) ; grease foil.
In large bowl, beat 6 whole eggs and sugar on HIGH speed until light and fluffy; add salt and flour gradually on MEDIUM speed (or else watch the flour fly!).
Pour in chocolate-butter mixture, mix in well.
Add chocolate chips and nuts; mix well.
Pour into greased, foil-lined pan.
Bake EXACTLY 35 minutes: shake gently, if middle does not wobble, it is done. Pull out of oven, and TRY to let it stand for about 30 minutes before cutting it.
Watch facial expressions at first bite. WARNING--serious adult food, do not serve to children. I mean it.

With a big hat tip to Paula Deen. Recipe was slightly modified to retain sanity...