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posted by Sparky on November 17, 2009 1:27 PM in Food
After an inspiring shallot and brown butter pasta lunch with the Weekly Geek crew this week I couldn't help but go home and experiment further. Two dinners later I've created a monstrously tasty pasta sauce that's quick and easy to whip up. This sauce features rich bacon and garlic tones balanced with lightly stewed tomatoes.
Ingredients (per serving)
1 strip of bacon
1 small clove of garlic
2 Tbs. salted butter
1 small tomato
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
The recipe listed is for a single serving of this sauce. If cooking for a group simply multiply each of the ingredients by the number of people being served. Start off by frying the bacon in a non-stick pan (not a cast iron pan as lemon juice is involved later). The bacon should fry up to be nice and crispy. While the bacon is frying mince the garlic and dice the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes on a paper towel to remove some of the extra moisture.
Once the bacon is good and crispy remove it from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain and cool. Pour out the bacon grease (leaving a tasty coating on the pan) and cool the pan to a medium low heat. Once the pan has cooled add the butter, garlic, and salt. Stir the butter and garlic mixture constantly and keep a close eye on the color. As the butter starts to change from its normal golden hue to a very light brown add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and drained tomatoes. Cook the sauce gently for a few more minutes to allow the tomatoes to become lightly cooked.
Finally mince the crispy bacon and add it to the sauce moments before tossing with hot pasta and a little cheese for a deliciously rich dinner. This sauce goes perfectly with fresh egg pasta and dried pasta alike, although the fresh pasta will have better body and taste.
posted by Sparky on November 10, 2009 8:08 AM in Food
With thanksgiving just around the corner, pumpkin puree has been finding its way into a wide variety of things I've been cooking. Over the weekend I decided to try and make pumpkin pie cookies and came up with these delicious fall treats. Flavored with a reduced pumpkin puree and creamy white chocolate morsels these cookies are delicious with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or packed plain in a lunch at work.
posted by Sparky on November 3, 2009 3:27 PM in Food
Of late when I think of true alchemy in the kitchen my mind often wanders to the wonders of desserts. Caramels are one of those magic creations that have but a single ingredient, yet manage to have a rich variety of preparations with tantalizing end results. One particular kind of caramel bests all others in its ease (and potential danger) of preparation: Dulce De Leche.
Click through to learn how to make this drop-dead simple dessert enhancement.
posted by Sparky on October 20, 2009 8:46 AM in Food
Nothing starts the weekend off right like a lazy, delicious brunch with some friends. This weekend I tried my hand at making bunch and served up some beer batter cinnamon rolls hiding a bounty of bacon and pecans within their sweet folds. The recipe originally came from this post on Serious Eats, and is every bit as delicious and easy as the post claims.
Click through for my take on their recipe and a few hints on making this brunchy treat come out quickly and with great deliciousness.
posted by Sparky on October 13, 2009 4:59 PM in Food
Cake! Who doesn't like cake? I mean seriously: cake! Last night I needed some cheering up and decided to make a recipe from Joy of Cooking I'd been eying for a while: the orange rum cake. While this cake may not win any beauty contests it tastes great, and is rumored to go great with a chocolate glaze.
This is a quick and easy cake to whip together in 10 minutes and is ready to eat less than an hour later. The simplicity of ingredients produce a spongy, buttery cake with the warmth of vanilla and the zesty citrus of an orange, not to mention being doused in a few shots of rich spiced rum.
Making one is easy - click through the jump below to learn how to make your own tasty orange rum cake.
posted by Sparky on October 6, 2009 12:14 PM in Food
Nothing says comfort food like macaroni and cheese, and boy do I like to say comfort food. The other day I tried mixing up this great classic by using fresh feta-spinach ravioli I bought at the market rather than macaroni and the results were decadent. This makes for a quick recipe as if store bought ravioli from the market are used only the white sauce must be made.
Click through for my white sauce recipe, and instructions on how to layer up your own casserole of fabulousness.
posted by Sparky on September 29, 2009 3:08 PM in Food
Ever since my early cooking days I've been obsessed with noodles and different ways to make/prepare them. Today I want to cover a new technique I'm experimenting with that can elevate fresh egg noodles from their normal lofty excellence to something even better. You heard me: better than excellent! This preparation technique makes for a crispy salted exterior that crunches delightfully in the mouth while still having a rich noodley center with a bit of chew to it.
To follow along with the recipe, click through the jump.
posted by Sparky on September 22, 2009 1:26 PM in Food
Sometimes you need to take a break from things and kick back with a refreshing drink. This week is one of those times so rather than a big, meaty delicacy for Practical Alchemy I instead present a cool, clean drink to whip up with some friends. The Cape Greyhound lets the sweet essences of a Cape Cod combine with the sour delight of a Greyhound.
The Cape Greyhound
In a cocktail shaker combine the following ingredients with a generous handful of ice
3oz fine Vodka
4oz unsweetened cranberry juice
4oz pink grapefruit juice
a dash of fresh lime juice
Shake well and serve into two rocks glasses. Enjoy with a friend, or if your week requires a bit more refreshment enjoy with yourself. Twice.
posted by Sparky on September 15, 2009 7:59 PM in Food
Today's delicious alchemical concoction is a sweet tangy chicken served over a bed of mushrooms. This entree is something I've worked up over the last few months - it's moist, twice cooked succulence goes great over rice, either plain or a lemongrass rice. It's quick to make requiring about 10 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes in the oven, thus ideal for a delicious meal after a long day at work.
Click through the jump for the ingredients list and details on the preparation.
As astute readers may have noticed the Penny Arcade Expo was last weekend, and it took Seattle by storm. I attended with our fearless editors Chris and Jinny and was left as amazed and exhausted as they were by the whole event. I got to see some great games, stunning cosplay, and meet some cool new people.
As the exhaustion prevented me from getting into fresh new foods yesterday I humbly submit a few of my favorite photos from PAX in lieu of an article on cooking. Click through below to see my favorite photos, or check out my PAX 09 Flickr set - and of course check back next Tuesday for your regularly scheduled dose of dish!
posted by Sparky on September 1, 2009 10:20 AM in Food
The crisp bite bite of a sweet onion balanced by sour cream and Gorgonzola, all layered beautifully with tomato and basil into a not-so-classic caprese salad. This delicious blast of flavor is mere minutes away from gracing your hungry mouth. Being new to cooking I don't feel bound by conventional ingredients, and as such started experimenting with the classic insalata caprese to create my own spiritual successor.
No need to wait to make one of your own - let's make these drop dead simple 5-minute appetizers here and now. Click through to follow along with the delicious.
posted by Sparky on August 25, 2009 9:44 AM in Food
Omelets are a quick, easy, and delicious way to start or end the day. Fluffy yellow eggs with a hint of butter wrapped around fresh vegetables or succulent bits of meat. After a long day at work the omelet's simplicity and ease of cooking (and single pan cleanup) make for a quick nutritious meal.
Julia Child has been referred to as the ambassador of the omelet and I must admit that the video below inspired this post. Check it out, then click through the jump for a few variations on her delicious 20 second French-style recipe.
posted by Sparky on August 18, 2009 12:00 PM in Food
Burgers are the classic American fare, ideally grilled up and shared with good friends over a nice beer. Burgers are simple yet can be deeply complex, with an infinite number of variations turning flavors this way and that. With a handful of cookouts under my belt, I have yet to make the same burger twice and I'm always excited to try a new way to serve them.
Click through for my basic patty recipe and a few of my favorite topping combinations so far.
posted by Sparky on August 11, 2009 12:30 PM in Food
While many a sauce exist to top your fresh pasta, the classic tomato sauces reign for a reason - they rock. I've experimented around with quite a few recipes and melded a few of them to my own liking in the form of Sparky's 3 tomato sauce. The name three tomato sauce comes from there being 3 recognizable forms of tomatoes in the finished sauce.
While this preparation takes a little planning and time the results are worth the effort. Click through to find out how to make some for yourself.
posted by Sparky on August 4, 2009 8:31 PM in Food
While not as rich (and figure-wrecking) as a bearnaise-drenched steak, the humble salad can pack a flavor punch worthy of singing praise from the rooftops and mountain peaks. Crisp veggies, sweet fruits, and protein packed nuts (no, not those nuts) tossed together with exotic dressings can make for a healthy side or a meal by themselves.
Michael Ruhlman's Ratio provides the basic template for a vinaigrette: 3 parts fat and 1 part acid. This basic template can provide a basic dressing, but with a little creativity amazing things can burst forth from the mixing bowl. Click through for some ideas for your own
As any astute reader of Practical Alchemy will notice I'm a little obsessed with desserts. My obsession comes front and center again this week in the form of galette dough. A galette is a flaky pastry prepared similar to a pie, however with a stronger dough and without a pie tin. To clarify, a galette is pure delicious, a galette is a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a galette will be the driving force behind world peace in the year 2014*. As amazing as a galette can be the best part is galette is how quick and easy creating this fancy desert really is.
The galette dough can be made in bulk and frozen ahead of time, needing only a quick overnight thaw in the fridge before being rolled, having fruit added, and baked making it an ideal dessert to make when you are pressed for time, but really want to impress friends and family alike. Click through to find out how to stock your freezer with these ready-to-go discs of deliciousness.
Sourced from Middle Eastern culture, the kebab is a quick way to meld flavors by grilling meats, fruits, and vegetables together over an open fire. Kebabs are an easy out after a long day - at its simplest form you can chop some ingredients, thread them onto skewers, and grill with your meal ready to eat in 10-15 minutes.
When preparing the kebab almost any ingredients can be used. I'm a big fan of mixing beef, bell peppers, onions, apples, and squashes myself, although great results can be achieved with fewer or more exotic ingredients alike. I like to make sure I have a little mix of everything--sweet, spicy, and savory.
If using ingredients that cook at drastically different speeds, it may be advisable to put those ingredients on separate skewers to allow them to cook for varied periods of time. If all of the ingredients being combined cook at approximately the same temperature, then interweaving ingredients on the skewers can give the flavors a chance to blend during the marinating and grilling. Bear in mind that larger chunks of meat will take longer to cook. If you're considering pairing with tender vegetables, cut the meat into thinner or smaller pieces.
Once the meat, vegetables, and fruits are skewered, drizzling them with marinade can add a blast of flavor. Typically I prefer a more simple preparation with some oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper whisked together and poured over the kebabs 5-10 minutes prior to cooking. I re-drizzle the marinade a couple of times while rotating the kebabs during the cooking process to infuse more flavor and help keep the ingredients moist and succulent.
Unlike larger cuts of meat, the smaller bite-sized chunks used in kebabs won't need to rest after grilling because the juices won't need to redistribute and the temperature will already be more consistent. Kebabs are ideal for serving hot of the grill, either plated in their skewered state or quickly slid off the skewers and plated as a pile of pure deliciousness.
Having the family in town for the big 4th weekend meant a lot of grilling happened in the Sparky household including grilling my first pineapple. Almost immediately upon grilling my first pineapple I was struck with its sheer awesomeness and was required to procure and grill a second pineapple a mere day later. Have you had grilled pineapple? If you haven't you should - lightly salted, grilled pineapple is pure amazing wrapped in charred wonderfulness.
Grilling pineapple is drop dead simple. Chop the top and bottom from the pineapple and then slice off the sides to reveal a hexagonal pillar of sweet yellow goodness. Slice the goodness pillar into 1/2" hexagonal discs of sweet yellow goodness then lightly sprinkle with salt. Allow the salt to soak in while the grill heats, then once the grill is as hot as can be toss the slices on to their sizzling fate.
In a few minutes the pineapple will be lightly charred on one side. Flip the slices - and redistribute around the grill if you have hot spots (like I do). A few more minutes and the sweet steamy slices are ready to be whisked back from the grill to the kitchen. A few quick cuts to remove the succulent ring of deliciousness from the fibrous center and your pineapple is ready to serve.
While traditional alchemy relied on the alembic, vials, and lead, my alchemy relies on a different set of tools to perform the arcane culinary arts. While the end results of cooking are much more related to the ingredients used and the skill of the chef, the process of cooking is affected significantly by the equipment at hand. Like any mad scientist, I'm into the geeky gadgets that make my job easier, be that job dominating the world or just the taste buds of my guests.
Almost any chef will tell you that virtually any preparation can be made with a simple pan, a single knife, and a wooden spoon. In the spirit of Alton Brown I'm not a fan of uni-tasking kitchen gadgets, but having a few additional versatile tools in addition to those three will certainly make the alchemical arts easier. Click through the jump to see some of my favorites.
posted by Sparky on June 23, 2009 10:30 AM in Food
While the Practical Alchemy archives consist of a scant six entries, it's understandable that you'd feel as though it's not your end-all be-all resource when it comes to making a meal. I've got a couple other great Sparky-approved™ websites that I browse through for recipes, pairing ideas, or just general inspiration to give my creativity the jump start it need sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean always.
Click through to see a listing of some of my favorite online cooking resources, and then share your own in the comments!
Fruit cobblers are a sweet and easy way to finish a meal. A fresh, hot dumpling of dough and fruit straight out of the oven ready to be topped with vanilla ice cream or another sweet creamy sauce of your choice. Cobblers are great dessert recipes for any cook's arsenal, given both how quickly they can be thrown together and how many endless variations can be created on the theme.
Cobblers consist of 2 or 3 main parts: the biscuit-like cobbler dough, fresh fruit, and an optional sweet syrup to mix with the fruit. Since the dough takes 5-8 minutes to toss together and dicing fresh fruit is as easy as introducing your favorite fruits to your collection of knives, a cobbler can be in the oven in as little as 10 minutes flat &emdash; tossed in just before a meal begins and ready to eat when the main course has been consumed.
Click through to learn how to cobble together a cobbler.
Olive oil is a great base ingredient for so many types of food--flavorful, savory, and rich. When I found a recipe for a sweet cake based on olive oil, I was a little suspicious. But, hey, what did I have to lose other than 10 minutes of my time and a few dollars worth of ingredients? The gamble paid off and now I have a drop-dead simple cake in my recipe box ready to go for impromptu entertaining.
The greatest thing about this cake is how simple it is--in less than 10 minutes it can be in the oven, and an hour later its cooled and ready to serve. Click through the jump for details on how to make your own delicious olive oil citrus cake.
Since primitive man first cooked his meat over an open fire, the tradition of grilling meats has been evolving. Thick cuts of beef served with rich accompaniments enhancing the flavors of the meat - no meat eater could resist the call of such a scrumptious treat.
Luckily, the perfect steak is easy to make. All you need is a few basic ingredients and less than an hour to make a meal that any high-end steakhouse would be proud to serve. Click through to find out how to serve tender steaks topped with sautéed mushrooms and a buttery béarnaise.
Fresh warm bread is one of the treasured exquisite experiences baking has to offer - the melt-in-your-mouth freshness is hard to beat! Luckily baking bread is a simple (yet deep) process that anyone can do. Made simply of flour, water, and a pinch of yeast; bread is an excellent example of a cooking process which produces something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Food at its finest is simple yet satisfying and few foods can meet these criteria better than Pasta. With more than 4,000 years of refinement and experimentation under it's belt it's no surprise that noodles are a staple for much of the world. The best part about it is how quick and easy fresh egg pasta is to make.
The dried pasta you can buy from grocery stores are simply flour mixed with water. As easy as dumping dried pasta into boiling water is fresh pasta is easy too, taking only a few extra minutes to mix and knead the dough. Since I started cooking I've discovered the true joy that fresh egg based noodles bring, packing more flavor and a richer texture into your meal.
Much of my fascination with pasta stems from its versatility: once pasta dough has been mixed and kneaded, it can be formed into sheets and then cut into spaghetti, linguini, ravioli, or virtually any other form. From there the base pasta can be cooked and served as is with a light drizzle of olive oil or presented with any number of sauces or other accompaniments.
Click through for the noodley details on how to make fresh pasta yourself.
To some food comes easily, whipping together raw ingredients akin to alchemy, producing culinary gold. For others this combination of pre-food constitutes a mysterious process, wrought with danger and difficulty. Practical Alchemy hopes to help chronicle my personal journey from a terrified food neophyte scared to handle raw chicken to what may someday be an alchemical wizard, bending food to my very whim.
A scant 3 months ago I insisted upon wearing latex gloves to handle raw meat. 3 months ago I moved out of a condo which had an oven I literally hadn't turned on in the 6 years I had lived there. 3 months ago I was challenged by the idea of making even Kraft blue box Mac'n'Cheese. Luckily a stray neutrino hit my brain after the move and activated my magical Betty Crocker gene.
Having 20-plus-plus years of food eating experience under my belt, but for all practical reasons no food cooking experience to rely on has made a crash course into cooking an interesting experience for me. I've seen others perform this mystical art my entire life and have a great basis of what end results and effects I enjoy, however putting the process together from start to finish is proving to be an interesting journey.
Click through for a first (long) peek into that journey with my most favorite of creations so far: cookies.
Sparky turned in enough box tops to get his very own author account (but boxes of what?) He's been teaching himself how to cook and not only will he document this experience for you, but he's going to cover whatever other subjects he's currently geeking out about. We'd like to welcome official #3 Weekly Geek fan Sparky to the site.
Good morning internet, It's Sparky! I'm the newest contributor to the Weekly Geek site and our fearless leader Chris has asked me to write a quick introduction to formally introduce myself to the geeky masses. Introductions always do seem a little awkward, so I thought I'd dive in headfirst and present myself in faux-interview style.
What makes you a geek?
If I had to pin it down to something it would be my mildly obsessive compulsive personality. Once I get into something I geek out on it nearly endlessly.
What thinks do you geek out on?
I love technology, photography, video games, cooking, baking, iPhone apps, and (unfortunately) self-created internet memes. Combining these in different permutations can result is greatness and great tragedy. For instance combining photos and baking results in mouth-watering food photography, while combining baking and video games results in ruined game discs and acrid smoke.
Click through to keep reading more information than you really require about Sparky
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