Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lemon Loaves, Sunday Supremes and not-so Culinary Art(s)

In between several short, feet-dragging, yet strangely productive stints of working on an early draft of a major research paper, I’ve been busy making and baking over the past few days.

Mini lemon-poppy seed loaves 1

Mini lemon-poppy seed loaves  2

On Thursday evening, I made mini loaves of lemon poppy seed bread from an AllRecipes recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins that I modified slightly. I used  plain, no-fat yogurt with an extra tablespoon of lemon zest rather than store-bought lemon-flavoured yogurt, cut out a third of the sugar, didn’t use the sugar-lemon glaze on top, and didn’t put in any baking powder because I didn't have any.The little loaves have a soft, cakey texture rather than that of a dense bread, but they are delicious.

On Friday night, I made half a batch of brownies using the recipe on the Fry’s Cocoa can using plain no-fat yogurt instead of the butter, but they were so good they disappeared before I got a chance to snap them with my camera.

Today I discovered the curiously satisfying culinary skill of supreme-ing oranges. I’ve watched people doing it on TV before but had never tried it myself. I have to confess that it’s addictive in the most unusual way—it’s like, once I supremed one orange, I felt a compulsion to do it again for some reason. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel somewhat competent with a knife. Anyway, “supreme” (say it in French: soo-PREM) refers to the method of cutting all the peel and pith away from an orange, and then cutting out the bits of sweet flesh in between the membrane so that you get pretty little wedges. It sounds tedious, but it’s really easy.

Making orange supremes 1

Making orange supremes 2

Cutting up oranges on an orange cutting board with an orange knife was totally unplanned, I swear.
I used some of the supremes for a fruit salad (that mixture of cube-shaped, peach-coloured things in the plastic container in the first photo above), and had yogurt and fruit salad for breakfast, followed by a small bowl of leftover couscous salad.

Fruit salad and yogurt

The rest of the supremes were reserved for an amazing beet, orange, and spinach salad that I had for lunch today. I sauteed some baby spinach in a non-stick pan and let it cool slightly on a plate, and on top I put a mixture of rosebud beets (drained from the can, rinsed, and sliced, or you could roast fresh beets), orange supremes, green onion sliced into fine matchsticks, crumbled blue cheese, toasted chopped pecans, and a sprinkling of dried dill and freshly ground black pepper.

Finally, yesterday I made my old standby couscous salad, where I just throw in whatever vegetables happen to be in my fridge. I cooked one cup of dry couscous in chicken broth, and once I removed it from the heat, I  added ground cinnamon, cardamom, cumin,  coriander, and black pepper, then covered with a lid until the broth was completely absorbed. Then I transferrred the couscous to a bowl and added in finely sliced red cabbage, red onion, grated carrot, zucchini, raisins, the zest of one lemon, black olives, and sweet red pepper. I made an impromptu dressing from the juice of the lemon, two tablespoons or so of Sharwood’s Bombay Club-style mango chutney (I usually get the Major Grey stuff, but I wanted to try that bit of heat in the Bombay Club version), and some double-fruit, no-sugar, jam-type apricot spread. Then I threw it in and tossed the salad. I usually add chopped dried apricots and sliced toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds, too, but I was all out, and it wasn’t until after (naturally) that I thought about adding chopped dried figs. Oh well. Next time. This makes so much couscous salad that I'll probably be eating it for the next week, which is why I like to make it.

Couscous salad 1

Couscous salad 2

If you stand back from this close-up of the couscous salad and squint a bit, it sort of looks like abstract art.

I love anything that's even remotely artistic or clever that's made with food. I used to grin from ear-to-ear each time I saw Kraft run one of its animated fruit-and-vegetable salad dressing commercials on TV, like this one:

But I have to say that Carl Warner is the king of realistic food art. I thought I was clever making rabbits and elves out of marzipan, but his landscapes made from actual food, or “foodscapes”, are pure genius.

Anyway, it’s time I stopped procrastinating and worked on my very last paper for my Master of Arts degree. Yep, almost done.

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