101 in 1001 {II}: 038 cook with 12 ingredients I’ve never used before [ongoing]

04: key limes. our friends with relatives in florida fell over laughing when i showed them one of the grape-sized mexican key limes i ended up ignoring the health-care-related whole foods boycott to buy back in august; i'd apparently compromised my ideals for the runtiest limes on the eastern seaboard. i argued that their size wouldn't affect the eventual excellence of a key lime version of giada de laurentiis's unstoppable lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze,* and i was right; the awkward process of juicing in miniature did leave me with arthritic little crone-hands, however, and i know just which exotic fruit to curse when i'm unable to play the piano someday. in conclusion: key limes make fine cookies and sublime pie,** but i probably don't need to bake with them again (unless i find myself in florida).

05: sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes).

jerusalem artichoke

(how 'bout that bubble wrap presentation! there was a lot of that for a few weeks there.)

these rooty little things were pitched to me as tasting like a cross between artichokes and potatoes, which (if blackened and thrown in a taco) would make them the perfect food. in practice they're neither as scary as the alien grubs they resemble nor quite as chompable as advertised, but my impatience as a roaster could be to blame: our oven at the old apartment handled vegetables unevenly, and my little sunchokes (tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few whacked-up shallots and cloves of garlic) were subsequently either velvety and winning or surly and a tiny bit fibrous, depending on where they were in relation to the heating element. everything sorted itself out in the next day's reheat, though, and the apartment smelled fantastic; sunchokes will come home with me this winter. that mysterious hybrid flavor (a bit taterish, a bit chokesque) is worth investigating.

06: mochiko (aka sweet rice flour).

mochiko (sweet rice flour)

(i also baked while we were moving. i have the attention span of a gnat.)

i feel i deserve double credit for baking with mochiko; i had neither used it nor known of its existence prior to this recipe (i adore the green tea mochi that sometimes materialize at sushi restaurants and japanese grocery stores, but i'd never devoted much thought to what went into them). the food librarian's blueberry mochi cake (via my friend sara) promised exotic, gluten-free chewiness,*** so i scored a box of the good stuff at the soho dean and deluca and got baking. straight out of the oven and warm on a napkin, this cake is dazzling: its texture is unusual without being off-putting, and the flour's whispery sweetness (paired with a bit of tartness from the wild blueberries) is light and sophisticated. a few days in the refrigerator (as we're no longer the destroyers of cake we were in our twenties - most of the time, anyway) weren't especially kind to the leftovers, so i'd recommend this as a decadent breakfast or dessert item for company (that is, people who can eat it right away) - but i'd certainly recommend it.

*george's (excellent) idea.

**that i will continue to purchase from the pros.

***wheat and i are cool, but some of us need an alternative to cupcakes; i hear that.


anonymous said...

Pirinç unu, aka mochiko, also most excellent for dosa, tempura, fried chicken, saganaki, bitsu-bitsu, etc.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

Full disclosure - my poor pre-arthritic hands simply can't deal with lime juicing, so I buy the bottled key lime juice from the grocery store almost every time I need limes. If we must have fresh limes, I force D to do the juicing, for the sake of my joints.

Hannah Mae said...

Oh lord, I made avocado-key lime creme brulee for 14 in like 2005 and my hands are still recovering. Best single-use kitchen implement ever (please forget that I also said this about the nutmeg grinder and the parmesan thing): one of those bar-style citrus-squeezers, with the round part and the two long handles. We recently got the lime size and the lemon size and I don't know how I lived before now. There is no super-tiny key lime size, alas, but putting them in the regular lime size is effective if not as fun as a tiny tiny juicer.... I figured it was a justifiable purchase because it's impossible to buy only one key lime, right?

Last weekend I bought roasted corn off the back of a truck in Oakland. The corn itself was kind of terrible, but it was completely redeemed by the seasoning: salt, butter, chili and the juice of one key lime. I'd never thought of them for savory applications before, but it was spectacular.