Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chapter Eleven: The Lone Ranger Does a Dinner Party or Kitchen Alchemy

The first night I was here, I said something to Cordelia about exchanging food for favors. The fact that I cook quickly spread to everyone else. Apparently, no one else here really cooks. When Arthur first got here, nearly two years ago, he was asked if he cooked because everyone was hoping he would be "that kind of person for the group." Now, a few generations later, I am determined to be that kind of person for the group. On Wednesday afternoons, I have absolutely no classes and it makes me feel awful because everyone else is working. So, I've decided to spend that time preparing dinner for the other Western teachers. Since I only have one burner, I needed to start in advance. On Tuesday night, I made some zuccini pancakes. I left out the cheese and used flour instead of breadcrumbs so that they would have the very subtle Korean style. They turned out perfect and definitely had clear Korean inspiration. This first picture is after I shaved the whole zuccini. Normally, I use a cheese grater but since I don't have one, I had to make do. I shaved it, then used my scissors to make it a little smaller.
Frying them up and packing them for tomorrow!

Making caramelized bananas to go on top of my cake for dessert.

The containers still steaming, sitting in my fridge getting ready for Wednesday!

The cake in its "oven." In order to make the cake, I found a recipe online for stove-top coffee cake and modified it. First of all, I had yet to find baking powder so needed to create my own. This is where the alchemy comes in. Baking powder is a combination of a salt (baking soda) and an acid (or two) that creates the reaction causing instead leavening (rising). I needed to find an acid to react with my baking soda, so I chose yogurt. I wasn't sure how well it would work or how the cake would taste. In the end, it worked pretty well: the cake rose, it baked all the way through, and it tasted like cake. It was a little funky from the baking soda/yogurt combination I think, but when topped with banana, you could hardly tell.

Before it started to rise.

Meanwhile I chopped up tons of vegetables for my soup. I must have had a pound of everything here: potatoes, onions, peppers, carrots... okay, maybe not a pound of garlic though.

I had to taste a piece of my finished (and risen!) cake before declaring it a success. It took about 2 hours to cook, more than twice the time the recipe called for, but that's okay. It worked! Who would have thought I could make it on a stove-top?

The soup cooking, mm, nice rolling boil.

The last piece of completed cake. Everyone loved it.

Arthur did so much that he's on his second piece here.

On Thursday, I decided, "Let's try this again." Since the other cake was kind of dry and the batter was more doughy, I added more juice. Also, I added a ton more sugar to cover up the baking soda/yogurt taste in the last one.

Gettin' ready to go in the "oven."

To show that this cake is actually made from batter instead of dough.

Cooking, next to my totally sweet cereal box. For some reason, Korean Kelloggs brand cereal comes like a normal cereal box but has special scoring so you can fold it and make it all flat at the top. I had to try, but I'm not really sure why I would want it this way.

My spice collection, of which I am actually quite proud, salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic, and sesame oil. What else do you need? Morgan probably remembers from my college cooking days that I really don't use much else. I've always believed that turmeric makes anything taste better.

Left-over soup! This is all that's left after I made Arthur take some since he was getting sick. Huge pot down to one little container. Tonight, I finally finished it off. Many, many days of chicken soup.

Cake #2 cooking away. Look, you can see how much it rose!

Cake #2 finished. It was very gooey on top and definitely had an orange-creamsicle taste from the orange juice and yogurt. I kind of liked it, though! However, it took over 3 hours to bake this time. I'm not sure if the added moisture was necessary or good. Friday night, I got some chocolate and melted it down to put a nice ganache on top. We ate it on the roof and it was quite nice.
Today, I got baking powder so the alchemy of replacing baking powder is no longer necessary. It's good because then I don't have to worry about a yogurt taste in my cake. Next time, I think I'll make it an aloe juice cake-yum!
I've already started cooking for this week's dinner (really, one burner, you have to plan way ahead) which will be themed "Seoul Food"--a combination of American Southern and Korean.


  1. man, you are quite the cook with only burner wow! I am an american living in cairo, start teaching KG on tuesday. maybe we can exchange some ideas sometime. my kids are arabic speaking, so any hints about teaching english to non-english speaking would be awesome.( gotta love the "interests" on blogger, found you that way )

  2. Where did you end up finally finding baking powder? Also, for curiosities sake, is there a ratio of salt to acid and did you just use regular salt for the salt part? I kind of want to bake a cake on the stove just for kicks now...