The Mojito

And we’re back! Apologies for the recent lull in posts–it’s not we haven’t been making delicious food and drinks, it’s that we’ve been too busy enjoying it that we’ve neglected to post in a timely manner. We’ll do our best in the future.

Given the recent warm weather, Maciek and I decided that it was appropriate to delve into more of the summer drinks. The mojito was a drink recipe that I had discovered the summer of my freshman year and have been perfecting ever since. However, the traditional recipe calls for mint, sugar/gomme syrup, white rum, lime, and soda water.  I’ve always found this a bit troublesome so instead of the sugar + soda water, it’s easier to use Sprite–plus, it already has some lime flavor. Oh, and a slight amount of triple sec is added for good measure.

J&M Mojito Recipe

  • 2 oz. Bacardi White Rum
  • 1/2 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1/2 oz. Lime Juice or 1/2 of a lime.
  • 6-12 Spearmint Leaves
  • Sprite

Cut up half a lime into 4 pieces and squeeze the juice into a bowl–add mint leaves, rum, triple sec and muddle with the back end of a shot glass (mortar and pestle would be ideal but we made do with what we had). This step is crucial in order to release the oils of the mint leaves. Afterwards, fill 2/3 of a highball glass with ice and leftover lime wedges (you may also choose to rim the glass with sugar beforehand). Pour the rum/mint mixture into the glass, top off with sprite, give it a quick stir with a spoon, garnish with a sprig of mint, and you’re all set.

Maciek and I have gone through numerous drinks–all complete awesome. But on a hot summer day, the mojito is beyond awesome. The coupling of mint and citrus, the sweetness cutting out the edge of alcohol all lends to a delicious, refreshing beverage. Enjoy.

Jerry

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Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

Hey guys, sorry this took so long for me to get up. So this weekend, Jerry and I decided to make a spicy beef noodle soup! Being the Asian connoisseurs (and cheap college students) that we are, we decided to head down to Argyle, the soft-core version of Chinatown. After experiencing Pho for the first time at Pho 777 (it was delicious, by the way), we headed down to the supermarket, where all things can be bought, and bought for cheap! For someone like me, bringing a friend who knows what is what is a necessity, otherwise I would wander around the place in amazement, but having no idea and not enough courage to actually get anything (except for maybe some spicy ramen…) We purchased all of our ingredients, which included 3 lbs. of beef shank for $3. I had also wanted to get some won-ton spoons, but after seeing the label on the back that said “do not use with food. may poison food” I decided against it. Ah the joys of the Argyle supermarket.

Once we got home we immediately got down to work, as the beef needs to stew for a good 3-4 hours before it becomes tender enough. We started out by boiling the beef with a whole bunch of green onions and a couple slices of ginger. I am slowly learning that whatever kind of food you are making, chances are, it will only become better if you add some green onion to it. Consequently, I have added green onion to my small garden (which I will post about soon). While the beef boiled, we got down to making the flavoring for the soup, which included an entire head of garlic, anis seed, cayenne pepper, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, and many other delicious and flavorful things. If you don’t have a kitchen hood (like my apartment) I highly suggest covering your mouth and turning a fan on, as when you throw all of these ingredients into a hot frying pan, the cayenne pepper has a tendency to kick up in the air and find its way into your lungs. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience. If everything turns out right, you should get a colorful and fragrant concoction, as pictured to the right. After the beef had been boiled for around 45 minutes, we took out the onion and ginger, and cut it up into more manageable chunks. As you can see, the beef is starting to get brown, but still looks nice and red and juicy on the inside. We want our flavor to penetrate all the way through the beef, and smaller chunks help with that. The beef will be pretty tough at this point, so you will want to make sure that you are using a good knife: my super-serrated Brazilian Tramontina knife (somewhat literally) sawed through the beef with no problem, but if you try using a smooth knife you may run into some issues. Once we showed the beef who was in charge, we put it back in the broth (which was already starting to get a very nice flavor), and dumped our spices into the mix as well. PROTIP: if you are making this soup, make SURE you have a strainer. There are tons of peppercorns floating around, and we tried to get them all out with my multi-purpose tea-ball, but there were still more than a few peppercorns floating around when we finished. Not a huge problem, but it can be disconcerting to bite into some noodles and hear crunching all over the place.

At this point we let the stew sit and simmer, started playing some God of War III, and waited for a few more friends with supplies. We were going to try our hand at pulled noodles, but I had an ominous feeling. I had told one of my friends about our hope to make them, and she, in so many words, told me that without years of practice and the help of a parent who had grown up doing it, I had a small chance of succeeding. Not to be discouraged, we pressed on, weighing and mixing the ingredients carefully. The dough has to be kneaded for around 20 minutes, so we each set up a little station and got to kneading. The noodles call for a mixture of cake and regular flour, the idea being that the low gluten content and constant kneading will create a dough consistency that will stand up to repeated pulling. A painful 20 minutes later, our dough felt no better than it had when we started. After trying some, shall we say, creative methods of needing (which included but were not limited to: microwaving the dough, adding more water and leaving it in seran wrap, and punching the dough) we decided to give up and go with pre-made noodles. Somewhat disappointing? Yes. Delicious nevertheless? Verily.
After we had cooked the noodles, fried up some Bok Choy, and added spicy bamboo shoots, everything was ready. What was initially supposed to be a regularily-timed dinner turned into a late night feast. The beef, after simmering for hours on end, had become tender beyond belief, it would nigh-literally melt in your mouth, and apart from the occasional peppercorn, the broth was simply amazing. It had been a lot of work, but was it ever worth it. Definitely an experience I hope to repeat, but next time I hope to be the proud owner of a proper strainer!

(photo courtesy of John Yu)

At this point we had 3 photographers, 4 camera bodies, and tons of lenses lying around, so naturally we spent about half an hour just taking pictures of our creating before getting on to the all-important task of actually eating it. It’s true what they say: waiting only makes it better. I think we have officially started a tradition: every adventure will, and in fact must, end with a food coma. Full stomachs, slumped back on the couch, we sat back and simply enjoyed the effects of this wonderful dish. This upcoming weekend brings a twist on adventures, as it is my roommate’s birthday, so stay tuned for Alton Brown-style pan seared steaks!

Maciek

The Vesper

When one thinks of cocktails + cinema, the most popular scenes that come to mind are those of James Bond ordering a classic dry vodka martini, “shaken, not stirred”. However, in the 2006 release of Casino Royale (based on Ian Fleming’s first novel in the series), Bond instead orders a different drink.

BOND: Dry Martini.
BARTENDER: Oui, monsieur.
BOND: Wait… three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.

(Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0381061/quotes)

Heck, if it’s good enough for James Bond, then we figured that for mere college students it must be all sorts of delicious.

For our choice in vodka, we stuck with our favorite, Sobieski, which at a low price point sacrifices little in regards to quality. Definitely a good choice for those on a budget. For the gin, we went with the Bombay Sapphire–a bit pricey but given the huge differences between various gins, we weren’t taking any chances and in our humble opinion, better than Gordon’s.  And for the Lillet: finding this gave us quite a bit of trouble. Lillet is an French apertif wine consisting of a blend of wine and orange liqueurs.  Nowhere to be found in either EV1 or Jewel, luckily we stumbled across this single bottle of Lillet’ Lillet Blanc at Argyle after grabbing some Pho for lunch (Kina Lillet is no longer in production).

J&M Vesper

  • 3 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 1 oz. Sobieski Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 lemon twist

We added the Gin, Vodka, and Lillet in our ice-filled shaker and shook vigorously for a good 10 seconds. After pouring the concoction through the strainer into a martini glass, Maciek carved out a lemon peel. After a light twist over the drink to release the oils, we dropped it in and viola!  And what drink it was–it was quite strong and much of the gin taste carried through but unlike a regular martini (or bradford, if shaken),the substitution of the vermouth by the Lillet gave the drink a very, very slight sweetness which helped balance out the stiffness of the gin/vodka. Overall, a very good choice if one is in need of a strong drink and doesn’t want another run-of-the-mill martini. 😀

Stay tuned for more updates! Maciek will be putting up a post about our beef noodle soup that we made soon. Time for sleep!

-Jerry

The Orange Martini

Later on, post-food coma, Maciek and I decided it was time to begin crafting a suitable beverage.  After discovering a recipe for one “Orange Martini” (original here: http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/orange-martini), we decided it sounded simply too delicious to pass up! The original called for Valencia Oranges–still don’t really know what those are–so we decided to add our own twist to it and bought a couple blood oranges and mandarins.

Next, we needed to procure a vodka on a student budget but without sacrificing too much quality. At $11 a bottle and a taste that beats outs the likes of much more expensive Stolichnaya, Sobieski, a Vodka produced in Maciek’s homeland of Poland, was our clear winner (pictured below with a Willard “toothpick holder”).

As for triple sec, we go with Dekruper’s Triple Sec because it was cheap (no buying Grand Marnier or Cointreau) and we decided to skip the Orange Bitters altogether.

J&M Orange Martini Recipe

  • Juice from 1 blood orange + 1 mandarin orange
  • 2 oz. Sobieski Vodka
  • 0.5 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cocktail shaker

We squeezed the juice from the oranges into the shaker with ice–to our dismay, what we thought were blood oranges appeared to be your run-of-the-mill oranges! Damn you Whole Foods! Oh well, we then continued to add the vodka + triple sec, shook vigorously for several seconds, and served in a martini glass. Oh, and for presentation’s sake, Maciek painstakingly made a knot out the orange peel. And ta-da!

We present the Orange Martini. Cold and refreshing, it was an excellent end to a long week.

Woohoo! Now back to studying–more posts next weekend!

Jerry

4/23 Food Begins!

Having recently stumbled upon a quick and easy recipe for ciabatta (http://bit.ly/bwpv0p) Jerry and I decided to make chicken sandwiches. After buying a basil plant (who is, of course, name Basil), we got to work. Baking the ciabatta was incredibly easy and we managed to get 6 nice even sandwich-sized pieces out. Jerry marinated the chicken in sesame oil, soy sauce, chili powder, garlic, sea salt, and pepper, and it turned out amazing!

After adding some fresh mozzarella, basil from Basil, tomato, and barbecue sauce from Lil’ Porgies in Champaign-Urbana, we were ready to chow down!

If you have ever had a fresh sandwich at Panera, you can begin to understand the absolute heaven that these sandwishes were. fresh bread, freshly baked and carefully marinated chicken, home-grown basil, fresh tomato and mozzarella, all of these premium (but cheap!) ingredients coming together in a mouth-watering mix, pleasing the palette in every way. After two sandwiches each, we were so full and had to spend some time in a food coma.

As you can see, we could barely put down the sandwiches for long enough to take pictures of them. Feel free to try your own variations, the most important thing is the freshness! Strike when the ciabatta is still warm, and you will not forget the experience.

Maciek

DIY Macro Studio

The first project will be a macro studio made out of a cardboard box, some butcher paper, and construction paper. College life lends itself to all of these DIY projects, especially since college students move and have lots of cardboard boxes!

Once we got the box it was time to get to work. With my trusty X-Acto knife i took off two of the flaps and cut out square holes in 3 of the 4 sides.The holes were then covered with butcher paper. Since the butcher paper is translucent, you can shine lamps through it and get awesome detail on your subject.In the box we hung some more butcher paper across the back in order to be able to get that smooth white background that is the point of macro studios. Hopefully we will be able to replace that butcher paper with some more sturdy (and more colorful) posterboard, as we have found that the butcher paper does not have very good reflective properties (diffuse and specular components were too low, for any fans of OpenGL).

Once the box was all assembled, we lit it up with a desk lamp (all we had on hand…). In the future we hope to replace the desk lamp with an LED lamp and possibly some speedlights set around the edge, as well as experimenting with different colors of posterboard. Here is what the curent setup looks likeStay tuned for our next project: a DIY ring flash! Jerry ordered the parts, but these cheap component sites have a tendency to take forever to ship things… We may also attempt 2 different approaches, and see what works best! Me being the former Electrical Engineer that I am, want to make sure that we have proper Voltage levels, well connected circuits, an on/off switch, and possibly a dial to vary intensity. Till next time!

Maciek

Welcome!

Welcome to Jerry & Maciek’s adventures! This blog will be dedicated to all things food, drink, photography, or anything else that strikes our fancy. Hope you enjoy!