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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Squid with Bacon and Garlic Oil

I'm in an end of week coma. Yesterday, I said that my dinner the night before was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be...and more. Last night's James Morrison and Adele show was also everything I hoped and dreamed it would be...and more. Seriously, they KILLED IT!! I am sending some pics to my dear friend Tony at Musicbleep so stay tuned to his blog to see the roundup. Now I am exhausted from the last couple of days, and want to laze around all weekend, but it is too beautiful out and I have a ton of stuff to get done so I will try not to be lazy all day! Do you guys have plans for the Superbowl?

As I said when I made the calamari stew, I found quite a few recipes for squid that looked interesting and this was another one. I saved some of the squid from the other day so I could make this because it sounded really, really good. I was not disappointed. There are a bunch of bacon-y, garlicky, herb-y juices at the bottom of this so once again, you should definitely serve with some nice, toasted bread to sop them all up. Oh, and one last note. Today marks day 30 in my 30 straight days of Pilates workouts. It's another goal to cross off my list and I am so happy that I was able to prove to myself that I could a regular routine. I am definitely not a swan, but I am on my way!



Squid with Bacon and Garlic Oil
(Adapted from Bobby Flay)

2 slices bacon, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces fresh squid, cleaned and sliced into rings
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

Place the bacon in a medium saute pan over medium heat and cook until lightly golden brown and the fat has been rendered. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic, olive oil, and squid, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook the squid for 2 to 3 minutes or until just cooked through. Stir in the herbs and serve.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad

OH THANK GOODNESS IT'S FRIDAY!! Can you tell I am happy it's finally the end of the week? Yesterday and today are the two days I have been looking forward to all month and they could not have come soon enough! Last's night's dinner at Comme Ca was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be...and more. I think I am going to be in a three day food coma. I brought my camera with me, took (dark) pictures and will hopefully be posting my thoughts before the weekend is over. I am also so incredibly excited for tonight because I get to see two of my favorite artists live! Adele is playing at the Wiltern and James Morrison is opening the show. The last time I saw Adele live I was completely blown away that her voice is just as beautiful (if not better) live than on the album. I know I go on and on about Adele, but she is just so amazingly talented, you really all should get to know this wonderful artist. I just know it's going to be an amazing night.

Ok, I am going to stop blabbing about seeing this show. Let's talk about the salad now, shall we? I found it the other day on one of my favorite websites The Kitchn. I often think they are in my head and know exactly what I am feeling like eating or what I have in my kitchen that I need to use up. Like I said, when I made the fritters the other day, I kind of went around the farmers market picking up produce without really knowing what I would be doing with it. I had a bunch of carrots left over after the fritters and used some of them up in the salad. The rest I just munched on which I love because to me carrots are quite the addictive snack. I love the simplicity of flavors in this salad and I think it is a good starting off point for a salad of this nature. I added a little bit of honey to sweeten up the dressing and I think I will definitely make this again with even more vegetables. The recipe calls for just the green parts of the scallions, but I used the whole thing. I didn't toast the sesame seeds, mostly because I was feeling lazy. As usual, I reduced the amount of ingredients in this recipe for just me. I didn't have the mugwort soba called for in the recipe, so I just used a single serving of regular soba and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. This is definitely a recipe that is to taste so the measurements are all approximate. Feel free to add or subtract whatever you want. Ok, I know I have been going on and on about how fabulous the end of my week has been. What do you guys have planned for the weekend?

Cold Soba, Sesame, and Carrot Salad
(Adapted from The Kitchn)

1 serving soba
2 carrots
2 scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste
Sesame seeds

Cook the noodles 4-5 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain and toss with a small amount of vegetable oil to keep them from sticking together. Put the noodles in the refrigerator to cool.

Peel the carrots and shave with a peeler (or mandoline if you have one). You should have a cup of loose carrot shavings. Thinly slice the scallions.

Whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce and taste. Adjust to taste. Toss the chilled noodles together with the dressing. Add the carrots and scallions and sesame seeds and toss. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

January Daring Bakers: Tuiles (With Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Sorbet)

Even the Daring Bakers had light on the brain this month. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. They also chose a savory Tuiles recipe from Thomas Keller.

Can I just say how happy I was to see this challenge? After the cream, sugar and egg ball that was last month's challenge I was really nervous about what I would be faced with this month. The other part of the challenge was to create something light to go with the cookies. A lot of DBers did a mousse, but I wasn't in the mood for more eggs. The farmers market has been flooded with all kinds of citrus and I found a recipe for a lemon-rosemary sorbet. I switched it up by using Meyer lemons which were really delicious. Having a light cookie like this makes me feel better about the insane dinner I am going to have tonight. More on that another day, but to you LA'ers do the words Comme Ca mean anything to you??


The tuile recipe is pretty straightforward. I didn't have any hard plastic laying around that I could cut stencil with so I used a manila folder which worked just fine. I cut out a little hearts to be cute. I also did some free form cookies in the shape of a circle and then made them into cute little cups. I baked 3 cookies at a time and kept them warm by laying the baking pan on the door of the oven. I alternated between three parchment lined baking sheets and kept the sheets I wasn't using in the fridge. Shaping them was really easy for me. I think the key is to spread the batter as thinly as possible and to work quickly once they come out of the oven.

This was a fun and pretty easy challenge and I am happy it didn't take three days to do! Visit the blogroll to see what the other Daring Bakers came up with. There are lots of really creative recipes and many people did savory tuiles so check it out!

Tuiles

Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 2 1/4 ounces sifted all purpose flour
Butter or spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed), cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter or spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake cookies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones…

Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Sorbet
(Adapted from Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook: More Than 1,000 Recipes * 1,800 Photographs * 500 Techniques)

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
Rosemary sprigs and Meyer lemon slices for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, and 2 cups of water to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in chopped rosemary. Cover pan and let stand about 20 minutes.

Pour mixture through a sieve set over a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and zest. Pour the lemon mixture into a 9x9 metal baking pan (8x8 works fine too); cover with plastic wrap or foil. Freeze, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours until partially frozen.

In a food processor with knife blade attached, blend the lemon mixture until smooth, but still frozen. Return mixture to the baking pan. Cover and freeze for at least 3 hours, or until firm.

To serve, let sorbet stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to soften slightly for easier scooping; garnish with lemon slices and rosemary sprigs.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carrot, Parnsip, and Scallion Fritters over Arugula Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Oooh, that title is a mouthful, huh? Well as some of you know, I have been planning out my weekly meals for the last few months. This is one of those weeks that I was really bad at it. I went to the farmers market with a general idea of what I wanted, but once I was there I just kept picking up produce without any real idea of what I was going to do with it. Last week I saw these root vegetable pancakes on Lisa Is Cooking and I knew I wanted to try something similar and soon! Yesterday at work (oh please, we all know I don't do real work at my job), I found a couple of recipes that I knew I wanted to try. Bonus points were that I already had most of the ingredients in my kitchen. I just ran out of breadcrumbs so I just used a slice or two of bread I had baked over the weekend and ground them in my food processor. I decided not to deep fry the fritters (and save a few calories) and I served them over an arugula salad. I dressed the salad with a really simple dressing of Meyer lemon juice and olive oil. FYI, come back tomorrow to see another cool thing I did with the Meyer lemons. I also spritzed a little bit of juice over the fritters once they were done. Oh wowza! These were so delicious. It took a bit of time with the shredding of vegetables, but it is really easy. I think this can definitely be a make ahead dish by making the vegetable mix the night before.

I had an unfortunate accident with my pepper mill (eh, I don't even know if I would call it a pepper mill). It broke after I made the vinaigrette (before I made the fritters) and I didn't feel like whipping out the coffee grinder to grind peppercorns so I just used some ground cayenne. I was very sparing with it and it gave the fritters a nice background heat. The onions, carrots, and scallions all complemented each other nicely and the frying was surprisingly simple. It helps to have wet hands when forming the patties. I got five patties out of this mix, but I made mine kind of big for more of a meal. You can definitely reduce these in size and have these as a party appetizer. My only problem was that the outsides didn't get quite as crunchy as I wanted, but the flavor of these was so good, I didn't mind.

Carrot, Parsnip, and Scallion Fritters over Arugula Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
(Fritters adapted from Epicurious)

3/4 cup grated carrot and parsnip (for me this was 2 carrots and 1 parsnip)
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Canola oil for frying

In a bowl combine well the carrot, parsnip, scallion, egg, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet heat some canola oil (about enough to cover the bottom of the pan) over medium heat. Form the carrot mixture into patties about 1/4 inch thick and carefully fry for about 5-7 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on towels and serve on top of arugula salad with lemon wedges for spritzing.

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Juice from 1/2 a Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Toss with a few large handfuls of arugula. Serve topped with vegetable fritters and lemon wedges on the side.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quinoa Porridge

This was one of the first recipes I wanted to try back when I first thought of making a food blog and I am just now getting to it. I love this alternative to a typical breakfast oatmeal. It has a lot of the same ingredients, but instead of the oatmeal, you're just using quinoa. For the toppings I decided to go with some dried cranberries and raw pistachios which I buy quite frequently from the farmers market. Not only did they provide a great sweetness and crunch, but they look very pretty too. Per the recipe, I sweetened this with agave nectar, but honey would work out just as well. This was a nice departure from my typical egg, toast, and fruit brekkie. What do you guys like to have for weekday breakfasts?


Quinoa Porridge
(Adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1/2 cup milk (I used non-fat)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup organic quinoa, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 splash vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw pistachios, chopped
1 tablespoon dried cranberries, chopped
2 teaspoons agave nectar

Combine milk, water, cinnamon, vanilla, and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes. Stir in pistachios and cranberries. Drizzle 1 teaspoon agave nectar over each serving.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Calamari Stew with Garlic Toast

One of the things on my 101 list was to cook with other seafoods besides shrimp. I really like a lot of different kinds of seafood, but shrimp is so accessible and relatively affordable for me which is why I use it so much. However, the last few weeks, I noticed the seafood vendor at the farmers market has been carrying cleaned calamari for about 5 bucks a pound. I couldn't pass it up. When I was young, the thought of eating calamari really grossed me out. I think it's because we had to dissect them in biology class. Luckily, I grew out of that and now I really enjoy it. Of course, I love the fried appetizer, but in the interest of keeping things lighter, I wanted to go with a recipe where the calamari wasn't fried. I found a few recipes that looked interesting, but as I was watching Food Network on Saturday (which is becoming increasingly infuriating with all the lame new hosts), I saw this recipe on a repeat of Giada that I knew I wanted to try first. This is a very simple recipe and really fast. It's actually probably a good idea to make the toasts first so that they are ready by the time the stew is done which is less than 10 minutes. I used a jarred roasted garlic tomato sauce which I had leftover from the turkey meatballs, so I didn't spend too much time trying to infuse garlic into the oil because there was already so much garlic flavor in the sauce. As I said, this is really delicious, but I am glad I am not eating it today. I just learned from Jaden that it's bad luck to eat squid on the Chinese New Year. Wait until tomorrow to try this!

Calamari Stew with Garlic Toast
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

For the stew:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, cut in 1/2
3/4 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Small pinch salt
Small pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound calamari (squid), bodies thinly sliced and tentacles whole

For the toast:

2 slices of bread
Olive oil, for brushing
1 clove garlic

For the Calamari Stew: Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a medium pot. Add the garlic and let cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic. Add the tomato sauce, white wine, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the calamari and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the mixture comes back up to a simmer, about 2 more minutes. Serve immediately with the Garlic Toasts.

For the Garlic Toast: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (I used the toaster oven).

Meanwhile, brush the bread slices with olive oil. Toast until the bread is crisp and turning golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with whole garlic cloves. Serve immediately with the Calamari Stew.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mini Burgers

Finally, last weekend, the stars aligned and I was able to purchase some beef from the guy who sells grass fed beef at the farmers market. Raulito picked up some fillet mignon and I got some ground chuck. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it, but as we were walking home, I got the idea to do mini burgers. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I am completely in love with Chaya Brasserie which is just down the street from my apartment and my go-to spot for drinks. I am actually going this afternoon for happy hour. My favorite thing to order from Chaya's happy hour menu is the mini burgers, but their regular sized burger is a site to behold. I have only had it twice, but each time it leaves me with fond memories and a strong desire to create something similar on my own so that I don't have to pay Chaya's prices. Here are the basics of a Chaya burger: beef (duh), caramelized onions, spicy mayo, and a nice cheddar. I decided to make something comparable to Chaya's full size burger, but in miniature form. I wasn't really in the mood to purchase a bunch of mini buns since I found a recipe that was quite simple. I mixed everything together in my handy dandy mixer, but it is a recipe that can be done just as easily by hand. I went with Martha's recipe for the "best beef burger" and I must say, it was really good. The burger part actually reminded me more of the burger from the Village Idiot (another favorite burger of mine), and it went really well with all of the other ingredients. I used some nice aged Vermont cheddar and caramelized some onions in the pan for about 40 minutes. I was actually interested in trying the recent LA Times recipe for caramelized onions, but I went to a movie in the afternoon so I really didn't have four hours to spend caramelizing onions. I'll save that for another day. For the spicy mayo, I just added some cayenne to some mayonnaise. After the work of making my own buns and burgers, I decided to save some time (and calories) so instead of serving these with homemade french fries, I went with some popped potato chips. Although, I must admit, that by the time the burgers were ready, I was so starving that I scarfed down a couple of burgers and completely skipped the chips. Good thing they are just as good on their own. These are really, insanely good burgers that despite the time, are easy to prepare. The recipes below are just more of a method than recipes because the toppings are completely up to you depending on your preferences, but wow these sure went well with the toppings I picked. Happy Sunday! Don't you wish every weekend was a three day weekend?


*UPDATE* I have changed the title of this post because according to A Hamurger Today, these are mini burgers and not the "appropriate" definition of a slider :)

Mini Burgers

For the buns:
(Adapted from King Arthur)

3-4 ounces lukewarm water
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 egg
1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round about 1 1/2-inches across and 3/4-inch tall (more or less). Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.

If desired, brush buns lightly with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the buns in a preheated 375 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden. Cool on a rack.



For the burgers
(Adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

1 pound ground chuck
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toppings:
Cheese slices
Tomato slices
Lettuce
Caramelized onions
Mayonnaise
Ketchup

Heat the grill to high. In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine the meat, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Gently form the mixture into balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Pat down until 1/4-1/2 inch thickness.

Place the patties on the grill and sear until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Split the buns and toast of the grill if you like; place a burger on each bun and serve with the desired accompaniments.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Braised Butternut Squash with Garlic

As I a couple of days ago, most of this week's recipes seemed to be almost entirely garlic oriented. Here is another one, some of which I added to the third helping of turkey meatballs over greens since I was running low on the greens and I added a few of the leftover sizzling shrimp too. I have a feeling that this coming week I am going to undo a lot of the good work that I have been doing lately in terms of eating better and exercising, but hopefully it will be worth it. For the most part though, I am going to try and stay on track with tasty recipes like this. This was a new cooking technique for me which was fun to try. I was a little doubtful about "browning" the squash after steaming it, but it worked really well. Besides peeling and cutting up the squash, this is a fast and flavorful side dish and it can work with many meals since none of the flavors are too overpowering. If you're in LA, did you feel the earthquake last night? I haven't felt any of the earthquakes this week, but I did have a dream a few days ago about "the big one". Guess I should put my preparedness kit together. Hope you are all having a great weekend, I am off to the pictures!


Braised Butternut Squash with Garlic
(Adapted from How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition): 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food
via Serious Eats
)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, then add the oil and garlic and cook until the garlic softens and begins to color, 2-3 minutes. Add the squash pieces and stock or water, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook until the squash is nearing tender but still quite firm, 5 to 15 minutes depending on piece size.

Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir occasionally as the liquid cooks away and the squash begins to brown, an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook until the pieces are well-caramelized, even beginning to crisp.

Adjust for seasoning, and toss with parsley off the heat.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Nanaimo Bars

Do you remember this post on Kevin's delectable Closet Cooking? I remember seeing this and thinking. Holy crap, I must have one of these immediately if not sooner. Well, this post comes to us courtesy of my dear friend Liz from Montreal who made these wonderful treats for our New Year's Eve celebration. What?! Yes, I am still talking about NYE because we had THAT much food. Seriously, you guys would have been in awe of the spread we had. Anyway, after I saw Kevin's post I knew I wanted to try these, but I wasn't sure about the effort for just me. Then Liz took care of that for me and oh wow, YUM!! I usually limit myself in the number of sweets I eat, but these were amazing. There are so many flavors going on, but rather than compete with each other, they compliment each other and make one delicious treat. Bonus, these bars freeze really well. If you can't eat the whole thing, just pop em in the freezer for later. I had never heard of Nanaimo or it's bars until last month, and now I am completely obsessed. Try them and you will see. The recipe and Liz's thoughts are below.

Nanaimo Bars
(From The Joy of Baking)

Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (Liz note: I went somewhere between coarse & fine).

FILLING:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 - 3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (Bird's) or vanilla pudding powder (Liz note: I used Jell-O vanilla pudding powder)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered confectioners or icing sugar

TOPPING:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (Liz note: I used 1/4 cup of chips)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch or 8x8 pan (Liz note: I used an 8x8)

To make the bottom layer:

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

To make the filling:

In your electric mixer cream the butter. Beat in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes). (Liz note: I added more of the vanilla custard & extract since it tasted too “sugary” and not “vanilla-y” enough...).

To make the top layer:

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the filling and refrigerate. (Liz note: I loathe double-boiling, but it was necessary for this since in the microwave the mix has a tendency to burn and that makes for an ugly top layer)

TO SERVE: To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sizzling Shrimp

Apparently most of my recipes this week will be garlic-oriented. What can I say? I love the stuff! My fingers and apartment have acquired a permanent garlic smell. Originally I was going to bring you a garlic soup, but that will have to wait until a later time. I am only just now getting in the mood for soup, but I made this the night of the inauguration when it was still 80+ degrees outside. The original recipe calls for serving this in the pan, but I transferred it to a dish for presentation purposes. However, the one requirement that you should absolutely follow is to serve this with some nice bread to sop up the juices. I used two cloves of garlic, because as I said earlier I love the stuff, and I can tell you, by the time I was done eating this dish, there were only 3 small slices of garlic left. It was heavenly with the bread and the juices! This was a wonderfully fast meal that let me get to cooking and then enjoy the festivities almost right away. The key is to have all of your ingredients ready, because once you start, it goes pretty quickly.


The other day I got a wonderful email from the Foodie Blogroll, I was selected to win a year's subscription to a food magazine!! I didn't have to do anything at all except be a member and have the widget displayed on my site. I am pretty excited to start receiving Saveur and I am sure I will have fun recipes from there to bring you. If you aren't a member of the foodie blogroll, click here to find out how to sign up!


Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic
(From Serves One: Simple Meals to Savor When You're on Your Own)

2 pinches salt (preferably sea salt)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4-5 ounces large shrimp, peeled
Bread, toasted (for serving)

Combine the salt and 2 tablespoon of water in a small dish.

Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small saute pan, and heat over medium-high heat just until the garlic begins to sizzle and turn golden; don't let it burn. Holding the lid in one hand, add the salted water with the other, and immediately clap the lid on to minimize the splattering.

After letting the liquid sizzle for 20 seconds or so, lift the lid, add the shrimp, and quickly over again. Cook just until the shrimp turns pink and the liquid reduces, 30 seconds to 1 minute, lifting the lid once more to stir.

Take the saute pan directly to the table. Use the chunks of bread to scoop up the shrimp and juices. Or, with a fork, spear each bread chunk with a shrimp and dunk in the pan juices. Repeat until the shrimp are gone and the pan is wiped clean.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Turkey Meatballs Over Greens

So by now you guys know that I have some OMFG moments with some of the recipes I try. Remember the pumpkin cinnamon rolls? Or how about the bacon and tomato hash? This is one of those recipes where you know it will be good, but will still be awesomely surprised by it's flavor. I've said it before, and I will say it again, and repeat it until the cows come home, I don't believe in diets. I much prefer finding ways to lighten up recipes or finding healthy, hearty recipes that do not sacrifice flavor. Besides eating healthfully, I am also 20 days in to 30 straight days of Pilates workouts. Coincidentally, that is one of my 101 goals. Boo-YEAH! This recipe is a wonderful combination of light yet hearty, and so insanely delicious, you won't believe it's good for you. For the greens I went with a combination of kale, spinach, and broccoli. I have never made meatballs before, so that was a fun experiment. These are really good meatballs. I may add just a touch more salt next time. I went with a jarred roasted garlic tomato sauce. I think that may have been what put this recipe over the edge. How can you go wrong with sweet garlic? Also, in my grand tradition of loving spicy foods, I added some red pepper flakes to the sauce once it was simmering. Holy YUM!! I loved this so much, I did a Facebook update about it and I have been bad about updating my status lately (minus yesterday in my excitement with the inauguration). So, really...back away and go make these meatballs now. Easy, delicious, and healthy. Could you ask for anything more?


Turkey Meatballs Over Greens
(Adapted from The Kitchn)

3/4 lb ground turkey (93% lean)
2 tablespoons grated onion (a little bit less than 1/2 a small onion)
1 egg
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound greens (I used broccoli, kale, and spinach), washed, de-veined, and roughly chopped

Combine the turkey, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll portions of the mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. You should have between 15 and 18 meatballs.

Heat olive oil on moderately high heat in a large skillet. Place the meatballs in the skillet and allow to sit until browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, gently rotate the meatballs so that they brown on the other side, and continue cooking them for about 12 minutes total, rotating them carefully every few minutes so that all sides are brown.*

Reduce the heat to medium, add the tomato sauce, and red pepper flakes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Cover the pan. Simmer the meatballs and sauce for another 10 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat a small amount of olive oil in a separate large skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and kale and a splash of water. Cover immediately and cook until the greens have wilted, about 5-10 minutes.

Put greens on the plate and top with meatballs and sauce.

*If your pan isn't large enough to brown all of the meatballs without them touching, cook them in batches and place them back on the cookie sheet once they've been browned. Then add them all to the pan before pouring in the tomato sauce and simmering.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Herbed-Baked Eggs

I hope you are all well on this historic morning. It's quite exciting, isn't it? I am trying to get out of the house a little early to make sure I don't miss a minute of the festivities. This is a recipe that I wanted to bring you last week, but I burned it so that went out the window (scroll down to see the pic, I'm not kidding!). I have been wanting to try Ina's herbed-baked eggs for a while. The first them I did them, I made them in the broiler, hence the burnt top with really underdone eggs. Maybe my broiler is hotter than Ina's. The next time, I did them in the oven and they came out perfect. I loved the savory mix of herbs and the tomato quinoa bread went really well with the eggs. I lightened these up a bit by using non-fat milk in place of cream and Earth Balance in place of butter. It definitely wasn't as rich as I am sure Ina intended, but it was still really good and as I said before, the savory flavors were outstanding.

Have a great Tuesday. As I was watching the news last night, I heard this clip so I will leave you with that:

"I don't really know why everybody voted for him, but I know that's it cool to have a black man as president. That's what Martin Luther King wanted in this world...to have a black person do what something that no one thought that anyone could do...a black person could do. I think it's pretty cool to have a black president."

Adam Taslitz, Age 9 Los Angeles


Change is in the air and it feels sooo good!

Herbed-Baked Eggs
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

1/8 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon milk (I used non-fat)
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack eggs into a small bowl or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 1 gratin dish on a baking sheet. Place 1/2 tablespoon of cream and a small pat of butter in the dish and place in the oven for about 3 minutes. Quickly, but carefully, pour the eggs into the gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

Just for S&G, Herbed-Burnt Eggs:


And on a completly random note...Gossip Girl freaking RULES this season!!! xoxo

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomato Quinoa Bread

A recent post on Andrea's Cooking Books reminded me that I still had yet to try the tomato quinoa bread that I have been thinking about for months. I saw this on Kitchen Confit over the summer and saved it for when I got my mixer. Making bread is so easy with that thing! I usually have most of the ingredients lying around minus the vegetable juice which was quickly solved by my trip to Trader Joes yesterday. I'm not sure that I made this recipe entirely correctly. I put the dough in the fridge in the morning and when I took it out 8 hours later, it was not quite doubled, but I kept on going because I didn't have all day. The flavor of this bread can't be beat. It's soooo good and it was the perfect vessel for a bacon, spinach, and slow roasted tomato sandwich. There is really not a recipe for the sandwich, just a slice or two of bacon, a couple slow roasted tomatoes and some spinach. Simple and insanely delicious. Hope you're having an excellent day off!



Tomato Quinoa Bread
(From Vegetable Harvest: Vegetables at the Center of the Plate
as found on Kitchen Confit and Cooking Books
)

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup seasoned vegetable juice
1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
3 3/4 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast, sugar and water together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy then stir in the oil, salt, juice and quinoa.

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook, set it on medium-low speed and add the flour in a little at a time. Mix until most of the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together in a ball. Continue to mix for 4-5 minutes more, until the dough becomes soft and shiny, but still firm. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough has doubled or tripled in size, this should take 8 to 12 hours. The dough may also be left in the refrigerator for up to two days, but you may need to punch it down a few times as it doubles.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and punch it down. Form the dough into a ball, return to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double once again, this should take about an hour.

Punch the dough down one more time, then form it into a tight rectangle. Place the dough into a rectangular bread pan, cover with a cloth and let rise until double in size. One more hour.

Oven preheated to 450, slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife so that it can expand properly and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the loaf out on a wrack to cool and wait at least 1 hour before slicing (it will continue to cook while cooling).

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Strawberry Mascarpone "Pop Tarts"

You guys in the food blog world (and in my life in general) are truly awesome. Thank you for being so honest in your answers to my questions yesterday. I really appreciate it and want to send you all a virtual hug! I'm so happy that the working week is almost over and the real fun can begin. Do you have any fun plans for this long weekend? I'm putting on my dancing shoes tonight and will hopefully dance the night away (or, at least until I get tired around 11)! I'm kinda glad I had so many of these pop tarty things. That way I can dance them off tonight! I'm sure you have seen these around the blogosphere lately. I found them on Purple Foodie who found them on Chez Pim who has step-by-step pictures! It's kind of one of those ideas that makes you smack yourself on the head and ask "why didn't I think of that?". They are so easy and since I made them mini, they were really cute. I mean, who doesn't love food in miniature versions (remember those baby bundts?). I used Martha's pie dough recipe, halved of course, and mixed it by hand because I like less dishes to clean up. Plus, as I have mentioned before, there is something comforting about cutting buter into flour by hand. Last weekend I picked up some strawberry preserves at the farmers market and I thought a touch of sweetened mascarpone would go well in these and it did!! My lovely stand mixer (man, I love bragging about that thing now that I have one), made simple work of creaming together the cheese and a bit of sugar. You can change these up so many ways. How many combination do you think you could come up with? The possibilities are endless.



Strawberry Mascarpone "Pop Tarts"
(Step-by-step instructions on Chez Pim)

Pie crust (recipe follows, from Martha)
Strawberry preserves
Mascarpone cheese
Sugar
Raw sugar
1 egg

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon water
2-4 tablespoons ice water

In a food processor or by hand, mix flour with salt and sugar. Add chilled butter, cut into small pieces.

Pulse or blend until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.

Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse or mix until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. (If needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Do not overmix.

Turn out onto a work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together. Chill.

To make the filing:

Cream together one container of mascarpone with 1 tablespoon of sugar until well combined. Spoon a small amount of jam over the dough and spoon a small amount of mascarpone over the jam.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Polynesian Glazed Wings

Can I ask you guys a question? Do you feel like you are balanced and/or happy? How did you get to your place in life and how did you end up discovering what it is that you love to do? I guess that is several questions, but I am curious to know the answers. I have spent the majority of my twenties looking for the answers to these questions and as I inch closer to the big 3-0 (GAH, but I still have a little while to freak out) they are on my mind more and more. Now, trust me, I know you are wondering what this has to do with chicken wings. Of course the answer is nothing, but sometimes I get questions that won't leave my mind and it helps for me to ask them out loud. Hey, this is my blog and it's as much my musings on life as it is on food! Speaking of food, I saw this recipe all over the food blogosphere last week and it was one of those things that I knew I would be trying soon. They are really good and I didn't even do the recipe correctly. (As you may have been able to tell, my head is somewhere else lately) I completely forgot the 1/4 cup of brown sugar in the glaze and totally skipped the part about sticking the wings back in the oven for another minute or two after you have coated the wings. Instead, I added some agave nectar to the glaze, tossed the wings in a bowl with the glaze and then ate them...and they were still really good. If you don't know by now, I like extra heat in everything so if you prefer a milder wing, reduce the amount of red pepper. With the Superbowl coming up, you should really consider serving these if you are having a party...or even if you aren't. They are really delicious and you and your guests won't feel guilty about scarfing them down...unless you chase them with some seven layer dip!

If you want to chime in on my questions above, I would love to hear what you think...as long as you're nice :)



Polynesian Glazed Wings
(Adapted from New Dieter's Cookbook (Better Homes & Gardens)
via Culinary Cory
)

1 1/2 pounds (about 30 pieces) chicken wings
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon agave nectar
Cilantro, chopped (optional)
cooking spray
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Evenly space the chicken drummettes on the baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Lightly spray the seasoned chicken with additional cooking spray to encourage browning. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Turn half-way through the cooking time. When baking is completed, drain the baking sheet of any excess juices.

Combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, red pepper, pineapple water and soy sauce in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat for 3-6 minutes until thickened. Spoon the glaze over all sides of the chicken and bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dark Chocolate Ice Box Cookies

Ok, before I start talking about the cookies, I have a little rant. Did any of you watch the new 90210 last night? Alright, before you judge me for watching bad television (it's like a trainwreck, I can't tear my eyes away), the people on the show were experiencing a heat wave, much like the current one we are experiencing right now (88 degrees in downtown the other day)...but then they get the day off school! WTF???!!! No one is giving me a day off because it's too hot. Ugh! The show is completely ridiculous and I know I need to stop watching it, but like I said, I also can't tear my eyes away. Anyway, it's been a while since I have put up a sweet treat (like, a week). Even when you are trying to eat light, you still have to give yourself some sweet things, because deprivation is evil! These cookies are perfect for satisfying an intense chocolate craving and they are pretty low in fat. Plus, you don't have to bake the whole batch all at once. I baked four for my first go round, and then froze the dough and baked a few more last night. I rolled my cookies in the sanding sugar that was sent to me a while back by the wonderful Heather. (Coincidentally, this particular brand just got a shout out on Saveur's 100 List). The pretty purple color kind of got lost in translation while baking, but I like the crunch it added to the cookies. I thought these cookies would have more of a shortbread kind of texture, but I guess with less butter, they ended up more cakey. They were really delicious. Two cookies are all that I needed to satisfy the chocolate craving and hunger pangs.

I did the recipe as stated except that instead of using vanilla paste, I used vanilla sugar. The original recipe can be found here.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chicken Sandwich in Puff Pastry

When I made the ham and turkey in puff pastry, I was thinking it was a nice alternative it was to a regular sandwich. Then later in the week I saw Giada make a napolean using puff pastry and I knew I wasn't the only one with the idea. Giada made hers with three layers and some avocado and peppered mayo. I don't eat much avocado (it makes me sick, literally) so I wanted to find an alternative. Last week, Mark Bittman posted a video with Jamie Oliver making a really simple chicken breast. He didn't even use a recipe. It was just chicken, season, herbs, lemon zest, Parmesan, prosciutto...pound, pound, pound, cook and done. You can see the video here. I thought it would be nice to do that chicken recipe in the puff pastry sandwich, plus it was fun to pound and get out some aggression!! This was such an easy and fast chicken recipe. I loved the freshness from the lemon and parsley and you really can't go wrong with salty prosciutto and Parmesan. My "corner store" only had puff pastry rounds so I just rolled them out a bit to get to sandwich size. This was a really easy sandwich to put together and it all tasted wonderful. Can you believe it is only Tuesday? The long weekend cannot come fast enough!!



Chicken Sandwich in Puff Pastry
(Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis and chicken recipe from Jamie Oliver)

2 rounds of puff pastry
1 chicken breast
Kosher salt
Flat leaf parsley
Lemon zest
Parmesan cheese
1 slice prosciutto
Olive oil
Baby Spinach

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured board, roll out the puff pastry rounds to desired length and width. Place the rounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a fork, prick holes all over the puff pastry rounds. Top the rounds with another sheet of parchment paper and then another cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the top cookie sheet and top parchment and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Season one side of the chicken with salt. Top with roughly torn parsley, then a layer of lemon zest, and then a layer of freshly shredded Parmesan. Lay a slice of prosciutto over the chicken and top with plastic wrap. Pound the chicken until it is about 1/4 inch thick.

Heat some olive oil in a small pan and add the chicken, prosciutto side down. Season the exposed side with salt and cook 4-5 minutes per side until the prosciutto is crispy and the chicken is cooked through.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a thin layer of spinach over the bottom of the puff pastry. Add the sliced chicken and top with the second sheet of puff pastry.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Blerg, it's Monday again. Did you have a good weekend? I think the weekends go by way too quickly for my liking. Well, I was given a challenge this week...to come up with not one, but two vegetarian recipes. I must say that when I am given a culinary challenge like this, I have to face it head on. This recipe was already on my mind when the challenge was presented. I have had roasted vegetables on the brain since I made my roasted carrots and parsnips a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to do something similar, but this time I chose a wider range of vegetables. At the farmers market yesterday, I picked up whatever looked interesting and threw it in the salad. While I was peeling and cutting up the vegetables, I thought maybe I wouldn't add the quinoa and just have a roasted vegetable salad, but you know, it never hurts to have more protein so I did the quinoa. At the last minute I decided to add some pan-roasted garlic to the dressing. I have never made pan-roasted garlic before, but it was easy to do. I think I prefer regular roasting, but the pan-roasted came out really good and sweet. For presentation purposes I spooned the vegetables on top of the quinoa, but by all means, go ahead and mix everything together. Also, I picked smaller vegetables (I think the butternut was about 12 ounces), but as long as you chop everything to about the same size, don't worry about how big the vegetables are. This can be changed up so many ways so go ahead and have fun with it. I got the garlic idea from my always trusty Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Everything else, was me. Enjoy!






Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Makes at least four servings

Vegetables:
1 12 ounce butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 medium bundle asparagus, chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 small bundle of carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups of water
Salt

Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1-2 cloves pan roasted garlic (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Garlic:
(Adapted from the Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook)
2 head garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
Pinch of salt


To make the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, thyme, and pepper (the best tool are your hands). Arrange the vegetables on a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes until fork tender, turning once halfway through.

To make the quinoa:
In a medium saucepan, add the quinoa to salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12-14 minutes until the quinoa is cooked through. Fluff with a fork.

To make the garlic:
In a large saucepan, heat garlic cloves and 3 cups of water to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 15 minutes until garlic cloves are fork-tender. Drain. Cool garlic under cold running water; drain again.

Peel garlic cloves. In a large skillet, cook garlic, sugar, oil, and salt over medium-high heat, stirring and shaking skillet often, about 5 minutes until garlic cloves are glazed and browned.

To make the dressing:
Whisk everything together

To assemble the salad:
Mix the dressing and the quinoa. Add the vegetables and toss to combine.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lemonade and Kiss My Bundt Tasting Party

You know, when life gives you lemons...go to Lemonade!! It's been a while since I had been to one of my favorite lunch places and since yesterday was so insanely beautiful, I thought I would take a little walk over there. I had my favorite snap pea and edamame salad and indulged in their unbelievably creamy mac and cheese. I actually wasn't planning on getting any lemonade, but when I was checking out I noticed a new flavor...cranberry cinnamon. Let me just tell you, that is the stuff dreams are made of! I managed to restrain myself and not go back for another cup, but it was sooooo good. Tart, not too sweet and just the perfect amount of cinnamon. I would have never thought to put those flavors together, but believe me, it worked.





Later I headed out to take some pics of my neighborhood. I have lived in the same apartment for about three and a half years, but sometimes I forget how pretty my neighborhood is (although my insane rent should be a constant reminder). Many times, I walk around without taking time to appreciate the beauty around me so I headed out with my camera and here is some of what I captured.







I ended the day at the fabulous, semi-new bakery Kiss My Bundt. This bakery opened back in September by one of my high school classmates. Chrysta has been baking original bundt cakes for years and finally opened up a little store on West 3rd here in Los Angeles. The bundts come in different sizes, but my favorite are the baby bundts which are really an excellent alternative to cupcakes. I have purchased these a few times for my friends and they always receive rave reviews. Chrysta hosted a little tasting party last night with many, many samples. I was originally going to have some cookies on here today, but I could not face more sugar once I got home. The 7-up cake, rum pound cake, red velvet, and the cookies and cream cake are my favorites, but there is so much to enjoy at this store. If you ever find yourself around the 3rd street area (not to be confused with the 3rd street Promenade), then head on in for some delicious cake...after you're done shopping.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pizza with Fennel, Onions and Prosciutto

I'm so happy it is the weekend time!!! This has been the week from hell. It's nice to have some time to kick back and just do what I feel like doing. Especially on such a beautiful weekend! It is literally going to be eighty degrees today (sorry to all my friends in colder temps). I am going to have a lovely relaxing day of doing nothing, and then some baking, and then some cake testing...more on that later, I hope. I truly hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying your weekend no matter what the weather. Here's a little something that I splurged on recently. Would you believe I still had pizza dough left over from my October Daring Bakers challenge? Thank goodness that dough froze well versus the yule log which is still in my freezer, but I am kind of scared to go near. Ha! Anyway, here is how I decided to use my last ball of pizza dough. Originally I was going to make this focaccia recipe from Cookthink, but then I just wasn't in the mood to make focaccia. Plus, I didn't have fresh mozzarella. Still, I think my version was really good. I added some red onions and a sprinkle of parsley for a little color. I wanted my vegetables to have a little crunch so I didn't cook them too long, but if you prefer softer vegetables, go ahead and cook them longer. Since everything else was ready, this was easy to put together. I am thinking of doing the dough recipe again so I can have some more dough on hand for when I want a delicious pizza my way!


Pizza with Fennel and Prosciutto
(Inspired by Cookthink)

1 ball pizza dough
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
3 slices prosciutto, sliced
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 550 degrees.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the fennel and red onion and cook until just translucent, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the pizza dough to desired thinness. Top the dough with a thin layer of mozzarella, the fennel and onion mixture, and finally the prosciutto. Brush the exposed edges of dough with olive oil. Bake 7-12 minutes until the dough is browned and crisp.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Kale and Apple Soup

A few days ago I wanted something warm and comforting. It's getting warm here again, but the nights are cold and since my apartment gets like, no light, I am always bundled up and looking for warm foods to eat at night. I had a head of kale and a Granny Smith apple left from the farmers market so I decided to defrost some bacon (yes, I freeze bacon and I had no pancetta on hand) and make this soup. I think the original recipe wants you to use a sweeter apple so I added a sprinkle of sugar. I was a little turned off at the thought of crushing the bacon in the blender with the finished soup so I fished it out after it was cooked to just leave the fat to cook the kale in. A smarter person would have reserved that cooked bacon for garnish, but I just ate it. So much for resolutions! :) This was a really good soup, and surprisingly fresh tasting given the bacon fat, but I thought it was missing a little something. Perhaps it was the lack of sweetness from the apple, or maybe it needed more apple flavor. I think next time I try this, I will use a sweeter apple and maybe caramelize the onions.


Kale and Apple Soup
(From The Kitchn)

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large bunch kale
4 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup crème frîache, mascarpone cheese, or plain yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional, I forgot)

Wash the kale and remove the bottom 1" of stem. Chop roughly into 1" pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sautée the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on towels to drain.

Add the kale and stir to coat with rendered fat. Add a glug or olive oil if bacon didn't render much fat and kale sticks to pan. Cook, stirring, until kale begins to wilt. Add 2 cups chicken stock, lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Transfer mixture to blender, reserving some as a second batch if blender jar is more than 1/2 full.

In the same skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and cook onions with salt until just barely showing color. Add chopped apples and some sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until apples soften and onions are translucent.

Transfer mixture to blender, reserving half if you reserved half of the kale mixture earlier. If working in two batches, add half the remaining chicken stock (1 cup), cover and puree until smooth. If working in one batch, add all the remaining stock and puree until smooth. When working with hot liquids in a blender, it's wise to hold down the lid with a kitchen towel in case some liquid escapes when the motor is engaged.

If soup seems too thick, add more stock is available, or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Garnish with a dollop of crème frîache, mascarpone cheese, or plain yogurt and a few grinds of black pepper.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spaghetti with Spicy Lentils

Is this week over yet?? I know I shouldn't be complaining because I had a short week, but still... How are you coming along with your resolutions/goals? Well I am making good headway into my 101 in 1001. In fact, I completed one of my goals two days ago so I made another (similar goal) and set the bar higher! I am actually still finishing my list. It can be kind of difficult to come up with that many concrete goals. As I mentioned yesterday, I have been cooking some lighter fare to kind of make up for all of that holiday indulgence. I don't believe in diets, but I do think it is important to find light, healthy meals that don't sacrifice flavor. This dish is the epitome of that. I recently found it on Andrea's fabulous Cooking Books site and I was going to do it last week, but at the last minute, the carrot found it's way to the pork tenderloin and roasted carrots and parsnips. I scaled down the recipe a bit, but left some of the original components like the full 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. If spicy isn't your thing, just reduce the amount. Also, my carrots were on the small side so I used two, but you may find one is enough. This was so easy to prepare and really delicious. Plus, I loved the savory smell it gave my apartment. This recipe proves that you can have a light and healthy and yet hearty meal that still tastes delicious.


Spaghetti with Spicy Lentils
(Adapted from Cooking Books)

Olive oil
1/2 bulb fennel, chopped
1-2 carrots (depending on the size), peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 heaping cup dry lentils
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti

Heat some olive oil in a 12" skillet and add the fennel, carrot, onion, garlic, salt and red pepper. Sauté the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, until they're soft.

Add the paprika and toss to coat the veggies. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the lentils and 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft but not falling apart.

Cook the pasta separately, until it is still quite firm.

Drain the pasta and add it to the lentil sauce. Toss for 1 or 2 more minutes until pasta is cooked to al dente. Serve

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shaksouka

After all the goodies and things we consumed on New Years, you can probably see why I have been looking for lighter things to cook lately. I found this recipe a couple of weeks ago and knew I would be making it soon. I love that it's made with things I usually have on hand. I halved the recipe and I must confess that instead of saving some for later, I ate the whole thing in one sitting with a couple slices of no knead bread. It was soooo good! I added some red pepper flakes for a little kick and I think that definitely made the dish. The tomato sauce actually reminded me of the gravy that we make in Ghanian cooking that is the basis for a lot of recipes. I was scared about the egg cracking part because as I recently mentioned, I have never poached an egg, but cooking them this way was pretty easy. It makes me feel more confident that I won't completely screw up the poaching process (once I actually try it). Oh, and if you're wondering what shaksouka is, well from what I have read it is an Israeli dish of tomato sauce simmered with spices and then completed with an egg. Apparently, you don't have to cook the egg in the sauce too. You can fry it, or scramble the eggs, or have them whichever way you like to have eggs.

Shaksouka
(Adapted from Serious Eats)

Makes 2 servings

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper
2 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large high-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sweat them for about 5 minutes, until they soften a little.

Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano and water. Stir to combine and then season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

Uncover the pan and crack the eggs into the simmering sauce one at a time, spaced a few inches from each other. Cover the pan again and continue to simmer about 5-7 minutes (soft yolk), or until the egg whites are cooked and the yolk is set to your liking.

Ladle the sauce and eggs into shallow bowls and serve with thick toasted bread for sopping up the sauce and egg yolk. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper before serving.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year's Eve Treats

Over the weekend, I shared with you some of the things I made for our NYE celebration at JenFinn's house. Now our lovely hostess is sharing some of the recipes that she herself made (girlfriend went ALL OUT!!). They were all really, incredibly delicious. I actually got to sample the brittle a couple of days before and my friend and I that got to eat it were craving it again later on. I loved the combo of not only sweet and salty, but spicy as well. Jen's thoughts on the brittle: it's very important to work very fast once you pour the candy on the cookie sheet. It gets hard really fast and I found myself stretching it out while it was still warm to make it thinner.



Next up is the Wild Mushroom Macaroni with Three Cheeses and Truffle Oil. As regular readers of this blog know, I am huge fan of the mac and cheese so I gobbled this right up (as did everyone else at the party). Jen's thoughts: It definitely has a spicy bite to it, so if you don't like spicy, you should go easy on the chili flakes...also if you aren't big fans of rosemary, you can either omit it or just half it (I like it and find it reminds me of the holidays, so I used it all)!


Last, but certainly not least, this gorgeous Hazelnut Crunch cake. This was really good and light which was surprising considering how decadent it looks. How awesome does that hazelnut brittle look? It's like stained glass. The cake was so good, you would never have guessed it came from a box!!





Sweet and Spicy Nut Brittle
(From Wilton)

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of brittle

1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In medium bowl, combine cashews and pistachios. In small bowl, mix oil, hot pepper sauce, chili powder, kosher salt, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle spice mixture over nuts; stir to coat evenly. Spread nut mixture onto cookie pan in a single layer.

Bake 10 to12 minutes stirring once after 5 minutes. Remove from oven; spread nut mixture over paper towels to cool completely. Place cooled nuts into medium bowl; set aside.

Line 12 x 18 in. cookie pan with parchment paper. Generously grease paper with butter; set aside. Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Use pastry brush dipped in water to wash sugar crystals down on sides of saucepan.) Continue cooking, without stirring, 20-30 minutes until sugar mixture turns deep amber in color and Candy Thermometer registers 300ºF. (Carefully watch sugar mixture, as it can quickly turn from amber to dark brown.)

Once sugar mixture reaches 300ºF, remove from heat; using greased wooden spoon, stir in nuts. Immediately pour brittle mixture into prepared pan. Using greased, large angled spatula, spread sugar mixture as thinly as possible. Cool completely. Break brittle into pieces.

Wild Mushroom Macaroni and Three Cheeses with Truffle Oil
(From What We're Eating)

1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tbsp oil or bacon fat
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cup whole milk, warmed
4 oz herb chevre, crumbled
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2-3 tbsp white truffle oil, depending on how strong you like it (yes, this is some rich mac-n-cheese)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko
10 oz cavatappi pasta
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Place a large saute pan with 2 tbsp oil or lard over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. Toss or stir occasionally. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. Allow all of the vinegar to cook out, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Begin the cheese sauce. Add 4 tbsp butter to a medium-sized sauce pan and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 4 tbsp flour. Cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds , just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Continue stirring and allow the herbs to saute for about another 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. Allow the bechamel to come to a simmer (it won’t gain it’s full thickness until it does), stirring occasionally.

While waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer start the pasta. Liberally salt the pot of boiling water, almost to the point it tastes like sea water. This may take a few handfuls of salt . Add the pasta to the water and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.

Once the bechamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chevre, cheddar, 2oz of parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. Turn off the heat and and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. Season with salt and pepper as necessary. In small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2oz of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Strain the pasta immediately once finished cooking. In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/Parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. Bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

*if you’re lucky enough to have a real truffle, feel free to substitute shaved truffle for the truffle oil!

Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate
(From Giada De Laurentiis)

1 box chocolate cake mix

Crunch:

1 cup (about 4 1/2-ounces) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Filling:

2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) cake pans. Prepare the cake mix according to package instructions. Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and bake according to package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For the Crunch:

Place the toasted nuts close together in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar mixture until dissolved. Bring to a boil and let cook until the sugar is light brown, about 8 minutes. Let the bubbles subside then pour the caramelized sugar over the nuts. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and let the sugar nut mixture cool until hard, about 30 minutes. When the sugar nut mixture is hard and cool, top with another piece of parchment paper and pound into small pieces, or place the sugar nut mixture on a cutting board and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

For the filling:

Put the mascarpone cheese, cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer whip the cream mixture to soft peaks. Fold the Crunch mixture into the whipped cream.

For the topping:

Place the chocolate, sugar and zest in a food processor. Process the mixture until the chocolate is finely ground.

To assemble the cake:

Put 1 cake on a serving plate. Top with 1-inch of the whipped cream crunch mixture. Top with the second layer of cake and continue frosting the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream crunch mixture. Sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the ground chocolate. Serve.

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