Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Lavender and Chocolate Eclairs

This month's Daring Bakers challenge presented Eclairs with either chocolate pastry creme or glaze.  Now I have already sung the praises of pate-a-choux on this blog, and been down the road of chocolate pastry creme, so I felt that to spice this challenge up, I'd have to fine an amazing yet unusual accompaniment to chocolate with which to make my pastry creme.  I decided I'd take on making a lavender pastry cream. I like the flavor of lavender but haven't had the courage to use it in much. I decided the (free) buds from the plant outside would be easier to work with then essential oil. While lavender essential oil is edible, I was scared i would over flavor the dish.

I made a very small batch-5 eclairs in all- and was worried the pate a choux might not work scaled down so much, but it worked out fine. I was even able to bake them in my toaster oven, which sounds sacrilegious, but is endorsed by eric ripert, so it must be ok. I made the chocolate glaze without including the chocolate sauce part of the recipe (see below), and it was fantastic.

Thanks to MeetaK and Tony Tahhan, our hosts for a great challenge. Check out all the daring bakers work here.

Chocolate Eclairs
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Lavender Pastry Creme
from Art Culinaire, Spring 06

16 ounces milk
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
5 egg yolks
3 ounces granulated sugar
3/4 ounce all-purpose flour
3/4 ounce cornstarch
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

In saucepan, bring milk and lavender to simmer. Remove from heat, let sit 10 minutes and strain through fine-mesh sieve. Return milk to scald. In bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar, flour, cornstarch and vanilla. Temper egg mixture by adding one-third of hot milk to it while whisking constantly. Whisk tempered egg mixture back into remaining hot milk and place over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon. Strain through fine-mesh sieve and cool over ice water bath. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

R2R: Sweet Corn Tamales!

I have made tamales before, but when Debyi from healthy vegan kitchen, this month's host for Recipes to Rival revealed that tamales would be this month's challenge, I wasn't disappointed.  I loooove anything wrapped in masa, the delicious corn mixture that makes up the tamales' "crust."  Debyi provided a bunch of yummy fillings to choose from, and the freedom to try our own.  Check out the official "challenge post", complete with recipes, here I was intrigued by the sweet green chile and corn tamale recipe she provided, and I tweaked it to incorporate fresh queso blanco I made myself, plus I used regular milk rather then the vegan version she suggests.  I've made vegan tamales several times, but I had milk on hand so I thought I might as well use it. 


Early in the day I made the queso blanco, a simple white, firm cheese from Latin America that is a snap to make and requires no special ingredients, just milk and vinegar.  after I set that to drain, I roasted the corn and chiles, prepped those, and mixed the masa, milk, oil (in lieu of shortening/lard), etc  together.  I added the corn, and got to wrapping. I used dried husks I had from the store as well as some fresh ones we had from the corn.  The ones that had been on the grill added a nice, smoky flavor.  

Wrapping a tamale is a bit challenging at first but is by no means an exact science. Don't be afraid to use your hands and experiment with techniques that will work for you.  Make sure everything is covered up, use shreds of husks to tie the bundles closed, and remember: it would be great if it looks beautiful, but it will be more important for it to taste beautiful.  Mine always look like squat little packages, but everything fits together and tastes good.

We steam ours in a colander set in a large pot, for an hour to an hour and a half.  Just keep checking and when the masa is firm and no longer mushy, it's done.  

Unfortunately, I made a teeny tiny measuring error in scaling down the recipe and I added too much sugar.  My tamales were a bit sweet.  edible, but sweet.  The chiles provided a nice counterpoint but I wish I had had included more of them.  The queso blanco got a little lost, but was lovely on its own.  

This isn't turning me off from making tamales- I know where my errors were and I'll fix them next time.  Had I attempted this a bit earlier in the month I would have probably made a second go of it.  

Queso Blanco
from Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking

1 gallon whole milk
1/4 c vinegar (like apple cider)

heat milk to between 180 and 190 degrees in a large pot.  mix to prevent scorching

slowly add the vinegar, a little at a time until curds and whey separate.  you may need to increase temp to 200.  

pour curds into a cheescloth lines colander and drain.  Tie corners and hang for several hours to drain.  remove cheese to a container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I made this cake to celebrate endings and beginnings.  I made it for children and adults in my professional life who are leaving behind what is familiar for new adventures, some by force, some by choice.  

I used a tried and true recipe for the cake- a one bowl, quick as can be chocolate cake that P's family has been using for years.  It was worth marrying into the family for this recipe.  The frosting recipe is new, a combination of peanut butter frosting recipes I have been finding around lately on the intertubes.  Seems like everyone and their mom has been making chocolate peanut butter cakes these days.  So I should too.

I'm submitting it to Layers of Cake, a new event at Quirky Cupcake.  The cake was already pretty demolished by the time I got this shot, so I had to do my best at "food styling" for the picture.   

I can't divulge family secrets- so this is a similar recipe.
One Bowl Chocolate Cake
from all-recipes
2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 cup butter (softened to room temperature)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cream butter and peanut butter together.
Add half the powdered sugar and blend.
Blend in milk and vanilla.
Add remaining powdered sugar.
Stir until smooth and well blended.

Monday, August 25, 2008

a dilly of a pickle

continued reportage from the goodness that was our Michigan vacation  . . .

Rural Michigan is very wholesome. Beautiful, tranquil, all that, but so wholesome that city people like myself feel a little strange sometimes.  When you are there, you feel obliged to do wholesome activities like say hello to strangers, dig in the dirt, skip in fields, and preserve things.  In all honesty, canning things is something I've been interested in for a while.  Last summer, in a rush of planning and optimistic organization, I even got some canning equipment (or was it 2 summers ago?) but haven't done anything with it. S and K, however, having a surplus of beans on their hands and access to expert canners, arranged a tutorial session for the 4 of us when we got to Michigan.  

canning fodder

I've always been a wee bit scared to can things myself due to a fear of killing everyone with botulism or a new post-modern bacteria only I could breed in my tomato sauce.  Once I met Mary Lou, our canning "teacher",  I had a feeling no one would die from whatever we made. She cans everything from pickles to peaches and has the garden to prove it.  This woman has a beehive in her kitchen, I kid you not. (more about that later) 

clean and ready to go

Mary Lou showed us how to sterilize the jars (to prevent the evil bacteria), trim the beans, pack them properly, (which P and K did not want to do properly.  which resulted in She taught S and I the important step of running a wet finger over the top and sides of the jar (wherever the lid will touch) to ensure there is nothing on the jar there and no imperfections in the glass, which could jeopardize a good seal.

getting packed and ready to go.
 notice erratically, improperly packed jar on top, handiwork of P and K. . .

Pickling turned out to be quite easy, however, I don't like pickled things!  P will eat our dilly beans this year, but I have newfound confidence to preserve some things on my own. If only I could have packed up Mary Lou's garden to transplant to Philadelphia, I'd be all set.  

Dilly Beans
from the Ball Book of Preserving

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill weed
1/4 cup canning (pickling) salt
2 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cup white vinegar

Pack beans, lengthwise, into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. For each pint, add 1/4 tsp. cayenne, 1 clove garlic, and 1 head dill.
Combine remaining ingredients and bring to boiling. Pour boiling hot over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Yields about 4 pints or 2 quarts.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Review: Tio Pepe's

Northeast Philly has a host of Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores that go generally unnoticed by the center city crowd.  P, my in-laws, and I ventured up there tonight to check out Tio Pepe, a Portuguese restaurant that has gotten decent reviews.  

The restaurant is upstairs above a bar, with a nice atmosphere including dark wooden ceiling beams, Portuguese tile paintings, and, more surprisingly, small scale lampposts scattered in the dining room. The servers, one of whom I suspect was an owner, were attentive and accommodating.  

The Rissios de Camarao, shrimp cakes,  were more like empanadas, which were different then what we were expecting but very tasty with a creamy filling with big chunks of shrimp.

Flaming Awesomeness

The grilled chorizo came out literally on fire, which was awesome.  There are not enough dishes that involve flames, as far as I am concerned.  The host handled the flaming meat for us and kindly sliced it up. The chorizo was moist and very flavorful, not greasy, and had a wonderful char from the fire.  It was a huge link, and I didn't think there was any way we would eat it all, but we took care of it without a problem.

The entrees arrived and the portions were huge.  My father-in-law's pallea could have served the four of us alone.  Alongside the entrees, we recieved a bowl of saffron rice and plates of salad which were nicely dressed with olive oil and lemon.  

P ordered the bitoque, steak toped with a fried egg (this is beating a dead horse but, yes, it was better with the egg on top!).  This came with homemade potato chips.  This was very good, but the steak was ordered medium rare and was definitely cooked medium if not medium well.

Rissios de Camarao

My father-in-law's Paelha a Marinheria, a seafood paella, was, as I said, huge.  My mother-in-law and I both ordered variations of mixed seafood in sauce, she, however was served a dish with seafood and pork and chicken.  It was good, but not what she had ordered.  The mussels and clams were huge in the seafood dishes and prepared well. The shrimp and lobster, while good, seemed to be cooked, again, longer then I cared for.  These are ingredients that take impeccable timing to be perfect, and I don't feel they achieved it. 


Overall, the food was solid, but I felt that all the entrees lacked a depth of flavor and richness that I expected.  The portions are extremely generous and the service good, but the appetizers raised my expectations and I felt the meal went downhill from there.

Paelha de Marinheria

Now, there is one part of the meal that I am unsure about.  Immediately, the entree Acorda De Marisco caught my eye, described as "a traditional alentejo "dry soup" consisting of hearty mix of shrimp, clams mussels scallops and cubed portuguese bread flavored with olive oil garlic and cilantro." I ordered it.  The host/owner, who took our order told me to order something else, because, "you have to be portuguese to like it." He stressed that he "wanted me to be satisfied" I did order something else, but I feel conflicted.  I appreciated his desire to please his customer, but I came for Portuguese food.  Italians have many peasant soups with old bread, I love those.  Maybe I should have just insisted he serve it to me.  I think if that ever happens again, I will.

Tio Pepe serves solid food in a pleasant atmosphere.  If you're in the area, check it out, but it's not worth a special trip.

Tio Pepe
6618 Castor Ave - At Fanshawe St
Philadelphia, PA 19149
215 742-4775

Cafe Restaurant Tio Pepe II on Urbanspoon

Review: Distrito

Jose Garces recently got some national attention by whooping the forever ancho-wielding Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America last week, but we in Philadelphia never had a doubt that Garces would win that battle. Garces's first restaurant, Amada, is probably my favorite restaurant in the city, so word of a new "modern Mexican" venture by Chef Garces was very welcome. Distrito, in University City, would cater more to the college crowd, and we wanted to make sure we got there before the hordes of students return next week and render it intolerable (sorry, it's on the campus of my alma mater: I shouldn't judge, but Penn students are by and large horrible).

First off, the ambiance. The decor is bright and colorful, a departure from the plush old word style of his other two venues. You might think that Stephen Starr had something to do with the joint just from looking around inside it. The waitstaff is friendly, but our waitress had no clue as to what was going on or what we had been served. She was asking us what had arrived at our table – isn't it her job to know that? There were delays in ordering and service, and we were offered dessert before all of our food had been served (one dish was delivered to another table, so that dish was rightfully comped). I don't think I've ever had service this clueless in any restaurant, but it is inexcuseable in a fine dining establishment. It seems like this was just bad luck on our part, as P's coworker went the following night and reported excellent service.

The food: a few absolute hits, only a couple misses. "Modern Mexican" is a fitting description. Most dishes are Mexican classics at their hearts, though reinterpreted through more modern fine-dining ingredients and/or presentations. Garces's signature flatbreads of the sort served at Amada also make an appearance here. Though execution was superb across the board, one overall critique is that everything was slightly salty.

Highlights included: Huaraches (flatbreads): Guisades (shortrib with 3 chile BBQ) and Los Hongos (Forest Mushroom with Huitlacoche Sauce and Black Truffle)

Tacos: Carnitas and Cachetes de Ternera (Veal Cheek)

Sopes of poblano and sweet onion with a poached quail egg (you all know how I feel about poached eggs)

Carne Asada: perfectly prepared New York strip with cornmeal crusted fried tomatillos. Simple and the sleeper hit of the night.

Also outstanding was a hamachi ceviche, served with a melon-ball-sized scoop of sangrita sorbet.

A few things that we weren't so fond of:

Esquite: this was roasted corn served with queso fresco served in a glass almost parfait-style. A bit bland and just not what I was expecting.

The universally disliked dish was the duck mole poblano. The sauce so overpowered the duck that it was a bit of a waste of waterfowl.

Desserts were excellent, including "Los Mangos" which featured diced mango sandwiched between two delightfully light pieces of meringue, and a more traditional version of Amada's ridiculously delicious churros (these served without the chile powder on top). Our friends were  a little disappointed with their ice creams, which were more like ice milk in texture, and they passed on the corn-flavored ice cream on the menu.

Prices are reasonable: slightly lower per-dish than Amada, but just remember that portions are similarly sized (two small tacos per order, for example). Some fancy margaritas, including the Hemingway with grapefruit and chili-infused tequila.

Distrito is definitely worth a trip. It remains to be seen how it will survive the inevitable crush of Penn students when school is back in session, but let's hope that whatever doesn't kill it only makes it stronger.

Distrito on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Omnivore's Hundred

check this out- it's kinda fun to see how you measure up!

from Tim at Very Good Taste

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

I'll Eat You's Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi

34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin

51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers

I like cookies, I like granola, but a cookie made with granola?  whoever heard of such a thing?  could these cookies fall into that grey area of "possibly healthy cookies?"  I was intrigued and determined to find out.  Michelle of Bad Girl Baking picked this recipe for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie assignment.  I'm enjoying them, but not overly so.  P is eating one now and claims that they are "okay" with a shrug.  not exactly a ringing endorsement.  I added chocolate chips, because, well, everyone loves chocolate chips.   I should have used better granola.  I bet they would have been awesome with that Hemp Granola I like so much.  At any rate, these may be a bit healthier for you then your average cookie, but they taste that way, you know?  I am much more a proponent of healthy cookies that still taste bad for you.  Check out the baking adventures of my fellow TWDs here

Saturday, August 16, 2008

S's Chile Verde

This Chile Verde was the sleeper hit of the vacation.  When most people think of chili, they think beans. They also think tomatoes.  This chili has neither and was absolutely fantastic.  It uses fresh roasted anaheim chiles and tomatillos, both new ingredients for me. 

verde ingredients ready to go

 Slow cooked with the pork, P and I both found this dish to be a revelation. Anaheim chiles vary in their spiciness, so adjust the amount accordingly. I also tempered the heat with sour cream (again, my favorite condiment), but the braver diners among us were able to go without.  This dish can easily feed a crowd, so have some friends over and get cooking!  

Anaheim's roasting on the grill

Chile Verde
courtesy of SFT

3-4 lbs boston butt, trimmed and cubed
corriander, salt, pepper
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
6 anahiem chiles, roasted, peeled and diced
1.5 lbs tomatillos (12-15) diced
4 c chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tbs cumin
heaping tsp fresh oregano
fresh cilantro

roll pork cubes in corriander, salt and pepper. brown over med-high heat in olive oil  add mirepoix, garlic and soften.  Add chiles and tomatillos.  stir, adding bay and cumin.  add broth and simmer on low for 2-3 hours. 5 minutes before serving, add oregano.  serve over brown rice and top with cilantro.

Friday, August 15, 2008

swedish meatballs, or, shmorgen borgn borgi

When we arrived in Petoskey, straight from a 14 hour drive, S informed us we'd be having swedish meatballs for dinner.  No complaints from me.  I love swedish meatballs, but I limit myself to the variety produced by the experts at ikea.  (confession: sometimes I go to ikea just to eat swedish meatballs).  These are better then the ikea variety.  Juicy, meaty, and seasoned with just enough allspice to taste significantly scandinavian.  These were quite delicious and easy to make.  This recipe makes a lot of meatballs (I'm not complaining.  Although the sauce was a bit thin- cook it down a bunch) The best thing about this recipe is the ability to top it with sour cream- another one of my food philosophies- anything is better topped with sour cream.  Serve with great fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil- a fantastic, fresh meal. 

Swedish Meatballs
adapted from epicurious

For meatballs
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
1 medium onion
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds mixed ground pork and beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3/4 pound cholesterol-free egg noodles such as No Yolks
1 small onion
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups beef broth (24 fluid ounces)
3 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon nonfat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves

chopped fresh dill leaves

1/2 cup lingonberry preserves or cranberry sauce


Make meatballs:
Into a blender tear 2 bread slices and grind into fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Make more bread crumbs in same manner and transfer to bowl. Finely chop enough onion to measure 3/4 cup and add to bread crumbs. In a small bowl whisk together egg, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper and add to bread crumb mixture. Add turkey and with your hands mix mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
Form turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls (about 80) and arrange on a tray. Meatballs may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a 12-inch non-stick skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown meatballs in 2 batches, turning them occasionally, about 4 minutes for each batch. With a slotted spoon transfer meatballs as browned to a shallow baking pan and reserve any drippings in skillet. Bake meatballs, tightly covered with foil, in middle of oven until just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, fill a 6-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for noodles. Finely chop enough onion to measure 1/2 cup. In a small bowl whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup broth. To reserved drippings in skillet add Sherry and onion and simmer mixture, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until most of liquid is evaporated. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups broth and bring to a boil. Stir cornstarch mixture and whisk into broth mixture. Boil mixture, whisking, 1 minute and remove skillet from heat. Whisk in Worcestershire sauce, sour cream, and dill and keep sauce warm, covered, over low heat (do not let boil).

Cook noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain noodles well in a colander and transfer to a large serving dish. Gently toss noodles with sauce and meatballs and garnish with dill. Put 1 tablespoon preserves or cranberry sauce on top of each serving.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

fresh from the garden

K's family has a wonderful expansive garden out front of the cottage where we are staying, full of leafy greens, ripening tomatoes, and all sorts of secret underground treats: carrots, beets, parsnips, garlic.  When K and S leave at the end of next week, the garden will be abandoned to neighbors and caretakers.  Our mission was to eat as much as we could from the garden while we were there, and resuce some produce to take home with us.  The the burgeoning row of chard reminded me of a recipe from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle called Eggs in a Nest.  For breakfast the first morning we simplified the meal, using greens minutes from the garden and brilliant-yolked farm fresh eggs.  P perfectly poached the eggs, cementing my philosophy that everything is better with a poached egg on top.

**I'm submitting this dish to Grow Your Own over at Andrea's Recipes.  Check it out!

making brekkie at walloon

Walloon Eggs and Chard
sautee as much chard as you like in garlic and olive oil
poach as many eggs as you like in water with a bit of vineager.
top chard with eggs. eat with toast.  smile. 

chard ready to be picked and munched

EGGS IN A NEST  from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, Hopp and Kingsolver
(This recipe makes dinner for a family of four, but can easily be cut in half.)

2 cups uncooked brown rice
Cook rice with 4 cups water in a covered pot while other ingredients are being

Olive oil – a few tbsp
1 medium onion, chopped, and garlic to taste
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a wide skillet until lightly golden.

Carrots, chopped
½ cup dried tomatoes
Add and sauté for a few more minutes, adding just enough water to rehydrate the

1 really large bunch of chard, coarsely chopped
Mix with other vegetables and cover pan for a few minutes. Uncover, stir well,
then use the back of a spoon to make depressions in the cooked leaves, circling
the pan like numbers on a clock.

8 eggs
Break an egg into each depression, being careful to keep yolks whole. Cover
pan again and allow eggs to poach for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and
serve over rice.

for more of kingsolver's recipes and information about the book, see

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze

This is one of those dissapearing squash recipes that people who have gardens need this time of year.  After a visit to some of P's relatives in upstate PA,  we were gifted with a zucchini the size of a toddler and a need to use it up quick before our trip to Michigan.  A quick review of my zucchini friendly recipes found this intruiging one in Dolce Italiano.  A cake made with olive oil,a very healthy fat,  kept moister with lots of fresh squash and with a crunch lemony glaze on top.  I mized together in a snap, and I decided pecans would be tastier then walnuts in this cake (also I was out of walnuts). 
  I glazed it as specified, but someone (P) put the cake dome lid on before it had a chance to dry. (the glaze must dry completely on a hot, cooling cake to make the crunchyness)  So my glaze was not so crunchy.  
But it was still yummy.  It seems I'll be returning from Michigan with the gift of squash, so there will probably be a chance to perfect the glaze! I'm also betting this could be done with a whole grain flour, maybe some agave, and this would be a very healthy cake!

I'm submitting this to Bookmarked Recipes
at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.  check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Petoskey Files

My great pal, lover of all things tasty, former roomate and bridesmaid S is getting her Ph D. at Berkeley.  This means she lives very far away.  However, she has been dating this lovely, smiley boy named K  with hair of goodness who is from Petoskey, Michigan.  He and S have been spending the summer at his summer cottage on Walloon Lake where they invited us to come for a visit. Hooray!  So me, P, and Clementine, the bravest dog in the world, piled in our car and drove over 800 miles through the night to arrive in this wonderland where there is a garden full of veggies, a dock onto the lake, a hand-cranked ice cream maker and a big floating trampoline.  The forthcoming posts will chronicle many of our family adventures here.  

a glimpse of things to come:

American Spoon cafe and store.  That American Spoon.

places Hemmingway got bombed

tiny robbers

learning to can

michigan beekeepers

man-sized stuffed bear

meals from the garden

Monday, August 11, 2008

coming full circle with cheese, well, sort of

When I was a pre-teen, I was in a musical at summer school about the Pied Piper.  One of my roles was the cheesemaker.  I had a line about the rats that were taking over the town jumping into my cheesemaking vat.  I don't think it was ever made explicitly clear that the a)  the vat was for making cheese (except in the stage diretions) or that b) I was a cheesemaker (again, except in the script) so I suppose I could have also been a brewer or a laundress or something else.   You can tell how pivotal my role was to the plot.  I promise there is a point to this story. 

My being a cheesemaker is pivotal to this post however, as I will be instructing you all in the craft of making the delicious creamy stuff. I've mastered the art of ricotta, which is the easiest and most versatile cheese in my opinion as it can be eaten for breakfast, used in desserts, as well as the regularly old cheesy goodness.  I haven't yet mastered the firmer cheeses, but we're working on it with the help of Ricki Carrol, cheese goddess extraordinare and her Home Cheese Making guide. 

For those of you who are curious about making your own cheese, I stongly suggest trying it, and starting with ricotta.  It requires minimal equiptment and effort, and the results are much better then what you by at the regular supermarket and cheaper then buying fresh at the specialty market.  

Fresh Ricotta

you'll need:
-milk (you can use 1 percent on up, remember that the more fat in the milk, the more cheese it will yeild.)
you can make any quantity as long as you stick to a 1 part buttermilk to 4 parts milk ratio.  For example, 1 quart buttermilk to one gallon milk. 

-cheesecloth (a good, tightly woven one, not the kind you buy at the supermarket)
-a thermometer (mine is for oil and candy)

Place buttermilk and milk in a pot, heat on med-low heat until it reaches 185 degrees. 
 It will begin to separate into curds and whey.  Be sure to stir occasionally to make sure no curds stick to the bottom and burn.  You will see that as the temperature approaches 185, the whey becomes clearer as the curds coagulate more.

Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined collander.  Tie the ends of the chesecloth together and hang for 10-15 minutes.  

Salt cheese to taste, if desired.  Serve as desired, for example with berries and agave syrup, as pitured here!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

it's still TWD here: Black and White Banana Loaf

By the skin of my teeth people, I present to you the results of this pre-vacation bakestravaganzaa, the banana loaf.  I was mildly skeptical, especially since I had to use semisweet chocolate instead of dark, but I'm pleased with the results.  The rum and nutmeg add a nice flavor, and the lemon adds a loghtness without being noticeably lemony (which is not generally a bad thing, but I don't see it as a complement to banana- do you?).  I'm also happy to report that my marble-ing turned out with no issues, despite it being my first attempt at marble-ing anything.  I took Dorie's wise words to heart and was careful to use restraint.  wise words I say, wise words!  Find the recipe at A Year in the Kitchen, and the adventures of my fellow TWD bloggers here

thin on the ground

hello readers (hi mom),

If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed that my posts have not been as frequent lately.   P and I have been doing a lot of traveling this summer.  We are off tomorrow for a week long trip to Michigan.  We are taking Clementine, bravest dog in the world with us.  We will be back with tales of more culinary adventures soon!

Stuffed French Toast

This was intended to be an entry for this month's Sugar High Friday.  I made it weeks ago.  Life just got in the way and I forgot to post/submit it.  oops.  but I will humbly submit it to you, readers.

On the back of Recipies to Rival's breakfast themed challenge, I thought I'd make more yummy breakfast.  I love love LOVE french toast when it is made correctly.  Sweet, not to eggy, not dry.  My step-father Joe makes a delicious french toast (hi Joe!). I wanted this one to be stuffed to incorporat berries, I felt the pocket, rather then sandwich method would be the way to go.  As for the french toast itself: I steered away from the ovrnight soak method because while yeilding a great result, may mess with the integrity of the stuffed toast (I was unsure).   In the end I am very hapy with the delicious Challah French Toast stuffed with Almond- Raspbery-Ricotta filling.  I even made the ricotta myself (separate post to follow, I promise).  

French Toast with Almond Raspberry Ricotta Filling
serves 2

the filling

1/2 c ricotta cheese
2 tbs berries
1/8 t almond extract
sugar to taste

the "soak"
3/4 c milk
1 egg
1/8 tsp almond extract

cut a thick slice of challah, digging a "pocket" in the side to spoon the filling into.
place in the soak until coated on both sides, well staurated so the bread still has integrity and structure.  Fry on a griddle or skillet with butter until golden brown and delicious.

serve with fresh berries, slivered almonds, and maple syrup.