Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Kitchen, My World- be thankful!

This week's assignment for My Kitchen, My World, was to travel back to the kitchens of our own family to celebrate Thanksgiving.  While I didn't make any of my traditional family recipes for our table this year (my mother in law makes an awesome thanksgiving dinner), I did prepare and entire thanksgiving dinner, with my co-workers, for the children in our program.   

The five therapists on my team assembled at my house to put together a sit down dinner from our own family traditions to share with the kids.  We had turkey and gravy, Ms. Ebony's macaroni and cheese, Ms. Diane's green bean casserole, my sweet potatoes, and stuffing made delicious by Ms. Abby.  I even taught Ms. Crystal how to make pumpkin pie (she also made a very popular salad). 


We sat down with them on the day before the holiday to (attempt) to reflect on the year in our program and what the kids appreciate. Our kids were thankful for their families, the food, and one of them was even thankful for his therapists.  Feeding 15 kids was very hectic, but it was a good meal.  Of course I forgot to take pictures of everything but the turkey, but here is my recipe for sweet potatoes, like my mom makes:

You need:
sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
chunky apple sauce
dark brown sugar.

layer sweet potatoes in a casserole dish with applesauce and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.  Bake in a hot oven until potatoes are done.

DO NOT: top with marshmallows and put in a broiler.  This will cause the marshmallows to set fire and flames to come out of your oven.  Then you will have to peel off a charred burned marshmallow crust.  Not that I have ever done this. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake


This delicious caramel cake graced the Thanksgiving table this year, thanks to the Daring Bakers! After 2 months of savory challenges, I was very happy to see something sweet.  
This Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Icing is the brainchild of Shuna Fish Lyndon of Eggbeater

This is a sweet, dense cake that really doesn't need the frosting, although the frosting is delicious, so I would go ahead and make it anyhow.  I decided to stray from the recipe a bit and add a layer of granny smith apples cooked down in some butter and a splash of the caramel syrup, just to mix things up.  

The caramel syrup is easy to make, but I would cut the recipe in half if you don't want leftovers.  Be sure to follow basic caramel safety rules when making it (long sleeves, cold water nearby)

This is a perfect tea cake or base to a coffee or crumb cake, in my opinion.  I liked it with the frosting, but I like it even better a couple days later, with the frosting scraped off with a cup of tea. 

Thanks to this month's hosts Dolores from Culinary Curiosity, Alex from Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie from Gluten a Go-Go

Find Shuna's recipe here on Bay Area Bites or below:


CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
by Shuna Fish Lyndon

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pomegranate Panna Cotta

Sorry folks, no TWD this week.  As much as I really wanted to make the Thanksgiving Twofer Pie (and I really did), my sister-in-law's nut allergies banned it from our holiday table, and we really don't need an extra pie this week.

Instead, I bring you pomegranate panna cotta, devised by yours truly for the POM Wonderful Pomegranate Recipe contest.  I heart pomegranates, so I was psyched to come up with something for this contest that I heard about through the foodie blogroll.



Pomegranate Panna Cotta

3 gelatin leaves
1 1/2 cups cream
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish (dark chocolate shavings would look great too!)

soak gelatin leaves in cold water and allow them to become squishy.

heat cream pomegranate juice, and sugar over medium heat until just under a boil.  remove from heat, stir in gelatin until dissolved.  stir in vanilla.

pour into ramekins or martini glasses.  place plastic wrap directly on surface and place in fridge to chill until set.  

serve straight from vessel or upend it on a plate and garnish with pomegranate seeds.  You may need to hold the ramekin in some hot water for a few seconds, or use a knife to loosen the panna cotta from the sides of the vessel.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage


P and I threw these homemade ravioli together, believe it or not, on a weeknight for dinner.  Normally I would never attempt fresh pasta for a weeknight supper, let alone fresh stuffed pasta, but many hands make light work, and this was a savory, seasonal meal.  (it didn't hurt that the pumpkin had been roasted and pureed beforehand and was waiting in our freezer.)

Scoops came to the rescue once again!  We discovered that the cookie scoops I purchased in multiple sizes are the perfect way to neatly and evenly distribute your ravioli filling.  Yeah!!

Once briefly boiled, the ravioli were given a run through some brown butter and sage and sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds.  Super Yum.


Fresh Pasta
1 3/4 C. flour
2 eggs
Pinch of salt

Standard fresh pasta procedure: form flour (and salt) into a mound and make a crater in the middle. Add lightly beaten eggs and incorporate into flour with a fork. Once you've taken that as far as it can go, use your hands to incorporate, and knead dough for 10 minutes. If dough is overly dry and won't hang together, add water in small increments. Form into a ball and cover with a damp cloth for 15-20 minutes to rest.


Pumpkin-Ricotta Filling
About 1 1/2 C. pumpkin (roasted and pureed)
1/2 C. ricotta
1/4 C. parmesan, Romano, Locatelli, etc.
Black pepper to taste
4-6 fresh sage leaves, chiffonaded or minced
Few strips of lemon zest, minced

Mix it all together!

Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine with the final roll at the thinnest setting. Scoop filling onto half of sheet, brush sheet lightly with water and cover with other half of dough. Cut with a ravioli stamper, or cut and crimp with a fork.

Boil ravioli for 4-6 minutes or until pasta is al dente.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trip to Iran!


The My Kitchen, My World bloggers traveled to Iran this week, thanks to inspiration from Elra at Elra's Cooking.  I was excited to work with middle eastern flavors again, and after some googling found a scrumptious sounding dish called Khoresht-e Fesenjan. After eating it, it reminds me of a dish called Chicken Pomegranate at La Mediteranee in San Francisco.

I was excited to work with pomegranate, and intrigues by the sauce that is made with reduced pomegranate juice and ground walnuts. The oils come out of the ground walnuts, and the sauce is nutty,sweet/tart, and simply delicious. This was one of those great dishes that I would never think to make on my own, but am so glad I used this opportunity to stretch my culinary horizons, so to speak.


Khoresht-e Fesenjan

4 Servings

1 kg chicken pieces
500 grams Ground walnuts
4 small onions
4 glasses Pomegranate juice (or 5 tablespoons of pomegranate paste)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup of cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 turmeric


Directions:

Pour 5 glasses of hot water in a pan and bring to boil. Add salt, ground walnuts and pomegranate juice or paste. If pomegranate juice or paste is sour, add 2-3 tablespoons sugar to the khoresht.

Turn heat down and let boil slowly for about 45 minutes adding more hot water if needed.

Peel onions and slice thinly. Fry in oil until slightly golden.

Wash chicken pieces and fry in onions with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric until color changes. Add these to the Khoresht and let slowly cook for another 30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake!


Last week, we threw a graduation party for one of the boys in my program.  He's done very well and after a year in our therapeutic program, will be leaving us.  We celebrate completing the program with a party, and the child gets to decide what kind of treat they want.  This boy wanted to have chocolate chip cookies, and my kids get what they want for graduation. I took it upon myself to make him a GIANT cake shaped cookie.  I pressed normal cookie dough into a silicone pan and cooked it for about 20 minutes, till golden.  Turned out beautifully and tasted even better then the regular sized cookies- I may do this more often. (sorry to smudge out the name, but confidentiality, you know)

The boy for whom this was made was so excited when he saw it.  His jaw DROPPED when he saw the cookie and said "is this for me?  I'm going to cry."    I don't know if anyone had ever made him cookies before.  The rest of the kids in the program thought it was awesome too, and tasty.  Just call me Mrs. Fields. 

This cookie was made using the standard Toll House recipe.  Google it. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Arborio Rice Pudding

um, this has been on the stove for several hours.  it is still soupy.  i don't like this recipe.  if you still want to try it, check out les gormandises d'Isa . (warning!  French! and delicious photos will tempt you and you may not be able to read the recipes!)

I really want to say thank you to isabelle, who chose this recipe, but I am a bit bitter about not having rice pudding right now.  perhaps I will be nicer tomorrow. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip To Puerto Rico: Rice and Beans

This (well actually last) week, the bloggers of My Kitchen My World visited Puerto Rico.  Yes I know, not quite a country, but also only a US Territory, and in my mind (and I picked this week) deserved of separate culinary recognition.  
I've never been to Puerto Rico myself, but I knew exactly what I wanted to make: my stepmother's rice and beans.  She is from Puerto Rico and she is a mean cook.  This is my third attempt at her bean recipe and it tastes right, but it still doesn't have the awesome sauce that she gets in her beans - mine are too watery and require hours of cooking down on the stove to thicken them.  She knows exactly the right amount of water for her pressure cooker - I have to practice and find out that magic amount for mine. 


The best thing about the recipe (besides the fact that the beans are great for days) is the addition of squash at the end - it complements the beans fantastically and is a nice way to mix up the meal.


Priscilla's Puerto Rican Beans

This recipe can be used for pinto/pink, kidney, or white beans. Recipe is done with 4 quart pressure cooker. (Cooking without pressure cooker requires that the beans be soaked in water over night and then cooked over moderate heat for approximately 1.5-2 hours. Pressure cooker is better!)

1lb bag of dry beans
1 med onion, chopped finely
5-6 cloves garlic chopped or mashed on mortar
3Tbs olive oil
5-6 sliced pieces of salt pork, ¼ inch thick
1 chunky piece of pancetta or cooking ham (optional)
2 large cooking spoonfuls of tomato sauce
1/2 tps of saffron powder or strands
10 chunky pieces (1.5-2 inches) of banana squash or pumpkin
Fresh Herbs and Condiments (quantity at your liking depending how seasoned you like your beans):
1 green bell pepper, cut in pieces
2Tbs of Spanish Alcaparrado (buy Goya Manzanilla Olives, Pimentos & Capers)
7-10 cilantro leaves (cut off bottom stems)
3 Oregano stems, finely cut
2 Sage leaves, finely cut
(Add herbs that you prefer also)

Place beans in pressure cooker,disgarding any bad beans or stones. Wash beans in cool water, then fill pc to about 3/4 with water. Place pc over high heat and add onions, garlic and pancetta. In small pan, add olive oil. When olive oil is moderately hot, add salt pork and cook until pork is nicely browned. Add salt pork with oil into pc; pour little water over pan and add to pc.

Close pressure cooker tightly with lid. Put pc on high setting and cook at moderate to low heat. Cooking time is approximately 25 minutes for pink beans; 30 minutes for kidney beans; and 8 minutes for small white beans. (Depending on the pressure cooker you have, each has different settings. For beans you want to cook at maximum pressure. Once the pc is cooking, the heat should be lowered. Never cook beans at high heat.) After the cooking time, bring pc over to sink and, with lid closed, let cold water run on lid to gradually lower pressure and cool the pot. Open the pot and taste the beans; they should taste “al dente”, not too hard and not too soft. Disgard the pieces of salt pork and pancetta.


Place pc back on stove over moderate heat. Disgard any fat that will start to rise to the top (this is from the salt pork and pancetta). Add fresh herbs, alcaparrado, saffron, tomato sauce, and salt to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes so beans absorb the taste of the herbs. Afterwards, remove the cilantro leaves from the pot. Add the banana or pumkin pieces and cook until tender. (Squash will thicken the bean sauce.) Beans are ready; serve while hot….By the way, cooked beans are great the day or couple of days after…Just reheat over low heat and add a little water.


Note: If the beans are too hard, you probably didn’t give them enough heat, or the pressure setting was not high enough. In this case, close the lid, put pack on top of stove, and cook under high pressure for an additional ten minutes or so…If the beans are too soft, you probably cooked them over too high heat. In this case, throw the beans away and go out for dinner…no one likes mushy beans…

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review: Tacconelli's Pizzeria

Despite being located in the somewhat unlikely neighborhood of Port Richmond, Tacconelli's Pizzeria has garnered a fair amount of local and national acclaim. Of course, like religion and politics, pizza is one of those topics you don't bring up in polite conversation for fear of someone getting stabbed, so it's all highly subjective, but there is definitely a critical "halo" around this place.

Part of this mystique is the "it's so popular, you have to call ahead to reserve your dough" meme, which inevitably comes up in reviews or conversation, and I guess this is no exception. Well, it's true - this is a neighborhood pizza joint where you need to make a reservation, and not just for a time, but for the number of pizzas you want. Word is that this is because there's a limited amount of space in the oven, and one man running the show in the kitchen, so things get done at the pace they get done and that's just the way it is.

So because of all the brick oven and human factors at play, making a reservation doesn't necessarily mean you'll be seated at that time. When our friend called on Friday, he was told to come "between 8 and 8:30". We were there at about five after eight, just kind of standing in front of the scarecrows and pumpkins in the window and taking in the scene. Aside from all the seasonal decor, it's about as bare bones as it gets in there, though maybe a little bigger than we expected: three main seating areas, jukebox, ice machine, paper plates and cups. Oh, and legions of unsupervised kids running around.

Eight-thirty came and went and we were still standing around. We were still waiting for the last two of our six-person party anyway, and like clockwork, as soon as they showed up at 8:45, we were seated in the side room right in front of the kitchen door. Ordinarily this would not be a prime seating location, but it let us look through the window to see the brick oven action, including what are possibly the world's longest pizza peels.


Once we finally sat down, our waitress was quite friendly and helpful. We knew we wanted to try the Margerita with fresh mozzarella, and a standard sauce-and-cheese pizza, but we were a little lost as to our third one. She suggested the white pizza with spinach and fresh tomato, so we went with that. If you're feeling more adventurous, they do offer the usual suite of toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, etc. - but beware: there is a strict three-topping maximum here, and if you dare violate it, you will be in for a tongue-lashing from your waitress. I don't even want to think about what would happen if you asked for ham and pineapple, but whatever it is, you'd probably deserve it.

Anyway - finally - our pizza started to arrive. The first one out was the white with spinach and tomato.

As you may be able to tell, the crust is super-thin. However, it is incredibly sturdy and verges on cracker-like in texture. The toppings on this one were decent: lots of garlic, nice tomato, but the spinach had a little bit of an overcooked feeling to it. The overall effect was still very good though. We pretty much put away our slices within two minutes of getting them, which is not hard to do when the crust is so thin. (A good way to burn the roof of your mouth, though.)

Next up, the "regular":


As you can see, the pizza is not completely blanketed in cheese. The sauce was on the sweet side, very smooth with no real chunkiness. Still a most satisfying slice that was wolfed down just as quickly as the last.

Finally, the Margerita:


I think this had the same sweetish sauce as the regular, plus fresh basil and mozzarella. I don't know that the cheese was as flavorful as it's been on some other Marg(h)erita's I've had, but still a good eating slice of pizza.

Owing to the thinness of the crust and its overall deliciousness, I have no doubts that I could put away one of these pies single-handedly. But this leads me to a sort of contradictory feeling I have about this place. There is no denying that masterful pizza-making is going on here. In terms of the crust, I think they're close to technical perfection. I may not be a fan of the sweeter-style sauce, but I think it's evident that they're using good quality ingredients. Still, there's a side of me that would rather have something a little greasier, a little floppier, a little more eminently "craveable" than the pizza-as-high-art of Tacconelli's. Even pizza in Naples, where there are purity laws governing what you can and can't call "la vera pizza Napoletana", has this almost carnal quality that I feel was missing last night.

So is Tacconelli's the best pizza in the city? From a technical standpoint, and in my experience, I think it's up there with Osteria. (This was true price-wise as well, which came as a little bit of a surprise since there are no prices on Tacconelli's menu - though to be fair, their pizzas are a bit larger than Osteria's.) Without hesitation, I would recommend that anyone who cares about pizza try it at least once, because it is worth the dough-reserving, waiting-around, drunk-table-from-Jersey-behind-you-yelling hassle. Appreciate it for what it is. But you may find yourself still craving that vulgar, dripping, folded-over slice from the joint on the corner. Because just like life, pizza is sloppy sometimes. This is important.


Tacconelli's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 14, 2008

Review: Maoz Falafel

Maoz makes my favorite falafel in the city, hands down.  It's a Dutch falafel chain that has been in Philadelphia for about 4 years.  Their first store, on South St was joined by a second on Walnut on in 2007.  

Maoz falafels are freshly fried and are crispy, well seasoned, and overall delicious.  Their tasty goodness is complemented by a wonderland of a salad bar where you can add your own veggies to your heart's delight including spicy carrots, cucumbers, olives, tabouleh, onions, and my favorite, fried cauliflower!!! Hummous, Feta, Eggplant, and Avocado are available for an additional fee.  

The falafels come in a regular size (5 balls) and junior (3 balls).  Get the junior- you have more room for veggies and return trips to the salad bar.  You may think the salad platter is the better deal, but you'd be wrong- no return trips on salad.  Here's another trick- while you falafel is frying, ask the dude behind the counter if you can start putting veggies in your pita- this way you can have ultimate distribution of veggies under the falafel as well as on top. Don't forget the tahini and garlic mayo!! Maoz also sells Belgian frites but I advise you skip them and fill up on falafel.

Full disclosure- I first discovered Maoz when visiting my pal Jenny in Amsterdam in 2002.  I declared we would have to eat there every day of my 3 week visit.  Jenny moved to Philadelphia in 2004, and her arrival was followed by the opening of Maoz's first US store!  Hooray!  I was more then thrilled.

Bottom line- go to Maoz.  I don't want to hear about the wonders of Bitars, Mama's, King of Falafel, etc until you have tried Maoz (unless we are talking about the Casablanca truck at Penn because they are a close second).  I am done.  Thank You. t


Maoz Falafel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Diane's Chocolate Cheesecake



Another birthday at work this week and Diane, the newest member of our team, requested Chocolate Cheesecake.  I do love cheesecake, but I've never made a chocolate one.  In fact, I'd never had a chocolate one that I can remember.  The technique was very easy- my basic delicious, dense cheesecake recipe with melted chocolate and cocoa powder added.  

My secret to great cheesecake is to always, always bake in a water bath no matter what the recipe says to avoid grainyness,  and to let the cheesecake cool in the oven with the door ajar to avoid cracking.

This is very rich and very chocolate-y (which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective).  All I know is I'm glad that Diane took the leftovers home with her and that I had a good workout at the gym to burn off my piece!



Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

 Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2006

Ingredients
  1. Crust
  2. 9 oz chocolate teddy grahams or chocolate graham crackers
  3. 1 tablespoon sugar
  4. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  5. Filling
  6. 10 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  7. 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  8. 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  9. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  10. 4 large eggs

Directions

  1. preparation
  2. For crust:
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.
  4. For filling:
  5. Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in processor until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.
  6. Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Sage and Pine Nuts

P and I were debating dinner over IM when this recipe came over my RSS reader.  Argument solved.  This dish was comforting but still unusual.  The squash and ricotta themselves are good, but what makes the dish is the crispy sage, the rich toasty pine nuts, and the fragrant, sage-y oil you pour over everything and brings it all together.  so gooood.


Spaghetti Squash With Ricotta, Sage, and Pine Nuts
adapted from The Kitchn via Serious Eats

Ingredients

  1. 1 small spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
  2. 3/4 cup part skim ricotta
  3. 1 clove garlic, mashed
  4. Olive oil (about 1/2 to 1 full tablespoon)
  5. 6 to 8 fresh sage leaves
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half, place cut side down on a baking dish, and bake until flesh is tender (easily pierced with a fork), about 60 to 75 minutes.
  3. Remove squash from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a little bit of oil in a small pan. Quickly fry sage leaves until crispy but not burnt. Remove sage leave, add pine nuts and roast until golden brown. Remove from oil. Crumble sage leaves into a large bowl and combine with ricotta and garlic. Set aside.
  4. Pull a fork through the flesh of squash to separate and remove the strands from the shell. Add to bowl with ricotta mixture.
  5. Combine squash and ricotta mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf


This week, Yolanda of All Purpose Girl has selected Kugelhopf, a bread that Dorie hails as "half brioche, half cake." The name is kinda funny, but I'm down. I've never made brioche before, so making the dough and incorporating all of that butter was a learning experience for me, which is what this is all about after all, right?  I must say though, oh my God, did this bread need so much time to rise!! For real Dorie, 3 rising periods? Dorie suggests letting the dough rest in the fridge overnight, but I think that stunted the rising in the final period.  Mine didn't rise nearly as much as I thought it would, but I'm okay with that.  It had a nice light texture, a fine crumb, and tasted lovely, if a bit yeasty.  I can't wait to toast it and have it with jam!

Head on over to Yolanda's for the recipe.  See the rest of the TWD creations here.

Review: King of Tandoor

King of Tandoor is a new-ish Indian restaurant on Callowhill street near the Art Museum. There has been an influx of new indian offerings in the city over the last few years.  King of Tandoor may not be the most trendy, but it is certainly a welcome addition.

Having had take out from King of Tandoor several times, last night we ventured there for a meal with friends.  I have tried several dishes and have been satisfied with all of them, but I have to report that I have hit upon a dynamite meal that never fails to amaze and please: puri bahji and saj panir. 

Puri Bahji is a spicy chickpea dish that comes with a delicious puffy bread.  A squeeze of lemon over the chickpeas adds a nice brightness that counters the spice.  The Saj Panir is just a. MAZE.ing.  The panir is house made and it is so fresh it squeaks (in a good way).  The spinach is fresh and creamy and perfectly seasoned.  I could eat this all day.  

P had a mixed tandoor platter which had moist, flavorful chicken.  The lamb and shrimp were a bit overcooked, but still had excellent flavor.  The fresh naan was fluffy and light.

The service is pleasant but a bit spotty: very attentive at times, but it took a long long time to get our check.  Take out is very quick, especially in comparison to some other indian deliveries (ahem, Tiffin).  Prices are comparable to other indian in the area. Overall, I'm a fan, and this in on my delivery go to list.  They also have a $10.95 lunch buffet on weekends that seems to be worth a shot. 



King of Tandoor on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review: August

On a tip from my parents and some rave reviews from the winemaking crew, we decided to try August, a (very) small cash-only BYOB on 13th and Wharton Streets in South Philly. Mystery number one was solved when I called to make reservations and they answered the phone "AU-gust", not "au-GUST". At any rate, I would recommend making reservations as early as possible, as a 9:00 seating was all that was available on Saturday night when I called Thursday to make a reservation.

Once inside, it's clear why snagging a table is so hard - there are a fewer of a dozen in them crammed into this South Philly corner storefront. The low lighting does give it an air of intimacy, though it gets a touch loud when full of diners enjoying themselves.

The concept behind August is "Italian with a twist". The menu is a relatively short one, perhaps befitting the small open kitchen, and most of the Italian influence is concentrated in the three or four pasta entrees offered (and the "Italian-style meatloaf"). Prices are very reasonable with all starters under $10 and most entrees comfortably under $20.

Things started off well with L's pan-seared scallops, served with a lovely pan sauce on a bed of mixed greens. The scallops were perfectly cooked and very flavorful. I went with the beet salad, which was 100% beets with ricotta salata, pistachios and a balsamic vinaigrette. The only disappointment here was the ricotta salata, which was shredded rather than in chunks, depriving me of the salty kick I was hoping to get out of the cheese. Our dining companions M and C shared a simple arugula salad that was nicely done as well.

My entree was a pork chop, bone-in served with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed broccoli. After taking the first bite of the pork, I feared it was overcooked, but once I got into the thicker center of the chop I found it to be cooked just right. The sweet potatoes had a really excellent 
creamy texture to them. L got the filet mignon special which (maybe a little oddly) came pre-sliced with sides of mashed potatoes, sauteed zucchini and a mushroom demiglace. The beef was flavorful and perfectly cooked, and the mashed potatoes seemed to have a nice Parmesan-provided kick to them.

Our friends both had pastas: C had the farfalle with crab, porcini and sun-dried tomatoes in a cream sauce. M went for the penne with shrimp and white beans. We had small tastes of each and thought they were both decent.

For dessert, we split the deep-dish pumpkin pie. The pumpkin filling was good - not too custardy, but rich with a touch of what seemed like brown sugar or molasses.

The verdict? I think if you're in the neighborhood, it's definitely worth a visit. Though the menu is not terribly inventive, execution is very solid, and the prices are more than fair. I would be happy to go back, but maybe not for a little while, as August doesn't offer much that I haven't seen before. That said, we can always use places like this: predictable, affordable, friendly spots where the owners' and chefs' care is evident in the food. In these respects, August proves itself an august example.


August on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 7, 2008

Crystal's Caramel Apple Pie

Wednesday wass the 23rd Birthday of a very special friend and co-worker, Ms. Crystal, a.k.a "the hammer."  She requested a pie, and told me she likes apples and nuts.  We brainstormed and came up with a caramel apple pie with pecans as her birthday treat.  I looked around for various recipes but didn't find one I really liked, so I decided to wing it.  What we have is a standard apple pie, into which I have mixed toasted pecans and cut up caramels. 


 I had no clue what the caramels would do- would the dissolve? Would they clump together? Would they melt, leaving little pockets of gooey caramel?  Who knows?  Well, they dissolved, leaving a delicious caramel-y coating over everything.  It wasn't overpowering, but a nice addition to your normal apple pie.  I wasn't a huge fan of the nuts in it, but hey, it's not my birthday.


Caramel Apple Pie

Your Favorite Pie Crust (I like Martha's Pate Brise)

5 granny smith apples, cored, peeled, sliced
2 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch allspice
pinch salt
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbs butter
15 caramels, quartered
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

preheat oven to 350

roll out pie crust, place bottom crust in pie pan
toss apple slices in a bowl with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, cornstarch.  add caramel pieces and nuts, mix.  Place in pie shell.  scatter pieces of butter on top of apple mixture.  Place top crust over apples, seal edges, cut slits in top crust for venting.  Bake at 350 for around 40 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. place on a rack to cool.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Review: Mad Batter (Cape May, NJ)

The Mad Batter is a great spot for breakfast or brunch in downtown Cape May. Housed in an old victorian-turned-hotel, this restaurant has a front porch, main dining room, and garden terrace that seats year round. They have a fair-sized breakfast menu with enough variety for everyone to be happy but not too much that they over extend or you spend 15 minutes studying the menu and feeling undecided and slightly insane.


P and I shared the Bay Benedict, which is eggs benedict with crabmeat, and a vanilla waffle with pecans. Both were great. The eggs in the benedict were perfectly poached, the crab was good quality jumbo lump, ad the hollandaise was light and lemony. It came with really good, simple home fries that had a good amount of crispy crustiness, which I always like. The waffle was deceivingly light and just sweet enough that the maple syrup didn't over-sweeten it. The nuts were an excellent touch. They also have freshly squeezed juices on the menu, and I really enjoyed my fresh carrot orange.
juice.


The service was fast and friendly. If we are ever in Cape May again, P and I will definitely be back.



The Mad Batter

19 Jackson St
Cape May, NJ 08204
(609) 884-5970

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shamelessly Political Cupcakes: Blue Velvet Obama Cupcakes



 In honor of election day here in this highly contested state of Pennsylvania, I bring you a political dessert. It does reveal a bit about which way I am leaning: blue velvet for the blue that I hope will be sweeping CNN's "magic map" tonight and the Obama logo.   I realized on the drive home the other day that his logo just belongs on a cupcake. C'mon people, it's simple, round, and perfect. Of course, just like all things, it seemed a lot simpler then it turned out to be, but I'm not complaining.  Especially if we win.  


Blue Velvet Cupcakes
adapted from Paula Deen
makes 2 dozen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons blue food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

TWD: Rugelach


This week's TWD recipe is Rugelach, a cookie I had never made before and was excited to try.  Wikipedia tells us this is a Jewish pastry of ashkenazi origin-I think of it as something someone's grandma makes, just not mine.  Now Dorie's recipe has all sorts of crazy stuff in it- jam, nuts, currants, chocolate- I saw it and I thought, too much going on there!!  

I had recieved some apple butter from Andrea of Nummy Kitchen, my Blogging By Mail buddy, and I knew I wanted to put it in this recipe.  So a very fall flavored cookie developed- Apple Butter, Cinnamon Sugar, and Pecans, wrapped up in the flaky cream cheese dough.  Absolutely Heavenly. 

Our host this week is Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal.  Check our her site for the recipe and the other TWD creations here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Warm Sweater Apple Pie- You Want Pies With That?


You Want Pies With That?'s theme this month is Pies as a Fashion Statement. My Answer?  Warm Sweater Apple Pie.  It's getting cold around here and its starting to be sweater weather.  So I thought, how about a pie that looks like a sweater?  Not with arms and all, but looks like it has been knit.   And what's more cozy and fall-like then apple pie?  This was a big "concept pie" for me that didn't necessarily come through in the execution, but oh well, it happens. 

I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law, who is a master knitter (shameless plug for her etsy shop, yarnbeast.)  We actually tried to put the dough on needles and knit it, but, well, dough is not a fiber and does not like to be knit.  This is as close as we came.  It looks like a sweater I might make myself, totally imperfect, full of bumps and dropped stitches.  The edge looked like a nice ribbed cuff before it went in the oven, but dough is a fickle creature.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trip to Germany!


For this week's My Kitchen My World, Roxanne of Roxanne's Road Rules has chosen to take us to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest (okay, we're a few weeks late, but it's still October, so I'm counting it).

I've been to Germany once, and what I remember is this: SPAETZLE.  I had never heard of it before my trip, but I was certainly happy to find it there.  I knew I wanted to make this for our Germany challenge.  I know they make spaetzel makers, but we don't have one.  I did see on TV once that you could use a wide-holed colander just as effectively, but I ended up using a spider since the holes on our colander were too small. 

To go with the spaetzel, we made jaegerschnitzel, which is a veal cutlet topped with a creamy mushroom gravy.  P jazzed up the sauce a bit by adding some cognac, but otherwise we tried to stay true to the recipe and we really enjoyed it!  We don't usually eat German food, so this was a great week for us.


Jaegerschnitzel

INGREDIENTS
All-purpose flour for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 veal steaks or cutlets, pounded thin
1 medium onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup water
2 tbs cognac
1/3 cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS
Pound cutlets thin and dredge in the flour mixed with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry cutlets in the hot oil until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Remove the veal to a platter and keep warm. Add about 2 tbsp flour to the pan juices to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add onion and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Add cognac to deglaze pan, burn off alcohol. Add water, stir. Simmer until reduced by half. Stir sour cream into the skillet. Cook over low heat until thickened but do not boil. Spoon over the pork cutlets and serve immediately.

Spaetzle

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Stir together the flour and salt. Combine eggs and milk; stir into the flour mixture. Put in maker (if you have) or press through holes of a colander or spider.

Take care to let the extruded pieces of dough (the Spätzle) fall into the slightly bubbling water and let them cook for approximately 2-3 minutes. Generally, Spätzle swimming on the surface are sufficiently cooked and may be gathered with a large slotted spoon, drained and placed into a serving dish. Rinse. When ready to serve, heat in brown butter. Makes about 4 cups of Spätzle, which is sufficient as a side dish for 2-3 people.

R2R: Beef Rendang


A few months ago, I went out to dinner with friends and had Beef Rendang for the first time.  Oh My GOD, it was great.  I assumed I would just have to revisit this restaurant over and over again for this dish.  Not so, apparently, as it popped up as the Recipes to Rival Challenge for October!  This is an amazing dish- super tender AND crispy, sweet from the coconut and with a gentle spice from chile and ginger-  check out the recipe here and give it a try!

You'll see it calls for lots of specialty ingredients- galangal, kaffir lime leaves, etc.  There are decent substitutions for a lot of those ingredients that you can find at your local grocery store.  I was able to get by without the galangal, daun salam, and kaffir lime, and used the suggested substitutes of ginger, bay, and lime zest.