Saturday, July 26, 2008

See You In A Week!

There will be no sweet treat this coming week (sorry). I am heading off to my annual pilgramage to Chicoteague Island for some sun, sand, surf, and Pony Pennings.

I think this year I'll be blogging on the local fare, so watch for that post.

While you await my return, I will leave you with something cute (although non food related) to look at.
This is Riddle Me This (just call her Riddle). My mother bought her at the Fireman's Auction two summers ago. She's the sweetest, smartest pony ever and is working hard at going from wild thing to respectable, civilized pony. I hope to start riding her next summer (provided she gets big enough, which may not happen). The best souveniers from Chincoteague have four legs!

(Her blaze is covered by her forelock, but it's the reason why she's called Riddle because it's shaped like a question mark.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet Treat of the Week

This week's Sweet Treat may totally shock you. You may not believe your eyes. You many wonder if you're actually looking at The Essential Rhubarb Pie.

You see, this week's Sweet Treat isn't chocolate.

It's a shocker, I know.

This week's treat comes from Peter of Kalofagas. It's Apricot and Pistachio Cake . (Please don't ask me to say it in Greek). Kalofagas is a highly informative blog showcasing Greek food. Not only is it an educational blog for a novice like me, but Peter also stands behind my belief that there is something terribly wrong with putting pineapple on a pizza.

I found this cake irresistable because I do so dearly love pistachios. If you put a container of pistachio nuts in front of me, chances are it will be empty very soon. It is my love of pistachio nuts that endears Mediterranean desserts to me so much. I love pastries dripping with honey and nuts (although I prefer them without raisins or dates). I saw this cake and knew I would have to show some restraint, buy some pistachios, and make it (if I can't be in the Foodie Joust, at least I can steal the winning recipes). I actually managed to finish making the cake before I had consumed every last nut.
I couldn't get mine to look as good as Peter's.

The cake wasn't too difficult to make. There were a few steps, but nothing I couldn't handle. I was a little confused as to when to add the ground ginger, but I put it in with the apricot puree. The butter/flour/egg mixture was a little stiff - almost a like a cookie dough, which terrified me when it came time to fold the egg whites in. I feared deflating them and getting a pancake since the eggs were the cake's only leavening. I took heart that Peter's photo didn't show a particularly tall cake and soldiered on.

The resulting cake is nicely fruity and nutty, and despite the abudance of honey in the syrup, not overly sweet. It is perfectly complemented by a cup of tea.

I didn't bother feeding it to Sir Pickypants since he doesn't like apricots and won't eat yogurt (I confess to not being fond of the stuff myself, but come on! Look at this cake!) I took it to work and half of it was gone within the first half hour at the office. I got at least one of glowing review from a coworker.

I'd say success!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Those Wonderful Sentimental Gifts

Due to everyone having crazy schedules, it will take more than a week to celebrate my birthday with my parents. I won't see Dad till this coming Friday and Mom invited me over to her place for a pizza/pool party this past Friday.

Her first gift to me was the new R.E.M. CD (she was having trouble coming up with a gift, so I asked her for it. Not a real surprise) but then she gave me something else.

Growing up, I noticed Mom tended to refer to her oldest and most classic cookbooks when she needed a very basic recipe for something. I noticed that she used this one a lot (along with the venerable Joy of Cooking).

I'm sure everyone recognizes this. The red-checked cover has been consistent over many editions.

As I began cooking and baking, I followed Mom's lead and pulled out this book too. It's really a fun cookbook for the classic kitsch value.

Check out the 50s-era illustrations. Every chapter has one.

This photo looks like it could star in the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Food photography wasn't that great in those days, was it?

However, a photo of butterscotch rolls inspired me to make my first sticky buns. I made both these buns and classic cinnamon rolls one day. It was my first venture into yeast.

Speaking of ventures into yeast, I made my first bread from this book too. Here is the wholewheat bread recipe I used.

I also used this book for all kinds of sweet recipes. I made homemade chocolate pudding from this book. I made brownies and cupcakes from this book. This really was a go-to book for me.

Mom inscribed the book for me. She signed it right above where my grandmother signed it back in 1961.

I couldn't get a clear photo. The dark writing is Mom's inscription to me. You can see faint writing under it where my grandmother inscribed it to my mother. That would have been before she married my father and was young enough to need to learn to start cooking and meal planning one day.

Although the pages are delicate, I do think I'll probably be pulling out this book for some classic recipes. Maybe it will be sticky buns or bread or brownies. Maybe I'll cook that slab of meat from the photo. :-D

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Meme

1. Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater?
I don't really remember. I don't have time to go to movies.

2. What Book Are You Reading?
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

3. Favorite Board Game?
Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit

4. Favorite Magazine?
Food and Wine, Practical Horseman, Mad

5. Favorite Smells?
Lilacs, chocolate desserts baking, fireplaces, honeysuckle, cedar

6. Favorite Sounds?
Rain, music, water/ocean

7. Worst Feeling In The World?
Noticing a new gray hair, stepping on the scale and seeing a weight gain, finding your favorite outfit is too tight.

8. First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
Phew. I didn't have to take that test in quantum physics in my underwear.

9. Favorite Fast Food Place?
I never really eat fast food anymore. Thank you Eric Schlosser!

10. Future Child's Name?
I don't know. My criteria for naming a child are 1. the name can't be in the top 20 most popular names (so the kid isn't one of a million Michaels or Emilys in his class) and 2. It has to sound like a FIRST NAME. If it's not your family's last name, don't use a last name as your kids first name. This goes double if the name in question is the name of a city, a state, or a US president.

It's a moot point though since Kevin and I have waffled on the kid issue for 7 years and my biological clock is in the process of winding down. I don't think kids are in the future. I'm OK with child free.

11. Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money, I'd...
Take that riding holiday in Italy that I've been putting off all of these years.

12. Do You Drive Fast?
Yes, but not crazy fast

13. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
You mean like when my husband is horny and had too much to eat?

No.14. Storms—Cool or Scary?
Cool, but they can get scary when they're really close and you are hoping your home doesn't get struck by lightning.

15. What Was Your First Car?
1980 Ford Granada

16. Favorite Drink?
Water. If you're talking alcoholic I like cosmos, margaritas, Mike's and whatever wine I'm in the mood for.

17. Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…
Spend more time with my filly and be more involved with her training. I would also do more theater projects.

18. Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli?
Only the upper stems

19. If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be?
I'm pretty happy with my natural hair color. However, that's that color I'll be dyeing it soon as the grays keep cropping up.

20. Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived
Harrison NY, Larchmont NY, Mamaroneck NY, Elizabethtown, PA (college)

21. Favorite Sport to Watch?
I don't really enjoy watching other people play sports, even sports I enjoy doing.

22. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You
Em is an amazing baker and totally funny.

23. What’s Under Your Bed?
Luggage mostly. Perhaps a monster or two.

24. Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again?

25. Morning Person or Night Owl?
Morning person. See how early I comment on your blogs.

26. Over Easy or Sunny Side Up?
Either one. Depends on my mood

27. Favorite Place to Relax?
In the kitchen or at the barn.

28. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Bellvale Bog or Meadow Muffins from the Bellvale Creamery.

29. Of All the People You Have Tagged, Who Is the Most Likely to Respond First?
???? I need to widen my blogfriend circle a bit.

Okay I will tag

Nik Snaks
Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy
We Are Never Full

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Won't Keep You in Suspense Any Longer

I had a really awesome birthday yesterday. After a lovely facial at Bliss (courtesy of my brother-in-law and his family) I joined Kevin at his office and he revealed where we were going.

To my surprise, he hadn't really carefully planned dinner or made any reservations. He knows I love Thai Food, so he had thought Yum Yum Bangkok Thai would be the best bet as it's right down the street from his office. It was crowded and we didn't get a good table. The people at the table behind us were loud and obnoxious. We decided to leave. It wasn't a good birthday dinner restaurant.

Restaurant Row was right on the way to the theater so Kevin thought we should just try someplace there we had tried before. He suggested Joe Allen of course, but he also suggested Becco. I was of two minds on that. I love Lidia, but I have not heard all that many good things about Becco. Kevin ate there once with some of his clients and liked it though.

We ended up at Lattanzi. We went there once before. If you can believe this, we had gone there for a "sedar" with my stepmother's family. They do a fake (read non-Kosher) Passover menu. Ironically, the fake Passover menu didn't appeal to that many people and most of us ordered off the regular menu that day. Kevin and I really liked the food, so we decided to keep it in mind for future pre-theater dinners. We hadn't done a very good job of keeping it in mind because we didn't think of it immediately when Yum Yum didn't pan out. I spotted it when we walked by and remembered it then. I said we should go for it.

We had a nice meal. I didn't bring a camera, so it's all about description.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated. The front dining room is fairly standard, but the back room is gorgeous. It has a skylight and is decorated to look like a courtyard in an Italian villa. It overlooks an outdoor patio as well. I actually didn't eat there last night, but ate there the first time we had dinner at Lattanzi.

Service was incredibly quick and efficient. They asked us when we walked in if we were going to the theater, so everything was prompt, but it was also friendly.

For my appetizer, I tried carpaccio for the first time. It's weird that meat-lover like me has never had carpaccio, but somehow it was just never one of those things I ever got around to odering in a restaurant. I don't know what took me so long. I resent the 38 years I went withtout eating it. The slices of beef just melted in my mouth and they were a perfect foil to the spicy arugula beneath.

My main course was a delicious plate full of artichoke gnocchi. Have I mentioned lately how much I love gnocchi? Kevin ordered them too.

I went with a classic for dessert. I had a nice, rich, dense chocolate mousse. Kevin and I were supposed to be sharing it, but it was my birthday after all...

The surprise Broadway show? Spring Awakening. Great show, great performers, and some of the best music ever to be played on a Broadway stage. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

Back to real life for now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sweet Treat of the Week

I love scones. It's a little weird that I like them so much because my preference for desserts tends to lie with the gooey and moist and soft and chewy or creamy. Scones are dry and crumbly. There is just something about that crumbliness, particularly when they're rich and buttery. They sort of melt in your mouth. They are also great with tea and coffee in the way hard biscotti are best served with sweet wine.

Adam of Baking with Dynamite created a recipe that combines my love of scones with my love of chocolate. I like BWD because it assures me I can be a healthy gym rat and still indulge my love of baking. (Come on, look how buff this guy is.) Besides, the scone recipe post also indulges my geek side.

The recipe was a bit tricky because it's like me to screw something up. This time around I neglected to add the chips (mixed dark and milk leftover from a couple of other recipes) at the correct time and ended up adding them at the end. I was also afraid the dough was a bit overworked. By some miracle, they came out just fine. They weren't too tough and the chips didn't all sink to the bottom.

Overall, they were pretty tasty - a perfect foil to an afternoon cup of tea - or better yet some clotted cream. They did have a fairly dry texture, so I highly recommend some tea or coffee with them. (I actually considered buying some clotted cream at Whole Foods to make a really indulgent snack, but at $6 a jar, I decided against it.) They are inspiring me to make scones more often.

And now for something completely different...

It's my birthday tomorrow. I am eagerly anticipating my surprise celebration. I told my husband that a really nice gift would be some theater tickets. Later that day he told me "Plan to spend your birthday in the city." I don't know what show we're going to see (I told him my top choices were Spring Awakening or the South Pacific revival) and I also don't know where we're having dinner. It's all a big surprise. Our favorite pre-theater restaurant is Joe Allen's, but I'm wondering if we'll go a little more upscale for my birthday (I guess that might depend on how good the theater seats are) and where we would go. It's so exciting!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sweet Treat of the Week

The tradition of a weekly summer sweet treat continues. This week I have chosen Emiline of Sugar Plum's Gourmet Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I love chocolate chip cookies, and it can be hard to improve upon a classic, but Em is up to the task. Sugar Plum is a blog that never ceases to amaze me because it's hard to believe someone so young could have such an amazing collection of recipes - and they're all her own. Inventing my own baking recipes is often a hair-raising enterprise for me. It's equally scary to share those recipes with others. Yet here is someone many years my junior who manages to crank out something delicious out of her own head prolifically. I know she is going to go far in her culinary career.

This recipe deviates a bit from the standard cream-the-butter-and-sugar-together-and-add-the-eggs-and-flour formula. Instead browned butter is added to the sugar and eggs, while something almost like a pie dough is made with a stick of solid butter and then gently added to the sugar. There is a flavor and texture dimension here that is a little different from the norm. More depth of texture and flavor comes from the use of chocolate chunks with cocoa nibs along with the toasted nuts. Your mouth discovers something different as you eat these.

My version came out pretty well. I wished I had done some things differently. I over-toasted some of the nuts. I also think I could have browned the butter a little more. The first batch I took out of the oven were a little flat, but the second batch came out as beautiful, soft mounds with a nice crispy edge.
My husband's verdict was that they were wonderful.

I brought them to work with me and and they were gone in under two hours - first thing in the morning. I guess everyone else is much easier on my baking than I am.

Ice cream. Carnivals. Cookies. You folks must all think I never eat anything nutritious. Let me share some stuff I bought at Rogowski Farm over the weekend.

Check out these carrots. They were colorful, but tiny. I wish I had photographed them next to something that would show the scale. The green tops on these carrots were about 10 times the size of the carrots themselves before I broke them off and gave them to my horses. The horses had a feast.

The first baby squashes of the year. Aren't they adorable?

I sliced these veggies up, grilled them on a grill pan, and put them on a bed of very spicy arugula with some peppered goat cheese. All of it came from the farm.

See? I can eat healthfully!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I Scream, You Scream

July is National Ice Cream month (just in case I didn't have enough reasons to love the month of my birth), so in that Honor Nik Snacks is hosting the I Scream, You Scream Blogging Event. I adore making ice cream, so this was one I had to jump on.
Is there anyone here who saves the crunchies for last when he or she eats ice cream cake? Come on, is there anyone who doesn't? There is something special about those ice cream crunchies isn't there? I love it when some kind ice cream parlor makes an ice cream that has those crunchies directly in there.

Bellvale Creamery used to do this. They made an ice cream called Black Dirt Blast (in honor of the Black Dirt region of Orange County, NY, that is famous for its high quality onions). It consisted of dark chocolate ice cream, with a "coffee finish", chocolate cake crunchies, and toffee bits. It was to die for, but they discontinued it at the end of last season and didn't bring it back. I decided for Nik's blogging event, I would try to do my own version of it.

I'm not sure what they meant by "coffee finish", but I figured I could add a little coffee to the ice cream base to see what happened. Ina Garten always adds coffee to her chocolate recipes. Why couldn't I? I added a tablespoon of instant espresso granules to my ice cream base.

The hard part was making the cake crunchies. How do you get those little crumbles? I had a package of chocolate wafer cookies, but they weren't quite the right consitency. Then I had an idea. What if I baked them up into a chocolate wafer crust and crumbled it, sort of like Cold Stone uses a graham cracker pie crust? That might be close.

I used an entire package of cookies and about a half a stick of melted butter. I patted the mixture into a pan and bake it 10 minutes. The consistency wasn't exactly what I was going for.

If I were to do this again, I think I would use fewer crumbs, more butter, and freeze the crust before crumbling it. In the end, I liked the chocolate crust bits, but they weren't like cake crunchies.

The next difficulty I had was that my local supermarket had NO TOFFEE. There wasn't a single toffee candy on the shelves. I looked for something else that would have a nice sticky-sweet chewy consistency.

Now for the recipe....

Dark Chocolate Toberlone Crunch Ice Cream

1 package chocolate wafer cookies
4 Tbl butter, melted
1 Toblerone bar, broken into pieces. (Freeze it first and it will smash pretty cleanly)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbl instant coffee granules
3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbl Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cookies crumbs with melted butter and press into 8x8 pan. Bake about 10 minutes or until hard. Allow to cool. Break into pieces.

Melt chocolate with 1/2 cup milk, stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy and thick.

In a saucepan dissolve coffee granules with milk and bring to a boil. Gradually stir it into the egg-sugar mixture and return the whole thing to the pan on the stove and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil. Add the chocolate mixture.

Strain the custard into a large bowl that contains that heavy cream. Stir together and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate several hours or until cold.

Freeze chilled mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions. When it is a nice soft-serve consitency, gently stir in the cookie crust and Toblerone bits. Transfer to freezer until ready to serve.

It may not be the prettiest ice cream I have ever made, but it is completely addictive!

So how did Kevin and I spend our 4th?

Loser geeks that we are, we had no one but each other to spend the evening with, so we had dinner at the Fireman's Carnival. Let's see what's cooking.

Call them zeppoli. Call them pizza fritta. Whatever you call them, call them delicious. I also call them fattening. With a swimsuit vacation coming in three weeks, I made a superhuman effort and just said no. I told my mother this the next day and she took my temperature.

Garden Catering, my favorite deli provided burgers, dogs, their famous Chicken Nugget and French Fry "Special" and lots of sausage and steak wedges. (Around these parts it's called a WEDGE. Got that? If you call it a hoagie, you will be laughed at. If you call it a sub they will tolerate it - barely).

A mexican deli I have never heard of provided some Tex Mex, some barbecue items, and corn on the cob. It looked pretty tasty.

However, our good friends at Rani Mahal had a booth there as well, serving up chicken tandoori, chicken tikka masala, and some vegetarian options as well.

I had some tandoori chicken, naan, rice, and one of the best lamb samosas I have ever eaten.

Hope everyone had a great 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's Summer! Time for the weekly sweets

In the summertime I usually am not burdened by things like play rehearsals and dance classes, so I have more evenings free to spend in the kitchen. Last year I decided to use that extra time to bake something new each week and share it with my office. The idea was to challenge myself a little as well as endear myself to my office just a bit more. (The brown stuff on my nose is just chocolate- I swear).

I have decided to revive that tradition this summer, but this year I'm putting a twist on it. I'm using only recipes that I find on other people's blogs. So many of you out there have such great recipes and I keep saying, "I want to try that in the future." Well, no time like the present. I am going through those bookmarked recipes and start baking.

There are some blogs that have multiple recipes I want to try (I'm looking at you Em), but I'm sure there are others that I don't even know about. If you feel you want your favorite dessert recipe to be represented here, please feel free to suggest it (especially if I haven't visited your blog yet so I can make some new friends while I'm at it). However, if your favorite recipe is carrot cake or oatmeal cookies, I'm afraid they won't be making it onto TERP. I will only bake desserts that I would eat myself.

This week's recipe comes courtesy of Bellini Valli and More Than Burnt Toast. MTBT, is an amazingly prolific blog. It's hard to keep track of the wonderful recipes that are constantly being posted there. Just this week Val informed her readership that she hadn't participated in this month's Daring Baker's challenge due to working 7 days a week at a camp for disabled children. Besides the fact that it's a wonderful thing that she's doing, I still find it amazing that she's posting recipes with the same regularlity as always.

I chose her delicious-looking recipe for Crater Banana Bread. It's a rich and sweet concoction, filled with chocolate chips. I did tweak the recipe a bit because I had an unused package of mini semi-sweet chips leftover from my not baking for the company picnic. I used those in place of the milk chocolate chips the recipe calls for. I don't think it suffered much.

I did have one little mishap while baking these. After cracking in the second egg, I lost my grip on the empty shell and it fell back into the bowl with the mixer running. I went to switch it off quickly and accidentally turned it up higher, cracking the shell further. I was panicked about having to start over. I had used the last of my butter and sugar. I would either have to give up, go shopping, or see if I could get the eggshell out of the batter.

With a sharp eye and a small miracle, I did manage to get all of the eggshell out of the cake. Everything was just fine.

I brought the cake into work and it was gone in two hours. I received many kudos, which I do want to pass on to Val as well.

I think even if my photo had been better focused, it still would not have looked as good as Val's did. At least it still tasted good.
The cake was so easy that I had plenty of time to go and watch my town's annual 4th of July Fireman's Parade.