Thursday, December 31, 2009
I won't be online much this weekend, so I wanted to make sure that I wished all of my readers a happy new year before the parties all start.
At this time of year I always like to make my acknowledgements. My blog is about finding inspirtation. It's about my belief that every recipe is a story. Sometimes I find inspiration in an ingredient. Sometimes I find it in recipes I see out in the world that I want to adapt. Other times I'm inspired by a recipe on a blog that is just too perfect not to make.
I always love opportunities to meet other bloggers. I was thrilled that this year I had a chance to meet two. I had one really great blogger lunch, and one short encounter (and they were both in Chelsea Market).
I always acknowledge and link the blogs I use when I post them here, but I still like to give a year-end shout-out and thanks to everyone who gave me a recipe during the year.
This year I would like to thank:
Sugar Plum (Oreo Cream Cheese Brownies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Cinnamon Hazelnut Brownies, Nutella Hazelnut Cookies)
Closet Cooking (Halibut with Dill)
My Tasty Treasures (Pierogi Lasagna)
Noble Pig (Asian Noodle Salad with Peanuts and Mint, Dinner Rolls for a Crowd)
Zen Can Cook (Cauliflower Puree with Brown Butter)
We Are Never Full (Agrodolce Sauce)
Bunny's Warm Oven (Cherry Cheese Crumb Bars)
Clumbsy Cookie (Greenies)
Baking & Beyond (Chicken Tortilla Soup)
Fun & Food (Spinach Fettucini with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce)
Tartlette (Transatlantic Squares - my most ambitious dessert recipe all year)
Thanks for all of your inspiration folks. Many of you who weren't explicitly listed here still may have inspired my blog with your recipes ideas and ingredients, even if I didn't pilfer your recipes outright, so thanks for your friendship, your entertaining writing, and your inspiration!
Happiest of New Years to you all!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Anyway, we've now fallen into that dead zone between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so not much is going on food wise for me. We're spending a three-day weekend in NJ, in an area close to our hearts. We have reservations at a Bed & Breakfast. We are having New Year's Eve at the home of a good friend who lives nearby. We hope that on Saturday night we can have dinner at our beloved Iron Forge Inn.
So with all of that planned for the weekend, I just want to keep it simple and perhaps make something I can eat for all three nights I'll be home this week.
Chili would do that job nicely!
I made mine with turkey, pinto beans, and poblano peppers with a touch of chipotle. It's not a particularly interesting chili. I have no special familiy recipe. I just put together a few things I thought would be good in a pot of chili.
I made a little cornbread to go with it too. I'm sorry for the lack of color. I really need to get over my obsession with pinto beans. They made for a very beige chili. I just like them better than kidney beans.
Just so you know, I always like to bake a little something for the NYE party, even though I don't have to. This year I'm making Emily's Cinnamon Hazelnut Brownies. Emily is gaining celebrity status in my family. I make so many of her recipes that I no longer have to explain where I get my recipes from. I just say, "It's one of Emily's recipes," and everyone understands. Most of all when I say it, everyone is happy because everyone else loves Emily's recipes now too.
1.5 pounds ground turkey
1 large onion, diced
2 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp chipotle powder
Salt to taste
1 cup chicken stock (optional)
Cook onions in a little olive oil (or use a more neutral flavored oil if you prefer). Add chopped peppers and garlic and cook until onions are transparent and everything is soft. Add turkey, breaking up as you cook it, until no longer pink.
Add tomatoes, beans, and chipotle powder to the pot. Season with salt to taste. Cook for about two hours, or until the flavors have fully developed and mellowed to your liking.
If you feel too much liquid has evaporated, feel free to add some chicken stock to the pot.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Dinner was baked ziti, sausage and peppers, beef tenderloin, and The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. (Mom just can't stay away from that recipe. She loves it.) The first two items were my idea. The tenderloin was something my mother decided to add in there knowing how many people enjoy it. I'd say it came from left field because my mother is loath to eat beef tenderloin unless it's way overcooked. (My father tells me she used to love her meat bloody rare until she became pregnant with my brother.)
A very yummy plateful. Mom did a fantastic job.
I provided dinner rolls. I used the Noble Pig Dinner Rolls For a Crowd recipe. These suckers are majorly addictive. Good thing the recipe makes so many because we were all just snarfing these like popcorn. Thanks for the recipe, Cathy!
Then we had dessert. Ah dessert. Few desserts are more perfect than my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. There are many delicious Choco-PB cakes out there, but this one tops them all. It's like a giant Reese's cup. It comes from Elaine Corn's brilliant book, Gooey Desserts, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I'm not sure if the book is still in print, so I'll be kind to you (if not to the author) and provide the recipe.
There were also Mom's famous Meltaway cookies (also called Russian Tea Cakes, Moon Cookies, and Mexican Wedding Cookies) and she also made Ina Garten's "Fruitcake Cookies".
Even Mom's cat Tippy wanted a piece of the action.
My fridge is full of leftovers. Life is good.
Now for the promised recipe.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
4 Tbl melted butter
For PB Layer
10 graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted, soft butter
2 cups crunchy peanut butter
For Chocolate Layer
11 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a springform pan with cooking spray. Mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a springform pan and bake 6 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.
Make the peanut butter layer. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until just mixed. Spread over the crust. Chill (the cake, not you, but you can chill if you want to).
Now start on the chocolate layer. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Place the egg yolks in a double boiler. I give them a little beating. Bring the cream to a boil and slowly add it to the yolks. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Pour chocolate over peanut butter layer and chill several hours or overnight until the cake is nice and firm.
Monday, December 21, 2009
When it comes to cooking inspiration, I get it from many places. I might see a recipe on a blog or on TV and I want to use it right away. Sometimes I might want to make that recipe exactly as is. Other times I might want to tinker with the ingredients. I might start seeing a certain ingredient repeatedly on TV or in books or blogs and I find myself wanting a way to cook it for myself. There are other times I just see a new ingredient in the store or the farmer's market and I find myself compelled to cook it.
More than one of my blogs has had some complaints about how holiday meals can be a little boring for me. I've often longed to be fancy - or at the very least get out of the ham and turkey rut. It doesn't happen much. I should consider myself lucky that my family no longer feels obliged to make Christmas Eve all about fish. When I see someone serve a Christmas goose, or a standing rib roast, I imagine the day when I can prepare a totally wild and different Christmas feast.
This year I'm spending Christmas Eve at Mom's, where we will be feasting on some Italian-American favorites (more on that in future posts) and Christmas Day with Dad (going out to dinner at Istana at the NY Palace Hotel). I'll be having some very different experiences, but none of it will fulfill my seemingly failed resolution to cook something I've never cooked before.
Then one day while browsing the meat department of Whole Paycheck, I saw it.
I've eaten pheasant exactly once before. Kevin had ordered it as part of a prixe fixe menu when we had a spectacularly awful dinner at San Domenico. I remember eating an overpriced and overcooked steak, while tasting a bit of that pheasant. It was way too salty, but the meat was pretty good. I am not one to shy around from game birds. If I went through 2009 without ever making a duck, at least I could make up for it by making a pheasant.
So last night I had a pre-Christmas dinner, sitting by the twinking lights of my tree, eating the kind of meal I have fantasized about making. What a way to get the Christmas spirit going!
I had to research some pheasant cooking methods. The consensus seemed to be that a young pheasant could be roasted like a duck, but it was better to cook an older one in liquid. I had no idea how old my pheasant was, so I went with cooking it in wine.
I cut my pheasant into four pieces. I cooked some bacon in olive oil and got some nice bacon grease going. Then I salted and peppered my bird and gave it a good browing in the fat and removed it.
I didn't do too bad of a hack job cutting this thing up. I know it wasn't professional butchery, but I managed to get the thing apart without too much damage.
Onions and mushrooms got a nice cooking through. Then the pheasant went back in with some strong red wine, bay leaves, and thyme leaves.
Cook through, reduce the sauce a bit, and add just a splash of cream.
Serve with mashed potatoes* and green beans (which I sadly left in the steamer too long).
So how was it? The meat was good, but not so different from chicken as to be worth the effort. It's not nearly as delicious as duck. It was also difficult to remove the meat from the bones while eating. It was messy, and there were even some projectile moments where a dead pheasant found himself flying again (or at least bits of him). If I want to cook another small bird in the future, I may just stick to game hens.
The sauce, however, was divine. It's a keeper for future recipes. I read the pheasant stands up well to strong reds, so I used a lovely red bordeaux that really cooked into a delicious sauce.
Pleasant Pheasant (Pheasant Cooked In Red Wine)
1 3lb pheasant cut in four pieces
2 strips bacon, cut in pieces
1 Tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
8oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups strong red wine
3 bay leaves
1 Tbl fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
In a large pan, cook bacon and olive oil until bacon is crisp. Brown the pheasant in the fat on both sides.
Remove pheasant pieces and keep warm. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the onions are translucent.
Mix wine with the thyme and bay. Add the pheasant halves back into the pan with the wine. Simmer until pheasant is cooked through. Remove phesant and keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce by half. Add cream and stir till thickened. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
Serve sauce over pheasant.
*A note on the mashed potatoes
I considered just writing out a recipe for Mashed Poato Variation #78962, but I was pretty inexact with the measurments when I cooked them. I felt that the method was worth mentioning though because SPP said they were the best mashed potatoes I ever made. They are probably the most heart-attack-inducing ones as well.
I cooked 4 yukon gold potatoes. I took a big hunk of butter (less than a whole stick, but more than half) and 4 sliced shallots and cooked them together (think pierogi topping). I mashed that stuff into my 'taters with about a half a cup of warm heavy cream. Add plenty of salt and pepper.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I've been feeling uninspired as of late. My inability to come up with new recipes isn't just about perfecting old recipes for a potential future book. I just haven't had many ideas.
Well, thank goodness for other bloggers because when things seem to be at their darkest point, there is always a blogger who leads me in the right direction.
This time it was, as it often is, Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full. They always have such interesting recipes that I either want to emulate, or at least try to
The pork roulade they featured is beautiful, but it's a little much for just me to eat, and it was also a little too much work for a Friday night. I decided to simplify it with a sausage-stuffed pork chop. It was my intention to make it as close to their recipe as possible, likely ommitting the chestnuts in the interest of time and possibly replacing them with some dried fruit. I really wanted to use the pistachios though. Unfortunately, there was not a green nut to be had in the store. I knew I had some pine nuts at home. How about some of those? Maybe some orange zest would be good with that. Then add a little of that orange flavor to the cider?
By the time I had formulated the recipe in my head, I had strayed pretty far from my original inspriation. What I ended up with was a pork chop stuffed with sausage, onion, bread crumbs, and pine nuts, and seasoned with orange zest and cinnamon. The sauce was cider also with a splash of orange juice then jazzed up with a touch of cream.
I found inspiration and I took a strange journey to two entirely new recipes!
Sausage-Stuffed Pork Chops
4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops
1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (if you can't find bulk, buy links and remove from casings)
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl pine nuts
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbl cider vinegar
1/4 cup cream
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together sausage, zest, cinnamon, bread crumbs, and pine nuts. Set aside.
Using a small, sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chop. Start with a small slit and then move your knife while it's inside the chop towards the edges. Do not cut all the way through.
Fill the pockets with the sausage mixture. You will have some leakage outside, but go with it. You want these chops nice and full and the leakage shows what deliciousness hides inside. You will likely have some stuffing left over, so be happy about the sausage patty you're having for breakfast tomorrow.
Heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper and brown them well on both sides - about 5 minutes per side.
Place chops in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Use a meat thermometer! You want to make sure that stuffing reaches 160 degrees.
While chops are in the oven, mix together OJ, cider, and vinegar. Remove chops from pan and keep warm. Add cider mixture to the pan and scrape up the brown bits. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until reduced down. Stir in cream and let sauce thicken up. Pour over pork chops.
Scallops in Orange-Balsamic Sauce
1 Pound Sea Scallops
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
5 sage leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
Bring OJ, vinegar and herbs to a boil in a small sauce pan and reduce for a couple of minutes.
Heat olive oil and 1 Tbl of butter in a skillet. Dry the scallops with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook scallops about a minute or two on each side until no longer translucent. Remove to plate.
Put the juice mixture in the pan and deglaze. Add another tablespoon of butter. Pour mixture over scallops.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
We all climbed into the car together and set out for New Jersey. The rain was barely spitting when we left New York.
We reached 287 in New Jersey and suddenly traffic began to slow. It had to slow. The rain, which had been steadily increasing since we left home, was freezing onto the highway. Accidents were everywhere. Eventually everything came to a standstill. The road was closed. We sat stopped on the highway for 2 hours, seeing an exit ahead of us, but unable to drive forward to get onto it. We were hungry and frustrated. The fire trucks finally opened the exit, but there was no time at the barn for us. It was too late and too dangerous to do anything but turn around and go home.
It was still raining like crazy when we finally arrived at home and we were really super hungry. We needed to eat and we wanted something close by. I suggested Hector's Village Cafe, a Peruvian restaurant, that is one of the 9 new restaurants in my neighborhood.
For many years the corner where Hector's stands was a small "greasy spoon" type of luncheonette. About a year ago new management took over and added some improvements to the place and also added some Latin offerings to the standard coffee shop menu. Eventually they bought the empty store next door and expanded that into a small restaurant. It is conveniently across the street from my building, but we hadn't ever eaten there. With the rain coming down hard and no desire to walk very far, Hector's was a logical choice for dinner on Sunday.
You have to walk through the adjoining luncheonette to get into the restaurant portion. I didn't take a picture of the area, but it's simply and warmly decorated with terracotta walls, a few Incan tsotchkes, and some paintings on display for sale from the antique store across the street. There weren't many other customers there when we arrived, which always makes Kevin nervous, but we stayed.
Like every other new restaurant in the neighborhood, they just can't seem to get a liquor license in a timely manner (I have a pet theory about why this happens), so the sangria on the menu was out of the question. Instead we had the specialty fruit punch made with purple corn, ginger, apple juice, and grape juice. Very tasty. I have pictured it with our bread basket.
See that green stuff in the bread basket?
I don't know what it was. I thought it might be guacamole. It wasn't. It seemed to be made entirely of hot peppers with maybe a little parsley. My mouth was on fire just spreading a little of it on my bread.
We ordered our entrees. Kevin had Peruvian fried rice. That had several options for what you could have in your rice. He chose a seafood combination. He enjoyed it, despite eating it in an empty restaurant.
I had a short rib served with beans and rice. My short rib reminded me a bit of the steak I had at Roasted Peppers. Like the steak, tt was well-prepared (melt-in-the-mouth tender), but also like that steak, it lacked seasoning. The beans were kind of bland too. I tasted some kind of interesting flavoring in them, but they needed more of it. I ended up mixing some of that hot pepper stuff in them (I wondered if that was the reason they gave it to us in the first place.) I guess I expect food from any Latin American cuisine to be spicy. I don't know enough about Peruvian food to know if it's common for it to be seasoned so underwhelmingly. Is it always that way, or is this a way to keep the gringos from being scared off? It's not as if they don't offer spicy condiments (that green stuff!) Kevin didn't think his dish was underseasoned, so perhaps it was just the dish I ordered.
Service was great and food was definitely a little different from everything else in the neighborhood. Other than the lack of seasoning the food was decent and affordable. I would definitely go back and see what else they have to offer.
When I heard she published a cookbook, I thought it would be nice to get it. I put it on my Amazon wish list. My mother, the woman from whom I inherited my desire to get Christmas shopping done extra early, bought it for me right away. Although she tried to not look at it, she couldn't resist the photos. When she needed a mashed potato recipe to take to Thanksgiving dinner, she used the PW version (and it was gooooood).
I told her a few days later that I was thinking of going to the city for the booksigning, with hopes I might meet up with a few other bloggers. She had to make the confession she already bought me the book. When she told me how much she liked it, I told her to just keep it. I would have bought the book anyway.
I find it so funny that a health nut with vegetarian leanings like my mother would like the Pioneer Woman, but I guess that's a testament to the writing style and photography. I know the recipes on that blog aren't everyone's cup of tea, and not everyone likes that whole "folksy" deal either, but she does what she does very well. I have to say that folksy or not, she usually has impeccable grammar. Too many bloggers out there don't know the proper usage of lie and lay and it irks me.
I arrived at 10:40 for an 11 AM booksigning at Posman Books in Chelsea Market. The line was already out the door, going down the hallway, looping back up the hallway behind the store.
Then it was cut off across the main passageway and continued down another hall.
I always think of Pioneer Woman as having the most appeal for midwestern housewives, yet here we were in NYC and the masses were gathered. I can guarantee most of those women there weren't housewives.
I managed to do some chatting on line with folks. I had been hoping to meet some bloggers I actually knew, which didn't happen. I did talk to a couple of people who were familiar with my blog! Wow! It's hard to believe I have any renknown with strangers.
Sometime around 1PM I got my book signed. I had no idea what to say to her. I didn't want to just stand there and be silent, but I didn't want to be a gushing fan who would tell her for the 1000th time, "OMG. I love your blog!" I gave her the anecdote about my mother. She told me to send Mom her regards.
Was it worth the trek to the city on one of the coldest days in December during the worst time of year for crowds (Oh how I hate Christmas in NYC with the throngs of tourists crowds gawking everywhere)?
I'm glad I bought the autographed book, but I can tell you I will never do this again. (Well, maybe when Emily publishes her cookbook and becomes famous, but not for anyone else.) If this is the kind of crowd a popular blogger gets, I can't even imagine what it would be like for a real celebrity chef. Heaven help the folks who stand on long lines for a book by Giada DeLaurentis or Tyler Florence!
This bookstore was right below the Food Network studios. I can't help but wonder if Tuschie has his eye on her.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Well, I suppose it's because I haven't been making new recipes lately. I just haven't had the creative juices flowing. I'm too busy working on holiday stuff.
There is one other reason I haven't been creating new recipes. My husband wants me to start in on a new project. He is obsessed with his new camera. He wants to do more wildlife photography, but he also wants to help boost my food photography. He thinks we should do a project together and self-publish a cookbook using Blurb for us and our family. I write the recipes, and he takes the picture. He's even looking at light boxes.
The idea of making a book of my best recipes means I'm going back and re-doing old ones rather than making new ones. I want to make sure they are the best they can be and all measurements and cooking times are correct. This week alone I made both my chipotle chicken tacos and my chicken in tarragon-mustard cream sauce. I need to perfect them and make sure I have all of the details of the recipes correct.
Anyway, with my blog being so stangnant I really feel like I have to make something new. On a Friday night, I want it simple, so it's time to do something with one of husband's favorite things - eggs.
I came late to the Julie and Julia party. Never read the blog. Never saw the movie. The movie had mixed reviews and I almost never go to movies anyway (no time to go out to a theater). I never remember to put anything on the Netflix queue, so I haven't gotten around to it on DVD.
A few weeks ago my mother finished reading the book and handed her copy off to me. I really should give it a try, she told me. Fine. I might as well see what the fuss was about.
When I reached the chapter about egg poaching, I found myself very drawn to the idea of eggs poached in wine. I am not good at poaching eggs (some people have the knack and some don't) and Powell seemed to go through more failures with her eggs than successes, so it really didn't seem like something I should try. Still, I found myself really wanting to try it.
I couldn't follow Julia's recipe of course. My mother has a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I could have used that recipe if I wanted to, but I wasn't going to. Julia and Julie poached their eggs in red wine. Sir Pickypants says all red wine, "tastes like furniture polish". This was going to be an egg dish of my own invention.
Am I a little obsessed with mushrooms and shallots? Probably. Makes me think I shouldn't publish a cookbook even for my own use because I never seem to stray from certain ingredients. This is like classic Short (dis)Order Cook accompaniments. "Saute mushrooms and shallots and add cream. "
Egg in wine. Can I really do this? They may not look pretty, but they're holding some semblance of shape.
Fry some bread squares in a little butter. I never said this dish was low fat.
Mix the reduced wine with mushroom cream mixture, eggs on bread, musrhoom sauce on eggs. All in all, not bad. In fact, it was a really good dish. The eggs poached very nicely in the wine and the overall dish was quite tasty.
Eggs Poached in White Wine
2 cups of white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, finely diced
1 tsp white pepper
4 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
4 slices of hearty bread
Heat 2 Tbl of butter and 1 Tbl of olive oil in a pan. Add shallots and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook till all is soft and they give off their juices. Sprinkle with a little salt.
In another pan, melt the last 2 Tbl of butter and remaining Tbl of oil and gently fry the bread slices until browned. Keep warm. (I put them in the oven at 200 degrees.
Bring 2 cups of wine to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and gently slide the eggs into the wine. When they are set removed with a slotted spoon.
Bring wine back to a boil and allow to reduce by half. Stir in the cream and the mushrooms.
Place eggs on top of bread slices and top with the mushroom cream sauce.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This isn't the first chocolate cake that I have made, and certainly not the first one I have eaten. It is, however, MY first chocolate cake. This was my idea and my recipe.
I always liked baking because it was such an exact science. If you followed the recipe, you would get the right result. Cooking isn't always as exact, but then again, there is more room for error. That's why I do almost all of my baking with recipes, but play and experiment often with cooking.
Let's face it though. My "original" recipes for cooking are often made up of multiple recipes that already exist that I have cobbled together into something new. Sometimes I will use someone else's "base" recipe and simply change the bells and whistles. Why can't I do that with baking?
That still can make for an original baking recipe.
I have occasionally made up my own baked good recipes. Some have been better than others. My Tiramisu bars were the first flop ever recorded on TERP. My Orange Bourbon Pound Cake, on the other hand, was one of the best cakes I ever made (and it wasn't even chocolate!) I think I know enough about cakes and baking to come up with a cake.
Monday I had my last day off from Thanksgiving break before going back to work. I was broke, the weather was crappy, and I was stuck alone at home. It's days like these that just beg for baking. I had a decent number of supplies in the house. I had some squares of unsweetened chocolate, some milk that was getting close to expiration, butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Why not make a chocolate cake? The real question was what chocolate cake would I make? I have endless chocolate cake recipes (as last summer proved). Why was one better than the other?
I decided to make a bold move. I would take a look at a bunch of my chocolate cake recipes, see which elements they had in common in terms of ingredient measurements, and then use those proporations to put together a cake of my own. I've baked enough cakes over the years to know the process of baking a cake. All I really needed was a good idea of the right ingredient measurements. With a little research I was able to come up with a recipe that I felt would succeed using flour, butter, eggs, milk, and, in Ina Garten fashion, a pinch of coffee powder.
The cake had a very nice deep chocolate flavor that wasn't cloyingly sweet. The texture was fluffy and almost had a melt-in-your-mouth quality. I think this may be my new recipe for whenever I need a go-to-chocolate cake. It's that good. It is a cake I have to handle with care though. That "fluffy" texture means it's very light and delicate. If I made this into a layer cake, I would have to be verrrrrry careful moving the layers around.
I might want to tinker with this from time to time though. Maybe I'll try different dairy ingredients, different types of flour (how might cake flour change the texture?), or different proportions of eggs and butter.
I didn't have anything to make a frosting. I had to eat it plain. Oh well. I could try to develop a new chocolate frosting recipe, but I don't think there is a chocolate frosting recipe out there that I like better than the one Emily uses on the chocolate peanut butter cake.
The Short (dis)Order Cook's Chocolate Cake
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl instant coffee powder
1 cup milk
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9"x13" pan
In a bowl sift togther flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream butter for about 2 minutes until you have a nice, soft, workable fluff. Add sugars and beat another 3 minutes until all is fluffy and beautiful.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing about 1 minute after each addition. Stir in vanilla, coffee, and melted chocolate. Blend well.
Stir in flour mixture and milk alternately in about 4 batches, ending with the flour. When all is absorbed into a happy cake batter, spread into prepared pan.
Bake 40 minutes or until it springs back when you lightly touch it and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Odds & Ends
I was cruel to not include the links for my Thanksgiving bread recipes. Forgive me. I lost them when I first typed up that blog. I found them again.
Cranberry Walnut Bread
I confess I have no clue how to use my Foodbuzz account and so I don't go to FB very often. I keep a Foodbuzz ad on my blog, but I don't have that big one that some of my friends do that beautifully displays the food of the day.
Lucky for me, my friends do display that nice big ad, because I found a great recipe on it. As soon as I saw these "Naked Ravioli" I knew I had to make them for dinner. After all that turkey, I needed something less meaty for dinner.
I made my own marinara recipe instead of the one listed here, but otherwise, followed the recipe and it was delicious. SPP liked it too.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Since I didn't set out to try a new restaurant, I didn't take a camera with me, so I'm afraid this review is photo-free.
I have complained quite a bit about corporate dominance and how it's smashing the little guy. Well, this place can make me happy for a couple of reasons. You see, my mom-and-pop-dominated strip had its first Starbucks. Residents complained about how the character of our neighborhood was changing. What would become of the independent coffee shop two doors down? Then Starbucks had its mass store closings and my local Starbucks folded after less than year. Roasted Peppers is where Starbucks used to be. Score one for the little guy!
Roasted Peppers has a nice, minimalist decor, that is still reminscent of the Starbucks that was there before. The problems is that with the exposed brick wall and tile floor, it has a bit of an echo. The place was pretty empty (we were one of three tables that were occupied during the time we were there and they were not all occupied at the same time) which didn't help. They have a lot of staff for such a small restaurant. Waitress was very nice -very attentive and seeming a bit nervous. I guess when you have been open less than a week, everyone is a bit jumpy.
They don't have a liquor license yet, although there is a huge bar area, so I assume they intend to have one eventually. It seems that problem is afflicting more than one restaurant in the area. I joked to my husband that Molly Spillane's must be putting in a fix with the powers that be so that other restaurants can't serve liquor and will go to Molly's to drink. ;-D.
When we sat down we were served a bread plate of bread that was oiled, grilled, and pressed. We had roasted pepper hummus on the side. It was a pretty promising start.
We started off our dinner with salads. Kevin had a simple house salad with a lemon vinaigrette. He didn't seem impressed one way or another. He was really a bit jumpy about eating in a restaurant that was so empty as if the food must be really bad (instead of just realizing the place was less than a week old). I had a spinach and fennel salad with a "citrus" vinaigrette. My salad was pretty good, but it needed a better balance of sweet and savory ingredients. It had dried cranberries, and mango, and candied pecans. It would have been a little better if one of the sweet ingredients had been left off - or even if more fennel had been added. A little cheese or avocado or bacon would have been nice to counter all that sweetness. I really liked the dressing and I understand where they were trying to go with it. I give them credit.
For dinner I had skirt steak topped with a corn and black bean salsa and husband had red snapper tacos. The tacos really made him perk up. He called them very "professional" and raved about them. He wasn't excited about the place right away, but the tacos really won him over. My steak was good. It was perfectly cooked (not a bit above the medium rare that I asked for) and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The salsa was a bit bland. It was grilled corn and black beans - and not much else. A little lime, some garlic, a little cumin, some chili pepper - any of that might have woken up the taste a bit.
For dessert he had a jalapeno brownie with coconut ice cream. I had bread pudding. He loved his brownie. He could really taste the jalapeno and thought it was quite clever. The bread pudding had raspberry jam nicely sandwiched between the bread layers. I thought the custard could have used a bit more flavor. They advertise it as having "almond-spiced whipped cream", but there was only a little tiny dollop on there. A little almond in the custard (or perhaps just a little more vanilla) would have made it perfect. I also had a scoop of that delicious coconut ice cream.
The nervous waitress checked on us often to make sure we were happy with everything as did the owner (or person I assume was the owner). Everything was served in a timely fashion. No complaints at all about the service.
All in all it was an enjoyable meal, but there was room for some improvement. We will definitely go back and see how the place evolves. It was so empty last night (although it was around 8:30) and I really hope they make it.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Ah, but that's the crux of it all. I didn't want to need to drink so much. The cooking part of the dinner is fun. The logistics not so much. I had to bring in extra tables and chairs. Although as a hostess I don't like to ask my guests to provide too much, I definitely had to make sure they provided some of the things I didn't have the time or money to provide. Then there was the cleanup. My dishwasher can only hold so much and so can my sink.
Although I hate the idea of choosing between parents, I knew it was time to start splitting up the holidays again. I said whatever parent asked me first would be the parent that I had Thanksgiving with and I'd do Christmas with the other one. Mom jumped in almost immediately. Her boyfriend and his daughter were hosting Thanksgiving this year and wouldn't Kevin and me come?
Unlike me, they don't like doing all of the cooking themselves. On top of that, Daughter is a vegetarian. When I asked what I should bring, I was told, "The Turkey."
I didn't think doing the turkey myself would be such a bad thing. I've done it before. What's the big deal? Sure, I'd bring the turkey.
I bought my Turkey from Heritage Foods USA. I figured that was one way of placating the vegetarians. I would buy the most politically correct turkey possible (and the cost of it cost me almost as much as last year's entire dinner).
It was one fresh turkey. Do you know how fresh it was? This turkey still had the stubs of feathers stuck in the skin. It's as if someone hand plucked it and grew a bit lazy. Before I stuck this thing in the oven, I was going over it with a pair of tweezers trying to remove all of these feather remnants. Some of them were small and sort of disintegrated when I tried to pull on them. Some of them were quite large and quill-like and were easy to yank out. I'm surprised I wasn't more grossed out by this. At least it was noontime when I did this, so I had Arlo Guthrie to keep me company as a picked the thing over, because, after all, it's Thanksgiving, and you can't have Thanksgiving without Alice's Restaurant.
I'm afraid I don't have 27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against me. This is all you get.
As per Sue, it always has to be turned upside down when it comes out of the oven. Looks goo doesn't it? It's nice and brown and juicy. Appearances can be deceiving.
Knowing it would be a late dinner, I waited until the early afternoon to put the turkey in the oven. I had been told heritage turkeys don't take as long as others to cook. I decided not to use any weird roasting techniques this year. After brining it overnight in my delicious cider brine, I slathered lots of sage-and-thyme-infused butter under and over the skin and shoved it into the oven at 350 with a probe thermometer in the thigh. After 2 hours and change, the thermometer told me it was the right temperature. I can only think that there might have been a problem when I saw just how brown, almost black, the breast was becoming, and I covered it with foil, trying to keep the legs exposed. Maybe the foil changed the way it cooked. Eventually, my brother came over to help me transport it. He took it away to carve at Don's house.
I arrived at the party. We had a couple of hours worth of appetizers. There was lots of cheese and wine. There was also my homemade bread.
My most special project this year, was the bread. I've mentioned that in the past I used to bake bread all of the time. I was particularly fond of a recipe for whole wheat bread that I found in my mother's old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I had numerous vacation days before and after Thanksgiving due to it being the end of the fiscal year at work and I had a bunch of unused vacation days. I decided to use that time to do some bread baking projects.
Here are two rounds of cranberry-walnut wheat bread. I forgot to take a picture of them before I wrapped them and I didn't want to have to re-wrap them. This bread tasted absolutely wonderful and was a huge hit with the whole family (except for the nut-and-fruit-hating kids of course). I definitely want to make this one again.
I also made some rosemary rolls. I found these a little dry, but several of the guests thought they were wonderful. I'd give these another shot, but I'd make sure I ate them the day I baked them. I baked these the day before.
It was getting close to dinner time when my brother went to the kitchen to carve. A few minutes later Don's daughter came out and said dinner would be delayed because the turkey was still "a bit pink" and had to go back in the oven. I went into the kitchen and saw my brother dimembering the turkey. "A bit pink" was a HUGE understatement. Yes, the thigh was the correct temperature, but it seemed the whole underside of the turkey was raw. I was just mortified.
It wouldn't fit back in the oven whole (long story), so my brother was carving it up and trying to re-cook it that way. The turkey, although it had a great flavor from the brine, was quite tough and dry. I couldn't believe I had allowed such an expensive turkey to be ruined like that.
I also had to donate my Triple Chocolate Pudding Pie. This has become a Thanksgiving staple and is a lifesaver for those of us who don't like pumpkin. It's a very easy pie to make, so it's not a big deal to bake it. The kids couldn't wait to get their hands on it, and rightly so. It was the only pie they seemed to enjoy that night. It was the only pie I ate that night. The delicious chocolate was the only thing I had a stomach for after three hours of snarfing cheese and appetizers and then trying to chew my way through the turkey jerky.
I have a leftover packet of yeast and quite a bit of leftover bread flour, so I now have to carve out some time to bake some more bread soon.
ADDEDDUM: I must give credit where credit is due. Rather than make a last-minute gravy I did the more relaxing thing and used a make-ahead turkey wing gravy, using Cathy's recipe. Excellent idea and excellent gravy.
A few other photos for your amusement.
My attempt to get a photo of some of the feathers pulled from the skin.
Living room, appetizer table, dinner table.
Random family shots.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I do love Thai food. I tried it for the first time in my early years of college and I become an immmediate addict. The bad part is that it took another year or two before there were any Thai restaurants locally. Once a Thai recipe opened in this area, I remember making all of my friends come with me to try this wonder known as Thai food. I am smitten with the coconut curry.
I had to modify my friend's recipe. He suggested a half a bottle of red curry paste, but I found my bottle a bit emptier. That's okay. The stuff if way spicy and there is only so much heat Sir Pickypants can tolerate. He also said to use full-fat coconut milk and cook the paste in the cream. My store only sold light, so I had to wing it a bit. He also called for Thai basil. Again, that's as hard to find as kaffir lime leaves (unless you grow it yourself) so I used a mix of regular basil and cilantro. The recipe suggests any mix of vegetables. I used a package of frozen broccoli cuts and a two chopped red pepper. I also added a touch of lemongrass. I served it over brown rice instead of white because SPP and I are both gaining weight and are trying to cut back on the white starches.
The recipe below is my version. It was pretty good.
Thai Red Curry Chicken
2 Cans coconut milk
2 Tbl Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into pieces
2 Tbl fish sauce
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 small red bell peppers, diced
1 package frozen broccoli cuts
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbl chopped fresh lemongrass
Lightly salt the chicken and brown it up in a pan. Set aside.
In a pan, whisk about a quater cup of the coconut milk with the curry paste. Bring to a boil. Keep whisking for about 5 minutes until the liquid really begins to evaporate and the mixture becomes very fragrant. Take it to where you almost think it will burn.
Add the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook till just about done. Add the chicken and simmer till it's cooked through.
Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and herbs. Serve over rice.
Friday, November 13, 2009
My old stove was really getting me down. It was crusty and hard to clean and the handle was cracking off the oven door. It was time for a change. For a birthday present (back in July) SPP gave me a contribution towards a new one, but I never got around to ordering a new one till last week. It was hard finding the model I wanted from a place that would deliver it to me. I finally found a place right down the street from my office. I'm loving the lack of coils to clean around!
Getting this thing installed was no easy feat. I needed to get my super to install it, but when he came to my apartment to do so, he found that delivery men had actually cut the connecting wires that attached me old stove to the wall instead of unscrewing the panel and actually removing them properly. Super had to go out and purchase some new parts. Even though I was off of work, I wasn't able to get much done because I had to spend so much time sitting around the house waiting.
So anyway, it was Friday night and that means I don't want to put too much effort into cooking. I wanted something simple and tasty and would use up that aging pile of basil I had in the fridge and the can of tomatoes in the cabinet.
I opted for pasta shells stuffed with turkey and topped with the simplest tomato sauce. The turkey was flavored with spinach and basil pesto.
I love my spinach-basil pesto because it's better for me than traditional pestos (pesti?) due to the nutritional boost from the spinach, but it's not overpoweringly spinachy due to the strong flavor of the basil. I sub out some of the oil for lemon juice, which cuts the fat content a bit as well.
Stir it into ground turkey. Top it with sauce. Stuff and bake. Add some shredded mozzarella on top if you're not Sir Pickypants.
I had a hard time photographing this artisticially. I couldn't get the shells neatly on the plate. I swear they tasted better than they look here. They tasted pretty awesome actually. SPP agreed.
Spinach Pesto Turkey Stuffed Shells
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 pound large pasta shells
Shredded mozzarella (optional)
2 Tbl olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
Pesto (measurements are rough)
1 package baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil leaves
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on size and how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
Start by making the sauce. Heat the olive oiil in a pan. Add red pepper flakes and let them infuse. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant. Add the tomatoes and wine. Allow to cook about 30 minutes so flavors can blend.
Make the pesto. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till you have a gritty paste.
Heat oven to 350.
Mix the ground turkey with the pesto.
Cook the shells in boiling water about 5 minutes. You want them to still be firm. Put a little sauce at the bottom of a baking pan. Fill the shells with turkey pesto mixture and place in pan. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella if you're using. Spoon sauce over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.
Monday, November 9, 2009
In Europe, they call Indian Summer St. Martin's Summer. November 11 is St. Martin's Day and it's supposed to signify the beginning of winter weather. Summer goes out with a bang because it's always unseasonably warm and spring-like on St. Martin's Day or the days surrounding it. It's supposed to be due to the miracle of St. Martin.*
*I learned a poem about it in Italian class in high school (see above). St. Martin was a knight who kept a beggar warm on a cold day by cutting his cloak in half and giving it to the beggar. He was rewarded by having the sun come out and the flowers bloom, etc.
Earlier this week we definitely experienced St. Martin's Summer. The temps in the high 60s and the sun shone the whole day long. The temps are dropping now and the clouds are moving in, along with a sprinkle of rain here and there. I know that winter is on its way, no matter how much these mild days try to trick me. It's time to think of real winter recipes. For once I'm going to make the kind of food people expect to eat in the winter. I'm not just going to make ice cream until July (where I begin baking regularly...)
For years I shied away from just about any form of braised beef. I avoided beoef bourgonoine and beef stew and pot roast. I hated the stuff. Why? It's because the stews and pot roasts I was raised on weren't terribly good (or I didn't think they were).
The worst part was the potatoes. They were always russet potatoes and as the stew cooked, they would get mushy and infiltrate the stew with their starchy badness. I never liked the taste or texture of russet potatoes (still don't). The only way I will ever eat them is mashed with lots of butter and salt (and other flavors are welcome) or made into french fries. It was only in the past decade or so that I discovered yukon golds and their pleasant taste and texture. Those little red ones aren't so bad either. I always assumed that if I disliked russets, then I disliked all potatoes. I never realized that there were edible ones out there. I never thought to try a stew or braise made with another type of potato until I met a man who doesn't eat beef!
I also disliked the carrots. I love eating carrots raw and as a child they were one of the few vegetables I would eat. I refused to eat them cooked though and I hated the carrot mush that permeated a stew or pot roast. To this day I dislike recipes that feature mushy vegetables. I don't like ratatouille or giambotta. I'll eat my vegetables as long as they're roasted, sauteed with lots of garlic, or possibly blanched or steamed.
I had to approach my braised beef cautiously then. I had never made something like this before and if I was going to to it, I had to do it my way, and do it in a way that was fun and original so I could brag about it on my blog. I decided to try doing it a little sweet.
I started by browning a chuck roast.
Next came some bacon cut into pieces and then in the fat I sauteed carrots, onions, and parsnips. I solved the mush problem by removing them after they were brown and adding them back to the pot in the last half hour of cooking.
Add lots of red wine (I chose Zinfandel. Why Zinfandel? Why not?), beef stock, and the beef. My seasonings were cinnamon, bay and allspice.
My finished product. I escaped the whole potato mess thing by using yukon golds and mashing them on the side. The flavors here were really excellent. The wine and my choice of spices played off each other well.
What about Sir Pickypants whose delicate widdle tum-tum can't handle beef? Halibut with dill for him (recipe from Closet Cooking - from one Kevin to another. Dude, I can so relate to the "small kitchen" thing) along with the mashed potatoes. I served him the carrots (but no parsnips for him) as his vegetable. Yes, the carrots have been soaking up beef juice. Deal with it.
These dishes share the distinction of being the last dishes ever cooked on my old stove. My new stove is coming tomorrow. Yay!
Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short(dis)Order Cook Style1 chuck roast
2 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, cut into chunks
1 large onion, coarsely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp allspice berries
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for sauteeing
Sprinkle your chuck roast with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large pot and brown the roast well on all sides. Get a nice crust on it. Remove from pan.
Add bacon to the pot and cook till it begins to crisp up. Drain off any fat you feel is excessive. Then add onions. When they soften, add your carrots and parsnips. Cook them until they take on some of that nice brown color and remove from pot.
Add the roast back into the pot. Now add your wine, stock and spices. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. You can put your cinnamon stick and bay leaf into the pot whole. You might want to put your allspice into a cheesecloth bag or a tea ball as I did.
Simmer this for 2 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add your carrots and parsnips back in.
When the meat is fall-apart tender and the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, remove the roast from the pot, slice, and serve with the pan juices over mashed potatoes.