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Washington, DC, United States
"A rose is a rose is an onion." -Ernest Hemingway

5.12.09

Orecchiette with Spinach Cream Sauce

This is a quick - not to mention beautiful and tasty - supper fix!


For 3-4 servings, you'll need:

+ orecchiette pasta, 1/2 pound
+ 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
+ garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
+ fresh spinach (baby preferred), 1 pound
+ olive oil
+ S&P
+ ground nutmeg, 1 pinch
+ heavy cream, 1/4 - 1/3 cup
+ 1 chicken breast, roasted and sliced (optional)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add spinach, and stir until mixture wilts and cooks down. Season to taste; cool.

Blend spinach mixture in food processor until mostly smooth. Add cream, and continue to blend until thick and creamy.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot. Toss with sauce (and chicken, if using); enjoy!

(Does this recipe remind anyone else of the Arthur episode where D.W. desperately wants earrings, but thinks they may turn her ears green?)

15.11.09

Jeremy's Vanilla-Cocoa Cake

Honestly, does this really need any explanation?


For 1 9", two-layer cake, you'll need:

+ butter, softened, 2 sticks
+ sugar, 3 cups
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ buttermilk, 2 cups
+ 4 eggs
+ baking powder, 2 tablespoons
+ vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons (OR 1-2 vanilla beans)
+ flour, 2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; liberally grease two 9" cake pans.

Cream butter, sugar and salt. Whip in eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and baking powder, until just combined. Evenly distribute batter between 2 pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the cocoa frosting. The following recipe is only an approximation, and will leave plenty of extra - just in case. You'll need:

+ powdered sugar, 1 pound
+ cocoa powder, 1/4 cup
+ shortening, approximately 1/2 cup
+ water, 2-4 tablespoons, if necessary

Combine all ingredients until desired flavor and texture are achieved.

If necessary, use a serrated knife to even the tops of the cakes. Place the first layer bottom-down, top-up. (Two frosting tricks? Apply a dab of frosting to the base of the cake stand to secure the cake; place small slips of parchment around the edge of the first layer, to make clean up a bit easier.) Smooth a liberal amount of frosting over the first layer. Place the second layer top-down, bottom-up. Frost the sides and top to desired smoothness. Remove parchment paper. Serve (peonies not required) and enjoy!

Lavender-Infused Olive Oil Cakes

These moist, tender cakes have a crisp exterior and a mild, floral aroma. I baked mine in a jumbo muffin tin, and the recipe yielded about 6 small cakes. The same recipe (with a shorter cook time) would yield about 1 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.


For 6 small cakes, you'll need:

+ olive oil, 1 cup
+ dried lavender, 3 teaspoons
+ 3 eggs
+ sugar, 1 1/2 cups
+ baking powder, 3 teaspoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, 1 1/2 cups

In a small skillet, combine olive oil and lavender over very low heat; there should be no crackling. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; pass through a sieve, and cool oil. Discard lavender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; grease muffin tins.

Whip oil and eggs until creamy. Add sugar. Gently mix in remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Evenly distribute batter between tins. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare a lemon glaze:

+ powdered sugar, 1/2 cup
+ 1 lemon, juiced

Combine sugar and juice until a light glaze forms. Reserve.

Lavender on Foodista

Invert cooled cakes onto a plate; drizzle with glaze. If desired, sprinkle with dried lavender just before service. These are perfect for a light dessert, a sweet breakfast or with tea - enjoy!

10.11.09

Flank Steak with Balsamic Chimichurri

This took about 20 minutes of "active" cooking, and was extremely tasty. Enjoy!


(My oven and broiler suck, so the meat isn't exactly evenly caramelized. I didn't want to risk it becoming tough, so I pulled it out of the broiler before it had a proper chance to get nice and evenly browned - and then I doctored it up with the reserved sauce, which made it even tastier, albeit, less pretty.)


For 2-3 servings (by that, I mean I ate about 1/4 of the steak, and Jeremy ate the rest ... in two bites), you'll need:

+ 1 1-pound flank steak
+ fresh parsley, roughly torn, 2 cups
+ garlic, 3-5 cloves, crushed
+ S&P
+ 1 lemon, zested
+ balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tablespoons
+ olive oil

In a food processor, combine parsley, garlic, lemon zest and salt & pepper. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add vinegar. With food processor running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is a smooth, relatively thin sauce. Remove.

Marinate the steak in the refrigerator with half of the sauce for at least 2 hours. (The longer it marinates, the better it'll be!)

Transfer to a roasting pan; drizzle lightly with olive oil. I petaled some red onions and halved some cherry tomatoes, for color, as shown. Broil for 11-13 minutes for a medium-rare steak. Rest; slice. Dig in!

2.11.09

Ciabatta

This bread is great with soup, fabulous for bruschetta - and couldn't be much simpler.


For one large (6" by 12") loaf, you'll need:

+ pate fermentee, 1 batch
+ lukewarm water, 1/3 cup
+ sugar, 1 teaspoon
+ dry yeast, 1 teaspoon
+ buttermilk or water, 2/3 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, 2 cups
+ olive oil, for brushing

The day before you make the bread, prepare the pate fermentee.

On the following day, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. Scrape the pate fermentee, yeast-water mixture, salt and water/buttermilk into a stand mixer (with a bread hook) or food processor (with a dough blade). Combine. Gradually incorporate the flour, until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Briefly knead dough on a floured surface. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover; rise in a warm location for 45 minutes. Gently shape into a loaf, and transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Lightly brush with remaining olive oil. Cover; rise for 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake bread for 20-22 minutes, remembering to turn the sheet pan occasionally to prevent uneven browning. Enjoy!

* While water will yield a "holier," more familiar product, the buttermilk lends the bread a rich flavor, increased moisture and a pleasant chewiness. Experiment with any combination of the two!

31.10.09

Garlic-Rosemary Focaccia

This moist, springy bread is a great appetizer or snack - and makes an excellent base for pizza or sandwiches.


For one 12" round loaf, you'll need:

+ lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons + 2/3 cup, divided
+ dry active yeast, 1 .25-ounce package
+ olive oil, 4 tablespoons + extra
+ sugar, 1 tablespoon
+ flour, 2 cups
+ garlic, 3 cloves + 2 cloves, divided
+ fresh rosemary, 1 sprig + 1 sprig, divided
+ salt, to taste

In a bowl, combine yeast, sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. In the meantime, place olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Crush 3 garlic cloves; add to skillet with 1 whole sprig of rosemary. Cook for approximately 5 minutes; pass through a sieve. Cool.

Add the flour, remaining water and 3 tablespoons of cooled infused oil to the yeast mixture. Mix gently until a ball forms. Lightly knead dough on a floured surface until soft and smooth. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover, and allow to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; oil. Mince reserved garlic and rosemary. Transfer dough to a floured surface. Using your fingertips, press dough into a round (or whichever shape you prefer), approximately 1/2" thick and slightly dimpled. Transfer to baking sheet. Brush reserved oil on dough, and sprinkle minced garlic and rosemary. Liberally salt.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

24.10.09

Spice Flats

These crunchy little bites are perfect with a mug of hot apple cider. (They rather remind me of ginger snaps - and you could definitely substitute ground ginger for the cinnamon, and make exactly those!) I got the idea to use sesame seeds from the Benne Seed Wafers that my mom makes. The nutty flavor from the sesame seeds balances the spiciness of the cookies, and they add a bit of texture.


For about 3 dozen cookies, you'll need:

+ butter, 3/4 cup, softened
+ sugar, 3/4 cup
+ ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons
+ ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon
+ ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon
+ 1 egg
+ flour, approximately 2 cups
+ sesame seeds, 3 tablespoons, toasted

Preheat oven the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, grind the sesame seeds; set aside. (For more texture, leave them coarse.)

In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and spices. Add the egg, and whip until evenly blended. Fold in the ground sesame seeds, and gradually incorporate flour.

Shape heaping teaspoons of dough into balls; crush into flat rounds between your (clean!) palms or with a floured glass. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dot each cookie with a fork, as shown in the photo. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crispy and lightly browned. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Look, I hate to brag, or anything ... but these are the bomb.


For about 10 large biscuits - perfect for bacon, sausage, eggs or any combination thereof - you'll need:

+ flour, 3 cups
+ baking soda, 1 tablespoon
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ cold butter, 4 tablespoons, diced
+ cold shortening, 4 tablespoons, diced
+ cold buttermilk, 3/4 cup
+ honey, 2 tablespoons *
+ melted butter, 2 tablespoons

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the cold butter and shortening, and, using your hands, no matter what, mix until evenly combined. The mixture should be crumbly, and should clump up when squeezed. Add the buttermilk and honey, and knead gently until incorporated. As soon as you have a ball of dough, stop kneading.

Flour a hard surface, and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Use a round cookie cutter or a glass to shape the biscuits, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each biscuit with melted butter. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet periodically if your oven is less-than-stellar, like mine. Enjoy!

* I decided to include honey because, really, nothing's better than a dollop of honey on a southern-style biscuit. I wanted to impart a hint of that sweetness into the recipe without compromising the integrity of a classic buttermilk biscuit.

20.10.09

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

This rich, thick soup is perfect for these chilly fall months - and it's a breeze to make!

For about 1.5 quarts, you'll need:

+ cauliflower, 6 cups, broken into florets
+ 1 onion, diced
+ 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
+ celery, 3-4 stalks, diced
+ 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
+ butter, 4 tablespoons
+ flour, 1/4 cup
+ vegetable stock, 3 cups
+ olive oil
+ S&P
+ 1 bay leaf
+ heavy cream, 1/2 cup
+ chili powder, to garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss cauliflower in 3-4 tablespoons of oil; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and liberally salt and pepper. Roast until evenly browned (20-30 minutes).

In a small stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and potato; saute until onions are translucent and potatoes are beginning to soften. Do NOT allow the mixture to brown. Add the flour; stir until a roux (a thick paste) forms. Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally until thickened; remove from heat.

Remove bay leaf. If you have an immersion blender, you can add the roasted cauliflower to the pot, and puree until the soup reaches the desired consistency. If you're using a food processor, puree 1-2 cups of thickened stock and 1/2 cup of cauliflower at a time. For a really smooth final product, you can pass the pureed soup through a mesh sieve or china cap - but I like mine a little chunky!

Return to pan; swirl in cream and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chili pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

30.9.09

Pesto

This is a highly generic, extremely flexible pesto recipe. I've been eyeballing the ingredients for years, but today I decided to use real, grown-up ... measuring cups. :) The photo quality isn't very high, but the vibrant color and stiff, thick texture speak for themselves.


For about 1 cup of pesto, you'll need:

+ fresh basil leaves, 2 cups, loosely packed
+ toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup
+ grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, 1/2 cup
+ garlic, 2-4 cloves
+ 1 lemon, juiced
+ S&P
+ olive oil, approximately 1/4 cup

In a food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, cheese and garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the lemon juice. With the food processor running (keep the top on, and use the feed tube), slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until your desired texture is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste. This is great tossed with freshly-cooked pasta or on my own Pesto-Feta Stuffed Chicken. Enjoy!

29.9.09

Sweet Cinnamon Knots

These light, airy breakfast rolls are as delicious as classic cinnamon buns - but half as messy, and much less likely to give you a cavity.


For about 8 large rolls, you'll need:

+ lukewarm water, 2/3 cup
+ dry yeast, 1 .25-ounce package
+ sugar, 3 tablespoons + 1/3 cup, divided
+ 3 eggs
+ butter, 4 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons, divided and melted
+ shortening, 2 tablespoons (plus extra for greasing the bowls)
+ flour, approx. 4 cups
+ heavy cream, 2 tablespoons
+ brown sugar, 2/3 cup
+ ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons

Lightly grease two large mixing bowls with shortening; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine water, yeast and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside for five minutes.
Using the bread hook in a large mixer or the dough blade in a food processor, combine the eggs, 4 tablespoons of butter, and sugar. The yeast mixture should be puffy and thick. If it is, add the contents of the bowl to the egg mixture. If it's not, you may not have viable yeast, and should try again. Remember: if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.

To the egg-yeast mixture, add the 1/3 cup of sugar. Gradually incorporate flour until a soft ball of dough forms. Remove approximately 2/3 of the dough; knead gently, and place in a mixing bowl. To the remaining dough, add the heavy cream, brown sugar and cinnamon. Combine. Remove dough, and knead gently. Place in second mixing bowl. Allow doughs to rise, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down; rise for 1 hour.

Divide each ball of dough into eighths. To form a roll, you will need an eighth of the cinnamon dough and an eighth of the plain dough. Roll both into ropes, about 1 foot in length. Tie the plain dough in a knot around the middle of the cinnamon dough, loop the cinnamon rope around, and tuck the ends underneath. Rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush knots with reserved melted butter; bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

25.9.09

Purple and Green Asian Stir Fry

I used green beans and red onion in my version, but I suppose that eggplant, green bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage or even purple cauliflower would have worked, as well.


For 4-6 servings, you'll need:

+ dry linguini, 1/2 pound
+ 1 large red onion, sliced into rounds
+ green beans, 1/2 pound (that's several large handfuls)
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ fresh ginger, 1 1-inch segment, peeled and grated
+ olive oil, 3 tablespoons
+ S&P
+ 2 chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into chunks
+ soy sauce, 1/4 cup
+ hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons
+ 1 lime, juiced
+ brown sugar, 2 tablespoons

Cook pasta according to package directions. In the meantime, bring olive oil in a skillet (or wok) to medium-high heat. Add the onion, green beans, garlic and ginger. Stir gently until everything is coated in oil. Add chicken, and reduce heat to medium; cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Remove the lid from the pan, and add the cooked linguini and glaze. Toss gently until noodles are evenly coated and glaze has thickened. Enjoy!

24.9.09

Champagne Salmon

This delicate, elegant dish takes only 15 minutes to prepare - who would've guessed it?

For two servings, you'll need:

+ 2 small salmon steaks (with or without skin - your call)
+ 1 lemon
+ champagne vinegar, 4 tablespoons
+ capers, 1 tablespoon
+ S&P
+ olive oil, 2 tablespoons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine juice from lemon, vinegar, capers, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gently toss salmon to coat. Transfer fish and marinade (if you can even call it that!) to a baking sheet; lightly drizzle with olive oil. (I added some baby broccoli to the pan.) Bake for 12 minutes, or until salmon is flaky.

Enjoy!

23.9.09

Whole Wheat Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Parmesan Cheese

A delicious, albeit not beautiful, product, straight from the little kitchen in my new one bedroom.

For 2-3 servings and some leftovers, you'll need:

+ whole wheat pasta (penne or another short shape), 2 cups, dry
+ 1 large white onion, sliced into rings
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ fresh thyme, 3 sprigs
+ butter, 3 tablespoons
+ sugar, 1 tablespoon
+ parmesan cheese, grated, 1/4 cup
+ S & P

Melt butter over low heat. Add onions; cook gently for 1-2 minutes. Strip leaves of thyme from the stems; discard stems. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes; add sugar. Cook until onions are evenly caramelized and garlic is lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

In the meantime, liberally salt water and boil; cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain; toss with butter and onion mixture, until each piece of pasta is evenly coated. (I nearly skipped this step, but Jeremy saved the day!) Remove from skillet, and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese; serve.

4.9.09

Missing In Action?

I'd like to apologize for the lack of recent posts -- I'm in the process of moving to Arlington, where I'll be attending the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington. I'm currently knee-deep in cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape, but once I'm settled in my new apartment, I promise there'll be plenty of new posts!

2.9.09

Pâte Fermentée

Also called a "sponge" or "starter," this yeast dough ferments for at least 12 hours, deepening the flavor of the bread products in which it is used. I've fiddled with the measurements for a few months, and I'm happy with this product.


For one batch (approximately 2 cups), you'll need:

+ dry yeast, 1/4 teaspoon
+ lukewarm water, 1/2 cup
+ flour, approximately 1 cup
+ oil

In a bowl, combine water and yeast. Rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. Gently mix in flour; you should have a soft, fragile "dough." Place dough in an oiled bowl; cover, and allow to rest at room temperature. Overnight, the product will transform into the stretchy, sticky mixture shown above.

23.8.09

Apple Cake

This dense, moist cake is full of delicate spices and - you guessed it - apples. What's not to love?


You'll need:

+ butter, 3 sticks, softened
+ sugar, 1 cup
+ brown sugar, 3/4 cup
+ ground cinnamon, 3 teaspoons
+ ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon
+ baking soda, 3 teaspoons
+ applesauce, 1 1/8 cups
+ sour cream, 1/2 cup
+ 5 eggs
+ whole wheat flour, 2 1/4 cups
+ flour, 1 1/8 cups
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ 3-4 small, tart apples, peeled & cored

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; liberally grease a Bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs, applesauce and sour cream; beat until thick and smooth. Sift together cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, whole wheat flour, flour and salt. Gradually incorporate dry ingredients into wet mixture; set aside.

Slice apples paper thin. The rounds should remain intact, but be flimsy, too. (If your knife skills aren't spectacular and you own a mandolin, this would be a great time to use it.) Transfer 1 cup of cake batter into Bundt pan; smooth with a spatula, and arrange apple slices in a thin layer, as shown.


Repeat until batter is completely used, bearing in mind that the last layer should be of batter, not apples. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine was particularly moist and began to ooze halfway through baking, but don't fret if this happens to yours! Carefully scrape away this delicious goo from the top of the cake (it'll burn quickly, and won't be quite so tasty, then) and discard (or eat); continue baking cake as normal.

While cake is cooling completely, prepare the candied apple peel garnish. You'll need:

+ 1 large red apple
+ 1 large green apple
+ water, 3/4 cup
+ sugar, 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup

Remove peels from apples in thick strips; julienne. Simmer in water and sugar until the flesh on the inside of the skin turns transparent; drain. Gently toss in reserved sugar. After inverting the cake onto a plate, top with the candied peels. Enjoy!

14.8.09

Whiskey Sour Cupcakes (Cocktail Cupcake No. 4)

Each of these rich, moist cupcakes is topped with a dollop of lemon frosting and (to my dismay) a maraschino cherry. They may look a bit cheesy, but they're certainly tasty!


For 18 cupcakes, you'll need:

+ shortening, 1/4 cup
+ butter, 1/4 cup, softened
+ brown sugar, 1/2 cup
+ sour cream, 2/3 cup
+ 2 eggs
+ sugar, 2/3 cup
+ whiskey, 3 tablespoons
+ 1 lemon, zested
+ baking powder, 2 teaspoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, 2 2/3 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; place paper liners in muffin tin. Set aside.

Cream shortening, butter, brown sugar and sugar. Add sour cream, eggs, whiskey and lemon zest; beat until smooth. Sift together remaining ingredients, and gradually incorporate into wet mixture. Distribute evenly between 18 cups; bake for 15-16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.

While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting and garnish. You'll need:

+ butter, 12 tablespoons, softened
+ lemons, 4, zested and juiced
+ powdered sugar, ≈ 4 cups
+ 18 maraschino cherries

Whip butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually incorporate powdered sugar until frosting is stiff. Gently pipe onto cupcakes; top with a single cherry. Enjoy!

13.8.09

Huckleberry Buckle

This slightly sweet coffee cake makes a great breakfast treat. I divided the batter between two cake pans, making two thin layers of cake, and added a liberal amount of spiced frosting. Enjoy!


For 1 cake, you'll need:

+ butter, 1 stick, melted and cooled
+ whole milk, 1/2 cup
+ 2 eggs
+ sugar, 2/3 cup
+ flour, 2/3 cup
+ whole wheat flour, 1 cup
+ ground coriander, 1 teaspoon
+ baking powder, 3 teaspoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon
+ dried* huckleberries**, 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; liberally grease 2 round 9" cake pans.

Whisk together butter, eggs and milk. Sift together sugar, flour, whole wheat flour, coriander, baking powder and salt. Gradually incorporate dry ingredients into wet mixture. Fold in huckleberries and orange zest.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

While the cakes cool, prepare the frosting. You'll need:

+ butter, 6 tablespoons, softened
+ ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
+ ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon
+ powdered sugar, ≈ 2 cups
+ pecans, coarsely chopped, 1/2 cup

Whip butter, cinnamon and cloves. Gradually incorporate powdered sugar until frosting becomes stiff. Fold in pecans.

To assemble, place the first layer of cake top-down. Evenly spread frosting on top; place the second layer of cake top-up, directly over the frosting. Dig in!

Huckleberry on Foodista

* If you're lucky enough to live in the NW United States, feel free to use fresh huckleberries. Reduce to 3/4 cup; rinse and pat dry. Toss in flour (this prevents the berries from sinking to the bottom of the cake) and proceed with recipe.

** If you can't procure huckleberries, you can easily use dried cherries, raisins or dried blueberries. Mix it up!

12.8.09

Lychee & Raw Honey Sorbet

When I saw these delicious fruits hanging out at the grocery store, I couldn't resist purchasing a few. This mild, floral sorbet makes a great light, summery dessert, but is also an excellent palate cleanser. Dig in!


For about 1 pint of sorbet, you'll need:

+ lychees, 1 pound
+ water, 3 tablespoons + 1 cup, divided
+ sugar, 1 tablespoon
+ raw honey, 2 tablespoons

Slice each lychee in half; gently peel away the pink skin and remove the nut. Discard. Add the flesh of the lychees to a small saucepan with the sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the liquid evaporates.

Fresh Lychee on Foodista

Puree in a food processor; pass through a sieve to remove pulp. Add reserved water to lychee mixture. Whisk in raw honey (if your honey has a "crown" of broken honeycomb and pollen, you may want to scrape this aside and use only pure honey), and refrigerate until cold.

Churn in an ice cream maker, according to directions, until thick and icy. Enjoy!

31.7.09

Pork Chops with Mango-Apple Relish

These sweet, fruity pork chops are perfect for the hot summer months.



For four servings, you'll need:

+  four pork chops, bone-in
+  apple cider vinegar, 1 cup
+  soy sauce, 2 tablespoons
+  olive oil, 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons, divided
+  S&P
+  1 apple, cored and diced
+  1 large mango, cored, peeled, and diced
+  1 shallot, minced
+  1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
+  1 lime
+  sugar, 1 teaspoon

Marinate pork chops, for at least 2 hours, in vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Lightly salt and pepper chops; sear, in remaining olive oil, over medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes on each side.  Fold apple, mango, shallot, cucumber, and sugar together; lightly drizzle in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.  Serve over pork chops.  Enjoy!

Garden-Fresh Vegetable Chips

I just harvested the first produce from my vegetable patch: one zucchini and two young Chinese eggplants.  Everything was yummy and fresh -- but it looked a bit too...healthy.  I quickly remedied this by slicing them into thin ribbons, patting them dry, and deep frying them to crispy perfection.




27.7.09

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes (Cocktail Cupcake No. 3)

Carrie Bradshaw would be so proud of these dainty treats.


For one dozen, you'll need:

+ shortening, 1/4 cup
+ butter, 1/4 cup, softened
+ sugar, 3/4 cup
+ baking powder, 2 teaspoons
+ cake flour, 1 1/2 cups
+ 1 egg
+ heavy cream, 1/2 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ dried cranberries, 1 cup*

(Notice the similarities between these and my Toasted Almond Cupcakes?  I used the same base, and simply omitted/added ingredients where necessary.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place cupcake liners in a muffin tin; set aside.

Cream shortening, butter, and sugar.  Add the baking powder, salt, cream, and egg, and whip until thick and creamy.  Toss the cranberries and the flour together (this helps the cranberries stay suspended in the batter, rather than sinking to the bottom) and gradually incorporate into butter mixture.  Distribute evenly between individual tins, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool completely.

For the frosting, you'll need:

+ butter, 5 tablespoons, softened
+ 4 limes
+ powdered sugar, approximately 4 cups

Zest and juice limes; whip with butter until evenly incorporated.  Gradually add powdered sugar until stiff.  Using a pastry bag and a large tip, gently pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.  Enjoy!

24.7.09

Four-Rise Challah

This scrumptious bread may be a bit time-consuming (it takes about 5 total hours), but its faint sweetness, light texture, and rich egginess make it well worth the wait.

(This picture was taken after I nibbled a bit off of the other side -- it came out of the oven without the crack.)

For one loaf, you'll need:

+ lukewarm water, 2/3 cup
+ dry yeast, 1 (.25-ounce) package
+ sugar, 1/8 cup + 1/4 cup (separated)
+ 4 eggs
+ oil (grapeseed, vegetable, or canola), 1/3 cup + extra for bowl
+ honey, 1/8 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ flour, sifted, 4 cups + extra for dusting
+ poppy seeds or sesame seeds, 1-2 tablespoons (optional)

Combine water, yeast, and 1/8 cup sugar; rest for 5 minutes. The mixture should be thick and foamy; set aside. Using a bread hook, combine 3 eggs, remaining sugar, honey, oil, salt, and yeast mixture. Sift together flour and cake flour, and slowly incorporate into wet ingredients.

Place dough in an oiled, nonreactive bowl. Lightly oil top of dough; cover loosely with plastic wrap and a dishtowel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down -- rise for 1 hour. Punch down again -- rise for another hour. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a hard, lightly floured surface.

Beat reserved egg. Braid challah (this is a great instructional video) and apply a thin layer of egg wash. Rise, covered, for 1 hour; in meantime, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Apply remaining egg, and, if using, sprinkle with poppy / sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes; cool and enjoy!

Toasted Almond Cupcakes (Cocktail Cupcake No. 2)

Each of these rich, subtly nutty cupcakes gets a dollop of coffee frosting, which stands in for kahlua. It's difficult to not enjoy these delicious treats!


For one dozen cupcakes, you'll need:

+ shortening, 1/4 cup
+ butter, softened, 1/4 cup
+ sugar, 1/2 cup
+ brown sugar, 1/4 cup
+ baking powder, 2 teaspoons
+ cake flour, 1 1/2 cups
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ 1 egg
+ heavy cream, 3/8 cup
+ amaretto, 2 tablespoons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in a muffin tin.
Cream shortening, butter, sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Sift together cake flour and baking powder; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together egg, cream, and amaretto. Gradually incorporate flour mixture and egg mixture into creamed butter.

Distribute batter evenly between 12 tins. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the frosting and garnish, you'll need:

+ hot water, 1/4 cup*
+ instant espresso powder, 1 tablespoon*
+ butter, softened, 3 tablespoons
+ powdered sugar, ≈ 4 cups
+ slivered almonds, 1/4 cup, lightly toasted

Stir espresso powder and hot water until combined; cool. Whip butter, and slowly incorporate espresso. Gradually add powdered sugar, until frosting is stiff and pale brown. Using a pastry bag with a large star tip, gently pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Sprinkle with toasted almonds; enjoy!

* You may also substitute a shot of brewed espresso - or 1/4 cup of strong, black coffee.

18.7.09

Lenguas de Gato

These delicate, sweet cookies get their name from their shape, which resembles a cat's tongue. They're a breeze to make, and sure to be a hit!


For about 1 dozen, you'll need:

+ shortening, 2 tablespoons
+ butter, 2 tablespoons, softened
+ powdered sugar, 6 tablespoons
+ flour, sifted, 6 tablespoons
+ 1 egg, separated
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded OR powdered cocoa, sifted, 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease.

Cream shortening, butter, and sugar. Add egg white (discard yolk), and gradually incorporate flour and salt. Fold in vanilla or cocoa*; transfer batter to a piping bag with a medium, round tip.

Gently pipe the batter into thin strips, about 4 inches long. Bake for 6 minutes; carefully transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

* Though vanilla and cocoa are traditional flavorings, feel free to add lemon / orange zest or ground spices -- or, experiment!

17.7.09

Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

My parents have been making homemade ice cream since I was a tiny little kid, and I've picked it up, as well. Though we do use custard bases in some variations, I chose to use a cream base in this particular recipe for two reasons. I wanted to fully preserve the soft pink color imparted by the pepper, and figured that a lighter, smoother texture would be better suited to the unique flavor profile -- and I was right!

This shockingly tasty, sweet-and-savory treat is great on its own with a dusting of cocoa powder, but also makes a great base for other add-ins. (I'm currently itching to fold some dark chocolate chunks into the batch I just made!)

For about 1 quart, you'll need:

+ heavy cream, 3 cups
+ sugar, 1 cup
+ salt, pinch
+ whole pink peppercorns, 2 tablespoons

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan; stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes. For a stronger flavor, gently crush the peppercorns against the side of the saucepan with the spoon. Pass through a sieve; discard peppercorns.

Chill mixture for at least 1 hour; churn in an ice cream maker until thick and creamy. Freeze; enjoy!

15.7.09

Vidalia

Vidalia
1990 M Street NW
Washington DC 20036


Look, if a renowned restaurant in the District offers you a three-course lunch for $20, just go for it. Especially if that restaurant happens to be Vidalia, sister restaurant of Bistro Bis.

Easily my new favorite lunchtime spot, Vidalia boasts an elegant-yet-relaxed atmosphere, exquisite plating, and stunning fare. The aforementioned "tasting menu" offers portions perfectly sized for a filling midday meal; you won't be overstuffed at the end of lunch, but you'll certainly be full.

The Southern influence may be subtle, but it comes through both in the simple elegance of the food and the astounding service. I have been - and will probably continue to be - unable to choose a favorite course; the cucumber soup, lamb tenderloin, and bacon-and-chocolate chip cookies were all equally delicious (and unique).

Vidalia on Urbanspoon

In short: eat here. It's good that it's so affordable, because you'll probably be going back on a regular basis after your first taste.

7.7.09

Cinnamon and White Chocolate Cookies

These delicately spiced cookies are perfect by the pool (or the fireside), and are sure to please.


For about 1 dozen, you'll need:

+ butter, 1 stick, softened
+ sugar, 1/2 cup
+ ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ baking powder, 1 teaspoon
+ 1 egg
+ flour, 1 1/2 cups + extra for dusting
+ white chocolate, 1 bar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Add the egg; beat until fully incorporated. Gradually add the flour until mixture is thick and smooth.

Lightly dust hard surface; roll dough into a sheet about 1/4" thick. Cut cookies using a glass (or your favorite cookie cutter), and transfer to baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes; cool completely.

Place cookies on fresh parchment paper or on a cooling rack over parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or in the microwave, stirring between 10-second bursts). Use a spoon to slowly drizzle chocolate over cookies. Rest for at least 3 hours, or until chocolate hardens and loses its shine. Dig in!

26.6.09

Mint Julep Cupcakes (Cocktail Cupcake No. 1)

I'm pretty sure that my fellow college students are shaking their heads at me for wasting booze -- but these cupcakes are simply too good to pass up!

For 1 dozen, you'll need:

+ bourbon, 3/4 cup
+ 3 mint sprigs, lightly bruised
+ shortening, 2 tablespoons
+ butter, 2 tablespoons, softened
+ sugar, 1/2 cup
+ 1 egg
+ baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ mint extract, 1 splash (optional)
+ flour, 3/4 cup
+ whole milk, 2-5 tablespoons

Prepare a tincture of bourbon and mint in an airtight, plastic or glass container. Allow to infuse for at least 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Reduce bourbon over medium heat for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and discard mint. Add milk to reduction, until the mixture equals 1/3 cup. Cream sugar, butter, and shortening. Add egg, and slowly drizzle in bourbon mixture. Add mint extract, if desired, and baking powder, salt, and flour. Combine. Evenly distribute batter between 12 muffin cups (I used silver foil liners, to represent julep cups), and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.

In meantime, prepare frosting:

+ butter, 6 tablespoons, softened
+ heavy cream, 3 tablespoons
+ powdered sugar, 2 1/4 cups
+ 12 mint leaves, for garnish

Liberally frost cupcakes; top with mint. Enjoy!

25.6.09

Squash Blossom and Shallot Chicken

Since I'm back home in rural Virginia, I've been filling up my spare time by taking care of my vegetable garden. Everything's doing quite well, if I do say so myself, but I'm a bit (read: very) impatient: as soon as my squash and zucchini plants started blooming, I couldn't resist plucking a few flowers*. This light dish showcases the sweet and mildly fruity flavor of the blossoms.

For about 4 servings, you'll need:

+ 4 chicken breasts, butterflied
+ S&P
+ olive oil, for skillet
+ 1 shallot, sliced
+ 6 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise (stamen removed)
+ butter, 1 tablespoon

Liberally salt and pepper the chicken breasts; cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Rest. In a small skillet, melt butter and lightly saute shallot. Remove from heat and pour over chicken. Place squash blossoms on top (they will wilt slightly when they come in contact with the warm chicken), and enjoy!

* If you're growing your own squash blossoms (some larger grocery stores carry them, too), remember to pick in the morning, when the blooms are open. If possible, avoid picking female flowers, which will eventually produce squash. Male flowers are those that grow at the end of a small stem, rather than in the center of the plant. Remember to leave a few of both sexes on the plant! Store your blooms in the refrigerator, in an airtight container with a damp paper towel, for up to two days.

Squash Blossoms on Foodista

Great Cooks Blogroll

I'm very pleased to announce my acceptance to the Great Cooks Blogroll, a lovely community of cooks and food bloggers, organized by Jill McKeever.  Check it out!

Homemade Potato Chips with Rosemary Salt

I'm not normally a big fan of the greasy, bland potato chips from the bag; however, tasty (if not particularly healthy) chips are a breeze to make at home as an occasional treat.  Enjoy!


For about 2-3 servings, you'll need:

+ 1 large Russet potato
+ vegetable oil, 3 cups
+ fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs
+ coarse salt, 3 teaspoons

Heat oil to about 275 degrees F (on my stove top, this is "medium-high").  Peel the potato (if desired), and slice into thin rounds.  If you happen to own a mandolin - I don't - now would be a good time to use it.  However, it's also a great opportunity to whip out the old chef's knife and practice making paper-thin slices.
Pat rounds dry on paper towels.  Roughly chop rosemary; add salt directly to the cutting board, and mince the rosemary, using the salt as an abrasive.  Fry chips in small batches for 2-3 minutes on each side; drain on fresh paper towels. Immediately after removing the chips from the oil, lightly sprinkle with rosemary salt.  Dig in!

PS:  I'm pretty sure that listing this recipe in a category that includes the word "vegetables" means that I should start taking heart medication now.

22.6.09

Vanilla-Scented Apple Pie

Enough said, right?

For one 1o-inch pie, you'll need:

+ pâte brisée, 2 rounds
+ 1 vanilla bean
+ 2 large, tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
+ 1-2 large, sweet apples (Red Delicious, Braeburn)
+ brown sugar, 1/3 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ 1 lemon

Before creating the second batch of pâte brisée, seed the vanilla bean. Using a paring knife, make a deep cut down the length of the bean. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds from the inside of the bean. Introduce the vanilla seeds to the pâte brisée before adding the water. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples; you should have about 4 cups of apples. Place in the sieve. Toss with lemon juice and brown sugar. Allow to drain for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the first (not vanilla) batch of pâte brisée into a large circle; transfer into a pie plate. Arrange the apple slices in concentric slices. Roll the second (vanilla) batch of pâte brisée into a large circle; gently place on top of the apples. Use a rolling pin to remove excess dough from the edges of the plate. Pinch the remaining crust to seal. Using a paring knife, make an "x" on top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown. Rest for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Apples on Foodista

21.6.09

Croissants (Viennoiserie No. 1)

These flaky, buttery pastries are a breakfast staple in the Western world, but many people have never made them. They're a bit time-consuming, but well worth the wait when you remove these golden treats from the oven.

This recipe may remind you of pâte feuilleteé, its unleavened cousin. However, in croissant dough, the butter is sandwiched between layers of yeast dough, making this a true Viennoiserie, or Viennese specialty.

For about 20, you'll need:

+ butter, 3/4 cup, softened
+ flour*, 4 cups + 1/3 cup
+ brown sugar, 1/3 cup
+ yeast, 1 1/4-ounce package
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ whole milk, 1 1/2 cups

Heat milk to warm in a saucepan or microwave. Add the brown sugar, salt and yeast; rest. When the mixture has become foamy and has doubled in volume, add the 4 cups of flour, and combine in a large mixing bowl, using a bread hook. When smooth, place the dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, fold the reserved flour into the softened butter. Shape into a rough square (about 1" x 4" x 4"), wrap in plastic wrap, and place in freezer for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator; roll into a rectangle (about 4" wide by 8" long). Carefully transfer the butter to the dough; wrap completely in dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator. Roll dough into a rectangle (about 4" x 8" again). Fold the dough on itself in thirds (like a letter). Gently roll to smooth. Re-wrap, and return to refrigerator for 30 minutes. You have completed the first of six turns. Repeat 5 more times.

Roll dough into a large, thin rectangle (about 10" x 20"). Trim edges. Cut dough in half lengthwise, and make four horizontal cuts, giving you 10 squares. Cut each square into 2 triangles.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Shape each triangle into a roll, adding filling if you choose, and tuck the ends in. Allow to rise for at least 45 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven to 350 degrees F; continue baking until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Enjoy!

* I hate to be a total snob, but using a high quality "light" flour (such as White Lily) will yield airier, more delicious pastries! If you can't find it, sifted all-purpose flour should be just fine.

10.6.09

Quince Tart Tatin

Quince are an odd fruit: they look a bit like an overgrown lemon, smell a bit like a banana, and, when cooked, taste like a tart apple-pear hybrid. What's not to love?

Quince on Foodista

I first tried quince in DC; they were included in an apple pie. I loved the combination, but wanted to use quince as a featured ingredient in a dish, to give myself a better sense of the fruit's own unique flavor profile.

For one 10" tart, you'll need:

+ 1 10" round of pâte feuilleteé
+ 3-5 quinces (look for firm fruits and bright yellow skin)
+ butter, 4 tablespoons
+ sugar, 2/3 cup
+ salt, pinch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel, core, and slice the quince. You should end up with about 4 cups, or enough for a single layer of fruit in a 10" skillet. Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet*, add the quince and salt, and saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove fruit from pan.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the sugar. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly until the sugar melts and a caramel forms. Remove from heat.

Gently and carefully arrange the quince slices in a single layer in the skillet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, top with the puff pastry, and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven; cool for at least 10 minutes.

Invert onto a platter. Use tongs or other utensils to move any quince slices which stuck to the pan to their proper place. If the fruits look a bit "too dark," fear not: they're simply deeply caramelized and sweet. Traditional, apple-based tart tatins are served with a dollop of crème fraîche-- however, this isn't exactly a "traditional" dish, is it?

Enjoy!

* You can certainly use any skillet with an oven-safe handle, but a cast iron pan will impart more flavor and color to the dish.

9.6.09

Macédoine de légumes d’été

I need to be honest with you: I took some serious liberties with this dish. (Many people would neither recognize nor accept it as a macédoine at all.) However, after poring over numerous articles (especially this one), I knew which traditional aspects of the dish were important to me, and which ones I wanted to discard.

I chose to focus primarily on having a variety of vegetables (many of which are not customary in the dish) on the same platter, simultaneously standing alone and together. I cooked each vegetable separately and with a slightly different seasoning (taking care to ensure that the seasonings did not clash). So, other than my choice of ingredients, what's so different about my macédoine?


I moved away from the traditional diced vegetables, choosing instead to julienne some and leave others whole. As you can see from the photo, I also decided to keep each variety separate from the others, both for aesthetic reasons and for those outlined in the previous paragraph.
So, without further ado: the recipe!

For about 8 servings, you'll need:

+ baby carrots, 1 bunch, green tops remaining
+ baby gold potatoes, about 2 cups
+ 1 red bell pepper, julienned
+ asparagus, about 1/2 bunch
+ 1 medium-sized eggplant, halved and thinly sliced
+ baby squash
+ S&P
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ fresh thyme, minced, 3 tablespoons
+ fresh rosemary, minced, 3 tablespoons
+ olive oil
+ clarified butter, about 1/4 cup

I roasted or sauteed each vegetable independently, choosing to season those with the most pronounced flavor (such as the baby squash, red peppers, and carrots) with only salt and pepper. I added thyme, rosemary, or garlic to the others.

After I arranged the vegetables on the plate, I found that many of them had cooled a bit past the optimum serving temperature. I heated them in the microwave for about 30 seconds, but you could also put them in a low (170 - 200 degree F) oven for a few minutes. Right before serving, I drizzled everything with the clarified butter. Enjoy!

8.6.09

Pâte Feuilletée

Ever wondered what puts the "puff" into puff pastry? It's the hundreds of layers of butter-- 729, to be exact. Though this recipe is a bit time consuming, it's worth your time; you'll never want to go back to frozen puff pastry again!

For one large sheet, you'll need:

+ flour, 1/2 cup & 1 1/2 cups, divided, plus extra for dusting
+ butter, 4 sticks, softened*
+ heavy cream, 1 cup
+ salt, 1 large pinch

First, whip the butter in a food processor or with an electric mixer. Slowly incorporate the 1/2 cup of flour. When thick and fluffy, place the butter mixture on a piece of flour-dusted plastic wrap. Roughly shape the butter mixture into a square (about 1" x 4" x 4"), secure with plastic wrap, and pop in the freezer.

While the butter is hardening, put the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour into the food processor with the salt. Slowly drizzle in cold heavy cream, until the mixture forms a dough. On a floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle, approximately 4" wide and 8" long. Deposit the butter mixture at one end of the dough, and fold the dough, basically creating a butter "sandwich." Wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll the dough to double its length. Fold the dough on itself three times (as if you were folding a letter), lightly roll to smooth, and return to refrigerator for another 30 minutes. This is the first of six turns; now, your dough contains three layers of butter. Repeat this step five more times.

Roll the finished product into a thin square, and use a paring knife to trim any rough edges away. Refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for several months. Always thaw before using!

* Many recipes call for cold, minced pieces of butter, as is common in pie dough. However, by softening the butter, you make the flour easier to incorporate into the butter, allowing for a smoother, easier-to-handle final product.

6.6.09

Prickly Pear Jam

You probably wouldn't expect to find indigenous cactus in south-eastern Virginia, but (thanks to glaciers) that's exactly what we found growing in our sandy soil when we bought our current property.


If you don't have access to wild prickly pears, most large grocery stores carry them now. This jam is great on toast-- enjoy!

Prickly Pear on Foodista

For about 1 cup, you'll need:

+ 5 prickly pears, peeled and roughly chopped
+ 1/2 lemon, juiced
+ water, 1/2 cup
+ sugar, 3/4 cup
+ salt, 1/2 teaspoon


Combine the pears, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick (about 35 minutes, give or take). Stir in lemon juice, remove from heat, and cool. Pass through a sieve to remove seeds; refrigerate.

Mayonnaise

Nothing beats homemade mayonnaise on a sandwich; simple ingredients make this a cinch to prepare.

For about 1 1/2 cups, you'll need:

+ 1 egg (check the expiration date!)
+ vegetable or canola oil, 1 1/4 cups
+ white wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar works, too), 1 splash
+ S&P


In a food processor, blend the egg together with the vinegar. With the processor running (keep only the spout open, to prevent a mess!), slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is creamy and white. Fold in S&P to taste.

1.6.09

Tea Party

Since I was away at college over this Mother's Day, I decided to throw a belated tea party for the holiday, honoring my grandmother, mother, aunt, and younger cousin.  After a couple days of kitchen confinement, the event came-- and it was a total success!

I served a variety of teas, in an effort to suit everybody's tastes.  I chose Darjeeling (my personal favorite), Oolong, and a White Tea infused with rose petals.  Since everyone needed 1-2 tea bags, I assembled them at the table.  Next time, I'll have several bags of each variety already prepared!

I served:

Profiteroles filled with "Lemon Cream" - basically a lemon version of this lime curd, with whipped cream folded in.  Yum!


Ginger-Honey Scones (I served each with a bit of butter in a Chinese spoon)
Chocolate Crinkles (I added a bit of orange zest to brighten the flavor)

All in all, a great success (and a great excuse for me to purchase a new tea set) ... special thanks to the Olde Worlde Tea Company of Smithfield, Virginia-- what a lovely establishment!

Sweet Radish and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

These light, sweet finger sandwiches are basically the child of two more classic sandwiches: cucumber-and-cream-cheese and radish-and-butter.  Enjoy!

For about four finger sandwiches, you'll need:

+ sourdough bread, sliced
+ radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced, about 4
+ sugar, 1 teaspoon
+ about 1/4 of an English cucumber, thinly sliced
+ fresh parsley, finely minced, 3 tablespoons
+ butter, softened, 4 tablespoons
+ S&P

Whip the chopped parsley and the butter in a food processor until well-mixed.  Refrigerate until needed.  (I made this two days in advance, and the parsley flavor was stronger than ever.)

After slicing the radishes, sprinkle with sugar and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Lightly butter the bottom slice of bread; top with a thin layer of cucumber slices, several radish slices, and one more cucumber slice and a bit of salt and pepper.  Finish with the second piece of bread, and dig in!

Spicy Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I was inspired to make this dish by the curried chicken sandwiches one sees so often at tea parlors, but wanted to put my own twist on the recipe.  I poached chicken in homemade stock, cooled it, and shredded it with two forks.  I prepared a spicy, creamy dressing, and allowed the chicken to soak up the flavors.

For four finger sandwiches, you'll need:

+ 1 large chicken breast, poached and shredded
+ butter, 2 tablespoons
+ garlic, finely minced, 1 clove
+ heavy cream, about 1/2 cup
+ paprika, cumin, and chili powder, to taste
+ S&P
+ whole-grain bread, sliced
+ fresh arugula

In a small skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Add garlic, and saute until just softened.  Add the spices (small amounts to begin) and the cream.  Whisk to combine; the sauce should take on a lovely orange color.  Salt and pepper to taste; add more spices if desired.  Pour directly over shredded chicken, and refrigerate for at least one night.

Top one slice of bread with chicken.  Add fresh arugula, and top with the second slice.  Enjoy!

31.5.09

Thai Pork Burgers

My dad is (still) on the Atkin's diet, so when I saw the packages of ground pork in the freezer, I knew exactly what to do. I was inspired by Brigitte Nguyen's Vietnamese Bistro Burgers from the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown, but I simplified the recipe to accommodate our pantry. Enjoy!

For about 8 burgers, you'll need:

+ daikon radish, peeled and julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ red bell pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ carrot, peeled and julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ 1/2 Anaheim chile, seeded and julienned
+ apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups
+ sugar, 1 cup
+ S&P
+ ground pork, about 2 pounds
+ soy sauce, 4 tablespoons
+ toasted sesame oil, 4 tablespoons
+ olive oil, for pan
+ hamburger buns

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; add daikon, bell pepper, carrot, and chile. Liberally salt and pepper. Pickle the vegetables over medium-low heat for at least 20 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, incorporate ground pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Form the mixture into patties of equal size. Coat a large skillet in olive oil, and cook the burgers for 7-8 minutes per side, flipping only once. Remove from pan.

Assemble, placing a liberal amount of pickled vegetables atop each burger. Enjoy!

25.5.09

Clarified Butter

Melt butter over medium-low heat.  When a white film forms on top, carefully skim it away.  The product?  A bright, translucent butter, free of milk solids.

Asparagus Mousse

When I put together a recipe for this light vegetable mousse, I wanted the asparagus flavor to be strong, recognizable, and honest. I omitted one of the most common ingredients of savory mousses (mayonaise), added a splash of vinegar to brighten the dish, and let my all-time favorite vegetable shine through.

For about 3/4 cup, you'll need:

+ fresh asparagus*, one bundle
+ white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons
+ 1 egg white
+ heavy cream, 1/4 cup
+ S&P

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whip cream until thick; refrigerate both until needed.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, trim the asparagus of their woody ends and cut the remaining portion into 1 - 1 1/2" segments. Blanch until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Drain.

Puree cooked asparagus in a food processor. Add vinegar; lightly salt and pepper. Remove; cool.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the asparagus puree, to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I served this mousse as an amuse-bouche in a Chinese spoon, and garnished each with a disc of Parmesan "Lace" and a tip of roasted asparagus. Enjoy!

* I brought home a pack of beautiful, purple asparagus just for this purpose. They went into the pot a lovely deep purple, and came out ... green. I'd stick to white or standard green asparagus for this recipe!

23.5.09

Balsamic Watermelon with Parsley-Lime Emulsion

This was my first attempt at amuse-bouche (and my first excuse to use my new Chinese spoons). I combined the complex sweetness of watermelon and balsamic vinegar with the bright acidity of lime juice-- yum!

For 8, you'll need:

+ small (1" by 1") cubes of fresh watermelon, 8
+ balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons
+ fresh parsley, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons
+ limes, 3
+ olive oil, 8 tablespoons
+ S&P

Marinade the watermelon in the balsamic vinegar for at least 1 hour. Zest 2 limes, juice all three, and combine the zest and juice with the parsley. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the lime emulsion into the bottom of a Chinese spoon, and gently place a cube of watermelon on top. A stimulating, light beginning to any meal-- enjoy!

Blood Orange Sorbet

I came home from college last week, with a long list of pastries and sweet desserts that I planned to make. When my dad informed me that he was on the Atkin's diet (again), I realized that I'd have to revamp some of my menus. For this sorbet, I used sweet blood oranges and a (relatively) small amount of sugar. Enjoy!

Blood Orange on Foodista

For about 1 pint, you'll need:

+ blood oranges, 4 pounds
+ 1 lime or 1 lemon
+ water, 1 1/4 cups
+ sugar, 3/4 cup (Small? Okay, not really.)

Chill the metal canister of your ice cream maker.
Zest 3 of the oranges. Simmer the zest, the sugar and the water over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the water has reduced by half. Chill.

Juice all of the oranges, and the lime or lemon, making sure to pass the juice through a sieve. Combine juice with syrup; chill for at least one hour. Churn in your ice cream maker until thick and cold. Place in a plastic container, and freeze for at least 3 hours before eating. Garnish with thin strips of lime or lemon zest; enjoy!

20.5.09

Just Plum(b) Good: Asian Pork Tenderloins

These pork tenderloins are fruity and sweet, and amazingly tender. I wanted to braise sliced plums with the pork, but, since they aren't in season, I left them out of the recipe. Feel free to add them!

For four servings, you'll need:

+ 1 large lean pork tenderloin
+ soy sauce, 1/4 cup
+ dry white wine, 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup
+ brown sugar, 2 tablespoons
+ hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons
+ Thai chili oil, 1 splash
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ ginger, 1 one-inch segment, minced
+ plum jam, 1 12-ounce jar*
+ S&P
+ olive oil

Trim the tenderloins of excess fat and slice into 2" segments. Use cooking twine to help the slices hold their shapes. Combine the soy sauce, 1/4 cup of wine, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, chili oil, garlic, and ginger in a shallow dish. Add the pork tenderloin; cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours; flip, and marinade for at least 2 more. Reserve marinade.

In a large skillet, bring olive oil to medium heat. Lightly salt and liberally pepper the tenderloins, and sear for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Deglaze pan with reserved marinade, and gently whisk in the jam. Reintroduce the pork to the pan; cover, and braise for 20 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Remove the pork from the pan (and cut away the cooking twine) and place in a serving dish. Add the reserved wine to the sauce and stir until thick. Pour over the pork. Enjoy!

* I recently made this with fig preserves, and it was also fabulous! Most sweet fruits will work in this recipe.

Profiteroles

These light, airy cream puffs couldn't be more delicious-- or much easier!




For about 20, you'll need:

+ one batch of Pâte à Choux
+ ice cream or softly whipped cream
+ chocolate sauce (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put dough into a pastry bag (or a large zip-top bag, with one corner snipped off). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and gently pipe 20-24 balls of dough (each about 1" wide and 1 - 1 1/2" tall). Bake for 30-35 minutes; cool.

When the profiteroles are cool, slice each in half with a serrated knife (your knife should be parallel with the cutting board) and fill with cream. Drizzle chocolate sauce on top, and enjoy!

Pâte à Choux

This simple pastry dough is used to make a variety of baked (or fried) goods, from profiteroles to churros.

For one batch, you'll need:

+ 1 cup of water (filtered, if not from a well)
+ butter, 6 tablespoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ sugar, 3 teaspoons (omit in savory variations)
+ eggs, 4
+ flour, 1 cup

Heat first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan, until butter is completely melted and water simmering. Remove from heat. Add the flour (all at once), and stir rapidly to combine. Replace on heat source, and stir until the mixture pulls away from the pan and forms a dough ball. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer, incorporate the eggs, one at a time.

15.5.09

Tangy Chicken Drumsticks*

* You could totally use this recipe with chicken thighs, breasts, wings or tenderloins-- but drumsticks were on sale at our TJ's, so that's what I used.

For 6 drumsticks, you'll need:

+ juice from 6 limes
+ soy sauce, 4 tablespoons
+ honey, 1 tablespoon
+ 6 lean chicken drumsticks
+ olive oil, 2 teaspoons
+ S&P
+ butter, 1 tablespoon
+ heavy cream, 2 tablespoons


In a shallow dish, combine lime juice, soy sauce and honey.  Add drumsticks, and toss to coat. Marinade for 2-8 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Gently pat drumsticks dry with paper towels.  Drizzle oil over each piece, arrange on a baking sheet, and lightly salt and liberally pepper.  Roast for about 45-55 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Transfer marinade to a saucepan; boil for at least 4 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and cream.  Pour over the chicken (leave the "handle" of the drumstick clean, if you want to eat these with your fingers!) and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Char-Steamed Corn on the Cob

You know it's summer when the local grocery stores start stocking fresh cobs of corn, and I couldn't resist picking up a few.

You'll need:

+ corn (about 1 ear per person)-- do NOT remove the husk
+ olive oil
+ salt
+ garlic (about 1/2 - 1 clove per person)
+ pepper
+ water

Mince the garlic. Using the salt as an abrasive and the back of your knife, make a garlic "paste" (click here for more detailed instructions). Set aside.

Peel the husks back, remove the silks (unless you're in the mood for surprise dental floss), and apply a light coating of olive oil. Season liberally with garlic paste and pepper; return the husks to their original position (you might want to use a piece of cooking twine to secure the husks...or even a strip of husk).

Add olive oil to a medium-hot skillet. Char the ears (just until smoky and dark brown on each side). Add water (about 1/2 cup) to the skillet. Pop the lid on and steam for 5-10 minutes, or until the kernels are bright yellow and tender. Carefully remove the husks, and dig in!

13.5.09

Asparagus-Prosciutto Tart

(I feel like I've been using a lot of frozen puff pastry lately, which is a little embarrassing, since I know how to make it myself. When I'm home with proper cooking tools, I'll post a recipe for homemade Pâte Feuilletée.) In this particular dish, the mild fontina cheese mellows out the saltiness of the prosciutto and complements the sweet nuttiness of the asparagus.


For one (approximately 11 inches x 11 inches) tart, you'll need:

+ one sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
+ one bundle of fresh asparagus (the thinner, the better)
+ fontina cheese, grated, 1/2 cup
+ prosciutto, about 7 sheets
+ olive oil, 2 teaspoon
+ S&P
+ balsamic vinegar, 5 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the woody ends from the asparagus, and slice the remaining portion into 1 inch pieces. Cut the prosciutto into thick ribbons (see this page on how to chiffonade).

Evenly spread 2 tablespoons of the cheese directly onto the pastry. Add the asparagus; drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper. Add the prosciutto and remaining cheese. Add a bit more pepper (you probably won't need any salt, because of the prosciutto), and slide it into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the pastry golden brown.

While the tart is baking, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half. When you remove the tart from the oven, drizzle the reduction on top. Enjoy!

11.5.09

Fruity Vinaigrette

One of the first recipes I ever put together (circa 2002), this sweet, tangy dressing lends flavor to simple salads. Enjoy!

For one batch, you'll need:

+ apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons
+ raspberry vinegar, 2 tablespoons
+ lime, orange, lemon or grapefruit juice, 2 tablespoons
+ honey, 1 tablespoon
+ S&P, to taste
+ olive oil, 1/2 cup

Combine the first five ingredients. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

This classic vinaigrette is full of robust flavor, so be careful to avoid overdressing salads and vegetables.

For one batch, you'll need:

+ balsamic vinegar, 8 tablespoons
+ S&P
+ olive oil, 1/3 cup


Combine vinegar, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Enjoy!

Light Asian Vinaigrette

I use this on fresh greens and on some vegetables.  Enjoy!

For one batch, you'll need:

+ rice wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons
+ apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons
+ garlic, 1-2 cloves, grated
+ ginger, 1 one-inch segment, grated
+ S&P, to taste
+ olive oil, 1/3 cup

Combine the first five ingredients in a heavy bowl.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil (this emulsifies the ingredients, making a light dressing).  Remember:  a little goes a long way!

New Potato and Green Bean Salad

This salad is a true classic, and it's easy to adapt to suit the rest of the meal. Enjoy!

For 6 servings, you'll need:

+ baby potatoes, 1 pound
+ green beans (fresh), 3/4 - 1 pound, ends removed
+ salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slice the largest potatoes in half, and leave the smaller ones intact. Liberally salt the water, and boil the potatoes for about 20-25 minutes, or until al dente. Add the green beans to the same pot, and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain everything. While the vegetables are still hot, add a vinaigrette or light dressing. Enjoy!

10.5.09

Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chicken

What's not to love?

For 2 servings, you'll need:

+ 1 chicken breast
+ whole wheat penne (any short shape will do), 1/2 pound
+ fresh grape tomatoes, 1 pint
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ S&P
+ olive oil
+ red wine (I used Syrah, but basically any red will do), 2 splashes
+ heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
+ parmesan cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup (more, if you like)

In a skillet, bring 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat.  Liberally season the chicken on both sides with S&P.  Cook for about 6-7 minutes on each side.  Allow to rest, then slice thinly.

Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions.

After removing chicken from pan, deglaze pan with red wine.  Add the tomatoes, toss to coat in oil and wine, and cover.  Every minute or so, remove lid and give the tomatoes a gentle wiggle. When all of them are blistered (their skins are shriveled up), add the garlic and chicken.  Cook for just a minute; remove from heat, and stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese.  Serve atop pasta.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Puffs

These are so simple (and, I'll admit, a bit unoriginal) that I was almost embarrassed to post this recipe; however, they're just too yummy not to be shared!

For a plate of puffs (to serve several children or two famished "big kids" (yes, I refuse to admit that I'm a grown up), you'll need:

+ frozen puff pastry, thawed, 1 sheet
+ granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 small pinch


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut puff pastry into small pieces of roughly equal size.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over puff pastry, and press into the dough with the back of a spoon.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Enjoy- preferably with a glass of cold milk!

6.5.09

Apple Pork Chops

Pork chops that made my Jewish boyfriend ask for seconds.

For two, you'll need:

+ 2 frenched, thick-cut pork chops
+ 3 sweet apples* (I used Braeburns), cored
+ 1 small onion (white or yellow), petaled
+ brown sugar, 2 teaspoons
+ olive oil, 3 tablespoons
+ soy sauce, 6 tablespoons
+ apple cider, 3 tablespoons
+ chicken stock, about 3/4 cup


Cut a pocket in each pork chop, and insert one apple ring (about 1/4 inch thick, with the core removed) and one teaspoon of brown sugar into each. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the apple cider. Marinade the chops for at least 2 hours, in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the petaled onion and the remaining apples (cut into eighths, with the cores removed) in the bottom of a baking dish. Add chicken stock and remaining soy sauce.

In a skillet, bring remaining olive oil to medium-high heat. Salt and pepper each chop, and sear for about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to the baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes; enjoy!

* I cook almost exclusively with Granny Smith apples, because they're tart and substantial, but in this case, we're looking for a nice, sweet apple. Go ahead and use whichever variety you like best.

Apples on Foodista