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


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!


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.


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


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.


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?


* 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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!