Saturday, December 16, 2006
Of course, it isn’t all that simple. There is the logistics of bringing something to feed 10-12 from home, as well as cooking or reheating an item once you get there. This can be problematic if there is nothing but a small microwave. For savory dishes, you can use a crockpot, which serves as both the cooking vessel and heating/serving unit. But traditional crockpot dishes such as stews require bowls, which are not typically available at the office. (I had to use coffee cups for the carrot-ginger soup I brought to help everyone ward off winter ills.)
If you are pressed for time, you could rely on a themed cheese platter. A French platter with a selection of cheeses, baguette, sliced pear, grapes, and Nicoise olives or maybe a Middle Eastern plate with hummus and pita (cut into triangles), feta, kalamata olives, dried or fresh figs, and almonds. Plated on a decorative tray, the variety could sustain you throughout the two-hour ordeal.
Alternately, desserts usually function well at the office party. You can do the traditional cookies, or maybe some mini-cream puffs, and a cheesecake serves a large crowd. But I have a simple dessert, that people rave about, that serves 12 easily. It is plain in its initial appearance but can be dolled up in a variety of ways. It is a bittersweet mousse torte—but molded in a long bread pan, for ease of carrying, unmolding, and serving.
2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
½ cup butter
½ cup corn syrup
1 t vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
Mix ½ cup cream with the yolks and set aside. Melt chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in 3 quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring regularly. Once melted, add the yolk mixture slowly. Stir constantly for 4 minutes. Take off heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (you can hasten the process by placing the pot in the fridge). Once cool, whip the remaining 1 ½ cups of cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar just until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture completely, making sure no white streaks remain.
Line a long, narrow loaf pan with plastic wrap, draping excess over the sides. Pour the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top. Cover top with excess plastic and refrigerate overnight, or freeze for 3 hours. Unmold onto plate, remove wrap and serve with topping of your choice. Serve thin slices, as this is very, very, very rich.
This is best served with a slightly whipped cream and raspberries or raspberry sauce
For a festive touch – whipped cream and crushed candy canes
Layer raspberries or mandarin orange segments in the bottom of the pan prior to pouring the mixture in
Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger or chocolate curls
Prep: this does require several easy steps, melting the chocolate, waiting for it to cool, whipping and incorporating the cream, so time-wise it takes about 45 minutes, but there is a lot of down time in there, where you could be sipping a glass of wine, addressing holiday cards, or…if need be…doing the dishes.
Tips: Guittard bittersweet chocolate chips work fine as a cheap alternative. For those of you with a KitchenAid mixer—use the whip attachment and once cream is at soft peak stage, slowly pour the chocolate mixture in and blend on low.
Recommended Music: Jack Johnson
Friday, December 01, 2006
I got the easy stuff out of the way first. Here is the table setting:
Planning the party has been a bit of a challenge. I have at least two vegetarians, one Weight Watchers, one Atkins, and one who is currently on a gluten-, egg-, dairy-, sugar, soy-free diet. I am doing my best to keep the tea traditional, while accommodating the restrictions. On the menu:
British Tea (kindly sent by my London relatives)
Strawberries and clotted cream
—Salmon, cream cheese, and dill
—Cucumber, cream cheese, and mint
—Basil-walnut cream cheese
Rice cake canapés
Mini phyllo quiches
Served with lemon curd, pumpkin butter, and strawberry jam
Mini mocha brownies
Mini cinnamon macaroons
Mini fruit tarts
Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cookies
Okay, so there are only 6 of us, and I think I may have gone a bit overboard, but nothing goes to waste here. After they all leave, hungry husband, son, and son’s friends will happily scarf down whatever remains, including the crumbs on the plates. So no worries there.
I am making almost everything myself. I did buy the rice cakes, mini quiches, fruit tarts and gluten-free goodies. I would never attempt rice cakes, as I cannot find a singular use for these tasteless items, save as packing material, and attempting a whole batch of gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, egg-free anything would really be going overboard, and amount to a challenge I am not up to, given all else that has to be done (sorry T!).
I made my nanny’s shortbread, featured in an earlier post with my niece and nephew: Eating Suburbia: Tea Party. I received a wonderful silicon mini-cake pan that has decorative edges, so I was able to make individual shortbreads.
Daughter had to make eggnog bread for a meeting at work this week, so she kindly made extra. She is unable to attend our little soiree, as her college roommate has her engagement party the same day. Sure nice of her to contribute nonetheless.
I am getting ready to make the mini cinnamon macaroons, a recipe I pulled out of Bon Appetit some time ago. The recipe is middle-of-the-road when it comes to complexity, due to the use of a pastry bag and the unusual baking process.
1 ¼ cup sliced almonds
3 T plus 1 t packed golden brown sugar
½ t cinnamon
1 ¼ cup plus 2 T powdered sugar
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stack 2 rimmed backing sheets. Line top sheet with parchment paper.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a food process. Using on/off turns, process until almonds are finely ground (do not allow mixture to turn to paste). Transfer to medium bowl.
Using electric mixer, in large bowl, beat eggs whites until foamy. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar and beat until peaks form and mixture is shiny. Gently fold egg whites into almond mixture.
Transfer batter to pastry bag fitted with ½-inch round tip (#12). Pipe batter onto prepared baking sheets in 1-inch rounds, spacing 1 inch apart. Using a wet fingertip, gently flatten tops.
Bake cookies 1 minute. Turn baking sheet around and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 4 more minutes. Turn baking sheet. Bake 6 more minutes until cookies are golden brown. Transfer parchment paper with cookies to rack to cool.
Repeat with remaining batter, using new parchment and making sure that cookie sheets have cooled.
Ingredients: easy to get, cheap to buy
Preparation: Ten minutes
Taste: These cute little cookies are great. They are extremely sweet, as macaroons typically are, so having them be mini in size works out great.
Makes about 6 dozen
As an added surprise, my daughter has brought over her hatboxes. We were able to retrieve quite a few antique hats when cleaning out my granny’s house, plus she has purchased one or two herself. Because what’s a tea party without hats?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
But enough about food. Today is Thanksgiving and I will either be cooking food or eating food, allllll day long. So I just want to take the time to be thankful.
I am thankful that we will have enough food to eat tonight and that my mother and stepfather will be joining us for this Thanksgiving meal. They have a bit of a trip to make, but so generously offered to drive down when they found out my father and his wife would not be here to celebrate the holiday with us. And while I am very sad that I will probably never spend another holiday with my father, due to his illness and move to Missouri, I am very thankful for the extra time we have had together. We were told he only had days to live in July of this year, but he is hanging on, with a tenacious will to live. I am thankful for a wonderful family and friends who have supported me through that difficult time, kept me centered on the right path and make my life so rich and full. Without them I would be lost, huddled in a corner in some insane asylum, babbling to myself in some foreign-sounding tongue.
I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to do my book, The World Is a Kitchen, and to be able to continue this blog, with the help and encouragement of family, friends, and people like you. Both have brought me new friends and adventures and keep me focused on food and writing, of which I love.
I am thankful for every day. I know, now more than ever, the importance of every day. Some times I am too busy to remember that and sometimes I take it for granted, but I am working toward being better about these things. About savoring the events of every day, of trying to enjoy every day, and of trying to be more thankful every day.
And what are you thankful for?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The pie is in the oven as we speak (or blog). So pictures to follow….
Several years ago a good friend and co-worker graciously shared her grandmother’s incredible pumpkin pie recipe. And it has proven to be a crowd pleaser every year since. I always make two or three, so that we can have leftovers. And I apologize for not posting this earlier in the week, but this pie is great for any time, holiday or no.
First, I must confess that I do not make crust. I have tried multiple times over the years. I have used recipes with vinegar, ice water, lard, Crisco, butter, margarine. I have used marble rolling pins, store-bought wooden rolling pins, handmade rolling pins, even my nana’s 60-year-old rolling pin that she so generously gave me (thinking maybe there was magic in it). Alas, no luck. So I resign myself to Nancy’s frozen crust, and concentrate on the quality of the ingredients that go into the pie itself.
I do, almost without fail, use fresh pumpkin. I normally have to buy these in October and store them outside to keep them from rotting. Then I bake them or peel, cube and steam them. But I realize this isn’t for everybody, so go right ahead and use canned plain pumpkin (not spiced pumpkin). You will still be very pleased with the result.
One small warning before you start: This is made in a blender, and given the size of most blenders, you cannot double the recipe. But it only takes about 3-4 minutes to make once you assemble the ingredients, so making several is still a quick process.
1 ¼ cup brown sugar
½ t salt
1 t cinnamon
¼ t ginger
¼ t cloves
¼ t allspice
¼ t nutmeg
1 T molasses
1 ½ cup milk
1 ½ cup pumpkin
In a blender beat eggs, sugar, spices and molasses for 1 minute. Add milk and pumpkin and belnd for one additional minute, making sure all ingredients are mixed in (the molasses has a tendancy to stick to the sides of the blender). Pour into prepared deep dish pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Pie is done when center is puffed up and knife comes out clean.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Recently I have been cooking quite a lot and trying out new recipes. But most of the results have been mediocre at best. If I won’t cook the recipe again, I’m not going to pass it on through this blog.
Here are some recent failures:
Jamaican red beans and rice – made with coconut milk, slow cooked for hours. A recipe I had pulled from a well-known food magazine. The dish was bland and tasteless. Son the Butcher even brought home some of Schaub’s homemade Spicy Jamaican sausages to help bump up the flavor quotient. While the sausages were good, I am afraid that nothing could help the lackluster dish. If anyone has a good and flavorful Jamaican red beans and rice dish, please send it over so that I can try again.
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Bacon Vinaigrette – I should start by saying that none of my children wanted me to cook this dish. They are not huge fans of sweet potatoes. But I love them, so I went ahead anyway. Everyone ended up eating them, and commented on how much better they were than they thought they would be, but that was about the extent of it. Not bad, not great. Strike 2.
Sea Bass: I made 3 recipes out of my new Chronicle cookbook in one week. This was the only one that wasn’t up to par. I had seen the sign at Whole Food: Sea Bass is Back! and I was sooooo excited. I had been wanting to fix this recipe, served with a lemon gremolata, for some time. Cooked with fennel, but served plainly with the broth and gremolata, the dish was bland, and not what I wanted after waiting so long for sea bass to become available again. Strike 3.
Earl Grey madeleines: I am having a tea party in a few weeks for some old and dear friends, and am testing recipes to serve. I liked this twist on a classic, which I found in a 2005 Bon Appetit, but I really felt the texture of the madeleines was wrong and that the flavor just didn’t come through. While we didn’t toss them out, I also didn’t feel that they were worthy of presentation where the 5 of us only seem to be able to get together once every 5 years or so. And those who I did serve the cookies to were equally unimpressed, so its not just my old picky self snubbing my nose at them. Strike 4.
Pretty sad, huh? But you should know that not everything we try is going to turn out great. Nothing was horrible or inedible. And my family is always gracious enough to eat what I fix anyway, but I have certain standards when it comes to passing on recipes to all of you. So, I will persevere.
Soon to come: Mary Holmstrom’s Pumpkin Pie
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Snickerdoodles were one of the kids’ favorite cookies growing up. I didn’t make them as often as say, Tollhouse Chocolate Chip, as they required hand rolling in a sugar/cinnamon mixture, which was a bit more time consuming and meant my eyes were less attentive to active children (though they did like to help me roll the cookies in the sugar—hands caked in cinnamon by the end). But these cookies were always well received, not only by my own kids, but by the neighborhood kids as well. Snickerdoodles are a rich buttery-eggy tasting cookie with a slightly crisp sugar/cinnamon outer shell. The ingredients are basic, the dough easy and quick to make, with the only requirement that you hand roll the dough into balls and coat in sugar and cinnamon.
We were debating the origin of the snickerdoodle, or at least the hilarity of the name, and to further educate ourselves we found the following information at the James Beard Foundation: Foundation Snickerdoodles are: A cookie with character. There’s no question that these simple, old-fashioned, cinnamon-dusted sugar cookies are delicious, but culinary historians have a difficult time reaching consensus on the origin of their funny name. Sherry Yard in her Secrets of Baking contends that snickerdoodles are named after a character from an early 20th century children’s story. Apparently, Snickerdoodle (nephew of Yankee Doodle and cousin to Polly Wolly Doodle) was a tiny guy who drove a peanut car and heroically solved big problems—much like a snickerdoodle with a glass of milk can do on a rough day. Others argue that snickerdoodle is merely a nonsense word like doodly-squat, a word that gave rise to the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Still other historians believe that snickerdoodle is, in fact, a very old name that comes from a New England tradition of giving little cakes and cookies fantastical names, such as Jolly Boys, Tangle Breeches, and Kinkawoodles. Snickerdoodles resemble many cookies that have come from England and Germany, but New Englanders usually get credit for their creation in the 18th or 19th century when a slew of similar spice cookies was popular. The recipe for these homey cookies reveals their age: it typically calls for cream of tartar and baking soda—not baking power as a more modern recipe might.
My snickerdoodle recipe is old and loved and I have never wavered from it. But we have been experimenting lately with flavorings for bread pudding, and the last one in the test kitchen was a chai bread pudding because we are a chai-loving household. Introduced to us by our Nepali friend Raj, it is a winter staple, warm and frothy, its scent permeating the whole house as it simmers. So there was a natural progression of thought, at least in our mind, with the bread pudding, chai, and snickerdoodles. Combining two of our favorite things to make something new seems to be our mission these days. So, we took the basic recipe, adjusted the rolling mixture, and saved ourselves some time by scooping the dough with a small ice cream scoop.
So, without further ado, we offer you the Chaidoodle:
1 c butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
2 /34 cup flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t soda
¼ t salt
Cream together the first 3 ingredients. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture, incorporating well. Shake together the following in a lidded plastic container:
3-4 T sugar
1 t ground cardamom
2 t cinnamon
¼ t clove
¼ t ginger
¼ t allspice
Roll dough into walnut-size balls, or scoop with small ice-cream scooper, and drop several at a time into the lidded container. Shake to coat, and place on ungreased cookie sheet or silpat. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cookies puff up and flatten out and are slightly brown.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
All the kids come home on Sunday for dinner (a condition they agreed to before moving out). We have an old-fashioned traditional, sit-down dinner, including dessert. This particular Sunday I was a bit pressed for time and didn’t plan ahead in the sweets department. But intelligent Daughter did, and brought along a recipe for Blueberry Crumble Cake.
Back when blueberries were at their best and in abundance at the markets, I bought a large quantity. Everyone in the family loves them and I use them in clafoutis, muffins, scones, pancakes. Blueberries are very high in antioxidants and low in calories, and are also a tasty addition to fruit salads, pairing well with melons. I’ve never grown blueberries, or even been to a blueberry farm, but if you go over to Tea and Cookies, she has as great post on Island Blueberries, which chronicles her visit to Sunny Brae Farms, a Washington State family blueberry farm. The post includes pictures of her adorable niece Alice chowing down on the blue beads by the handful, a recipe for pie and jam, and some interesting history.
The berries I bought were local and I processed part of them using the IQF method I learned back in the days when I worked for a cannery in San Jose, California. IQF stands for Individual Quick Freeze. You put the fruit on a cookie sheet, pop it in the freezer, and once the fruit is frozen, you can Ziploc bag it. I usually put the frozen berries in one- or two-cup portions in each bag, since that is the quantity called for in most recipes and it makes it easier to just grab and bag and go. But the joy of IQF is that the fruit does not stick together and so you can pile as many as you want into a gallon Ziploc and just pour out the amount you want each time.
This cake was quick to make, taking only about 5-8 minutes, baked up in half an hour, and was delicious on its own. (Although some of us did top it off with whipped cream!) It would also make a great breakfast or brunch cake as well, as it is not too sweet.
Blueberry Crumble Cake
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup shortening, softened
Preheat over to 375°F and grease an 8x8 square cake pan.
Cream together sugar, shortening, and egg. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in blueberries and pour into pan.
For the topping, combine all ingredients and sprinkle over batter.
Bake 25-30 minutes.
Friday, November 03, 2006
I really am a baseball fan. When the Giants could no longer make the post-season, I turned my attention to the Detroit Tigers, in honor of friends who are die-hard fans. I cheered them on, all the way up through their last loss in the World Series. It saddened me to see them lose, but what made me sadder was the prospect of baseball being over for almost 6 months.
So, we turn our attention (however half-hearted) to football. Depending on how rabid a fan you are, it could mean 1 game or 10 games a week. It could be the occasional Sunday game or you could start on Thursday and work your way through pro and college games all the way to Monday night. Either way, there are certain foods associated with football games: hot dogs and sausages, ribs, chili, and barbecue.
In honor of the pigskin, here is an easy to prepare barbecue pork. I start this on Sunday afternoon, so the smell permeates the house, and then pop it in the fridge for Monday night football. If you are having a crowd, you can easily double or triple the recipe.
2 T vegetable oil
2 medium to large bell peppers, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
¼ cup chili powder
3 pounds pork cuves
1 6 oz can tomato paste
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 T yellow mustard
1 T Worcestershire
1 cup water
2 t salt
Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy stew pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and cook peppers and onions until tender and lightly browned. Stir in chili powder; cook 1 minute. Add pork cubes, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is falling apart.
At this point, I use a potato masher to break apart the meat into shreds. Serve on buns.
PREP: 10-20 minutes depending on how you get your pork. You can use already cubed pork stew, which is the easiest; small boneless country style ribs that you cut into cubes; or a larger pork roast that you have to spend a bit more time cubing. The only other real prep is chopping the peppers and onions.
COOKING: Overall it takes about 3 hours, but the only labor intensive is the first 20 minutes, during the sauté and boil period. After that, I stir it about every 20-30 minutes. But the aroma is constant and lures you unwittingly to the pot during cooking time, so it’s really not a problem.
SERVING: This makes 8 generous sandwiches on large onion buns or sourdough rolls. Goes well with a coleslaw, potato salad, or green salad.
This refrigerates and reheats easily, so it can be made ahead when you have time and served during a busy weekday.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
For my last semester of college, I went to London in Chico State’s study abroad program. It was the best thing I ever did, and the best time in my life (thus far anyway). It is now approaching two years since I left for jolly ol’ England, and to satisfy my nostalgia, I decided to whip up good old Bangers and Mash, or a modern variation on it, with sautéed herbs and horseradish mashed potatoes.
During the first month in London, my roommate and I went to a pub (she had a Guinness, I had cider) to sort of celebrate being in London. She refused to believe that sausages and mashed potatoes were called Bangers and Mash. So, in my exasperation, I turned to the bartender and asked him if it was true. He said yes, and the older gentleman sitting next to me even told us where it originated. Though I can’t recall the story, I do believe he mentioned sailors and sexual connotations.
This was my first time making Bangers and Mash, and though Cumberland sausages are usually the meat of choice, these can be hard to find, particularly at the local Safeway. I had to make do with plain white bangers, which are significantly less flavorful.
Overall, I was a little disappointed with the meal. Even with all of the flavor going on, it was still rather bland. No one flavor zinged liked I hoped it would. But, then I remember, British food is known for being bland. All in all, this recipe is a good one, and I will be making it again, hopefully for my various roommates from London! And if you can locate Cumberland sausages, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Bangers and Mash
4 British bangers
3 cloves garlic
4 Russet potatoes
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup milk
½ cup butter
1 Tablespoon creamed horseradish
2 red onions
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 beef bouillon cube
For the sausages:
Heat olive oil and sauté garlic for a minute or two, then sauté the sage and rosemary until sage is crispy. Add sausages to flavored oil and fry according to package instructions.
For the potatoes:
Boil 2 quarts of water and peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil potatoes until cooked. Drain and return to pot. Mash until smooth and add in milk, 5 tablespoons butter, and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the gravy:
Fry the onions slowly in a little oil, covered for 15 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and turn up the heat. As soon as the onions become golden brown, pour in vinegar and boil until it almost disappears. Turn the heat down and add the rest of the butter. Crumble in the bouillon and pour in 1 ½ cups water and stir well. Let simmer until you have a nice gravy.
Top potatoes with sausages and spoon over gravy. Sprinkle garlic and herbs over the top, if desired. Serve with rolls, or the traditional “mushy peas.”
Friday, October 27, 2006
I was introduced to a rice pot in college thirty years ago via my godmother, and received my first one as a wedding shower gift (ironically at a shower my godmother gave me!). My freshman dorm-mate got cozy with the boy across the way and ended up marrying him three years later. He was a third-generation rice farmer from Trowbridge, California. So to support the rice farmers, and to make my meager budget stretch farther, we ate a lot of rice in our early married years, and continue to do so today. Mostly steamed rice cooked in a rice pot, but I do make a delicious Spanish rice and my mother-in-law taught me how to make Lebanese rice with vermicelli and spices like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
I was slow to catch on to risotto. When we ate out at a restaurant where risotto was on the menu, I always looked right past it, wanting something more exotic, something with meat, something that was more complex. But I gradually came around. I let someone else fix it for me a few times, and then realized I could do it myself.
Risotto is an Italian rice dish utilizing a medium-grain variety of rice, such as Arborio. It is cooked slowly with constant liquid additions, and requires constant stirring to release the starch from the rice, resulting in a thick, creamy product.
What’s not to love about risotto? It can be whipped up in 30-40 minutes depending on the amount of rice and the ingredients you choose to use. Risotto is easy on the tummy, kids love it, and it is a great way to use those leftover roasted veggies or roast chicken, mushrooms languishing in the crisper drawer, and that 2-ounce hunk of parmesan that you don’t know what to do with. It can be simple and homey or fancy and exotic.
My daughter began making a special risotto, with carmelized onions, roasted chicken, and balsamic vinegar. Everyone in the family loved it, especially Son the Butcher, who has now named the dish “Bomb Ass Shit.” He tells his friends about it, requests it on occasion, and we have, over time, come to refer to it as Bomb Ass Shit, as well. Here is the famous recipe:
6 T butter
1 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
7 cups chicken broth
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and saut for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are a dark golden brown. Remove from heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth.
Heat the remaining butter in the same pot over medium heat (the onion residue adds extra flavor). Stir in the rice and mix well. Let heat for about 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, then pour in the wine. Reduce heat to medium low and start pouring in the warm broth about 1 cup at a time. Add more broth as each cup is absorbed. Continue in this manner until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved onion mixture and chicken and allow to heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This week I had occasion to make a new risotto recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, Volume II, which I recently received as a gift. In flipping through the huge tome, I found several great recipes. We had the Light As A Cloud Gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce Sunday, sea bass last night, and on Tuesday we had this great Asparagus Risotto:
2 pounds tender fresh asparagus
1 sweet onion, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups Arborio
¼ cup whipping cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
a few drops of white truffle oil (optional)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Cut off tough bottoms of asparagus and discard. Cut of top 2 ½ inches of asparagus and reserve. Roughly chop remaining stalks.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and add asparagus tips. Boil for 3 minutes. Drain, plunge into ice water bath to cool, then drain again.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and chopped asparagus pirce sand sauté for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring brother to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Adjust heat to keep it barely simmering.
Add the rice to the onion mixture and stir to coat with butter. Add one cup of broth and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add more broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding broth only when the previous addition has been absorbed. Cook for about 25 minutes until rice is tender and creamy, but al dente. Remove from heat and stir in cream, cheese, asparagus tips, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Monday, October 23, 2006
In June, I made a large batch of bread pudding for a dinner party to celebrate the visit of my friend Raj and his wife PK. It was a twist on the traditional version, utilizing fresh berries, which were in season. My daughter had two Canadian friends visiting, and they loved the dish. So my daughter made it again during their stay, using what was in her cupboards (usually chocolate chunks). And she continued to make it throughout the summer.
I also tried a savory bread pudding with chard and cheese that went over quite well, which I shamefully did not blog about.
In September, Alexandria and I got to talking and decided to experiment and make breakfast bread puddings. In this post, we talk about a rich orange version and one that incorporated maple syrup. They were most delicious and disappeared within a day. Easy to make and serve for a brunch.
Yesterday, being Sunday dinner, required a dessert. Because I am still recovering from my 10-day book tour, I am a bit fried. I was already making a homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, so anything complicated was out of the question. I noticed some dinner rolls that hadn’t been particularly good, just languishing on top of the refrigerator and suggested we make bread pudding. Having just bought a tasty chai ice cream, and made a chai rice pudding with leftover rice the night before, I thought about chai bread pudding. Nothing like sticking to a theme until you can’t stand it anymore! So we ground some cardamom, added in some cloves, ginger and cinnamon, and popped it in the oven. We served it with a modified crème anglaise, and once again, we hit the jackpot. I think the addition of finely diced crystallized ginger (or maybe grated fresh ginger) would be nice, and you could throw in raisins if you are so inclined. (I personally hate raisins, and refer to them derogatorily as rat turds.)
So, if you find yourself with some leftover bread, rolls, whatever, try out our latest version of bread pudding:
Chai Bread Pudding
10 oz. stale bread
4 cups milk (or combination milk and cream)
2 cups sugar
8 T melted butter
2 t vanilla
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t powdered ginger
1 t cinnamon
Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter a large baking dish or 13x9 pan. Cut or tear bread up into large chunks and place in pan.
Mix milk, sugar and eggs. Add in melted butter, vanilla, and spices and stir. Pour over bread and work the mixture through with your hands. Pat down gently to even out.
Bake 75 minutes or until cooked in center (if the bread isn’t stale enough, it takes longer to absorb the liquid).
Serve with ice cream (frozen or melted as a sauce), whipped cream, or crème anglaise and enjoy!
What is an Uwajimaya, you ask? Just the best Asian goods/grocery market I have ever seen. Awe-inspiring on the first visit. I spent over 2 hours at the Seattle store on a recent trip. First, wandering through the home goods and gift section, where they carry beautiful serving pieces, dinnerware, cooking vessels, utensils and paraphernalia. Then on to the food court, where a dozen purveyors offer up great Asian fare for the starving masses. Then into the main part of the store, where we wandered aisles, oohing and ahhing, and questioning the origin and use of multiple ingredients. Then back through the store again to make a few purchases.
Coming from the Bay Area, where there is a huge Asian population and a wealth of Asian markets, I find it difficult to shop, only because each market caters only to a few cuisines. Uwajimaya is home to products from Japan, China, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Korea, and more, as well as having traditional American grocery items. Having been in business for over 40 years, there are three Uwajimaya locations. So if you are lucky enough to live in Seattle, Bellevue, or Beaverton, you can visit whenever you want, shopping, eating, or taking a cooking class (Sushi, Singapore Fusion Cuisine, Entertaining Asian-style, Dim Sum, and more). If, like me, you are on a 4-day whirlwind book tour to Seattle and already had to pay for excess weight on your baggage, all you can do is wander and drool. Well, not quite. I was able to try a few things at the food court and buy some wonderful sushi-makings for an early supper prior to an event. But it all left me wanting for more.
Hence, my new mantra: I want my Uwajimaya!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
But I do have a good reason. At least I hope it is a good enough reason. I have taken the Mrs. B show on the road. Kinda, sorta. My book, The World Is a Kitchen, is out on tour. We had three wonderful events in what is fastly becoming one of my favorite American cities, Seattle. Ravenna Third Place Books, Wide World Books and Maps, and Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, were the hosts to the launch of the book tour. Great venues, great people, and I had a great time. A big thanks to the bookstores, the Seattle residents, my friends Donn and Margaret (and new friend Allison), super blogger and super best bud, Tara Austen Weaver, and to Judy and Jim Ware, contributor extraordinaire and her ever-helpful husband.
Tomorrow night we have an event at the new San Francisco institution, The Ferry Building Marketplace at Book Passage. Come on down at join us at 6pm for wine and cheese, followed by an event starting at 7. We’d love to see you.
Follow along on the tour, and find out more about culinary travel at www.worldisakitchen.com.
I promise to be back sooooooon.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Recently, I haven’t been compelled to spend much time in the kitchen. But I got bit by a bug late last week after seeing the hazelnut-chocolate shortbread on Tartelette. Today is Sunday, which means the weekly family dinner. All the kids come home to visit, fill us in on their lives, and to get a hearty meal. We have always had the Sunday meal tradition, but when two of them moved out, it was only on the condition that they come back every Sunday. Naturally, they agreed.
I couldn’t decide which main dish to cook. It was a toss-up between Roast Beef Tenderloin with Wasabi-Garlic Cream and Pork Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Sauce. (somehow I think the wasabi sauce might go better with the pork and the gorgonzola with the beef, but I’ll stick to the recipe this time around). My plan was to hit the store and see which meat was available or looked best. Turned out to be pork. I also picked up some gorgeous pears on sale, and a big box of Ritz crackers. Ritz crackers, you ask? Yes. And therein lies the tale of two pies.
First the pears. Years ago, my father had property up in Clear Lake, California. Every September when he was visiting he would bring me home a lug or two of the local pears. They were dirt cheap, probably ten cents a pound. Of course, we were dirt poor at the time, so I made use of every scrap of pear. The lugs were overflowing and the pears were all ripe, which meant they had to be used immediately. And due to the large quantity, it meant everything pear: pear cake, pear butter, canned pears, and my favorite, pear pie. I don’t typically like fruit pies. You will never see me order an apple or cherry pie at any diner or bakery. I always go for the chocolate, the nuts, anything but the fruit. I have relented some over time, between my own pear pie and the apple pies we get at Bloomingcamp Ranch on the way to our annual Pinecrest summer vacation. But the pears were calling my name as I wandered through the produce section, and so I decided that in honor of the end of September, I would make a pear pie.
Pear Crumb Pie
1 pie crust, freshly made or from the freezer
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
21/2 pounds firm-ripe pears
1 T lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t mace
1 T flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare or defrost pie crust (OK, I am not a good crust maker, so I do use a good frozen brand). Keep crust chilled while working on filling.
Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut the butter in until course crumbs form. Set aside.
Pare, quarter and core pears. Slice into large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, mace and flour and pour over the pears, incorporating gently, so not to break the pears. Spoon into pastry crust, mounding them gently. Sprinkle with flour/brown sugar topping.
Bake for 40 minutes or until juices bubble up and top browns. Cool on wire rack. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or all by its lonesome.
Because this pear pie is a family favorite, it won’t last long, and since I am enjoying my time in the kitchen, enter the Ritz crackers. Believe it or not, Ritz crackers earned me my husband. He proved his mettle by eating anything put in front of him without complaint, enjoying every bit, and having a marvelous sense of humor. The story:
Back when I was a senior in college, my roommate Darlene and I had moved into a new apartment mid-year. The guys downstairs wasted no time in inviting us for dinner to fill us in on the neighborhood. I offered to bring dessert, which wasn’t too bright of me, since we had just moved in and didn’t have a whole lot in the cupboard. Short on time and money, I rooted around until a recipe leapt out at me…from the back of the Ritz cracker box. Mock Apple Pie. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it. It was quick. It was simple. And I had all the ingredients.
Right as dessert rolled around, two more of the building’s tenants joined us. The pie was a hit, particularly with one of the latecomers (who would eventually become my husband). When I blurted out my secret recipe, everyone was astonished, but with good humor, they laughed it off. That was 27 years ago, and my husband swears I haven’t made the pie since that time, although I know I did once when my children were small. So I have made a Mock Apple Pie with Ritz crackers, and I’m gonna see if my kids notice. I even left out the apple peeler/corer/slicer doodad on the dishrack, just so they would believe it was an apple pie.
So if you are stuck sometime and need a quick dessert, this is the trick. A premade pie crust, a quick simple syrup, broken up crackers, and voila, a pie.
Mock Apple Pie
Pastry for two crust 9” pie.
36 Ritz crackers
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 t cream of tartar
2 T lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil, and boil gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and let cool.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare bottom crust. Coarsely break up crackers into crust (2-3 pieces per cracker). Pour cooled syrup over crackers, dot with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Cook for 30 minutes. Best served warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
Believe it or not, this pie passed muster. My youngest son did notice a different taste in the pie, which he couldn’t pinpoint, but had no idea that the culprit was Ritz crackers. One of his friends said it was the best apple pie he had ever had, but the kids’ friends, no matter how long we have known them, would never think of thumbing their nose at food I serve, so I can’t trust that comment.
I myself, loved the pear pie. I even sent over a piece to my dad for old times sake.
Monday, October 02, 2006
I will be heading up to the Seattle Area on October 8th for a week of events. Hopefully you will have time to come out and meet me and contributors Tara Austen Weaver and Judy Ware at one of the venues. As a bonus, we should be serving tasty treats at each one!
WHERE: Ravenna Third Place Books, 6504 20th Avenue, NE
WHEN: Sunday October 8th
TIME: 4:30 pm
DETAILS: Ravenna Third Place Books
WHERE: Wide World of Books & Maps, 4411A Wallingford Ave., N.
WHEN: Tuesday October 10th
TIME: 7:00 pm
DETAILS: Wide World Books & Maps
WHERE: Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park
WHEN: Wednesday, October 11th
TIME: 7:00 pm
DETAILS: Third Place Books Lake Forest Towne Center
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Now I find myself part of the food blogosphere. It was quite by accident through my friend Tea, but the support and rapport and sharing I have gotten from all over the world is just incredible. People offering suggestions, sharing every kind of recipe imaginable, and providing feedback that has enriched my life immensely. I am always in awe of the wonderful writing I encounter along the way, the gorgeous food photography I am witnessing, and the delicious recipes that I cannot wait to try. It amazes me that food can bring such a connection.
It is this online community, along with my family and close personal friends, that came to my rescue in the latter stages of the book process to test recipes for The World is a Kitchen. Eager hands willing to try anything, which not only took the burden off of me and yielded an unbiased opinion, but lifted my spirits and boosted my energy to get me through the rest of the ordeal.
I want to properly thank them for their time and support.
Tea over at Tea & Cookies tested two recipes. The first was the Yaki Nasu - Japanese grilled eggplant. This recipe appears in the story “Kaoru’s Kitchen”by Tara Austen Weaver, which takes place high in the snowy mountains of Japan. The second was pelmeni, a small meat-and-fat filled dough pocket. She wrote up a beautiful post, Russian Roots, which included information on culture and the origins of pelmeni, as well as the recipe and a review.
Cream Puffs in Venice is one of my favorite food blogs, because I have a sweet tooth and Ivonne takes the most magnificent pictures of her creations. I absolutely cannot read her blog if I am hungry and have learned to only log in once my belly is full, otherwise I am sure to overeat on things I shouldn’t! Ivonne took on two recipes, one for an Italian Crostata from Catherine Ann Lombard’s story “Guiseppa’s Secret Ingredient.” A simple recipe that can be served for breakfast, tea, or dessert, she chose this particular one as her father’s family is from Italy and her grandmother used to make the “sweet dough smothered in jam.” Her post includes a scrumptious photo, as usual.
The second recipe was a classic Crepes Suzette. This recipe appears in “Kitchen on Wheels” by Canadian Ann McColl Lindsay and as you can see by the picture here, it was a winner. Check out her post on the subject here. [A extra large thanks goes to Ivonne, as she was kind enough to post about my need for recipe testers, and her large audience pitched right in.]
Jenna of Jennatarianism chose the palak paneer. This Indian staple appears in Josh Flosi’s story, “Cooking with Jas” which takes place in Kenya, of all places. Jenna had a bit of problem in posting her test information (something along the lines of “the blogosphere ate my homework!”), so it is posted on my own food blog
I thought no one would volunteer for the Mole Verde, as it had 23 ingredients and was a bit complex. But I knew that Fran of Flavors would not be disappointed when she offered, as this recipe is from Susana Trilling, author of Seasons of My Heart and owner of an Oaxacan cooking school of the same name. The recipe was featured in a story “Tastes of Generosity” by Judy Ware, where she and her husband attended the school at Rancho Aurora in Mexico. Fran was a trooper, as she probably had the most difficult recipe in the book, and her lovely post can be found here.
“Mama Rose’s Coconut Bread” by Celeste Brash gave Helene of Tartelette fame a taste of Polynesia. A hearty bread, this recipe was actually tested by two people, who came up with similar reviews. Helene even made the bread twice, once with the coconut juice replacing the water and once with coconut milk replacing the water, which yielded a stronger coconut flavor overall. She also tried the recipe using a mixer one time and a bread machine on the other, with similar results. (My second tester used the old-fashioned hand-kneading method.) Be warned, however, this is not a sweet dense breakfast loaf like banana bread, it is, as you can see from the picture, a hearty white loaf with a wonderful texture. Read her whole post here.
Other wonderful recipe testers include:
Maureen Hargrave – who tested the Sate Lilit from Cindy Wallach’s “Souvenir.” Her response is posted on Eating Suburbia here.
Kathy Badman – my brave sister-in-law who climbed out of her comfort zone to test an African stew. Mafe, from the story “A Scandal in Senegal” by Tom Swenson is a lamb dish, which incorporates peanut butter into the recipe. My brother called me mid-bite to rave about the dish, which, if you knew my brother, is a big deal. She was also the second tester on the coconut bread that Fran at Tartelette tested (see above). Also a big hit with her whole family.
Donna Jones and Carol Shroba –Florida friends tried one of my favorite summer desserts—clafouti. This simple but rich recipe is mentioned in “A Foodie Lesson in Philo” by Lynell George and incorporates the best of summer’s fresh fruits. It got rave reviews. They also served Moqueca de Peixe, a Bahian fish stew, at a dinner party. This Brazilian recipe is featured in the story “Moqueca Feast” where Avital Gad Cykman learns the secret to this recipe, which is typically served to your lover.
Ginny Borkowski, one of my oldest and dearest friends, took on Turkish wedding soup from “Flavor by the Spoonful.” This story, by Helen Gallagher, speaks to the necessity of appreciating the old ways of slow cooking.
Emilia Thiuri, my right hand throughout this book process tackled the tagine with meat and prunes. Many might be put off by the prunes in this recipe, but she assured me that it was a delicious meal. And how can you resist something from a story titled “Honor Thy Mother,” where Rachel Newcomb reaps the benefit of culinary treasures from her new mother-in-law.
Again – a huge huge thanks to all of you. And, in my addled frenetic state to get all things done at once, if I have forgotten to mention you, forgotten to send you a copy of the book for your hard work, please, please let me know. The end of the production process is hectic and I know that I am missing at lease one person from this list (I think it was the tester of the Caldo Tlapeno.)
One final homage here to Sam at Becks and Posh who surprised me while I was on vacation and debuted the book as part of her post on Bay Area bloggers titled “Local Bloggers Have Helped Create Cookbooks.” It was a treat to come home and see this and my new book hot off the press. And congrats to the other local bloggers, Jennifer Jeffrey and chef Andrea Froncillo for their new release The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cook Book.
Monday, September 18, 2006
I have just booked my flights for the first leg of my book tour. I fly into Seattle on Sunday October 8th for 3 events in 4 days.
Sunday, October 8th 4:30 pm – Ravenna Third Place Books
Tuesday, October 10th, 7pm – Wide World Books & Maps
Wednesday, October 11th, 7pm – Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park)
I have contributors joining me at these events, and we hope to be serving some tasty treats at each venue, so come on down and join us for the readings and discussions on culinary travel. Also, I would love to hear from you about the following:
Recommendations on restaurants, tea shops, bakeries, or merchants to see while I am in Seattle. Last year when I was there I stayed near Pike Place Market and did the grand tour there. But I did not get to see much more than that area.
I have some free time during my visit and would love to meet you if you are in the area. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even a cup of coffee would work. If you live in the area, drop me a line and let’s see if we can get together.
Tell your friends about the events – the more the merrier. These are wonderful independent bookstores that need your support, and I’d love for the events to be well attended.
Many thanks in advance for your help!
INGREDIENTS: all ingredients can be found at your local store. Nothing unusual here.
PREP: I assembled all the ingredients and prep time was less than 15 minutes.
COOKING: this took about 75 minutes, with minimal intervention. Saute, add, bring to a boil, simmer, cover, add, simmer, add, serve.
TASTE: This is not a heavy soup, despite pureeing the ingredients. It would make a great lunch item, appetizer, or light meal served with papadums and a salad. The curry flavor is prevalent, but not overpowering and the family all tried the soup and liked it. The chef recommends serving it with mango chutney and sour cream, but we only used sour cream and I couldn’t find the chutney I thought I had on the shelf. I don’t think the sour cream is at all necessary as the soup is not spicy or hot.
Indian Cauliflower Soup
2 oz butter
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 cup yellow onion cut into ½ inch dice
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped ginger
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 pound cauliflower remove leaves, core, reserve 2 cups small florettes, chop the rest fine
2 ½ pints vegetable or chicken stock
1 medium russet potato peeled and finely sliced
1 can coconut milk
2 medium tomatoes cut into ¼ inch dice
2 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 lime zest and juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a four quart pot and melt the butter, add the cumin seeds, chopped onions, garlic and ginger and curry powder and cook on a medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the chopped cauliflower, liquids and potato and simmer for 45 minutes so that the cauliflower and potatoes are tender. Using a hand held blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the cauliflower florettes and simmer for ten minutes, add the diced tomatoes, cilantro and seasonings. Heat through for 5 minutes and serve.
Next on the list is Black Bean Chipotle Soup (daughter is testing) and French Onion Lyonnaise.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I am all about trying new recipes. In the last 4 months, I have maybe repeated 3 recipes. I cook 3-4 days a week, eat most of the leftovers, and of course, eat dinner at Mom’s on Sunday. I am always looking for quality and relatively quick meals that aren’t going to cost me a fortune. Recipes that have more than a dozen ingredients tend to discourage me, unless I already have most of them. When Mom signed me up to assist her in testing soup recipes for the chef at Sleeping Lady, I was all for it. We love Mexican food in our house, so I decided to try the Oaxaca Tortilla Soup. A pureed, zesty soup, that is great as a starter, light meal (combined with a salad), or as a main meal if you add a protein (shredded chicken or shrimp would be great). The texture is similar to a tomato bisque, without having to add the cream.
I could not, for the life of me, find the Pasilla de Oaxaca listed in the recipe. Not a pasilla in sight, actually. So to substitute, I used a tablespoon of chili powder, though a bit more wouldn’t have hurt. I also lacked a stick blender, which would have made this a bit more simple (and a lot less dishes!)
Oaxaca Tortilla Soup
6 corn tortillas, cut into ¼ wedges
2 oz olive oil
1 medium dried Pasilla de Oaxaca, ground in a coffee grinder
2 oz butter (1/4 cup)
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
16 oz can of chopped tomatoes (I could only find 14 oz, so I used larger fresh tomatoes)
3 medium tomatoes, cut into ¾ inch dice
2 tsp dried oregano
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup cilantro, leaves and stems (I packed them to make ½ cup, and it was fine)
1 fresh lime, juiced
2 Tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
Salt and pepper
In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, tortillas, and ground chili powder. Spread them out onto a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes at 325°F.
In a 4-quart soup pot, heat the butter until bubbling [I used medium heat]. Add the diced onions and garlic and sauté until golden [just make sure the garlic doesn’t burn]. Over a medium-high heat, add the canned and fresh diced tomatoes to the pot. Add the stock and ½ cup of cilantro, oregano, and bring the pot to a simmer [I turned it down once it began to boil]. Cook for 10 minutes then add the tortillas and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a hand-held stick blender, process the soup until smooth. Add the lime juice and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream [we also sprinkled shredded cheese over].
The chef also suggested the late addition of avocado, salsa, shredded chicken, or prawns. I cubed an avocado and added it to the soup right before serving it, which was a nice addition. The coolness of the sour cream and avocado, with the zesty flavor of the lime juice and chili powder, makes a pretty fun soup.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Here is the second test recipe per my earlier post, Eating Suburbia: The Tables Are Turned. Today’s recipe is called Creamy French Lentil Soup with Bacon. I learned to cook with dried beans when I was a college student and poor as a church mouse. I continue to cook with them today as my whole family loves them. Our standards include spicy black bean soup, white navy bean soup (like my granny used to make), curried lentils (dal), split pea soup, red beans and rice, among others. We have a fantastic farm, Phipps Country Store and Farm , over in Pescadero that sells upwards of 50 types of dried beans, some of them so beautiful they are worthy of counter display.
Lentils, in particular, are low in fat, high in fiber, and absorb the flavors of herbs and spices well. And just like they were when I was in college, they are inexpensive. A pound usually runs about $1 and it serves 6. Even these fancy French lentils were $1.99/pound at Whole Foods, which is reasonable for a main dish.
INGREDIENTS: the recipe calls for French lentils, which my Safeway did not have. I was able to get them across the street at Whole Foods, which had them min bulk. Everything else was available at my local Safeway or was already on my shelf or in my garden.
PREP: this was easy, just chopping and measuring. It took less than 15 minutes once I had everything assembled.
COOKING: this took about 80 minutes, with minimal intervention. Saute, add, sauté, add, boil, simmer, cover, add, simmer.
TASTE: We were all in agreement that this would be a good winter soup. The flavor was good. The combination of the vegetables worked well with the lentils and made for a hearty, earthy soup. Definitely a keeper recipe for my household. The directions called for salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and white pepper to taste. It needed very little salt, due to the bacon. I thought nutmeg was a poor choice of spice to add, so I only added ¼ tsp, making it indiscernible. I also added ½ tsp of each of the peppers, which added a nice warmth to the overall mouthfeel of the soup.
4 oz sliced bacon cut into ½ inch dice
2 cup ½ inch diced onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dry thyme
1 cup carrots cut into ½ inch dice
1 cup celery cut into ¼ inch slices
1 cup brown lentils
2 quart chicken stock
2 cup diced tomato
3 bay leaves
1 cup whipping cream
Salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and white pepper to taste
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Heat a four quart pot and cook bacon until crispy, add the onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat until brown, add thyme, bay leaves carrots, celery, and lentils and stir well. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, cook for 40 minutes so that the lentils are soft, cover the pot with a lid for ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, cream, basil and seasoning and return to a simmer for five minutes
I had concerns about the amount of lentils. Thinking that athe recipe called for a pound of lentils, that is what I purchased. But upon closely reading the recipe, it only called for 1 cup. This seemed strange to me, as that would make it more of a vegetable soup with lentils. So what I did was cook the recipe as the chef had intended. I also cooked extra lentils on the side in stock. I tasted the recipe once it was cooked, and adjusted the lentils to my own satisfaction. What I would suggest is using 2 cups of lentils, rather than one. It makes for a heariter and thicker soup. The family agreed with me.
I also think the word “creamy” should not be in the title. The addition of cream does make it somewhat creamy, but the word intimates thick and luscious like a cream of potato soup, which it is not. Because it is not pureed or thick, the word is a bit misleading, in my humble opinion.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Bread pudding has been a bit of a fad in our combined households. As you may remember, it began in June, when my two Canadian friends were visiting. Since then, we have made approximately 5 batches of various styles of bread pudding. Mainly it has been myself, experimenting with berry, chocolate, and plain versions. Upon making the plain bread pudding (no spices, just milk, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla), it occurred to me that it tasted a lot like a baked French toast. Interesting… Talking it over with my mother, Mrs. B, we decided to try a duo of breakfast bread puddings, inspired by the marriage of bread pudding and French toast. So, for the first time since I moved out in May, I stayed the night in order to wake up to make our new creations. Here they are, and by all means we are not wedded to these names, so if you have a better suggestion, please let us know!
Maple-Pecan Breakfast Bread Pudding
6 cups bread cubes*
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half (can use milk or cream instead, if needed)
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup pecan, roughly chopped (optional)
Whisk milk, half-and-half, and sugar together. Slowly add melted butter (stirring as you add), then the eggs and syrup. Grease 1 ½ qt baking dish and add bread cubes. Sprinkle pecans throughout dry bread. Pour wet mixture over bread, and push the bread to moisten. Make sure all the bread has been coated. Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes, or until custard is set.
Orange Breakfast Bread Pudding
6 cups bread cubes*
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted
Zest and juice from one orange
½ cup almond slices (optional)
Wisk milk, half-and-half, and sugar together. Slowly add melted butter (stirring as you add), then the eggs, zest, and juice. Grease 1 ½ qt baking dish and add bread cubes. Pour wet mixture over bread, and push the bread to moisten. Make sure all the bread has been coated. Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes, or until custard is set.
*Challah works great for breakfast, ½ loaf of Challah = about 6 cups cubed
We tried the maple version alone and with a drizzle of maple syrup. You could also add a dollop of whipped cream, if you so choose. Both versions were good, and the addition of syrup or cream just adds to the sweetness and intensity of the maple flavor.
The orange one had a nice subtle flavor, which could be intensified by substituting or adding a few tablespoons of frozen concentrated orange juice. We chose not to make a glaze, but a simple powdered sugar/orange juice glaze would be a nice addition and would make it a significantly sweeter breakfast dish.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Usually I think of sweet potatoes in that southern delight, Sweet Potato Pie. Then, of course, the holidays, for which most people serve yams instead of sweet potatoes. And last, sweet potato fries, which I eat whenever I get the chance. Most people frown on the lowly sweet potato and I don’t hear of it being used very often these days, which is a shame, as this root vegetable is very nutritious, being full of Vitamins A and C and beta carotene. It is also low in calories and a good source of fiber. I got a bit nervous when I went to the store as all they seemed to carry was yams – several varieties in fact. But I bought 3 organic garnet yams and brought them home and did a little research. These are actually sweet potatoes, but a variety that is often referred to as yams. I cannot understand why they just don’t call it a sweet potato. Are they saving money on the lettering?
If I were to guess, I would say this recipe is Caribbean in origin. Sweet potatoes are grown in warm southern climates, such as South America, the Caribbean and Polynesia. But the addition of the coconut milk in this recipe reminds me of Caribbean/African cooking. Any thoughts on this?
INGREDIENTS: everything was easy to find at my local Safeway or was already on my spice shelf. I purchased fresh orange juice and used canned chicken stock as I had none in my freezer.
PREP: this was easy, just chopping and measuring. It took roughly 15 minutes once I had everything assembled.
COOKING: this took about 60 minutes, with minimal intervention. The last stage is to puree the ingredients. Normally I use a hand blender, which is the easiest tool to use and requires the least amount of clean up. But since I loaned out the hand blender, I had to use the old fashioned blender, which necessitates an additional bowl to put the puree in, as it has to be done in stages.
TASTE: Tester #1 (faithful husband who will eat anything) loved it. Tester #2 (Daughter won’t eat anything with ginger) so she passed. Tester #3 (me) With the initial taste, there was a slight tang, from the ginger and peppers and the flavor of the orange really came through, almost a bit too much on first taste. But after a few bites it wasn’t so prominent and there was a wonderful creamy texture to the soup. Tester #4 (son, the butcher) said it was good. Like the tang. Tester #5 (son, the electrician) liked it. Made him guess what was in it and he recognized oranges and potato. Also said he felt the tang on first bite.
The only thing I would change is the amount of orange juice. Maybe cut it down to 1 or 1 ½ cups and increase the chicken stock. The coconut milk is not discernable but lends a creaminess and sweetness to the soup.
I think this soup may taste better tomorrow after all the flavors have melded even more. Good thing there are leftovers!
Ginger Sweet Potato Soup
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into ½” dice
2 oz butter
3 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
2 cups fresh orange juice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
13 oz can coconut milk
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp salt
1 pinch nutmeg, cayenne pepper, white pepper .
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Melt butter in a four-quart pot and add diced onions, sautéing until lightly golden. Add ginger and garlic, and cook for one minute. Add sliced sweet potatoes and stir. Add juice, stock, and coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Blend soup using your blender guide for processing hot liquids or a hand blender. Add sugar, vinegar and seasonings. Serve.
One personal note: If you use a standard blender, be very careful. Because I do not usually use this type of blender for hot foods, I was unaccustomed to the procedure. I filled my glass blender pitcher half full, put the lid on tightly and turned it on to puree. The top proceeded to blow off, spewing hot soup all over me and the kitchen. I got a nasty burn. I continued by filling the pitcher a quarter of the way full, and holding down the top with a dishtowel over it, which worked significantly better.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Bruschetta (my daughter’s contribution – as we have an enormous amount of basil and roma , tomatoes)
The sangria, made Friday night in a huge glass crock with red wine, limes, oranges, lemons, was just mediocre. It was probably the wine I used, but rather disappointing overall.
The grilled sausage was not homemade, so I can’t take any credit for it. But it was good.
Patata brava, which is cubed potatoes fried in olive oil and served tossed with a brava sauce was also mediocre. The first batch of cubes did not fry up well. I blame the olive oil. They broke up and stuck to the botton of the pan and looked rather pathetic. The second batch, cooked in a combo of olive and vegetable oils turned out a bit better, but I was unhappy at this point, so I probably didn’t give the second batch a fair shake on flavor. The sauce was quite spicy, so at least the sangria was put to good use putting the fire out in our mouths.
Ajillo mushrooms, which are cooked with garlic, sherry, lemon juice, and paprika was just plain boring and the combination just didn’t work for us. I had looked forward to sopping up the juices with some bread, but even that was a bust.
The ceviche, made Saturday morning with scallops, shrimp, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cilantro and lime juice was refreshing and bright. It put a smile on our faces and almost dimmed the sadness we felt over the rest of the dishes.
My daughter’s bruschetta was fantastic as always. She mixes fresh perlini mozzarella (available at Trader Joes), roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, balsamic and olive oil. She lets it all marinate awhile and we served it on a rustic loaf. I think it is better served on a toasted baguette piece, however, so I failed on that score.
So overall, I felt I had failed. Maybe I took some short cuts by not trying things that were more challenging. Maybe it was the combination of dishes. Any way you look at it, it was a disappointing evening. So I will wait for my cookbook to arrive, and I will try again.
Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle. —James Russell Lowell
Saturday, September 02, 2006
So it was with some amusement that I received an email requesting that I do some recipe testing myself. The project is a soup cookbook written by Damian Browne, head chef at the Sleeping Lady Retreat Center in Leavenworth, Washington. It will be published and available next year.
Sleeping Lady is a year round retreat center specializing in conference and event planning. Nestled in the Eastern Cascade Mountains overlooking Icicle Canyon, the retreat was built with nature in mind. The landscape is much like it once was, with preservation efforts a top priority for the owners and architects. Integrated into the property is a rich arts presentation, including Icicle Creek Music Center.
Kingfisher Dining Lodge, the restaurant directed by Damian Browne, serves gourmet foods with a healthy focus. In addition to growing organic produce and herbs right on the premises, he endeavors to use local vendors for the bulk of his offerings.
Damian is from Australia and trained in Europe. He has worked in Canada and the States, first for large hotel chains, and opening new restaurants, and then found his way to Sleeping Lady when it opened in 1995. I am thrilled to be able to humbly assist by testing a few recipes over the next several weeks. On the agenda, assisted by my capable daughter, is:
Black Bean and Chipotle
French Creamy Lentil
Onion Soup Lyonnaise
Oaxaca Tortilla with Shrimp and Avocado
Sweet Potato and Ginger
Thai Chicken and Coconut
I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. What’s on your cooking agenda?
Monday, August 28, 2006
When we first started to vacation at Pinecrest Lake our children were small and needed periodic breaks from sitting in the car (and I could only take so much Raffi on the stereo). Over the years we have found parks, rivers, vegetable stands, and other waystations to make the journey more enjoyable. One longstanding stop, always on our agenda, is Bloomingcamp Ranch located outside of Oakdale on Highway 120.
What first attracted us to Bloomingcamp was the big roadside signs for their famous pies. But it is so much more than that. The 110-acre farm includes acres and acres of fruit orchards, a big red barn structure which serves as the bakery, a beautiful pond and green grass picnic area (which also serves as the location of many a wedding), and roaming geese, ducks, and swans.
It is our usual habit to stop in both on the way up to Pinecrest Lake and on the way home (yes, it is just that good!). On our way up, we park and go in to purchase a whole pie to take with us, and a variety of treats to eat out on their tree-shaded deck. Normally we buy the Dutch Apple Pie, which is our very favorite, mounded high and covered in a sweet crumbly topping. Also available on any given day depending on the harvest is peach, apple, berry, apricot, and several other scrumptious flavors.
For noshing out in the garden or at a picnic table near the pond, they have slices of all their pies available, apple blossoms, fruit turnovers in 4 varieties, huge cookies, as well as fresh fruit, and cider pressed on the premises. As an added bonus, they sell food so that you can feed the ducks and geese down by the pond. That always gave the kids free rein to romp around on the grass, stick their toes in the water, and be chased by the occasional nasty goose (beware!)
This year we splurged and got both a Dutch Apple and a Peach and we were not disappointed. Fresh, with a moist flavorful filling of fresh fruit, and a very tasty crust, we found they are good for both dessert and breakfast (I can get a bit lazy on vacation).
So if you are in the vicinity, make sure to stop by and enjoy a slice.
Bloomingcamp Ranch and Bake Shop
10528 Highway 120
Oakdale, CA 95361
www.bloomingcamp.com (website is not functioning at this time)
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The long-awaited publication of my book, The World Is a Kitchen (co-edited with Sonoma County resident and cookbook author Michele Anna Jordan) has arrived. Sample copies shipped directly from the printer were waiting for me propped, very aptly, on my kitchen table. They are, in my most humble opinion, gorgeous. But I do hope that you will all check them out for yourselves when they hit the bookstores. (I hear Amazon is selling them already!)
From the casual cook to the seasoned traveler, and for the serious gourmand, The World Is a Kitchen is meant to inspire its readers to pursue food in a new way, exploring new lands, new cultures, and new cuisines. Chefs, travel writers, and dedicated foodies share their unique experiences, transporting readers into kitchens in Morocco, Italy, Belize, Cyprus, Kenya, Vietnam, among others, revealing the diverse traditions of other countries through their cuisine. Explore the gastronomic side of travel through their experiences, trying the hard-won and treasured recipes as you go along, and then get ready to plan your own adventure. We have even included a large resource and reference section to help get you started. Can’t you just imagine jetting over to Vietnam and munching your way through miles of street vendors? Or helping Katrina-ravaged Louisiana by visiting New Orleans in all its revised splendor and gastronomic glory?
The World Is a Kitchen would not be possible without the support of family, friends, my trusty sidekick Emilia, the writers themselves, and the food blogging community, all of whom contributed and supported this project in a multitude of ways. (Two notable food bloggers have stories in the book as well.) Alas this five-year labor of love does not end with the printer shipping the books. Now comes the marketing and publicity and bookstore events. Advance notice has gone out through an online source, books will be mailed to reviewers, posters are being made, and postcards will be sent to event locations.
In addition, a website will soon be up and running so that you can see the Table of Contents, read the Introduction, and get a sample of the stories that are included. We will rotate recipes for you to try and the Resource and Reference section will be available online (as well as web links). We will have blog posts about culinary travel, news from the food world, recaps from the tour, as well as feedback from our readers. There will be a press center with praise (oh how I love that!), reviews, the event schedule, press release, and jpeg of the book. I will alert you when the site is finished (www.worldisakitchen.com).
So mark your calendars and come out to an event! Many venues will feature contributors and something tasty from the book. And if you have any suggestions for additional events, please let me know. To date, the following cities and bookstores are lined up:
Sunday, Oct. 8 Third Place Books Ravenna, Seattle
Tuesday, Oct 10 Wide World Books & Maps, Seattle
Wednesday, Oct 11 Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park (WA)
Monday, Oct 16 Distant Lands, Pasadena
Thursday, Oct 19 Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco
Wednesday, Oct 25 Get Lost Travel Books, San Francisco
Thursday, Oct 26 Copperfields Books, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa
Monday, Dec 4 Capitola Book Café, Capitola (CA)
As things progress I will keep you posted. And if you do buy a book, please let me know what you think. I would appreciate feedback of any nature.
Thanks for tagging along on my journey!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
I vacillate between being zenlike and understanding, and stomping my feet like a spoiled child. Of course, there is nothing I can really do, so off to the lake it is….
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Early on in our forays to the forest, we went with another family, who shared our passion for good eats. Breakfasts consisted of fresh drip coffee from Peets, pancakes, eggs and sausage, and French toast rather than cold cereal and Nescafe. For lunch we made godfather sandwiches (round sourdough, oil/vinegar/herb dressing, hot coppa, mortadella, salame, provolone, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red peppers), bagels and cream cheese, and the occasional tuna or pb&j thrown in for the kids. When we returned from a day at the lake, we would crack open a bottle of wine or mix up a pitcher of margaritas (one year we even had a blender to make blended drinks!), and prep for dinner. We were quite civilized, having appetizers while we worked. Sometimes cheese and crackers, maybe prawns in the woods (large shrimp and cocktail sauce), or guacamole and chips. For dinner we would feast on pasta carbonara, London broil, fajitas, chicken mole, jambalaya (although we do cheat and use a base mix like Zatarain’s), and a barbecue night with burgers and dogs. Basically our food consumption didn’t vary much from what we would eat at home. We always figured that even if we couldn’t afford to stay indoors, we could at least eat well.
This year we are going for twice as long, and we have a house full each week. Feeding 8-10 people each night for 14 nights is a lot of planning. We normally eat out at one of the fine local dining establishments during the week, so that means 12. This is what I have planned:
Chili, cornbread and salad
Carne Asada fajitas, salad
Pasta with bacon, garlic, cilantro and asiago, sourdough and salad
Twice cooked chicken (precooked in a marinade, then grilled), rice, grilled veggies and biscuits
Fresh caught trout, burgers, salad, and baked beans
London Broil, roasted potatoes and carrots
Chicken Mole, tortillas, salad
Jambalaya with smoked sausage
Marinated Tri-tip, grilled veggies, mashed potatoes
Fred Burgers (gourmet burgers from my son’s butcher shop)
2 surprise meals provided by my brother and his family
Now, off to the store…..
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Meeta had put out a challenge. Blogger Postcards from the World. Those of us in the alternate reality (aka blogosphere) were invited to communicate in an old-fashioned honest way via snail mail. In a relatively short time she had 64 people signed up to send a postcard to a perfect stranger.
Right now my life is less than ideal. My father is seriously ill and I am working to get his house on the market. I have just finished the book I have worked on for the last 5 years (although in all fairness, we have only been in production for 9 months) and have what I consider to be the detestable job of working on the tour and publicity (it is definitely not my forte). Work is a bit hectic since I am leaving Saturday for two weeks. But I’m always up for a challenge, and signed right up. Today, I dug through my drawers and reminisced as I pawed through postcards to send. One from my alma mater, from which my daughter just graduated from. Another from the lake we are heading to on Saturday. And the one below – from one of our trips to Mexico.
I'm glad I participated. It was a nice diversion and I really do love being part of the blog community. Everyone I communicate with has been helpful, supportive, and enlightening.