Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Process


Just wanted to show off my shiny new toy. And the nice little apple latkes they produced. Next I will try them with the Julienne blade but this was just with two times through the slicer blade. I also want to achieve some really nice crispiness next time. This is always a problem of mine because I tend toward impatience and never toward lower heat and waiting. Sorry for my strange obsession with latkes as of late. I'm sure it will pass sooner or later.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brunch: A Very Nice Thing

Last week, before returning to our homes for the holidays, my roommate and I decided to host a holiday brunch, a potluck in theory but really just an overambitious menu designed by me, as I like it. However, unlike most of my eager menus that come from too many hours drooling over my favorite food blogs, this brunch did serve the nice convenient purpose of using up some stragglers in my soon-to-be-abandoned fridge.

On another fun note, it turned out to be a veritable (if in the abstract sense) multicultural feast that began at noon and ended at 4 a.m. I regret I didn't get pictures of everything, so you'll have to use your imagination.


Our table featured:
  • To Drink - Mimosas and Poinsettias (featuring Champagne, wishfully from France)
  • Mexican Sweet Bread
  • New Orleans Beignets and Coffee with Chicory
  • Jewish Apple Latkes with crème fraîche
  • City-American homemade "Egg McMuffins"
  • Mountain-American Walnut and Pumpkin Pancakes
  • BelgianWaffles
  • Spanish (?) Clementines
  • Scrambled Eggs with Gouda (cheese that's ostensibly Netherlandish, don't you know)
  • and Plain Ole' Bacon
See! What a delight. Later in the night we snacked on leftovers, roasted Brussels Sprouts and Michael Boland's famous salsa while we watched -- yes this is true -- X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 17 Again, Black X-mas, and Shallow Hal late into the wee hours.  

Poinsettias

For a non-poisonous, yet delightfully "libatious" (alcoholic and delicious) drink, mix champagne and cranberry juice (of any variety). We used Hibiscus Cranberry juice from Trader Joe's. Be sure to pop the top of champagne jovially and audibly to begin your meal, and naturally serve the drinks in the ever so classy plastic flutes you have lying around since New Year's two years past.
 
Pancakes and Waffles

We just used quick and easy Bisquik with two notable exceptions. For waffles and pancakes I always add some vanilla extract. And for the Walnut Pumpkin Pancake variety, add in some walnuts, pumpkin puree (if you can find it, pumpkin pie filling if you can't) and cinnamon or nutmeg as well. 


Cafe du Monde Beignet Mix 

Super easy way to have almost instant fried delights. Just add water to the mix which can be purchased at Whole Foods, at least. Then roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick using a very liberal amount of flour and cut into small rectangles (maybe 1 1/2 by 2 inches) using a pizza cutter if you have one or a knife if not. Heat about 2 inches of oil into a small fry pan. Then plop in a few squares at a time when it's hot and turn once. They'll cook really quickly - a minute at most. The box suggests basting but we didn't even need to. Just take them out onto a paper towel when they have puffed a bit and are golden brown. Sprinkle on liberal amounts of powdered sugar and devour while hot and fresh.


Apple Latkes

A delicious recipe I will revisit SOON now that I can pop the apples right into the food processor

2 or 3 Granny Smith Apples
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (another Christmas bonus, my new handy lemon squeezer that omits straining!)
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
2 large eggs
Butter (about 1 Tbsp. per batch to make them crisp)
Trader Joe's crème fraîche for serving

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet inside.
2. Peel and core apples (a corer would be a nice new tool to have but for now I'm on my own) and then grate them, either on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor on the shredding blade with the apple chunks the long way for longer strands.
3. Transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth sling and wring out as much juice as you can into a small bowl. (I forgot this step, which obviously wasn't a disaster but might have helped them stick together better? Who knows).
4. Transfer grated apple to a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice and mixed flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder, coating the apples evenly. Whisk eggs and stir into apple mixture.
5. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to medium with one tablespoon butter. Once it has coated the pan, drop tablespoons full of apple batter in little piles, gently pressing them a bit flatter with a spatula. Fry until they are nicely brown underneath, about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until they are browned and crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and transfer to preheated oven to keep warm until serving up to an hour later
6. Add 1 Tbsp. of butter for each new batch in the pan, and repeat with remaining batter.
7. Serve with crème fraîche on top. Yum.

 Enjoy with friends

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

Hello everyone!

I've sorry to have abandoned you for so long. But now I'm back and I've got so many recipes and photos of my efforts to share.

For today though, it's Christmas and the very first White Christmas of my life as well as the first in Atlanta in over 100 years!! I woke to the dreary morning we have all become accustomed to in Georgia as our sorry excuse for winter. But just like a Christmas miracle, we began opening our presents in our sunroom as usual and suddenly the snow began to fall. And it got bigger and fluffier and started sticking...and now I only fear I won't make it to see True Grit because there's actually snow on the roads.

My white house and white car seem so at home. 

This playground was my first Christmas miracle. I was probably about 5 years old, and my grandparents had come to visit from Pennsylvania. On Christmas Eve my Grandma took me out for adventures all day long until it was dark, and I eagerly awaiting sleep so that Santa wouldn't pass by my house. When morning came, we sang "Silent Night" as we walked down the stairs, carefully preparing to deliver Baby Jesus to the manager as always. But the second I rounded the corner, I could see straight down the hall to the sunroom where in my backyard, Santa had magically delivered a fully assembled, perfect playground just for me.

That year Grandpa and my Dad were Santa. And what a magical thing it was.

 Now here's a recipe to keep you warm on these (finally) cold winter nights. It's simple and delicious. And perhaps I'll whip some up with my brand new food processor (Hallelujah!)

Carrot and Fennel Soup
 
2 medium fennel bulbs with fronds (Trader Joe's sells great big ones!)
1 lb carrots, quartered lengthwise
1 medium onion, quartered
 2 garlic cloves, halved
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground finely in a coffee grinder


Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lowest position.
2. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve. Discard stalks and remaining fronds. 
3. Slice bulbs 1/4 inch thick and toss with carrots, onion, garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. 
4. Spread in a 4-sided sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Blend half of vegetables in a blender with broth until very smooth (or still with a little chunk in its step as I like it). 
6. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Repeat with remaining vegetables and water. Thin with extra water if you want it really soupy and simmer 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Meanwhile, finely grind fennel seeds in grinder and stir into remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
8. Serve soup drizzled with fennel oil and sprinkled with reserved fronds.



Friday, November 5, 2010

I grew radishes!

Big ones too.
 

...and arugula

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mushroom Risotto and Old-Fashioneds

Lately I just cannot get enough of mushrooms. I also happen to be a huge fan of risotto, a meal that I feel strikes the perfect balance between seemingly fancy but also really easy to make taste delicious. Also, there are so so many excellent variations. So when I saw this recipe on The Kitchen Sink I knew immediately I had to make it that night. I picked up some Brussels sprouts to accompany the risotto and some bitters and bourbon for some Mad Men style Old Fashioneds, Don Draper's drink of choice.


Mushroom Risotto

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (about two little cartons)
1/2 large onion, diced
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme, plus more for serving
kosher salt
freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup freshly-grated parmesan, plus more for serving

1. Melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and soft.
2. If the mushrooms get too watery, drain the pan and scrape the mushrooms into a bowl to reserve for later.
3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Add the onion, shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and softened.
4. Add the arborio, season with salt and pepper, and stir for about a minute.
5. Add the wine, and stir constantly until the rice has absorbed the wine.
6. Warm the vegetable broth. Laddle in about 1/2 cup of broth every time the rice absorbs what's already been added. Slowly but surely the rice will thicken.
7. When the rice is cooked to your taste, add the cooked mushrooms and grated cheese. Serve immediately, with additional fresh thyme and grated cheese, if desired.


Brussels Sprouts 
This recipe was recommended to me by my father.

Small brussels sprouts, however many you desire
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup parmesan
1. Wash the Brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any ragged outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and make a small X in the base of the stem. This is important because the leaves cook faster than the stems which causes the bitterness that most people dislike about Brussels sprouts. This trick maintains the buttery sweetness that makes these veggies utterly delectable.
2. Boil a pot of water and fill a bowl with salted ice water. Blanche the Brussels sprouts for about 3 minutes in the boiling water then drop the in the salted ice water.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don't go too hot.
4. Rub the Brussels sprouts with olive oil. Place the Brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down in a single-layer, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes.
5. This is optional: once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side.
6. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and some grated cheese. Eat immediately if possible and reheat for snacks later.


Now for drinks...

 Old-Fashioned


  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters
  • 2 dashes of rhubarb bitters (recommended by the Five Points Bottle Shop guy)
  • ½ tsp sugar dissolved with water and bitters
  • 1½ oz of bourbon
  • 1 cherry (optional)
  • 1 orange slice
  • Some orange juice squeezed in
  • 1 lemon wedge

Instructions

Fill glass with ice. Add cherry, orange slice and lemon wedge. Pour in bourbon. Serve in a rocks glass over ice.

If you prefer, you could also make a whiskey sour or mint julep using the same bourbon you've already purchased. Salut!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What can be used instead....

Last night was one of my most absent-minded moments. I went into the kitchen, ready to make Brazilian Soup from my new, graphically favorite, cookbook I Know How To Cook. Now, before I go to the grocery store, I find my self thumbing through all the various recipes I have bookmarked, added to my delicious or starred on my reader in the past weeks. This inevitably leads me to purchasing far too many ingredients for far too many meals...although miraculously I've gotten pretty good at using every last bit before they reach "beyond banana bread" if you will.

 
So I had purchased the ingredients for Brazilian Soup weeks ago, only to find out, an hour before dinner was meant to be ready, that I didn't have the following: (and what they had gone to)
  • Onion (Salsa) - Replaced by shallots
  • Tomatoes (Salsa) - Excluded
  • Consomme (Actually I didn't even get ingredients for this in the first place for unknown reasons) - Replaced by veggie stock
  • Butter (Everything...my roommate and I use a sick amount of butter) - Borrowed from the Stephensons
  • Nearly carrots. They were reaching floppy but luckily I caught them just in time. - Used anyway. Ya.
To give up and cancel dinner or to make something out of what I have and hope it works?

Brazilian Soup
Adapted from I Know How to Cook
 
A bunch of carrots (about 6 medium sized), thinly sliced
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 shallots, minced
5 turnips
3 celery stocks, thinly sliced
1 Cayenne or Santaka pepper, minced
5 Tbsp. Butter
1 1/2 cups long-grained rice
13 cups of water
Salt, pepper
A few drops of truffle oil
Dash of ginger powder
1 can of black beans
1 can of pinto beans
Vegetable stock

*The actual recipe had very exact amounts in ounces and I do not attempt to claim that my amounts are best or different really or anything of the sort. I figure with soup, it's all the same.*

  1. Boil 13 cups of water. When it reaches a rapid boil, add the rice and stir once. Let cook for 10-12 minutes or until it tastes cooked to the proper softness. 
  2. Drain the rice in a collander and rinse with cold water. 
  3. Melt 2 heaping tablespoons of butter in pan. Once melted, add the rice and reheat on low-medium, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the pan and to coat with butter.
  4. While the rice is cooking, melt 3 Tbsp. of butter in a large pan. Add the carrots, leeks, shallots, celery, turnips, and cayenne or santaka pepper. Cover and let cook stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  5. Add salt, pepper, truffle oil and ginger powder to the vegetables to taste.
  6. Puree the beans in a blender or food processor. 
  7. After 30 minutes, add the vegetable stock (about 4 cups) to the vegetables. If you want to thicken the soup, add some corn starch mixed into a bit of cold water. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the bean puree.
  9. Serve by pouring the soup over rice in a bowl. I also buttered some onion hamburger buns, topped them with fresh grated parmesan and toasted them in over for 5 minutes or so.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mondays are back!

 

 And yes, admittedly, I'm a little late on this, since there have already been 2 weeks of  Gossip Girl, but for me and my busy self this was the first week things returned to the norm. My roomie and I cooked up a delicious feast and watched the newest Gossip Girl over a bottle of red wine. C'est perfectament!

For this special inauguration of the semester, we cooked up something quite special indeed. On the menu: boiled artichokes with hollandaise, rosemary and olive rolls, and roasted vegetable lasagna.


Appetizer: Boiled Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce
2-4 artichokes, depending on the crowd and your appetite
3 egg yolks
1/2 lemon of fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted and bubbling

1. Start a large pot of water to boil with a dash of salt.

2. Cut the stems of the artichokes so they might stand flat. Then cut off the top inch-ish of the artichoke. Rub the cut edges with a lemon, to be used later in the Hollandaise Sauce, to prevent browning.

3. Plop the artichokes in the pot, and yes, they will float, but they need to be covered by the water. If someone has a trick to this I will love you forever. As for now I am risking my safety each time I come up with a new, probably unsafe, but heavy item to set on top of the artichokes to keep them down in the water.

4. Let them cook for about 45 minutes or until a bottom leaf pulls off readily and tastes done.
5. About 5 minutes before they are done or even just after they are done, start making the Hollandaise.
6. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to the blender, and blend about 5 seconds. With blender running, and partially covering top, pour in bubbling hot butter in a steady stream. Blend until thickened, about 30 seconds. Serve immediately.



Bread: Olive and Rosemary Rolls
*Start these first because they have to rise for about 2 hours, plus prep/kneading/cooking*

1 tsp. dry active yeast [very important you use "dry active yeast" NOT "instant" or "rapid rise"]
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup-ish black olives, diced
11/2 Tbsp.-ish rosemary leaves, chopped
Flour, for kneading
Olive oil, for brushing

1. Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. [In my past breads this bubbling business has always happened, but for whatever reason it didn't for me this time. Have no fear though, this bread still turned out amazing. Conclusion: if you don't get bubbles, carry on carry on.]
2. Add the flour, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.
3. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding a little extra flour if the dough becomes too sticky, and luckily this dough is not too sticky to knead comfortably. Cover with plastic wrap, set aside in a warm place/on the table for 1 hour or until doubled in size. [Also to note, my dough didn't really magically double in size as usually happens in bread making, but it did expand some and this was fine too]

4. Brush 1 or 2 round cake pans with olive oil. Mine took 8in cake pan plus 2 rolls, so yeah.
5. Knead the olives and rosemary leaves into the dough on a generously floured surface. Divide into 16-ish pieces and roll into balls. Place in prepared pans, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F.
[Now that I think about it, I don't think we let them rise this second time officially. We probably left them out for a bit before sticking them in the oven, but none of this tea cloth and doubling again business. Oh well, again they were scrumptious and perfect.]
5. Brush with the oil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.



Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
One 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
Two 14 oz. cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
One medium onion, diced
Tsp-ish of fennel seeds
Tsp-ish of chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Slice of butter
1 container ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 package of Lasagna noodles
[All of the following ingredients could be increased, decreased, added to, eliminated etc, according to your preference and available veggies.]
4 delicata squash, halved longwise
3 thin eggplants, halved longwise
2 packages of whole baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup of black olives, diced (leftover from bread)
1 package frozen chopped spinach
Artichoke hearts (leftover from appetizer)

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
2. Cut up all of your veggies as described above. Spoon out the seeds from the squash. Rub the squash, eggplant and mushrooms with olive oil, pepper, salt and oregano. Stick them all on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes, or until they look done. Beware that eggplant will be ready first so check on them and take them out before they crisp...like I forgot to do a little bit.
3.  Start on the sauce. Saute in olive oil the onions, fennel seeds, chile pepper flakes, butter and garlic in a large pan. Then add the cans of tomatoes, including the juices, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling bring it down to a simmer and let it go until you taste it to be ready. [Some may puree it all at this point but I found that just mashing the whole tomatoes with my wooden spoon as it cooked resulted in a delightfully chunky sauce.]
4. Mix the defrosted spinach (just like Mama made it) into the ricotta cheese and add your leftover olives from the bread too. You might just add in some chopped up artichoke hearts that you have so cleverly already prepared for another purpose.
5. Get the pasta cooked and shred the parmasan.
6. Slightly mash up the squash (keep the skin or remove to your personal preference), chop the eggplant and half or quarter the mushrooms.

7. Now for the layers. Start with sauce, then add the ricotta mixture, then noodles, then roasted veggies, then parmesan, repeat. Finally top it off with chunks of fresh mozzarella to seal it all in and make sure no pasta is exposed because it will get all crunchy then.
8. Bake in a pyrex pan for 20-40 minutes. Just check on it and when the cheese on top begins to get lightly brown and bubbly, take it out.
9. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before eating.

P.S. I dedicate this post to Charlemagne, my cat, who helped choose what to cook this week. See?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My fall dance includes squash curry

Welcome back readers, I'm sorry it has been so long since we've seen each other.

Life is crazy here in my new little brown house with my new big orange cat. School is back with a vengeance, I've taken up a new hobby and there's always something fun to do, especially when your friends are just around the corner.

About that hobby, it's gardening. I've spent long, very long days digging out a pretty large garden by hand and making many a trip to Lowe's. I can now say that I'm a proud owner of a wheel barrow, I have a stocked shed of gardening tools and have purchased at least one bag of most varieties of organic fertilizer, soil and manure. I'll start posting pictures as the garden grows, but at this point I'm waiting for seeds to germinate and I don't want to jinx anything.



Back to the food.

This week, because the farmers market has been treating me so well and for a couple days it actually seemed like fall might be on its way here, I decided to make a vegetarian squash curry. I was so inspired by this incredibly gorgeous (and large) green Hubbard squash grown by my favorite Cedar Grove Farm.

Now let's talk about dancing, or eating in this case, to bring on fall. This dish is the perfect blend of wintery spices with a bright orange and yellow color palette to honor the summer days. The winter squash and sweet potato say a brief hello/goodbye to summer's bell peppers, grape tomatoes and basil in this visually delightful meal. Surely fall will stop by for a taste.



Vegetarian Squash Curry
  • 1 gorgeous local winter squash, preferably orange on the inside [Actually I probably used to much squash, so maybe go for only half a large squash. But I also have enjoyed yummy leftovers for quite a while]
  • 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed into roughly 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3-4 medium carrots, cut into thick slices
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, locally grown if possible. In face those really neat multi-colored ones would probably look lovely in this recipe
  • 1/2 can chick peas, drained
  • 1 orange's zest
CURRY SAUCE A.K.A. The Best Part
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tsp Thai chili sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Juice of one large lime
  • Juice of one medium-large orange
  • 2 1/2 - 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin,1 tsp. fennel seed, 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp. red curry paste, optional
  • 1/3 purple onion, sliced
GARNISH: handful of fresh basil leaves leftover from sweet summer

 

Preparation:

I like to start by cutting everything up, mostly because I am slow and I never remember to go get my knives sharpened. This made for an amusing time hacking at this incredibly immense and hard-skinned squash. I think next time I might try route of roasting the squash and sweet potato in the oven and gently scooping them from their skins instead.

  1. Prepare squash by cutting it open and scooping out the seeds with a spoon. Either save the seeds for roasting or discard. Cut the squash into roughly 1/2 inch cubes, slicing off the skin. Prepare the rest of the vegetables plus the orange zest.
  2. To make the curry sauce, place all sauce ingredients together in a food processor (or blender if your food processor is always mysteriously missing a piece that makes it go). Process well. The sauce may only taste so so at this point, but as I discovered, it's the cooking that makes it simply divine.
  3. Place the squash, yam and carrots in the wok (ideally, but you could use a very large frying pan) together with the curry sauce over medium-high heat. Stir well.
  4. When the curry begins to boil, reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for 6-20 minutes, or until vegetables have softened. Ha. I didn't cube my squash and sweet potato small enough, so it took mine a while to cook. This is why I suggest 1/2 inch cubes.
  5. Add the bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, chick peas, and orange zest, stirring to incorporate. Simmer for 2ish more minutes.
  6. Do a taste test for salt and spice. If not salty enough, add a little more soy sauce. If not spicy enough add more chili sauce. If too sour, add a little more sugar.
  7. Serve in a bowl with a few fresh basil leaves on top and make a toast to fall.

A great thing also about this recipe and making a whole lot of it is that tonight I pureed the remainder with a bit of stock and had some yummy soup with even more of that amazing curry sauce flavor.