Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cooking Class

Last Thursday P and I had the opportunity to partake in a cooking class with his coworkers and some clients. Truffles and Trifles in Orlando offers cooking classes daily for companies, schools, families, private parties, and everybody in between. They offer classes on cooking a wide array of things such as cookies, side dishes, finger foods, and various other foods.

We selected our own menu for Thursday's event which consisted of coconut shrimp, crab cakes, roasted pear and gorganzola salad, garlic mashed potatoes, flank steak with mushroom sauce, peasant bread, French vanilla paste ice cream, and pear galette. Over the course of several hours we all sliced and diced, helping each other out all the way. P and I were in charge of the crab cakes and galette. The crab cakes were so good, and I just so happen to have a lot of crab meat on hand at the moment, so I decided to make some at home this weekend.

Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Aioli
recipe by Marci Arthur

1 egg
1 lb fresh crab meat
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 cup pumpernickel breadcrumbs
2 tblsp parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tblsp mayo
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 C chopped scallions
1/2 tsp salt

From 9-10 slices of pumpernickel bread cut rounds with a biscuit cutter. Pulse the scraps in a food processor to make the breadcrumbs. Toast the rounds under the broiler right before serving so the crab cakes can sit on top.
Good fresh crab meat is always the secret to an excellent crab cake. Make sure to squeeze all the moisture out of the meat before adding it to the mixture. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Make patties the size of the biscuit cutter you're using and set on a tray and chill while you make the aioli.

In a skillet, mix a bit of olive oil and some butter and add the chilled crab cakes about 4 at a time. Cook until deeply browned and golden on each side then set them atop the pumpernickel rounds and top with some of the aioli.

Red Pepper Ailoi

2 cloves garlic
1 roasted red pepper
1 C mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

You can use a bottle of roasted red peppers but it is just as easy to roast it yourself. Get one red pepper and char it either over a gas flame or under the broiler. Rotate it so every side is thoroughly burnt. Once it has cooled a bit, peel the skin off and remove the seeds and stem. Throw the pepper and all the other ingredients in a food processor and give it a whirl.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Perfect Shot

We tend to eat out a lot. I've had so many wonderful meals that I want to capture on film and blog about to remember. Other food bloggers may not have any qualms with snapping a food photo for blog purposes at a nice restaurant, but I just can't bring myself to take that leap. There seems to be something wrong with bringing a camera out in the middle of the meal unless perhaps you're with a large group and take pictures of people not plates.

I guess I just don't know the proper restaurant picture taking etiquette. Should you ask the server if it is ok to snap a shot of a pretty plate? Is it wrong to draw attention to yourself by bringing out that camera? Is it ok to ask for a table that is well lit for picture purposes? Are you just embarrassing your dining partner by staging the perfect food photo?

A few weekends ago on our trip to Miami I had this dilemma while having a wonderful dinner at the North One 10. We indulged ourselves with a full spread: wine, appetizers, entrees, dessert. The atmosphere of the place was so cozy and quaint and the food delicious but I dared not spoil it by snapping photos. The restaurant was incredibly small, candlelit, and romantic. We found ourselves surrounded by beautiful people chit chatting about the stock market, their former band, friendships with celebrities, etc (yes, I'm a tad of an eavesdropper). How stupid would I have felt pulling out a camera to take a picture of my roast duck and soy milk panna cotta. There seems to be a time and a place for food photos and I think that's best done in the kitchen, so not to ruin the mood of a nice restaurant experience. Maybe all of us food bloggers should just kick back and enjoy our dinners and keep our cameras at home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

T-day Recap

Ok let's get this over with -- the Thanksgiving Day recap. There are bigger and better things to blog about. We wanted a quick and simple Thanksgiving this year. I didn't bother to make anything fancy or things that would result in too many leftovers.

I'd like to say everything went off without a hitch. The recipes were easy to follow and not very time consuming, but somehow my mom's and my combined brainpower was a little slow. The pumpkin bread pudding lacked sugar! The sweet potato casserole lacked eggs! I'm not sure how I forgot to add sugar to the bread pudding, but after tasting it and figuring out what went wrong, a simple syrup glaze saved it. The sweet potatoes were near going into the oven when we saw the uncracked eggs on the counter. So we took it out of the pan, pecan topping and all, and mixed the eggs in. At least we figured these things out before it was too late. The biscuits, ham, and roasted asparagus came out without incident.

The menu:
Citrus and Dijon Mustard Glazed Ham
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan
Touch of Grace Biscuits
Pioneer Woman's Sweet Potato Casserole
Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Don't we all have those stories about skipped ingredients and spice mix-ups? Don't accidentally put curry in your pumpkin pie! Next up, Christmas cookie extravaganza! Enjoy these simple muffins in the meantime.

Pumpkin Muffins
Gourmet November 2006

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup Smart Balance oil (or any neutral oil)
2 eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together flour and baking powder. Mix together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. In a small dish, combine 1 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon. Spoon batter into muffin cups, then sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon brown sugar mixture. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins are best the next day. I like them with a nice dollop of apple butter.

Makes 1 dozen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wine Time

Here are a couple wines we've liked recently:

Quinta do Ameal Loureuro 2006
a nice dry white wine with just enough mineral and crispness
goes perfect with light seafood dishes

Domaine La Fage Cote Sud and Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2004
both really nice reds that are satiny smooth on the palate and give just enough 'umph' to be memorable
perfect for everyday table wine paired with light summery foods or just to sit and sip while reading a book which is my favorite way to enjoy wine

A late addition
Tour de Mandelotte 2005 Bordeaux
under $10 but tastes like a more expensive wine
blackberries and red currants give a full bodied Bordeaux experience

Thanksgiving is looming...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Better than Xmas

I'm excited. Not only is Thanksgiving almost here and Rock Band mere days away, but I also have a big box of cookbooks coming my way very soon. While flipping through a copy of Saveur last night, I came across an ad for the Good Cook Book Club. I'm sure I've seen it before but I actually read it this time and succumbed to their terribly good deal. They offer 4 cookbooks for $1 each with membership. The only catch is you have to buy 2 at regular price within the year. If that wasn't enticing enough, they also offer 50% off 1 book to count towards the 2 you are required to buy. So I perused the site to see if they had any decent cookbooks. Sure the site is filled with Rachel Ray's cookbook #37 and Sandra Lee's semi-homemade-thoroughly-worthless cookbook, but if you can get past all the junk there are some really wonderful books to be grabbed. Here's what I picked up:

Beard on Food
The Lee Brother's Southern Cookbook
Dorie Greenspan's Baking
Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges
A Tale of 12 Kitchens

I'm of the opinion that you can never really have too many cookbooks. I'm looking forward to cooking anything out of these books. I certainly have my work cut out for me.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I love to see how the trends change periodically in food. Ten years ago everything in the grocery store was low fat/low calorie. Five or so years ago everything was marked low carb. Now we have whole grain, high fiber, all-natural, organic, free-range, antioxidant rich, hormone free, etc. This is all fine and good but what I'm most excited to see is non-inflammatory food peering it's lovely head out into an otherwise inflamed world. How exciting is it that organic milk now comes with added DHA, and dried pastas are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids! Foods that are naturally packed with omega-3 fatty acids, like olive oils and fish, are now labeled so to educate the consumer. This is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately the average American probably has no idea that the food pyramid should be debunked, and high quantities of grains (even whole grains) are considered hugely responsible for the high incidences of inflammatory diseases in this country like diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and arthritides. Grains are high in omega-6 fatty acids which when in conjunction with low levels of omega-3's, create a cascade of inflammatory processes in the body. This boils down to some common sense food habits we all know. Don't eat processed foods, loads of grains, bad oils (canola, seed oils, soy bean, etc), or a lot of refined sugars. Do eat loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat lots of fish, eat meats that are grass-fed, and supplement with quality fish oils. Anyway, nutrition related topics are my bread and butter. Loads of information is available online about it. And this new book I think will touch on some of these things as well. I'll read it and get back to you, blog.

So put all those new non-inflammatory foods to good use with a guilt-free recipe.

Lemon Thyme Smoked Salmon Spaghetti
adapted from
Maninas: Food Matters

8 oz dry, omega-3 fortified spaghetti
1 large package quality smoked wild salmon, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
6 or so sprigs of thyme
1 lemon and zest
1/2 C cream
Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste
olive oil (this is a good recipe to use a more expensive, tasty oil)

Boil a big pot of salted water to cook the pasta. The enriched pastas take a little longer to cook than regular semolina. Meanwhile, make an infused oil. Line the bottom of a medium saucepan with a thin layer of oil. Add the sliced garlic to the oil at medium-low heat and cook until the garlic is just soft and fragrant then add the thyme and zest and reduce the heat. Add the cream after a few minutes and stir to combine. Add the salmon right before you add the drained pasta and give it a good squirt of lemon. Add more thyme and Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall is in the air

I'm always missing the four seasons I once had living in Virginia. Thankfully there is finally a chill in the air here in Florida. All the rain has subsided and now we have nice sunny days with enough of a breeze to leave the windows open. With the chill I'm ready for Fall flavors and hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals. I've been making lots of heavy pasta dishes, eyeing the pomegranates, pears and oranges, and craving gourds. I can't wait until Thanksgiving and the smell of roast chickens stuffed with rosemary and sage.

Here's the perfect Fall cocktail to sip on cool evenings while visions of butternut squash dance in your head. (I feel a 'you know you're a foodie if....' joke coming on....)

Pear Martini

2 oz Pear vodka
< 1/2 oz Amaretto
1/3 oz fresh lemon juice
> 1/2 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve perfectly chilled.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Every Night Dessert: Day 4

Dear Blog,
I've missed you. You will have to forgive me for being such a lazy food blogger and neglecting you. As to be expected, you've missed a lot of good eats. I'll fill you in as best as I can.


What was that about dessert every night? Well it almost happened -- like this tasty bread pudding. I used this recipe from Bon Appétit for a bourbon glazed bread pudding with pecans.

Bourbon Glazed Bread Pudding
adapted from Bon Appétit

1/3 C plus 3 tblsp bourbon (I used Knobcreek)
12 ounces French bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 C milk
1 C sugar
3/4 C whipping cream
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 C toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter

Soak the pecans in 1/3 C of bourbon a little in advance.
Cut up the bread and toss them in a bowl with the milk, cream, 3/4 C sugar, eggs, 2 egg yolks, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add the drained pecans to the mix. Let it sit for a bit to absorb all the liquid then pour into a 9x9 dish, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes (probably a little less). To make the sauce, in a double-boiler, melt the butter, stir in 1/4 C sugar, and add 1 egg yolk. Add the bourbon and whisk until the egg is cooked (when it coats the back of a spoon). Pour the glaze over the finished pudding and serve.

I liked this 'ok.' The next bread pudding I make will definitely have pumpkin! Maybe I didn't cook my glaze long enough, but I thought it was too alcoholic. To make it taste better we decided to pour a tad of espresso liqueur over the top.

Of course bread pudding traditionally has raisins and the recipe called for golden raisins steeped in bourbon, not nuts. My hatred for raisins goes way back to my pre-school days and I haven't been able to overcome it yet. It was just too much for my young tastebuds to have a little box of raisins every-single-day of pre-school at snack time. I don't remember if we were 'forced' to eat our boxes of raisins or if I was just embarrassed not to eat them like all the other kids. Needless to say, after my pre-school graduation, raisins were cast out of my diet permanently.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 3

It's only day 3 and I'm starting to feel the consequences of too much sugar. For someone who doesn't eat a lot of sweets, this week is quite a shock to the system. I'm going to continue, but try to find some desserts that are lighter and less prone to stomach aches if you eat too much.

One of my favorite things to do is add countless items to my Amazon wish list. Then, periodically when I have a little bit of money laying around to spend, I go through the list and search for items that are used for as little as $0.01 or $0.99. I pick up so many great books this way. Call me cheap but I call it smart shopping. Just because it is used doesn't mean it isn't in perfect condition. For instance, I picked up David Lebovitz's Great Book of Chocolate this way for a mere $0.01 plus shipping. (Sorry David) The book is a a gem, loaded with great information on chocolate and a good portion of recipes in the back. He has cookies, brownies, cakes, white chocolates, cupcakes, etc. The recipes aren't difficult, as you might expect from the former Chez Pannise pastry chef, they're simple and super delicious! Like these black bottom cupcakes....

I lost count of how many of these I ate last night. The cake was super moist and fluffy like devil's food. The filling, made from cream cheese and chocolate chunks, was perfectly creamy without being sickening like cheese cake. The filling held nice half-melted globs of dark chocolate tucked deep inside. It only took 10 minutes to whip up a batch of these and would have taken 5 if I could have pried open the jar of my coconut oil (another story entirely). Check out DL's book. I'm scouring Amazon to find a good copy of his other books, Ripe for Dessert and Room for Dessert.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 2

It is pretty sad that I had to go to Starbuck's to get espresso for my tiramisu when I have a nice Gaggia espresso machine sitting on my counter top. The poor machine is so neglected it has decided to accumulate lots of nice scaly stuff all over. After far too many grimace-inducing cups of espresso from Starbuck's, I am anxiously awaiting the cleaning supplies I ordered to get back up and running.

After this tiramisu and the pavlova incident I absolutely cannot wait to have enough counter space to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer. The hand mixer is just too much elbow grease when there are egg whites and cream to beat into soft peaks. This recipe I saw over on Adam's blog and just thought I'd give it a shot since it seemed so easy. I unfortunately didn't let it chill nearly long enough so it was a bit of a runny mess, but a tasty runny mess nonetheless.

from the Amateur Gourmet (and the Sopranos cookbook)

2 eggs, separated (don't freak out about raw eggs, just use fresh ones that are antibiotic-free and preferably omega-3 vegetarian fed hens)
1/2 C sugar
4 oz mascarpone
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
6 oz cooled espresso (preferably not from Starbuck's)
1/4 C coffee liqueur (ok I used Starbuck's liqueur!)
ladyfingers (I used the spongecake kind), enough to line the bottom of a 9x9 dish

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. (Don't freak about the raw eggs! It really isn't any different than your sunny side up). Whisk in the mascarpone until smooth and set aside. Beat that cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Beat those egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the mixture. Add the espresso and liqueur to a shallow bowl and dip the lady fingers just for a second and lay them in the bottom of a square dish. They are like giant sponges, hence the name, so be careful not to break them as you place them. Once the pan is lined, pour the cream mixture on top and put it in the fridge for a long time not an hour or two like I did. Six hours is a more realistic time so that it sets better, so plan ahead. Sprinkle the top with chocolate shavings or a light dusting of powdered cocoa and dig in. Piece of cake?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 1

Someone around here hates Mexican food. It's not me, but I will say it isn't my favorite. I'm a sucker for the condiments (salsas, guacamoles, sour cream) but in general, I've never had anything that wasn't a snooze-fest for my taste buds. When I do have an inkling for something a little er Latin, I have to disguise it. Hide the tortillas until the very last minute! Tonight someone was eating these fajitas faster than I could warm them on the pizza stone.

My new favorite cut of meat is the flank steak. It is generally leaner than a skirt steak and so incredibly easy to cook. It comes out perfect nearly every time. Even if I overcook it just a tad it is still incredibly tender. The flank steak is making me think I can actually cook meat well. Don't be fooled.

These fajitas are so good I don't even care about the David Lebovitz dulce de leche brownies I made for dessert. Not to mention that the salsa had so much garlic in it I don't think I can taste my brownies.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak
adapted from Serious Eats and Chef on a Shoestring

1 flank steak (1.5 pounds)
1 bottle of dark beer
1/3 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

I tend to look at ingredients and not instructions, so here's what I put together with this one.
Take a flank steak, trim it of any excess fat, put it in a big bowl and pour a bottle of beer on it. Sounds great so far, right? I used Sam Adams because it was the cheapest bottle in the fridge. The beer works to tenderize the meat but I only let mine sit for about 10 minutes because it was starting to eat away at the muscles fibers like an episode of Myth Busters I saw involving coke... Anyway take out the steak and pat it dry. Rub the 'rub' all over the steak covering it completly on both sides. Press it in firmly and let it sit for a bit to reach room temperature. Preheat the broiler and line a shallow baking pan with foil and a light coating of olive oil. Broil the steak for about 6-8 minutes depending on thickness and flip it once during that time. It will be hard to tell since the whole thing will look red from the chili powder, so go by feel and squish the middle with your finger. I suppose a meat thermometer would work too but who uses those? Let the steak rest then slice it thinly against the grain and pour the pan juices on top. Sautee bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms to go in your fajitas.

For the green salsa, I found this recipe from Dinner Party. It is a real cinch to put together in your food processor. The base is basically a tomatillo sauce but the addition of avocados gives it a nice creamy texture. I didn't add the water that is mentioned in the recipe because I really don't think it's necessary. Play with it until you get the consistency you want.

So what were we talking about....? Dessert. These were easy too. I ruined my appetite by dipping into the can of dulce de leche one too many times though.

I tried to make them look pretty with a toothpick. They came out oooey and gooey as expected. David Lebovitz is the chocolate king afterall.

I'm stuffed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some tasting notes to tide you over

I'm about to have an entire week to do absolutely nothing so I definitely intend to blog more. Things need to be spiced up around here. For the next 7 days I'll be doing something a little different and attempt to document desserts from every night. So that means every night to follow dinner, I'll try out a new dessert recipe from here and there. At the end of the week, we'll decide which turned out the best.

In the meantime, here are my notes from a France vs Australia tasting a few weeks ago.

Taltarnia brut tache - From the Victoria region, this champagne combines chard, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. I don't think I've had a tastier, more balanced bubbly. It is sweet and fun and much cheaper than our favorite standby Moet & Chandon.

Rockbare Chardonnay - Parker gave it 93 points but I just can't get into chards. There's something about the intense oaky-ness that says pickles to me. Far too many chards = pickle juice.

2 Up Shiraz - As expected, this one was intensely peppery with touches of plum and cherry.

Campbell's Muscat Classic - 93 points from Parker and it tastes so good. One tiny sip hits you hard with honey, caramel, and a rich creamy finish. I haven't met a dessert wine I didn't like.


Denogent Clos des Bertillonnes - What was that I said about chards? This one was less oaky and more minerally. I liked it because it really came together on the palate.

Frederic Tableau Cabernet Franc - 100% cab franc. This one smelled richly of coconut, was super velvety with lots of tannins. A bit of spice and plum rounded out the finish.

Pearson's Cabernet Franc - Parker gave this one a 92 and I'd have to agree that this was one of my favorites. Made from 60 year old vines, this wine was medium bodied with cedar, raspberry and a nice finish.

I have to declare Australia the winner just for the variety. Sorry France, you can't win every time.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Indian Food Tips and Tricks

After many, many attempts at various Indian food recipes, I think I can finally pinpoint most of the things that went wrong on those many occasions when dishes came out boring or bad. With a little help from Molly over at Orangette, I not only made this amazing chana masala, but I figured out some tips and tricks to Indian cooking putting all of my past experiences together.

  1. Gather an Indian spice collection You will need many things in your cupboard -- garam marsala, turmeric, ginger, cloves, cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, anise, and good quality chili powders of varying intensity.
  2. You'll need most of these spices in their ground and whole form so stock up on both.
  3. When using the whole seed spices, gently toasting them in a pan to bring out the lovely oils and aromas before grinding them.
  4. If a recipe calls for yogurt, use real Greek strained yogurt and not the regular stuff. Now that my Publix has Fage I can finally see what all the fuss is about.
  5. Although some bloggers say Indian food can be quick, be patient with your sauces. Letting things simmer and tasting them periodically is really what separates a dish that is bland to one that explodes in your mouth. Add what you think it needs, which does not always mean more salt.
  6. A mortar and pestle is the traditional way to grind your spices after they've toasted, but a coffee grinder or spice grinder will work well too. (I advise caution when grinding cloves in a coffee grinder -- I broke mine in a failed attempt.)
Go over to Orangette and try to make your own chana masala. This recipe is so simple that I've made it 3 or so times since stumbling across it. Molly says to stir in yogurt or just leave it as it is. I think the yogurt really brings it all together. Let it set before serving, the flavors are even better the next day.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I've been having some troubles with my hand-eye coordination lately. Today I spilled a hot cup of peach flavored black tea with cream and sugar all over my desktop keyboard. Not a week ago I spilled a cup of hot water all over my laptop keyboard. The laptop survived, the keyboard is dead.

There's no place for clumsiness in the kitchen, you might wind up with 9 fingers. I have all my fingers but I sure have made some huge messes the past couple weeks. I knocked a jar of black sesame seeds from the cabinet on the floor -- wasting all but 10% of the jar. Before that I knocked over a small, hot saucepan where I was cooking garlic and onion. Thankfully I didn't burn the linoleum but I had to start over and chop more onions. I also had a spill with my giant jar of dry roasted almonds which are too expensive to be throwing on the floor.

I guess I need to be more careful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Everyone else was doing it...

Every week I look forward to reading the Week. Not only does it recap all the important news from the previous week in a witty and concise way, it also includes a food section with wine reviews and recipes taken from various sources. A couple weeks ago they featured this wonderful Pavlova recipe. It really is no secret that Pavlova crafting has started to infiltrate the food blog world so I was very familiar and was just waiting for the right occasion to make it. Since its so incredibly massive once put together, I waited until we could have dinner with the neighbors to take a stab at the behemoth.

Despite the looks of it, there really isn't much work involved. Mine came out nearly perfect on the first try so give it a shot if you find yourself with loads of fresh berries lying around. There are a lot of things that can be altered with this recipe. Different flavors can be added to the meringue, different flavors added to the cream, or add all sorts of different fruits, nuts, or chocolate. I'm excited to make it again sometime after I finish all of the leftovers.

Pavlova with Vanilla Cream and Macerated Berries
taken from the LA Times/ The Week

1 pint blackberries
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 pint strawberries
sugar to taste
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tblsp vanilla

8 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups sugar (try not to think about all the sugar)
4 tblsp cornstarch
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

This is super easy if you have a stand mixer, otherwise be prepared for a bicep workout. Separate the eggs and beat the whites in a glass or metal bowl with salt until you get soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and cornstarch while you continue mixing. Add the vinegar and vanilla last and mix more until you have a nice sticky consistency. Stiff peaks.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment and pile the fluff in a nice pile that is higher on the sides than in the middle. I had very little success on this part. Next time I'm going to try to use the ring of a spring form pan so I get a better shape. Any other ideas that would make this step easier would be greatly appreciated.

Bake the Pavlova at 300 for 1.5 hours. When time is up, turn the oven off and prop open the oven door to let it cool until room temperature. Maybe if you live in a nice well air conditioned home or reside in a town where temperatures don't exceed 100 degrees you can keep this meringue from flopping. It will probably crack and flop but it will still look pretty when you put the rest of it together.

Wash and prepare the berries. In a large bowl add sugar and vinegar to berries and let stand for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. While the berries do their thing, whip the cream with the vanilla until its nice and fluffy.

Assemble by piling the meringue high with cream and then top with the berries. Serves many.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No cooking required

The temperature is still rising which means, at least for me, no desire to eat or cook. It is really too hot to do anything. When P tries to give me a hug I have to say, "sorry, it is too hot for hugs."

This time of year I like food that requires little to no stove or oven time. It also has to be summer food. There are loads of butternut squash in my grocery store tempting me, but I just can't do gourds in the summer -- it is beyond wrong. Thankfully there are also an abundance of cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately I can't find a decent tomato in a 15 mile radius but there are always 'halfway-decent' Romas and 'not-as-sweet-as-they-could-be' cherry tomatoes. Buy them in bulk. Snack on them. Throw them in a food processor to make a pasta sauce. Add them to your salad. Skewer them alongside fresh mozzarella and basil for a caprese salad on a stick. The possibilities are endless.

This 'recipe' (if you can even call it that) is a real no-brainer. Get some wooden or metal skewers and stick the aforementioned ingredients on them. Drizzle a little good quality olive oil over top and maybe a grind of black pepper and you're set. I took it one step further and made an arugula pesto to dip these skewers in. No stove required, just a food processor.

Arugula Pesto
makes: enough

bunch of arugula, 10-12 oz I'd estimate
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste

In a food processor add the garlic clove first and some salt. Maybe its just my processor but I think the garlic gets a better grind and incorporates best when you add it first. Add the arugula in bunches. Next add the pine nuts and cheese and start to drizzle in the oil until you get a nice consistency.

I have to admit this was the first pesto I've ever made. I just never got around to it in the past and bought the bottled stuff for convenience. In retrospect, it takes about 5 minutes to throw this together and it is 100 times better than anything that comes from a bottle. So make your own and with the leftovers.... put it on a homemade pizza.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Summer Treat

Summer is arguably the best time of year for cooking. There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables in season that can add immeasurable flavors to even the simplest dish. On the flip-side, the summer heat tends to curb the appetite so we have to take all the wonderful ingredients available and make dishes that are light and refreshing. I'm spoiled with wonderful fruits for breakfast each morning but here in Florida I still haven't found a tasty tomato or a sweet ear of corn. I'm used to buying summer veggies from the side of the road back in Virginia, but here all we have are grocery stores.

If the heat is getting to you, try this wonderful summer dish from Gourmet magazine. It has all those things we're looking for -- light, fresh, simple, and made tastier with the freshest ingredients you can get.

Summer Garden Tortellini
adapted from Gourmet Aug 2007

8 oz dried tortellini (I used cheese filled but feel free to experiment)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 oz prosciutto, chopped
2 C frozen corn (use fresh if you can find it)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 Roma tomatoes
1 big handful of chopped basil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini as the package describes. In a skillet, sauté the garlic in the butter (substitute olive oil if you like) until fragrant then add the corn and prosciutto. I like my prosciutto a bit crunchy so cook until the corn is thawed or the ham crisps up -- whichever you like. Pour the corn mixture into a large bowl and add the chopped tomatoes. Drain the tortellini completely and return it back to the pan. A lot of recipes recommend reserving pasta water but I just don't like to do that. Instead I prefer to toss the pasta back into the original pot and douse it with some olive oil before I add it to the sauce or in this case the corn and tomatoes. Stir in the basil at the end and serve. This works well served hot or cold. The saltiness of the ham and the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes work so well together.

I'm really loving adding corn to different things lately. You'll see more of this later. Try this great summer pasta dish. Its a nice change from sauce laden pasta dishes we normally have in the Winter and Fall.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Super Natural Figs

So much time has passed. So many food experiences. I'll try to catch up...

I got another year older. The blog turned 1 year old. I've been hovering over new cookbooks and making something new everyday. Most recently I've been exploring Heidi Swanson's cookbook. It is one of those cookbooks that you actually read like you would read any other book instead of dirtying the pages with ingredients. Its full of information on natural ingredients, how to stock a healthy pantry, and healthier alternatives to what we are normally used to. I've tried a couple recipes so far and everything seems rather quick and easy to put together. The fig spread alone is reason enough to buy this book.

I'm so excited about this spread that I'm considering taking up a canning hobby. Heidi suggests canning it but it can just as easily be stored in an air tight container kept in the fridge for a week. This would make a great gift in the canned form. I used the first figs of the season and I want to make more of this soon before they're all gone.

Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Sesame Seeds
as seen in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking

1-1.5 lb black mission figs, stemmed (I would imagine any type would be just as good)
1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 C clover honey
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1/4 C sesame seeds

Macerate the roughly chopped figs in the lemon juice and honey for 10 or so minutes. Add some pepper to taste and you can always add more later. Toss the mixture in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until you bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the consistency is that of jam and the figs and melted down yet still slightly chunky. Add the sesame seeds at the end and more black pepper if you think it needs it. If it seems a little thin, it will firm up as it cools and refrigerates. Let it cool down and serve it on a nice slice of toasted brioche or whatever else you like. You may find it easier to wake up in the morning if you know this spread is waiting for you. Heaven.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mom's Leftover Crab Dip

When my parents come to visit, they always leave my freezer full to the brim with seafood from home. This visit I was left with crab meat, flounder, and spadefish. Everything is freshly caught and then immediately frozen using my dad's secret technique that involves a plastic straw. Sometimes the long drive from Virginia to Florida takes a toll on the freshness of some of the items despite the dry ice, but this time my freezer didn't stay full very long.

I've never had spadefish but wow, is it good. I thawed some nice thick fillets, dipped them in milk, and dredged them lightly in panko I had seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin. I topped the fish with some of mom's leftover crab dip and served it atop some caramelized onions and wilted spinach. Let's just say I'm really sad that I'm out of spadefish.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mom's Crab Dip

I'm used to spending my summers with blue crabs on the dinner table at least twice a week. After awhile, there's only so many crabs you can eat before the sight (and smell) make you want to throw up. After years of an over abundance of crab, I now find it entirely too rich. However, I can handle crabs in small doses -- when prepared the right way.

My mom's not-so-secret crab dip recipe is infamous. People invite themselves to parties if they know the crab dip will be there. Many have the recipe and make it on their own but never does it taste the same. I think there's a secret ingredient she's not including on the recipe card. This is my first attempt at that crab dip but I spruced my version up a bit with some fresh herbs and Parmesan. Its rich, very rich.

Mom's Famous Hot Crab Dip

2 cups fresh cooked blue crab meat
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup mayo
1 tblsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp Worcestershire
dash of cayenne pepper (I was heavy-handed with this because I'm convinced cayenne pepper isn't hot)
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme leaves (optional)
handful grated Parmesan (optional)

My mom always takes her hands and runs them through the meat looking for shells. Then she softens the cream cheese in the microwave and combines it with the crab meat. She then adds the mayo, lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne pepper, and flour. Granted, she doesn't measure after all these years of making it but this is what she wrote down for me. She didn't even include salt and pepper and maybe she doesn't add it but I thought it needed it. The dip bakes in an oven safe dish at 350 for 25 minutes or until bubbly. I added some cheese on top and thyme so there would be a nice browned top. Breadcrumbs might also be a nice addition to curb the richness somewhat. Serve warm on your favorite cracker or on a slice of garlic buttered toast.

Friday, July 6, 2007

My first steps into the cupcake craze

I've been out of town. I've been in town with loads of visitors. Then there was my birthday and the 4th of July. I made cupcakes with chambord icing and sprinkles. I've gotten myself hooked on all those wonderful trendy cupcake food blogs -- this is just the beginning of my cupcake escapades.

To be patriotic, I roasted these red, white and blue (purple) potatoes with chives and red onion.

I'll share birthday presents later...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Chive Flowers

I've been waiting all week for the wonderful little purple buds on my chives to bloom. Tonight I lost my patience and snipped all the pretty flowers away that had bloomed and kept my fingers crossed that more would soon fill the empty space. After giving them the once over for bugs, I added them to this super tasty pasta dish.

Chive Flower Penne with Peas
serves 2

1/2 lb penne
1 cup frozen peas
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 C heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1-2 tsp olive oil
handful of Parmesan
handful chive flowers
handful of chives, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Salt and boil the water for the pasta and cook according to the box directions. Melt butter in a medium skillet and add a splash of olive oil. Add the finely chopped garlic cloves and cook until softened and fragrant. Add the cream and cheese then combine. Add the peas and chives. Let it simmer for a bit on really low heat just to let the chive flavor incorporate.
Add more chives if you feel it doesn't have enough of the nice sweet onion flavor. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce with a tiny bit of the pasta water. Stir in the chive flowers at the very end and there you have it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fried rice?

Tonight I took a three hour long nap only to wake up and realize there was nothing to make for dinner. On nights like these you have to resist the urge to just order a pizza. I didn't wake up hungry but I had a hankering for Chinese food. So off to the store I went, in search of something I could quickly throw together. I snagged some sliced pork sirloin, shitakes, snow peas, a can of pineapple, and some peas and carrots. I was set.

I never had fried rice with pineapple until I met P. I'm not sure if it is a Cantonese thing or not but it is really wonderful especially with shrimp. So get a wok or a big skillet throw in your veggies, pineapple, scramble some eggs in it and throw in the rice. Add a little salt but avoid the soy sauce else it will be too salty and soggy.

I nosed around the internet for some interesting sauce ideas to toss in with the rest of the meal. Cut up the bits of pork and marinade them in soy sauce (low sodium of course), honey, red pepper flake, and a good bit of grated ginger. Scale down the proportions according to how much pork you have and how spicy you want it. It would probably be a good idea to let the pork mingle in the sauce for at least an hour but I never plan ahead. Just let it sit while you make the rice and get everything else ready. In a skillet, brown the pork and reserve the leftover liquid. Normally you always use peanut oil for stuff like this but since it is so incredible bad for you I never use it. I say just use a really mild olive oil -- I promise it won't taste funny. Once the pork is cooked take it out and set it aside. Keep the pan hot and add a couple cloves of garlic and a good splash of orange juice and a tad of mirin to kinda deglaze the pan. Let that reduce down a bit then add your veggies. I let the snowpeas wilt down then added sliced shitakes towards the end so they would keep their shape. Toss in the reserved marinade, the pork, and give it a stir. As always, this is way better than takeout and no delicious MSG!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are typically served cold. They can be a little tricky to cook just right. If you boil them too long they get sticky and gummy. If you boil them just right, they will be wonderful. The possibilities are endless when it comes to adding other ingredients. The key is to have a really great sauce and the rest is easy.

Soba Noodles with Tofu and Cucumber
adapted from Clotide's site Chocolate & Zucchini

8 oz soba noodles
1 medium-sized English cucumber, seeded
10 oz firm tofu, cubed
1/4 C (or less) of frozen baby green peas
2 tblsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp mirin
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp sugar

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Lightly fry the tofu in a small pan with whatever spice you'd like or just plain. Add the peas towards the end. Cook until tender and set aside to cool. In a large bowl whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, and sugar and set aside. Cook the soba noodles in boiling water as per the package directions. (Mine said 4 minutes.) Drain them immediately and run cold water over them or place them in an ice bath to stop cooking. Toss the noodles in with the sauce and then gently fold in the tofu, peas, and a diced, seeded cucumber. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Indian Food Take 37

Its no big secret that Indian food tops my list of favorite ethnic foods (right behind sushi). So I find it unbelievably unfair that I live in a place that has 2 Indian restaurants both terrible. (Luckily there are several excellent sushi places around.) In an attempt to satisfy my needs, I have tried and tried again to work my Indian food skills in the kitchen. After countless attempts, some better than others, I think I'm actually getting somewhere. Thanks to a surprise issue of this month's Saveur to inspire me, I was able to make two dishes rather successfully and even naan!

Matar paneer is pretty typical Indian fare. This version is slightly different than others I've tried. It lacked cream, used red onions, and required infusing the base with whole spices instead of ground. I made the paneer from scratch, which is how this whole overly involved dinner started. When milk is about to go bad in my fridge I simply make Indian cheese with it and I can either freeze it or turn it into a paneer dish right away. The recipe made enough to feed 8 people, I would say, and was wonderfully fragrant.

Bhagan bharta looks like a bunch of mush, and it is. Three red onions are cooked down to a nice sweet mush with cumin. Then tomatoes are added, some more spices, and two perfectly mashed roasted eggplants. This is typically a super hot dish but after four serranos, mine was mild at best.

I've tried making naan before but I didn't have a rolling pin at the time and it was a disaster. This recipe was a piece of cake since it required no yeast and just a little bit of elbow grease. The secret is to roll them out very thin so when they hit the skillet they puff up nicely and cook evenly. You can mix spices in the dough like garam marsala, coriander, or garlic is great too.

Indian food, I shall conquer you one of these days. I'm hoping for a trip to Hyderabad, India in the near future so I'll have to be patient until then. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to make Indian food in under 4 hours. It is killer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Taste of Yellow

As of tonight I have officially endured the worst of my unfortunate food week(s) and am back in the kitchen churning out tasty food. I'm relieved. Last night nearly did me in when I realized I had no chicken broth, that my avocado had gone bad, and that my mango was a stringy mess like I'd never seen before. I was on the verge of tears, seriously.

I've been thinking of yellow food after having read about Live Strong Day on other blogs. I thought it would be perfect since I had a giant bag of lemons waiting to be used for something. The idea behind it, as far as I can tell, is to raise awareness about cancer and to show support for those currently battling the condition. In the food blogger community at large, we have decided to participate by making dishes with yellow food. Here's my take on yellow food starting with lemon risotto.

This is pretty much the same recipe as the red wine risotto but with lemons. Add 2 tsp of zest and the juice from one lemon with a nice handful of parsley and you have a lemony fresh dish that is so thick and creamy yet totally light.

I didn't stop there with the lemons or the yellow food. I haven't made chicken piccata in ages so I thought it was high time that I did. You can't make a dish easier than this. Flatten some chicken breasts, dust them with flour, salt and pepper, and brown them in a pan. Add 1/3 C white wine, 1/4 C chicken broth, 1/4 C lemon juice, 1 tbsp butter and bring to a boil. Add some more butter and a bit of flour to thicken things and throw in about half a handful of capers, some lemon slices, and some parsley and pour the sauce over the chicken. Yellow food in no time flat.

I just love these little baby carrots don't you? They're so cute. This recipe came from the back of the bag of carrots and I was surprised at how wonderful they turned out.

Honey-Vanilla Glazed Baby Carrots
from 'the back of the bag'

8 oz baby carrots
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt

In a saucepan large enough for the carrots so that they lie flat, melt the butter. Add the honey, vanilla, vinegar, and salt and stir to combine. Add the carrots and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook them on
medium-high heat until fork tender -- tossing to coat every so often.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The bitter truth

Here's the truth -- the stuff coming out of my kitchen has stunk lately. Things just haven't been working out. I've had mediocre braises, a brine-job gone horribly wrong, sub par pasta dishes...we've gone out for sushi a lot instead. A stroke of bad luck? Maybe, but I need to get back in the swing of things. Instead of going for something exciting and challenging to get me back in the grove, I thought I'd start simple and ease my way back in.

We don't have Chinese often. Let me rephrase that, we don't have American-style Chinese food often (ever). Since the mouth I feed sees Cantonese cuisine as the only good Chinese food, I avoid that territory until I get further instruction from the family experts. This recipe comes from Gourmet and it literally takes about 15-20 minutes to make.

Cashew Chicken Stir-fry
Gourmet May 2007

Diced chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed (about 1 lb)
1 red bell pepper, diced
bunch of scallions thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch knob of ginger, minced
1/2 C dry roasted unsalted cashews
1 - 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
3/4 C free-range low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Season the chicken with salt and pepper then brown in a skillet (or a wok if you have it). Cook it until it is barely cooked through, you'll add it to the pan later for another minute or two so you don't want to overcook it. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flake and cook until fragrant. Add the red pepper and scallions. Cook until the pepper gets soft. Mix together the broth, soy sauce, sugar, and corn starch and add it to the pan. Let it cook for a minute or two until it thickens. Add the cashews and the chicken and stir to coat. Serve it up. This is a piece of cake and better than Chinese takeout.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

While I was out...

I've found myself completely wrapped up in school lately and not in the kitchen. Things have gotten extremely exciting at school and food has been pushed to the back burner. I don't even remember what I ate last week. Here's a bit of a rundown of the latest:
  • When there's no time for fancy, time-consuming dinners I stick to the classics like lamb burgers with minty mayo and simple roasted potatoes with herb de Provence and a creamed leeks side.
  • Then I use leftovers and pass them off as new with these golden yuca cakes smothered in leeks
  • I had a nice little bake sale at school and made blackberry cheesecake pie, chocolate dipped cranberry biscotti, Nutella Frangelico brownies, chocolate caramel cupcakes, and pecan date rice crispies.
  • I'm totally obsessed/excited about Pettibon, CBP, SOT, and Craniopathy which probably means absolutely nothing to any reader here.
  • I really love this dry white port we've had lately: Porto Niepoort from Portugal.
  • I have succumb to the Mario Batali footwear craze -- the Crocs. They aren't bright orange but they are still the ugliest things I've ever seen in my life. However, they are the most practical foot apparatus (can you even call them a shoe?!) ever. If you spend a lot of time on your feet in the kitchen or around the house cleaning and such, get a pair and never leave the house with them on because they are too hideous for the outside world. Your back will be grateful.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Communist Wine

I can't think of anything better than late nights spent sipping a nice bottle of wine. Last night we shared this bottle from Laurel Glen wines. Reds is coined 'a wine for the people.' On the reverse label however, you'll see floating heads of Chairman Mao, Marx, and Lenin. This nice little commie wine is a blend of 40% zin, 25% carignane, and 35% syrah and petite sirah. It is dark, very dark, and nicely spiced. Is it a wine Mao, Lenin, and Marx would want to drink? I, for one, wouldn't know but for under $10 it served its purpose well last night.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not Quite Steak and Potatoes

In the summer I crave cilantro like my life depends on it. I recently planted (for a second time) some cilantro of my own. I was slightly confused when I bought it since the leaves were not the large, fat leaves I was used to. After some nosing around on Google, I've figured out that I picked up the delfino cilantro instead of the usual large leaf variety. I must admit I was rather sad at first and considered pulling it up and starting again (for a third time) -- that distinct lovely cilantro smell just wasn't there. Then we had steaks and yuca.

I prepared the sirloins as usual -- letting them reach room temperature or thereabouts and seasoning them accordingly. Then I caramelized some onion with turbinado sugar. While I was waiting for the onion to turn translucent, my yuca was draining in a colander, post-boil. I pan fried the yuca until it got a little crisp and added a splash of lime but there was still something missing in this meal. I had thought my little cilantro plant was both lacking aroma and taste but I picked some anyway to see what happened. Running the knife through it, I found out just how wrong it would be to pull up my little plant outside on the deck. Not only was it helping me become carbon neutral, it was also full of flavor. The kitchen exploded in wonderful cilantro limey smell. I tossed it with my yuca, I garnished my steaks; dinner was complete. Delicious.

Unfortunately, a lot of people around the world don't have the right taste buds for cilantro. They think it tastes of soap. They like to picket and burn it on the streets. I hope they come around.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bacon and Eggs

I have not cooked the entire week. Between 'too-tired-must-order-pizza' nights and nights alone while the boyfriend stuffs his face with company dinners, I have definitely not eaten well this week. As a result, oddly enough, I haven't felt all that inspired to cook anything either. On nights like these I resort to the simplest and quickest meals I can find. I don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen and I don't want to spend an hour cleaning up afterward either.

Enter Jamie Oliver.

Oh, you dear towheaded chef of chefs. Isn't it lovely how your cookbooks are so thoughtfully put together for situations as these. Not to mention, I can be confident that throwing something of yours together will turn out to be tasty.

This carbonara hits the spot. Jamie's recipe was for 4 so I cut it in half as best I could. Sometimes his measures are simply a handful of this, a handful of that. I doubt my hands are as large as his but I made due.

Carbonara with Bacon and Peas
adapted from Jamie's Dinners

1/2 lb farfalle (that's bowtie!)
half a package of bacon (about 6-7 slices, I used Maverick's bacon because it is nitrite-free)
1 egg
3 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
3/4 C frozen peas
1/4-1/2 C of grated Parmesan, Romano, Asiago (whatever you have around)
3-4 sprigs of mint, leaves torn
salt and pepper to taste

First bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. While you're waiting on that cook the bacon until it is nice and crispy. Drain and set it aside to cool before you dice it into pieces. Beat the egg, then add the cream and whisk a little more until it comes together; set aside. Cook the pasta. When the pasta is a minute or two from being aldente, add the peas to the water. It is very important not to overcook the peas so watch the pot carefully. Drain the contents of the pot into a colander and reserve a tbsp or two of water in the bottom of the pot. Return the pot to the warm (but turned off) burner. Add the egg mixture and stir. (note: don't worry, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg enough so you won't get salmonella or whatever else is going around these days...) Add the chopped bacon, mint, and cheese and stir until it all comes together. The egg, cream, and cheese will create a silky sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and then eat it.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Spring Cleaning.

I've recently discovered an excellent way to organize my recipes. Thanks to a reader over at Serious Eats who suggested the method, I've been spending the weekend copying and pasting and throwing out all those torn out magazine pages.

The idea is simple. Open a gmail account for the sole purpose of emailing yourself recipes. Copy and paste the recipe from the blog, magazine site, or type in the content in the body of your message and title it with the name of the dish. It is also wise to include a link to the original post and the date and issue of the magazine you got it from. Now that you've got all those recipes in one place you can organize them with gmail labels. Add labels like soup, dessert, main course, tried and liked, etc. and label the recipes accordingly. You can add multiple labels to each recipe and then (this is the coolest part!), if you feel like having fish for dinner, simply click on your 'fish' label link and it will show you all recipes labeled as fish. Pretty neat, huh?

In the midst of all this recipe organizing I managed to try a couple new things. This shrimp and mango salad from this month's Gourmet was so wonderful we're having it again this coming week when the mango gets ripe. It takes no time to throw together.

Repost from Gourmet, April 2007

4 ounces very thin bean thread noodles (also known as cellophane, glass, or mung bean noodles)
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined medium or large shrimp
1 large mango, peeled and cut into cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh serrano or jalapeño chili
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cover noodles with boiling-hot water in a large bowl and let stand 8 minutes.
Drain noodles in a colander and rinse with cold running water. Drain well, then return to bowl.
While noodles are soaking, combine shrimp, mango, scallions, basil, and chile in another large bowl.
Stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt in a measuring cup until sugar is dissolved, then toss half of sauce with noodles and half with shrimp salad. (The sugar isn't going to dissolve in cold or room temperature vinegar so put it in the microwave for a few seconds to dissolve it.)
Serve noodles topped with shrimp salad.

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Fine Glaze

Ever since we moved from Virginia, I can't say that there is too much that I miss. No more cold Winters, blustery Falls, and Virginia Ham. OK, I miss the ham. I've been wanting to bake a ham ever since we moved down here and the ham withdrawal hit me. I had been carefully perusing the meat section looking for a smaller sized ham at a decent price and then I found one. Ta-da:

I had no idea how easy baking a ham could be! In a small sauce pan I combined 3 small cans of pineapple juice, a handful of cloves, 3 or so smashed cloves of garlic, chopped ginger, with some brown sugar. Once to a boil, I turned down the heat to reduce it a tad. In the meantime I rubbed the ham down with Dijon mustard and placed it in a pan. I poured the juice mixture in the bottom of the pan and baked it for about 1.25 hours (for about 6 lbs). I carefully basted the ham every 15 minutes or so and everything got caramelized and delicious. Slice it up and save the wonderful sauce it makes. There will be loads of leftovers. I'm making a quiche right now and of course endless omelets for breakfast.

Saturday, March 31, 2007


As my spring break comes to an abrupt close, I take another look at my 'to-do' list and weigh the damage. Despite the fact that my parents made an impromptu visit, I've managed to complete the vast majority of my list. One of my main objectives for the break was to master the art of dough.

First I wanted to make use of my spring form pan by making a deep dish pizza pie. Conveniently I stumbled upon this recipe which helped me move in the right direction for dough making. I was pleased with the outcome for the dough. It may have been a tad dull and flavorless but the process of kneading, rising, rolling was quite a success. The contents and overall product were great. I look forward to making more dough to maybe freeze for future pizza parties. It sure beats take-out.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ugli Duckling

I remember many a Parks and Rec soccer game halftime. We all rushed over to our benches and devoured slice after slice of juicy oranges. Sadly, when I got to Varsity soccer we just had water or Gatorade and the oranges were no more.

When I was in the grocery store the other day, I couldn't resist picking up this Ugli citrus. I had no idea what it was but I knew that it would be a surprise ugly duckling. Wiki tells me that the ugli is part grapefruit, part tangerine. After eating it, I'm not sure I agree. There is virtually no acidity like a grapefruit, it also lacks large seeds, and is the juiciest thing I've had in a long time. After devouring it, I was sticky all the way down to my elbows. It may look ugly on the outside but inside is wonderful, soft fruit. The texture is cloud-like and just melts in the mouth. Have lots of paper towels ready -- you will need them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A 10-minute Wonder

I just finished a week of steady studying so there wasn't much time to cook much less blog about it. For spring break next week I've managed to write a 2-page 'to-do' list. It consists mainly of boring things like cleaning, catching up on reading, and doing a few others mundane things I've been putting off. Although half of the list I think consists of recipes to try out. I'm not entirely sure who is going to eat everything I'm going to make but we'll see how it goes.

So last week when I was terribly short on time and energy, I made P's favorite sausage and penne pasta. Forget about 30-minute meals, this one will take about 10 minutes and I think it even tastes great as leftovers (this coming from someone who hates leftovers!).

Sausage Penne
3 Italian sausage links, squeezed from their casings
1/2 lb penne
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
12 oz of your favorite bottled pasta sauce (unless you want to make your own!) I like Bertolli with Cabernet
1 Tsp (or so) of Red Pepper Flake
Tbsp of Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Handful of roughly chopped parsley
Grated Parmesan for serving

1 Boil a big pot of salted water. Cook the penne when it starts to boil.
2 Fry the bits of sausage in a small amount of oil. Break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
3 Drain most of the fat from the sausage. Push the sausage to the edges of the skillet and add the garlic and onion in the middle. Cook until translucent then stir it all back together.
3 Add the sauce and bring the heat down to a low simmer to let all the flavors come together.
4 Add the red pepper flake and vinegar if you'd like. Taste for salt and pepper.
5 Drain the pasta when it is al dente then return it to the same pot and drizzle it with a bit of oil to coat. Add the pasta to the pan and throw in the parsley. Mix and serve with lots of cheese and maybe a crusty bit of bread.

Rachel Ray couldn't make it any faster.