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.