Monday, May 31, 2010
You will be sitting in your room one day. Innocent. Unsuspecting. Naive.
You are probably twiddling your thumbs.
You are probably not studying.
You probably should be studying. You definitely should not be twiddling your thumbs.
You will get a call from your doorman. (Yes! You have a doorman! Aren't you so very Real Housewives of New York!)
Your doorman will demand your presence at the front desk immediately. He will yell things into the phone such as, "I can't be held responsible for this!" and "Oh, the humanity!" (You know what they say...like lessee like doorman. Especially when it comes to having a proclivity for hyperbole.)
You will. Calmly. Slowly. Make your way to the lobby. If you are not like me, then you will take the elevator. To expedite the inevitable. If you are like me. You take the stairs. Down 12 flights. To prolong the inevitable. The inevitable potentially being a package that has the word Anthrax written all over it. The inevitable also potentially being a surprise visit from Johnny Depp, who has secretly fallen in love with you while reading your blog and has hired a private detective to hunt you down so that he can proclaim his love for you. But like I said. You go slowly down to the first floor. Guess which option you think is more likely.
The label on which reads. Merry Christmas. Love, POM.
Oh. The. Humanity.
At first you are slightly panicked. Because, well. You don't really drink juice. And now you are sitting here. With 6 thousand bottles of juice. All of which need to be refrigerated.
Stay cool, Jo. Stay cool.
You lug the package upstairs. Sit at your computer. And consider your options.
You could (a) abandon ship. Become a fugitive. Run away from your problems rather than try to solve them. Leave Sophie to clean up the mess that you leave in your wake. But you have a feeling that doesn't bode well for your karma. (b) Convince your guy friends that POM has alcohol in it. And that they should use it in their next case race. Also. Maybe not so good for your karma. (c) Google around for a while. Stumble across a recipe for POM velvet cupcakes. And make them. Eat one. Eat two. If you are Adam, eat three. Bemoan the fact that you don't have an unlimited supply of pomegranate juice. Because now you won't be able to eat these every day for the rest of your life.
Oh, the humanity.
POM Velvet Cupcakes with POM Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 2 dozen plus one 8x8 inch cake, adapted from POM's website.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
3 cups pomegranate juice
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
16 oz cream cheese
confectioner's sugar, to taste
Reduce the pomegranate juice, over low heat, down to 2/3 cup. Allow to cool. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the cream cheese. Turn the speed down to low. Add in the reduced pomegranate juice (now pomegranate molasses!). Add in confectioner's sugar until the desired taste and consistency is reached.
2 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 lb sugar
14 oz soft unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
15 oz flour
1 1/2 oz cocoa powder
3/4 oz baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Reduce the pomegranate juice over low heat until it is half a cup.
2. Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Turn the speed on your mixer down to low and add in the eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, vanilla, and pomegranate reduction. In yet another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/eggs. Add half the liquids. Repeat until everything has been mixed in. Then add in 1/4 cup heavy cream, mixing until just combined.
3. Pour into cupcake liners until they are 3/4 full. Pour the remaining batter into an 8x8-inch square pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool, then frost.
I am submitting these to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted this week by Simona from Briciole.
Next stop. Bagels and twists.
Take the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. Substitute pomegranate juice in for water. Form into bagels and twists. Bemoan the fact that your bagels and twists are not so nicely shaped because of the fact that this dough is so damn wet. Bake anyway. Relish the breathtaking smell that is coming from your oven. Be unable to restrain yourself from waiting until the bagels and twists cool before cutting into them. Burn your fingers multiple times from trying to cut into piping hot bagels. Think about how this had better be worth the multiple blisters you are starting to develop. Forge ahead. Cover with Naturally Nutty's chocolate sunflower butter. Fall in love.
These babies will be featured in the HBinFive round-up, hosted by Michelle at Big Black Dog. They have been yeastspotted. And they are going to Natashya at Living in the Kitchen With Puppies for Bread Baking Day! And to Apu for Healing Foods: Pomegranate, an event created by Siri's Corner!
Thanks POM for sending me all of this juice!
Disclaimer - Although I received these products for free, I did not receive any monetary compensation for doing this review. My thoughts and feelings on them are entirely my own.
Also, today is the last day to send in your Regional Recipes: Vietnam submissions! Email them to me at email@example.com!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
About five months ago, in the midst of the aftermath of a minor surgery that my brother had (he's fine...fully recovered. It really was incredibly minor.), I received a phone call from him.
Slightly loopy from the painkillers (or from whatever drugs he took to sedate him enough to deal with being in the house with my parents for 24 hours a day. Every day. For two weeks. They did say the pain would go away after a few days. But wrote him a prescription for almost a month's worth of Percoset. Talk about foresight.). He jumped right into the real reason for his call.
"Joanne", he said furtively. Almost whispering. "Is this a safe line?"
Safe line? What are we, on CSI?
"Daniel, I have no idea what you're talking about."
Groan of frustration. "Are you being tapped?"
Tapped? Keg? He really shouldn't be mixing alcohol with those painkillers.
"Um. I doubt it Daniel. Unless the government wants to hear my scintillating conversations with my friends as we discuss the psychology behind the errant actions of the 20-year-old male. But I really hope they have more important things to do."
"No, not the government. Your parents. Can they hear this?"
Step one. Observe the patient. Take notes. Breathing: fast. Heart rate: fast. Tumor. Rubor. Calor. Dolor. Malnourishment.
Differential diagnosis: Life in the Bruno household. Paranoia. Anxiety. Completely rational fear of having your privacy invaded at all times. Sounds about right.
"Well, considering you are the one in the same house as them. I really can't answer that question. But on a related note, your doctor did tell you not to take more than one of those painkillers at a time right?"
"Joanne! This isn't the time for jokes. This is SERIOUS."
Don't argue with the tachycardic. Onward.
"So what brings you into my office?"
"Today. Your father did something really bad. Really. Really. Bad."
"How would you rate the "badness" on a scale of he took you out for ice cream to he's running away with a Russian mail order bride named Olga?"
"Hmmm. Okay. And have you been experiencing any discharge from your nipples lately?"
"I don't know. They tell us to ask that. Please describe to me, in your own words, your exact experience of what's happened."
"Well today. I was laying on the couch. Minding my own business. When he tried to make me guacamole."
CODE RED. I repeat. CODE RED. I have a reported case of bad guacamole making in Queens, NY.
Squat teams. Please stand by.
So I posted this guacamole recipe for the first time in June of last year. And then it was also featured in my guest post on The Happiness in Health. But when I made it a few weeks ago to bring to my cousin's roommate's surprise birthday party/bbq I knew, when it disappeared in all of ten minutes and was declared the best guacamole that my cousin had ever tasted, that I had to share it with you guys again. Namely because. Let's be honest. The old pictures were bad. And definitely weren't going to entice you to make this anytime soon. And with all of the parties and barbecues happening this weekend. That would be a shame. So really. Make this. You won't be disappointed. And neither will your guests.
As a side note, I hope to be updating old posts with new pictures semi-frequently. At least for the food I really think is worthwhile. Let me put it this way. I never cook anything twice. So if I deem it good enough to remake and share with you (again) then, yeah, you should be giving it a try.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Tyler Florence's Guacamole
2 small tomatoes, chopped
¾ of a lime, juiced
½ large red onion, chopped small
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ cup cilantro, plus extra to taste
Salt to taste
Mix everything together and mash until you have a chunky but somewhat cohesive consistency. Taste for seasoning and serve on burgers, with chips, on turkey sandwiches. Or dig in with a spoon. I won’t judge.
This is going to Preeti's Green Gourmet Event!
Back in the day, I had submitted this to Tyler Florence Fridays.
This time around, it's going to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything.
I don't know if you guys have noticed the customizable chocolate bar craze that has swept the internet. Recently, I was lucky enough to be sent two chocolate bars of my creation by Chocbite (the bars in the top panel) AND take part in a Chocri girls v. boys chocolate bar relay race (the bar in the bottom panel). Yes. I was in chocolate heaven. Yes. They were delicious. While customizable chocolate bars are something that I wouldn't have thought to buy, after tasting these babies. I was kind of in chocolate heaven. And I'm not even really a chocolate person. But eating a chocolate bar covered in figs or pistachios or roasted chickpeas or honey chocolate drops. Can have that effect on a person. So if you're looking for a really nice gift for your favorite chocolate lover. Or just want to treat yourself to something nice. I would definitely recommend either (or both!) of these companies!
Disclaimer - Although I received these products for free, I did not receive any monetary compensation for doing this review. My thoughts and feelings on them are entirely my own.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It has been brought to my attention that a craze has swept the nation. Regarding a certain. "Fictional". Book series.
Normally. I don't get involved in such things.
But this one was an especial cause for concern. Namely because behind every piece of. "Fiction". There is a smidgen of truth.
Sometimes that smidgen is inconsequential. And sometimes it means the difference between life and death. Not to be a rabble-rouser or anything. But this is one of the those times.
The series of which I speak is one that you may be familiar with. (Or not. If, for instance. You live in a black hole. In which case this probably doesn't apply to you. Or. Better yet. In which case. Have a bowl of this soup. And when I say "garlic" soup. I really mean no garlic at all whatsover. So have two bowls. For lunch. While sitting outside. On a really really sunny day. I dare you.)
The Twilight Saga. By Stephanie Meyers.
It's about a girl who stumbles upon this coven of vampires and then proceeds to fall in love with one of them. Or so I hear. (I actually haven't read it. I don't do fads. Nor am I a prepubescent girl. Nor do I have enough free time to do anything besides cook and think of ridiculous things to say to keep you entertained. So there you go.)
Like I said. "Fiction". (That's what they want us to believe.) Maybe.
But maybe not.
As such. The FDA and NIH have worked together to come up with a set of guidelines and protocols. That enumerates the ways in which you can protect yourself from the potentially imminent vampire invasion.
The first of which is to make this roasted garlic soup. And serve it to just about anyone who enters your home.
Your husband. Your children. Your best friend. Definitely your hermit of a next door neighbor who lives alone with her ten cats. And who you're pretty sure you've never seen in broad daylight.
No one is above suspicion.
And while you're at it. Buy a copy of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day. And make this cherry black pepper focaccia. To throw them off the scent. And also just because it tastes. Really. Good. Besides. With all of this roasted garlic soup you'll be eating. You'll need something to clear away the garlic breath.
Roasted Garlic Soup
Serves 4, adapted from How To Cook Everything
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Fry the whole garlic cloves until they are a golden shade of brown. Add the cumin and saute for 1 minute. Remove the garlic cloves.
2. Add the broth to the pot. Simmer for five minutes. Chop the garlic and add it back to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives.
This is my submission to this week's IHCC, the theme of which is Garlic Breath! I am also submitting the soup to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays. The focaccia has been yeastspotted (unfortunately, I can't share the recipe due to copyright issues. But you should definitely pick up a copy of the cookbook!). And will be featured in the next HBinFive round-up over at Big Black Dog on June 1st!
Now for a few administrative details. Regional Recipes: Vietnam. Your entries are due by June 1st! Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And check out my guest post over at Happiness in Health! It is one of my absolute favorite blogs! (Love you Jessie...hope you're having fun in China!)
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
(It's amazing what not running 40 miles a week while still going to the gym the other three days a week will do to your beach body.)
So I made a plan for myself. (In my head. If I had written it down, I might have had proof that any of this had happened. And then I might have had to stick to it. And that might have been a shame.)
Which included adopting Mark Bittman's vegan-before-dinner diet. And a whole lot of Greek yogurt.
That virtuosity lasted all of about three hours before she found me in the kitchen knee-deep in a buttermilk-infused cake batter.
It has blueberries! I replied indignantly to her arched eyebrows.
Maybe I'll just forget the bathing suit. Go with a really nice (loose) sundress instead.
This month's pick for Have the Cake was Gourmet's infamous buttermilk cake that has made the rounds on just about every blog imaginable since it was published in June 2009. And with good reason. One. It is easy. And delicious. Two things I look for in a cake. Two. It pairs well with just about any berry. So no matter what you have sitting in that bowl on your counter. Throw it in. Mix. Match. Experiment. This cake is a survivor. It will prevail. Three. It goes really well with strawberry whipped cream. Which is my new obsession. And my own little twist to the cake. An attempt to kick all of the living virtuosity out of it. If you will. Totally worth it.
Blueberry Buttermilk Cake
Makes 1 9-inch cake, adapted from Gourmet
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a 9-inch cake pan.
2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl, cream together the butter and 2/3 cup sugar until fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add egg and beat well.
3. In three batches, add the flour, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Scatter the blueberries on top. Then scatter the 1 1/2 tbsp sugar on top.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Strawberry Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup pureed strawberries
1. In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Add in the sugar. Add in the strawberry puree. Whip until it again reaches desired consistency.
This is also my submission to the Monthly Mingle the theme of which is Special Sweet Treats. It is being hosted by Erin of The Apartment Kitchen.
Please remember to send your Regional Recipes: Vietnam entries to email@example.com! The deadline is June 1st!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
And I know you're thinking. Steak? Third date? Don't you think that's a little...much?
Well. Hear me out. There is logic behind this argument. (True, it's deranged single girl logic. But logic nonetheless.)
Let's start from the beginning.
The first date. You're cute, you're bubbly. You enrapture him with your sharp-as-a-tack wit, your snarky comments, and your laugh-out-loud stories about medical school and cadavers and all of the other quirky things that your life seems to revolve around at the moment. You mention that you happen to cook. Relentlessly. (Which is really what gets you your "in" for the second date. All that other stuff is nice. But that image of you that flashes through his head. In the kitchen. Wearing nothing but an apron. Priceless.) A little bit of flirtation. A few beers. And he is kissing you good night (okay. Making out with you good night.). And you have this glowing feeling that you. Are. In.
Three days later. He calls. (What is so special about the number three? Can someone enlighten me? Do you guys get a rule book that specifies that you can only do things in units of three? Harumph.)
Second date. The real moment of truth. Sure the first date gives a first impression and that's important. But as long as you're somewhat adorable, most guys are willing to go to the second date. From here on out, though. You are walking on thin ice.
He will be watching your every move. Subconsciously (or consciously...who knows what goes on in there) asking himself, Is she third date material?
Because there is something about that third date that really scares guys. It is the date of Commitment. (With a capital "C"). Time is money, as they say in the biz, and the third date seems to be where the cost-benefit analysis starts to kick in. You've already spent somewhere around 8 hours together. That third date will cross into the double digits. Meaning that, if you ask for it, you are basically saying. I'm all in.
And let me tell you. Getting a guy to say that he's all in. Is like pulling teeth.
Let me put it this way. I've been on quite a few first and second dates in the past year. And not a single third. (Granted, a few of these were because I didn't want the commitment. But still.)
And so I firmly believe that any guy who commits to a third date. Deserves some kind of reward.
(It's all about positive reinforcement people. Even if it doesn't work out with the two of you. At least now you've shown him that the third date will not necessarily lead to the apocalypse (which I swear is what they think). But to really. Good. Food.)
Hence the steak.
Plus it doesn't hurt that he won't be able to resist falling just a bit in love with you when he bites into this. It's that good.
Yup. You've just guaranteed yourself a fourth, fifth, and sixth date sister. So rock on.
Lola Steak Sauce
Makes 1 cup, adapted from Live To Cook
2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp celery salt (I left this out. Hate celery.)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
Combine the balsamic and red wine vinegars, raisins, onion, garlic, brown sugar, cloves, cumin, celery salt, rosemary, and anchovies in a large nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture has reduced by one third. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer twice or until you have a nice smooth sauce; discard the solids. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate in a jar for up to 1 month.
Lola Fries With Rosemary
Serves 4, adapted from Live To Cook
These were originally supposed to be deep fried. And if you think I did that. Then you have not been reading this blog for very long.
2 pounds russet potatoes
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Cut the potatoes into fries about 1/4 inch thick. Preheat the oven to 450. Place the potatoes on a pan. Spray them with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary and bake for 45 minutes.
Grilled Hanger Steak with Steak Sauce
Serves 6, adapted from Live To Cook
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ancho chile powder
4 lb hanger steak, trimmed of fat and connective tissue
Lola Steak Sauce
(Note - we were also supposed to make pickled chilies with these. But mine came out really bad for some reason. So I couldn't ruin the steak by topping it with them. Instead, I chopped up a tomato and mixed it with some salt and cilantro and called it a day. I'm pretty sure it was something I did because others have given the recipe rave reviews, so take that with a grain of salt.)
Combine the salt, sugar, coriander, and chile powder in a small bowl and coat the steaks with the mixture. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.
Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to cook them.
Build a hot fire for your grill (or turn on your broiler). Grill for 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from the grill and let rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (The broiler will take longer to cook them. Just keep checking them.)
Slice the steaks against the grain, divide among six plates, and top with the salad and a drizzle of steak sauce.
This is my submission to Symon Sundays! I am also sending the fries in to Reeni for her Side Dish Showdown!
Regional Recipes: Vietnam. YOU HAVE SEVEN DAYS! Send me in your entries. PRONTO.
Friday, May 21, 2010
When I used to wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings. To run for 20 miles. In the name of fun.
Remember when I used to come home, two thousand calories in debt, and shovel down a cinnamon raisin bagel smothered in half a jar of peanut butter.
Those were the days.
Remember when I got an MRI two weeks ago. And found out that I have (had?) a stress fracture on my inferior pubic ramus.
No? Really? Well they do say that dementia is presenting earlier and earlier these days...
Don't worry. You couldn't possibly remember this. Because I didn't tell you. Yes, even I am capable of keeping a modicum of information about my life private.
Anyway. It's true. I have a stress fracture on my inferior pubic ramus. Which, for those of you who don't know. Is one of the bones that makes up your pelvis. Here's a picture.
Seriously. What is the point of injuring your pelvis if the cause of injury is not *ahem* extra-curricular activities. Good-bye dating life. It was nice knowing you.
So the good news is. That I don't need surgery. (Major YAY!)
And the bad news is. That patience. Is a virtue. That I don't have. But that I will somehow need to muster up. Because all I can do. Is wait.
This is me. Waiting.
Are we there yet?
So in an attempt to make molehills out of mountains. I've come up with a new motto.
It goes something like this. Cue the lights.
When life hands you a stress fracture on your inferior pubic ramus...eat cheese. Actually. When anything goes wrong. Or right. Eat cheese. But especially when you have a stress fracture on your inferior pubic ramus.
Why cheese? (First of all. Why not cheese. Do you really need a reason to eat cheese? How about this. It's a day that ends in "Y". Cheese time!)
One word. Calcium.
A critical component of bone healing. It comes in many delicious forms. Such as cheese. And ice cream. And the way I see it is. If you are lucky enough to have a medical reason such that you are required to eat more cheese and ice cream. By all means. Use it.
For this edition of Taste and Create, I was assigned to Chaya of My Sweet and Savory. Who is perhaps one of my favorite bloggers out there. Chaya is a superwoman. She writes two blogs. Posts regularly on Our Krazy Kitchen. And hosts and organizes a whole slew of events. Every. Week. All while cooking supremely awesome food. And she also moonlights as a teacher. You know. When she isn't fighting crime. And/or baking cupcakes. Needless to say. I was excited when I found out we were partnered up.
After a quick search of her blog. I stumbled upon this pasta dish. An immediate winner, in my opinion. Caramelized onions. Copious amounts of ricotta. Just what I needed to get me one step closer to closing up this crack in my bone. So that one of these days. I can get back to rambling on about Gu gels and the pros and cons of Gatorade.
I know you all can't wait.
Caramelized Onions, Broccoli, and Ricotta Pasta
Serves 2, adapted from My Sweet and Savory
1/2 lb pasta
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tbsp chopped oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches broccoli, cut into little stalks (NOTE - there were supposed to be pine nuts in here. But I somehow ran out. So I added broccoli instead.)
1. Set up water for the pasta.
2. Combine the ricotta and parmesan with the oregano, parsley, and sage. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Combine butter and oil in a large skillet. Add the onion slices and cook for 25 minutes on a low flame. During the last ten minutes, add the broccoli.
4. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of pasta water. Add the pasta to the onions and broccoli.
5. Add some cooking water to the ricotta until it has a smoother, saucier consistency. Mix with the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.
Like I said. This is my submission to Taste and Create. And also to next week's Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Rachel of The Crispy Cook.
ALSO. Regional Recipes: Vietnam. Let's GO people! Send me your Vietnamese recipes before the end of the month!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
(Ah yes. More family drama. Get on the edge of your seat. You know this is gonna be good.)
"Daniel. What do you want me to bake for you for your 21st birthday?"
Fully expecting something along the lines of margarita cupcakes. Or a large cake soaked in tequila. Or just a large cake sitting next to a large glass of tequila. Or at least something involving even a modicum of tequila.
(As a family, we kind of have a love affair with tequila.)
"Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting."
Is anyone else sensing some kind of communication barrier here?
"Daniel. Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Let me rephrase the question. I can make you anything you want. Anything in the world. So what would you like?"
"Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting."
Hmmm. Yeah I'm just not getting through to him.
"Okay. We are obviously not understanding each other. Let me explain something to you. I. Like. Challenges. Vanilla-on-vanilla action. Not a challenge. Think big. Dare to dream. Hit me with your best shot."
"Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting."
Sigh. Yes. I do share half a gene pool with this boy. And yes. He's still a mystery to me.
Fine. He wants vanilla. He's gonna get vanilla. (Yes, I am vindictive like that.)
In an attempt to make his request a little bit more. Well. Scintillating. I searched high and low for the most interesting recipe I could find. And stumbled across this one for Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes. Luckily, I had some Tahitian Vanilla Beans sitting on my windowsill (you should see the things sitting on my windowsill) begging to be used, that had been sent to me by the kind souls over at MarxFoods. Perfect. Timing.
I also thought it might be fun to dye the buttercream frosting blue. It was.
While these weren't the most challenging or adventurous of cupcakes. They were certainly some of the most delicious I've made. They were light. Fluffy. A good go-to vanilla cupcake. Topped with the best frosting I've ever made. Daniel was very happy. I was very happy. Everyone was very happy.
Except for my fingers. Which are now dyed an indelible shade of sky blue.
Maybe the real challenge in these is going to be trying to figure out how to not turn yourself into a Smurf while making them. Maybe.
Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Makes 12, adapted from The Spiced Life
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups (200 g) (NOT self-rising) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter
Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not over-beat.
Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.
Bittman's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
In theory makes enough for one 9-inch cake and 2 dozen cupcakes. If you want scantily clad cupcakes. But if you are a glutton. It makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.
1 stick butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner's sugar (I usually don't measure confectioner's sugar and just add it until it tastes/feels right so I'm not sure that I actually used 4 cups. But it was definitely somewhere in that vicinity.)
6 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1. Use a fork or electric mixer to cream the butter. Gradually work in the sugar, alternating with the cream and beating well after each addition.
2. Stir in the vanilla (and a few drops of coloring gel, if using). If the frosting is too thick to spread, add a little more cream, a tsp at a time. If it is too thin, refrigerate; it will thicken as the butter hardens.
I am submitting the frosting to IHCC, the theme of which for this week is POTLUCK!
And, since this was my first time EVER working with real vanilla beans, I am submitting the cupcakes to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Astrid of Paulchen's Foodblog.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Those candy buttons.
The little wax bottles filled with that eerily neon-colored liquid.
There's this feeling of elation and relief at being thrown back to what was, if memory serves you right, a simpler time. Remember when your biggest worry was who was going to be "it" in your neighborhood game of tag? Those were the days.
And also. Hope. Because hey. The stuff that made the "good ol' days" so. Well. Good. Can still be procured! Maybe this new generation stands a chance after all! I mean, if they can appreciate the beauty of root beer barrels and Mary Janes, then all can't be lost. Right?
Of course. There is also nostalgia. And a touch of sadness. Because this is not really present day, status quo kind of stuff. This is a blast from the past time warp. And you have this sinking feeling that it can't last forever. No. You are dreaming. You will wake up (next to a pile of candy wrappers. And with a mild case of indigestion.) and have to go back to a life filled the modern-day confections that. Honestly. Kind of pale in comparison.
I think that this is how Nigel Slater felt while writing Eating For England, the book we are reading this month for Cook the Books. In it, Slater revisits dishes from England's past. From his memory. From his childhood. He comments on how things were and how things have changed.
He describes at least twelve different types of biscuits. (Bourbons being, apparently, the best.)
Really. I've never seen someone get so worked up over biscuits.
In all, I would say that the book is a celebration of the English culinary history. The good. The bad. The ugly.
Which begs the question. Chicken tikka masala? Really?
Um. Yeah. Really.
Chicken tikka masala is actually the national dish of England. (According to Robin Cook, a former British Foreign Secretary). It is the number one dish ordered at restaurants there. And, to be fair, I understand why. It is Indian food for people who "don't like Indian food" (Mom? Dad? You reading this?). It is creamy. Spicy. Delicious. Globalized fusion food heaven.
How would Slater feel about this? I daresay he'd be pretty irritated at me. (What about Yorkshire puddings, he would say! Or treacle tarts! Couldn't you make one of those!)
Well. Like I said before. We can't hold onto the past forever. Especially not when the future tastes this good.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4, adapted from Meeta over at What's For Lunch, Honey?
1 1/2 lb chicken thighs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup half and half
2 cloves garlic
1 dried chili de arbol
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp butter
salt and pepper
Mix all of the ingredients for the marination in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until the chicken is nicely coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
On the next day, heat your broiler to high. Place the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 10-15 minutes.
To prepare the gravy, heat a large skillet to medium and melt the butter (or ghee if you have it). Sauté the garlic and chopped chili until fragrant. Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika powder and a pinch of salt. Sauté for a further minute or two until the mixture turns into a paste-like texture.
Pour in the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it and to release any bits stuck to the pan. Simmer uncovered for approx. 10-15 minutes on low heat until the sauces begins to thicken, then add the grilled chicken pieces and cream/milk. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, thickening the sauce further and to heat the chicken and cream through.
Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped cilantro and cardamom-infused rice.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
One. A waitress at Hooters.
Two. A vegetarian.
NOTE - I considered putting "rock star" on that list. But you know what? I could totally be a rock star.
To be frank. The whole Hooters thing has nothing to do with my disdain for that fine dining establishment. (What? You mean people don't just go there for the wings?)
And more to do with the fact that they would want nothing to do with me.
Well. You win some, you lose some. I also won't be modeling for Victoria's Secret anytime soon (which really is a shame because then I bet I would get some sweet discounts).
Unless they come out with some kind of "Hey, I don't have implants!" line. Which is why I'm not crossing it off the list entirely. A girl can dream, can't she?
As for this vegetarian business.
I just don't think I could ever part with pulled pork. Or salmon. Both of which I believe are definitely worth exacerbating my carbon footprint for.
Plus I feel like I make up for it in other ways. Like by walking four miles each way to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays instead of taking the bus. (That's not ecologic frugality, Jo. That's craziness.)
By eating locally.
And, of course. By shoving tofu down your throats as often as I think I can before Dave stages some kind of uprising.
This dish comes from a New York Times article on how to accommodate your vegetarian friends at your next dinner party.
Even when your husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and your kids won't touch anything that isn't beige or hasn't been deep-fried.
A pretty bold endeavor, if you ask me. But honestly. After tasting this Vietnamese caramel sauce, also called Nuoc Mau. I didn't care whether it was served with tofu, pork, or fish. I just wanted to drink it from the saucepan. Unabashedly.
It is deep and dark. Sweet and salty. And deeply satisfying.
And if you really don't like tofu. Go with some white fish or a nice piece of pork. You won't be disappointed.
Braised Tofu in Caramel Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from the New York Times
1 1 lb block of tofu
1 cup sugar
5 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 bag baby bok choy (local! from the Farmer's Market!)
1 cup white rice
1. Slice the tofu in half lengthwise. Then slice each portion into two thick slices. Place the slices between paper towels to drain. Put an anatomy textbook (or two) on top of them to really speed the draining process along. (Finally, a USE for all of these textbooks!)
2. Dissolve the sugar in 1/4 cup water and cook in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until small bubbles begin to appear around the edges of the pan. Carefully swirl the solution. But do not stir (I didn't listen to this. I stirred. My bad.) Continue to heat until the solution becomes a golden caramel color, about 20-35 minutes. Carefully add 1/2 cup water to the mixture. Turn off the heat.
3. Transfer the caramel sauce to a wider saucepan, turn the heat to medium and add the shallots, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir again, cooking for about 1 minute. Stir in the soy sauce. Simmer and stir until the mixture is viscous, about 10 minutes.
4. Set up your rice to be cooked (per package directions). During the last few minutes of cooking, throw in your chopped bok choy so that it gets steamed.
5. Place the tofu in the sauce in a single layer. Simmer uncovered for 7 minutes. Using a spatula turn the pieces over. Simmer for 3 or 4 minutes more. Plate the rice/bok choy mixture. Put the tofu over and pour the sauce over the whole mass of food. Top with freshly ground black pepper.
This is my submission to this month's Regional Recipes, which I am HOSTING! The theme this month is Vietnam, so please send me some fantastic Vietnamese food (to firstname.lastname@example.org) by the end of this month. And check out the Regional Recipes website for ideas and to look at past round-ups!