December 23, 2011

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!

Last week I made Nutella sandwich cookies from a recipe I found on an Italian website. They were delicious. I doubled the batch, and I used the 2nd half of the dough today.

I did 12 with Trader Joe's Cherry Preserves inside (and topped them with an almond sliver) and filled the rest with Nutella. You just can't go wrong with Nutella.

These cookies are delicious warm, but also at room temperature, and they are awesome with coffee.

June 29, 2011

Tinkering with Indian

I bought At Home with Madhur Jaffrey several months ago, but have been waiting for some reason to cook anything from it. Partly because I needed about one million spices that I didn't have. Thanks to a generous gift card I received for Penzey's Spices, I was able to buy many of those exotic spices. Anyway, I recently tried my first two recipes from the book.

The first, Chicken Karhai with Mint, was a total success. It was... DELICIOUS. Jaffrey suggests for some recipes that you use a homemade garam masala, so this was also my first chance to use the Cuisinart coffee grinder that I also bought several months ago to grind my spices. (I'm not using it for coffee.) I'm not even really a chicken lover, but I'm trying to eat lots of protein lately and I find that I feel better when I'm eating it. Anyway, for a starch I used Trader Joe's Frozen Brown Rice Medley. Instead of the microwave (ready in 3 minutes!) I put it in a pot, added some water, and some chopped dried apricots, and let it simmer about 10-15 minutes. It was a really delicious and EASY side, and I highly recommend that rice, even if you don't add fruit to it. And I don't even like brown rice.

The next Indian dish I tried was Tandoori Style Chicken with Mint. I think my biggest mistake here was using white meat instead of the legs that the recipe suggests. (Only had chicken breasts in my house.) I marinated it in its yogurt mixture overnight, and then cooked it in a 500 degree oven in a pyrex dish. It wasn't until later that I thought, hm, I wonder if that dish can go up to 500 degrees? Anyway. One note about this dish: don't put the marinade in the baking dish. She does say "remove chicken from marinade" but I thought, hmm, maybe some of the sauce should be in the dish. This is a mistake, because the sauce basically burns to the dish at that temperature, and becomes difficult to scrub off afterward. Just put the chicken into the baking dish. I got a little of the Tandoori flavor I know from restaurants on the browned edges of the breast, but as you can see, most of it stayed white. This is why I think it's really important to use smaller, dark meat pieces of chicken (like she suggests.)

The rice I made was also from her book, Yellow Basmati Rice with Sesame Seeds. This was made yellow from ground turmeric (my spices at work!) The only ingredient I didn't have was urad dal, or yellow split peas, but it only called for 1 teaspoon, so I figured it was not THAT essential. You are supposed to put mustard seeds into the pan with some oil, and when they start to pop, you add the rice. Well, for those of you who've never used mustard seeds, they really pop! As in, right out of the pot! So be ready :)

I like this book a lot, especially because of the background information about where the recipes originate (they are not all from India), and because they are all easy. With a little planning ahead next time, I'll be sure I have all the ingredients when I try my next recipes.

May 30, 2011

Moules Frites a Washington, DC - Oui Oui!

Last night I ate at Brasserie Beck in DC. I love their Classic White Wine Moules Frites, but I wanted to try something new, so I ordered the Fennel and Chorizo Moules instead (top left). Apparently this is a very popular choice. Well, just fyi, if you like chorizo, you should order this. It's a little spicy, which I liked. But there was SO MUCH sausage - like, probably twice as many pieces of sausage as mussels. It was a little overwhelming. Also, for me it wasn't the chorizo that was calling me to order this dish, it was the fennel. And that's where I was disappointed. I did not get even one taste of fennel in the entire pan of mussels. In fact, I'm not really sure there was any fennel. The tiny pieces of pale veggie I found resembled celery, which tells me either it was celery, or it was the stalk of the fennel and not the bulb, which... really, what is the point? I will stick to the classic white wine next time.
My dining partner ordered the Moules a la Irwin Mushroom with bacon and truffle (to left). He had tried them before and decided to stick with a favorite.
The frites as usual were awesome, although salted a little heavy handedly, and the mayo trio featured their delicious curry mayo. The middle mayo, the tomato brandy one - I'm not sure who eats that one, because at least at our table it's always the one that's still almost full when we're done eating.
For a starter we ordered a half dozen raw oysters, a mix of East and West coast, and they were very delicious. I'm a cocktail sauce on oyster girl myself. We also shared the Slow-Roasted Beet salad which is served with a delectably creamy whipped goat cheese and caramelized walnuts. We had this salad last time and were just as happy with it last night.
For dessert we followed the waiter's suggestion of trying their special dessert, "strawberry shortcake." I'm putting that in quotes because it wasn't strawberry shortcake. It was some sort of panna cotta served with biscuits with duck fat. The biscuits were good, a little heavy, but this dessert just wasn't strawberry shortcake. When I think of SS, I think of a light and refreshing dessert, (even with cream or ice cream.) This just left me feeling heavy and regret for not ordering the Pear Tarte Tatin, the Bread Pudding, the Waffle with Strawberry Compote, or pretty much any other dessert that was on the menu.
Bottom line - go there and eat their awesome mussels and fries, and try their beers (we had the Antigoon Double Blond Ale with the mussels last night - good choice).

May 29, 2011

Mustard Bâtons

I made another catch-up recipe in the ffwd game this morning - mustard bâtons. I practically burned my brain the other day when I put my trader joe's dijon mustard on both sides of a sandwich, so I was scared to use as much mustard as Dorie suggested. This was a mistake because after baking, I couldn't really taste any mustard at all. A let down. I also twisted half the batch just for a little visual diversity. There's one twisted baton on the bottom left of the photo. I would definitely make these again, but next time will not skimp on the moutarde!
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May 27, 2011

Cardamom Rice Pilaf

This was a delicious, healthy, light and refreshing dish for a hot day. I absolutely love the flavor of cardamom, so I was excited about this dish. I'm trying to eat light these days, so for lunch today I had one serving of the rice, one serving of asparagus (boiled as in the Bacon, Egg, Asparagus salad), and then I ate two Vanilla Eclairs that I had leftover from yesterday. Haha!

May 26, 2011

Fancy French Dinner that Knocks Out 3 FFWD Recipes!

I'm on a mission, and that mission is to catch up on all the FFWD recipes that I've missed. I made great strides today with a fancy French dinner I made pour moi et mon amour. The menu:
Bacon, Egg and Asparagus Salad
Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak
Broth-Braised Potatoes
Vanilla Eclairs

My first soft-boiled egg and it was pretty perfect if I do say so myself. I peeled the bottoms of the asparagus and there was no toughness.

I chose beef tenderloin for the steaks, and forgot to salt them (oops!) But I thought it was actually delicious and didn't need any. I wanted to add a healthy side dish so I chose Dorie's Broth-Braised Potatoes. They haven't been chosen for a FFWD recipe yet, but if they ever are, I'll be one step ahead! Btw, these potatoes are absolutely delicious and I would make them again in a heartbeat. I flavored them with sage.

The Vanilla Eclairs are delicious. It's all I can do to not go into my fridge and eat the rest of them. I halved the recipe since I didn't need to make 20 eclairs. The dough didn't puff up that much, and my mom (profiterole expert) said they could have probably used one more egg, or they could have stayed at 425 (instead of lowering the temp), or both. But the flavor was great. I used Dorie's bonne idee and added Grand Marnier to the pastry cream and the glaze. Honestly, I couldn't taste it at all. I dusted the plates with unsweetened cocoa to create a pretty decoration, but it turns out the cocoa is a tasty little dip for the eclairs too.

May 24, 2011

Back to cooking after a long semester!

I gave my penultimate doctoral recital May 5th - a lecture recital on the piano works of Jennifer Margaret Barker - and I'm finally getting back into the swing of cooking. That is, until the middle of June, when I start preparing my final recital, scheduled for Sept 15th. So between now and then, I'm trying to catch up on FFWD - a neat online club where people are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table - and also working to cook healthy and eat healthy and moderate portions. So far so good.

Today I made a Dorie recipe, "Marie-Helene's Apple Cake" and it was pretty delicious. It called for 3T of rum, and I think that was a bit much, so I'd probably drop it down to 2T if I made it again. But other than that, it was great, easy, and it gave me an excuse to use my new (and first) springform pan. As mentioned in the book, the cake pulled away from the sides right out of the oven (see above). With the help of a flat spatula, the cake separated easily from the bottom of the pan, and was a big hit at the dessert potluck I attended.

I figured I'd post a couple other pictures of dishes I'd made recently, including a gorgeous salad with fennel and fresh strawberries, and a vegetarian entree of marinated portobello mushroom, asian slaw and snap pea and orange salad. (That's the health kick showing itself)

April 9, 2011

Garlic Crumb-Coated Broccoli. Um. Yum.

I honestly wasn't looking forward to this recipe, because it didn't sound that exciting. How different is it from just sauteing broccoli in a bit of olive oil or butter and garlic?

Well, I should have known better, because breadcrumbs sauteed with garlic are always something special and delicious.

To try to make this recipe a little healthier, I used extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. I also used panko breadcrumbs instead of regular ones, simply because that's what I had in the house.

I really loved the result, well, who cares about the broccoli, I loved the garlic breadcrumbs! I think that had I used regular breadcrumbs, more would have probably stuck to the broccoli. But I was ok with having a bunch of leftover crispy tasty crumbs, because I then sprinkled them on my salad, on a lemon/evoo-dressed quinoa, and ate the rest with a spoon. Um. Yum.

April 2, 2011

Quinoa salad

One day late but still really good! I made the salad with golden raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, peaches and prunes, sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts, and parsley and basil. I dressed the green salad with a little evoo and dark cherry balsamic (to complement the fruit) and used a nonfat greek yogurt. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this. The hardest part was waiting for it to come to room temperature.
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March 28, 2011

Caramel Orange Scallops, Spicy Glazed Carrots and Gougeres

Last week I made the Caramel Orange Scallops on time, but forgot to post here and on FFWD! Doh! It's been a very busy week.

On the left here, you see my caramel orange sauce bubbling away. I didn't want to open a bottle of white wine for a 1/2 c. of wine, since I wouldn't be able to drink the rest before it got old, so I used dry vermouth.

Also, I only bought enough scallops for myself, so although I made the full sauce recipe, it was only for 3 scallops :) Luckily Harris Teeter was having a special on fresh sea scallops last Friday!

I don't think I let my sauce reduce enough, because it was a little watery.

As per Dorie's suggestion, I made the Spicy Glazed Carrots (one of the earlier recipes I hadn't tried yet) and enjoyed both making and eating them.

You can see I served my scallops with the carrots and plain basmati rice. I dropped the empty cardamom pods (I had used the seeds for the carrots) into the rice to add a tiny bit of flavor. It really almost added no extra flavor at all but I felt it pulled the whole thing together.

I patted the scallops dry before I put them in the saute pan, but they still spattered all over the place, so I covered them with a screen. Still got a couple flyaways - ouch!

And then on Sunday I got up earlier than my alarm, and decided to whip up a few gougeres for a small reception that morning at church. I wasn't expected to bring anything, but since I was up, and since gougeres were another past recipe I hadn't tried yet, I decided to give them a go. I'm not sure I let the dough dry enough in the pot, and I used a stand mixer to add the eggs, which according to my mom (who makes amazing profiteroles) wasn't the same as mixing it by hand. So I guess I'll try by hand next time. I added mozzarella and parmesan which I had in the fridge, and although they weren't the puffiest, they were very tasty.

March 18, 2011

Butter Break-Ups

I managed to get back on schedule this week with the Salted Butter Break-Ups from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. The dough was very easy to make, thanks to my new food processor :) I chilled it for about two hours in a square shape, and then bashed it a little with the rolling pin as suggested by the book, then rolled it out into a "rectangle."

I brushed on the egg wash with my brand new pastry brush from Sur La Table (yay!). Notice the gentle brush strokes and the expert artist's hold of the brush (haha.)

I then created the criss-cross pattern with the back of a fork. That was the most "difficult" (and by difficult, I mean time consuming) part of this recipe. The pictures tell all.

The final product was DELICIOUS.

March 11, 2011

This week's cooking adventures

I can't believe that tomorrow is Friday and I still don't think I have all the ingredients to make the Beggar's Linguine. To be honest, that recipe sounds totally awful to me. I mean, I love pistachios, almonds, figs, golden raisins, and the rest of the ingredients. But together? I mean... ew. I will make this recipe, however, because I'm not going to judge these recipes before I try them. Tomorrow. In the meantime, here's what I did this week. I was on spring break and kind of frantically working on a paper so there wasn't much time to try stuff.

Catch-up recipe! I made Dorie's Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup! It was delicious! I was so excited to be cooking something that actually smelled like a restaurant dish. I used chicken and also bought a half pound of rock shrimp, just because, and for noodles I found some Chinese egg noodles at Whole Foods. Um, they were expensive. But anyway. I was really excited and proud of this dish. I also learned that I don't have deep bowls out of which to eat Asian soups.

I still have a bunch of almond meal leftover from when I made the Orange-Almond tart, so I decided to buy a piece of fish while I was at Whole Foods and crust it in the almond flour. I found a recipe at for Almond-Crusted Salmon with Leek and Lemon Cream and adjusted it for my needs. I used hake, a white fish I've never tried before that was fresh, instead of salmon. First I sauteed some sliced leek in a bit of butter and oil. When it was time to add the cream, I chose to add almond milk instead, to stick with the almond theme. (I had also purchased almond milk at WF that day and was
excited to try it.) The cream was then blended in my tiny chopper thingy and put aside while I cooked the fish. I didn't want to use an egg batter, so I just laid out the almond meal, grated some lemon zest into it, salt and pepper, and smushed it into the fish on both sides before sauteing it in the pan. It was done in a couple minutes. In the meantime, I made mashed potatoes. I decided again to use the almond milk, instead of regular milk, to keep in the almond theme. They were good, but I spilled a little too much in them so they were a bit liquidy. Simple salad on the side with balsamic vinaigrette finished it off.

Okay - can I just say how excited I am to try celery root? I saw it at WF and just had to have it! I will probably make a puree, but my Turkish friend has suggested various ways of eating it, including cooked but then cooled in a salad, with a tzatziki-style topping, lemon and evoo, etc. Yay!

And last but not least, I had some strawberries to eat, macerated with a little lemon and sugar, so I decided to make a faux Strawberry Shortcake. I used the Kitchen Aid recipe book to find a baking powder biscuit recipe, and then split the biscuit and covered it with strawberries, their juice, and a heaping dab of creme fraiche. I LOVE SS!!!

March 10, 2011

Pupatella - A Pizzeria with Spunk!

Last weekend I visited Pupatella, a relatively new pizzeria in Arlington, VA. They bill themselves as a Neapolitan pizzeria and friggitoria. I actually just saw that last part when I looked up their website. Um, yum! Friggitoria means they are serving up tasty fried treats like arancini di riso (rice balls) and crocche' di patate (mashed potato balls). They also had a fried calzone on their menu, but I got the impression it was going to be a pretty big, as in large, item, and not tiny like the ones you often find on the street in Naples.

I heard from a friend of a friend from Naples that this is THE place to go in the DC area for Neapolitan pizza, so I wasn't going to let much time to by before trying it. The inside of the place is really cute, and small, and funky. There are high tables and low tables and even a couch where people can sit and wait for their carryout orders.

Bottom line - I recommend it. The pizza - I ordered the "real Margherita" - the one with fior di latte mozzarella instead of mozzarella di bufala (which is kind of just not the same AT ALL as it is in Salerno, and therefore a waste of money in my opinion) and it was very delicious. The pizzaiolo stands right there in front of you, stretching the dough and making the pizzas, letting you see all his doughy tricks and witness just how simple the ingredients of these pizzas are.

Beer and wine are cheap there, and I noticed a special deal where if you buy two pizzas you get $10 off a bottle of wine. I think these wines were about $30 so that really isn't bad, considering you pay $10 a glass in a lot of places around here.

I also noticed they were advertising sfogliatelle for dessert, and so I had to try one. One of my favorite treats when I go to Salerno (and Naples), this seashell-like pastry with a ricotta cream inside is amazing when it's good. The one at Pupatella - not so good. Don't get it. If you've ever had one in Naples or the surrounding cities, you will be disappointed. Some things are just meant to be made in their hometown and not elsewhere, especially not in other countries across an ocean. I heard that the sfogliata at Cafe' Milano is good, but I'm still skeptical. I'll try it next time I'm there if possible.

Pupatella also has gelato, and I tasted a few before settling on the old classic nocciola (hazelnut.) It's worth a taste :)

Believe it or not, I did not check out the bathroom there (see the subtitle of this blog.) Will have to save that part for my next trip.

March 1, 2011

Last-minute Leeks!

I remembered today that I had some leeks in the fridge that will probably spoil soon if I don't use them. So I went to and looked up recipes for leeks that were quick and easy. And I found a real winner! Linguine with Leeks, Walnut Pesto and Radicchio. I kept the recipe basically the same except that I decreased the quantity of leeks (from 4 cups to 1-2 cups) and the quantity of radicchio. This meal was so fast and easy! Walnut Pesto was whipped up in the food processor while the leeks were sauteing in the pan and the pasta water was heating to a boil. I also used bucatini instead of linguine.

I was at the Italian Store in Arlington, VA the other day and found that they carry Garofalo pasta, a delicious and very al dente pasta from Gragnano (Naples.) The very same brand that my family in Salerno uses. So needless to say I was excited to try it out. I would definitely make this recipe again. Easy, Fast, Healthy, Vegetarian, Tasty - a real winner!

Savory Cheese and Herb Bread

I am totally on top of things and early this week with my FFWD recipe! I improvised with what I had on hand - parmesan, mozzarella, monterey jack, and parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme :)

I doubled the recipe to take a loaf to my friends. This bread is DELICIOUS. It's quite heavy, so one piece will really do you, but so tasty and just yum! How many ways can I say it? YUM-O!

I chose not to add any nuts, although I love them, because I wanted to enjoy the texture sans. Also, since cheese is already salty, I didn't want to oversalt the bread. I did add some salt to the dough, but I also sprinkled just a little freshly ground salt on top before putting them in the oven, and the result was a little crunchy salty goodness when you're eating the top crust.

Speculoos - Christmas cookies in February

Catching up on another past recipe from French Fridays with Dorie I decided to make speculoos, the Belgian Christmas cookies featured in Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. I chose them because I was going to visit my honey at work for the first time, and I always like to make a nice impression on the people he works with (or on anyone for that matter.) This recipe said it made 70 cookies, which meant there would be plenty for them, and for me, and it didn't seem too hard.

I made the dough the night before so it could chill. I didn't have enough brown sugar so I added some more granulated sugar, but left the measurement just shy of its full amount since it's sweeter. I didn't have any cookie cutters that were 1.25 inches, so I improvised, and found a plastic bottle with the mouth about that size. I also threw in a couple with a penguin cookie cutter for my mom, who loves penguins.

Short Ribs (or Food Surgery, and Too Many Carbs)

Hello! I'm happy to say I finally completed that short ribs recipe! Better late than never. I ended up making about 3 lbs, which was plenty, and I got to use my brand new dutch oven, which was very exciting :)

The photo on the left is my first night of eating them, with pizza di patate and asparagus. My gremolata had the zest of one orange, parsley, and some grated garlic. I learned that I LOVE the flavor combination of orange and (browned) beef.

I have to say that although I kind of knew it beforehand, I was still shocked at how much fat was in the short ribs. It might be weird, but I have always loved spooning off congealed cold fat from the top of soups and sauces. I think it goes back to my dream of being a surgeon. It's kind of like operating on the food, trying to remove all the fat without any of the good stuff. This next picture shows just how much fat was there after a night in the fridge. Yikes!

Finally, tonight I decided to make mashed potatoes to go along with my short ribs leftovers.

I boiled 2 Russet potatoes, then mashed them (by hand!) with warm milk and a splash of half and half and some butter. For flavor, I sprinkled in some truffle salt, which turned out to be just the right amount. That stuff is strong, and can kind of ruin your dish if you have a heavy hand. I reheated the ribs with their sauce, sprinkled more of the delicious orange gremolata, and cut myself a piece (or 2) of the cheese herb bread. There's no such thing as too many carbs!

February 25, 2011

Short ribs

This is as far as I'm getting tonight... Cooking and pictures to come.
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Suspicious Speculoos

I was planning on making the short ribs in red wine and port tonight, but between the two grocery stores I visited late this evening, I only found about 3lbs of short ribs. I'm wondering if I'm even buying the right thing, since Dorie's recipe calls for "12 short ribs, each with one bone (about 9lbs)". I got about 3 bones per package, so that's about 9 short ribs at 3lbs. Something's not adding up. I decided to figure it out tomorrow.

In the meantime, tonight I chose to make the dough for the speculoos cookies, yet another recipe that the FFWD group has already tackled. I rolled the dough out and put it in the fridge to chill overnight. I can tell that the house is going to smell AMAZING when they bake tomorrow. I thought 2 1/2 t of cinnamon was a lot, but I love cinnamon and it provides major circulation benefits I think.

Also, very exciting news - I purchased my first dutch oven today!!! I chose a 6 qt red one by Lodge. That was another small detail slowing down my short ribs progress. Tomorrow, amazing smelling Christmas cookies (xmas in February is ok) and day one of the ribs recipe. Pictures to come!
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February 22, 2011

Pancetta Peas and Potato Leek Soup!

Still with quite a few previous FFWD recipes to cook, today I made the Potato Leek Soup. Along with it, for dinner I made pancetta peas, a la pancetta green beans of last week, with panko-breaded chicken. I only had one chicken breast in the house, but I had some Trader Joe's frozen already grilled chicken strips, which I defrosted and then egged and breaded along with the breast. Seasoned only with salt and pepper, it turned out to be a really tasty dish. The picture of the soup is forthcoming - it's on my camera and I'm just a little lazy about uploading it now. This peas and chicken picture was taken with my phone - instant uploading is the way to go!

Not sure when I'm going to do the short ribs this week. I want to cook for some friends, but schedules are all conflicting. Also, I don't own a dutch oven. I've been researching them, since they are kind of (REALLY) expensive. I do want one however, so I want to get a good one. I may check out Marshalls or TJ Maxx to see if they have any good ones at a decent price.

People who love to cook (and are good at it) should not have to buy their ingredients and tools. They should receive all that stuff as thank you gifts for treating other people's mouths to pure deliciousness and delight!

February 18, 2011

Pancetta Green Beans and Playing Catch-up!

Whew! I finished the weekly recipe and am still going to be be able to get out and enjoy the warm afternoon. Hooray! Since I started FFWD only recently, I'll be posting catch-up recipes until I get caught up. It's just this little goal of mine.

Pancetta green beans - um, YUM! I could only find thinly sliced pancetta, but it was delicious just the same. Honestly, I used the frozen haricots verts from Trader Joe's, and they were still delicious. I made pumpkin gorgonzola flan today too. Didn't realize until after I had emptied the can into the food processor that it was actually pumpkin pie mix, so there was some sugar and various pie spices in it. I went ahead and made it anyway, and it was, well, ok. The gorgonzola, also from Trader Joe's, was sooo dry. I thought it would moisten and melt more in the flan, but it was still basically a lump. It was an interesting recipe and I would try it again with normal plain pumpkin.

Earlier in the week I made Gerard's Mustard Tart. I like mustard, and when I tasted the wet mix, I didn't notice too much mustard, so I used a little more than 2T of each. And maybe it was a little much. Fortunately I like that horseradishy hotness that goes straight to your brain. Crust was delicious and what an impressive dish.

Merci Dorie and Bon Appetit a tous!!!