Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pizzalicious Guest Blog

Hey pals-- just wanted to let you know that i'm guest blogging on my sister Pizzalicious' blog this week. see my review!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Red Velvet Celebration Cupcakes

In honor of my friend Kelly's birthday, i decided to make her something really special. inspired by Martha's Birthday Cake in the Martha Stewart Baking book

A special shout out also goes to my friend Kat, who surprise mailed me an adorable little cupcake stamp with pink and black ink a while back! She knows me so well! Kat and her boyfriend Harris are known for their thoughtful natures- always sending notes, cards and small presents in the mail to their friends. They make me want to be a better friend!

I used the stamp and one other coffee cup stamp i had laying around to decorate the boxes and make them special. (coffee and cupcakes- my friends know how serious i am about those things!) I got these delightful magenta boxes from Sur La Table, and at 1.50 per box, its an inexpensive, and a great way to gussy up a cupcake and make the birthday girl feel extra special. each box fit 9 or 10 normal sized cupcakes.

I think these may be the best cupcakes i have ever made, in style and in taste.

Red Velvet Celebration Cupcakes
I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of red velvet. When I think of red velvet- my mind immediately goes to sitting on the zebra couch with my grandma and watching Steel Magnolias. While the color is festive, the cake itself is usually dry and the resemblance to blood kind of grosses me out. for this cake, i added some extra cocoa to make the red velvet cake darker and more sophisticated, and topped it with an adapted version of Swiss meringue-- one of my favorite fancy icings. You make it sort of the way you make marshmallows- but without the gelatin, and there is something so appealing, special and exciting to me about using science to make something so delicious and fancy. The Swiss meringue is decadent and sweet. Mimicking a regular pie style meringue, but without the foamy jiggle. (Kelly's special cupcake had extra) You can use this icing without bruleeing the tops-- and it makes an excellent super white and fluffy icing for any cake. I've just bought some A&W Root beer syrup-- so my next cupcake will be root beer float cupcakes-- and I'll probably use this icing again.
A friend at the birthday party summed up everyone's collective feelings on the cupcakes in a pretty funny and naughty way,

"mmmmmmm..... I want to cover my bed in it and roll around in this icing with a lady."
wow... you don't say? ;)

Red Velvet Cupcakes
I adapted the Joy of cooking's Buttermilk Layer cake for this.

2 1/3 cups cake flour
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (why always buttermilk powder? well i hate drinking buttermilk- and i don't use it enough to justify buying it and then throwing it away. so i use this for added richness and flavor, and just keep buying the skim milk i know I'll use)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 small bottle of red food coloring (about 2.5 tablespoons)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp--- if your butter isn't at room temp-- just mix it with the paddle in the mixer for a couple extra minutes- starting on low- and moving to high for a couple minutes.
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 350

On top of some parchment paper (for easy mixing) Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, buttermilk powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, skim milk, red food coloring, and vanilla extract.Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium/high speed , beat the butter until creamy- adding a 1/3 cup of sugar at a time until the mixture is light yellow and really fluffy. once its all fluffy, alternate 1/3 of the liquid with 1/3 dry scraping the sides of the bowls between incorporations until the mixture is smooth, but don't over mix!

Using a 3 ounce disher (that's a fancy ice cream scoop, y'all!), or a ladle, or a measuring cup with a spout (the possibilities are endless) portion the batter into festive paper cupcake cups (i used red stripes) filling about 3/4 full. this recipe should make 20-24 cupcakes.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or about 14-16 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then take the cupcakes out of the metal cupcake tin, and set on a cooling rack. You'll want the cupcakes to be completely cool before frosting.
Swiss Meringue
Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking

8 large egg whites (or 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites)
2 cups sugar
2 drops almond extract
2 tablespoons room temp unsalted butter (very important that it be smooth and room temp)

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites, sugar, and almond extract. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes. You'll want the sugar to be completely dissolved- so the icing isn't "crunchy"- unless yo ulike that sort of thing.

Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. add in room temp unsalted butter, and mix on high again for about 3 minutes Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Using a star tip on your pastry bag, pipe the frosting on each cupcake in little dots-covering the surface of the cupcake top- pulling upward as you go. Putting a little bit of pressure on the bag on the upturn creates little spikes all over the cupcake. Using a torch, brulee the tops until you have a good amount of caramelization on the tops-- do this to your liking. If you don't have a torch, preheat your broiler (must be a top broiler) to high for about 5-10 minutes, with the oven rack in the upper middle, lightly brown the tops of the cupcakes carefully-- it can go from looking like a perfectly toasted marshmallow to incinerated pile of ash in a matter of seconds- so like a good ninja, don't turn your back. these cupcakes will keep at room temp for 6-8 hours. after that- they just don't look as awesome.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Super Cute food

You may not know me, but know this. I LOVE cute things. Nothing improves my day or my mood more quickly than looking at, making or petting cute things. My love of cute is almost as strong as my love of food, and it just turns this sarcastic sourpuss into a baby talking fool.


Don't adjust your monitor-- yes, that is meatloaf made to look like a cupcake. I almost wish i had gotten a picture of them lookin all pretty- but seriously we ravaged these little "mupcakes" as i call them- so a picture of the mupcake carnage was apropos. I served my mupcakes with a side of corn and herb biscuits from the Martha Stewart baking book (excellent), and to finish, old fashioned marble cake.

1 pound organic extra lean ground beef
1 stalk celery, cleaned and diced finely
2 med carrots, cleaned and diced finely
1 yellow onion, cleaned and diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup skim milk
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 tsp salt salt and 1/2 tsp ground pepper (1/2 for veggies, 1/2 for meat)
olive oil
1/4 cup ketchup (or catsup-- what is the difference?)

preheat oven to 400

spray a cupcake pan with vegetable spray lightly and set aside. (don't bother using paper or those foil cups-- they get all greasy and gross from the fat in the meat anyway)

in a medium pan on medium high heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. when oil is hot, saute the carrots, celery and onion together for 4-5 minutes. add salt, pepper, minced garlic, and saute until golden brown. deglaze the pan with the sherry, and set aside to cool.

in a medium sized bowl, whisk together egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, add cooled veggies (hot veggies will scramble the egg-- not yummy) and stir. Add meat and mix quickly with your hands. don't over mix- which will make the mupcakes really tough, and not in the Roseanne Barr tuff on the outside, soft on the inside kind of way.

Using your fingers- fill the cupcake tins with the meat and veggie mixture and press down in the center of each with your thumb. the mixture should make exactly 12 little meat cakes. Paint some ketchup over the top of each little meat cake (just like mom would do), and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done through. (a meat thermometer should read 165 and no more)

While the meat cakes are cooking- work on your potatoes

Mashed potato "frosting"
6-8 large red potatoes, peeled, and cut into 6 pieces per half a potato
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup skim milk
salt and pepper

starting with cold water and a generous amount of salt, boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. while the potatoes are cooking, add together rest of ingredients (except for salt and pepper) and microwave until hot and mixture is lump free. drain the potatoes, and mash the potatoes in a ricer (much smoother/less gummy), and add milk mixture. mix and season with salt and pepper. scoop the potatoes into a pastry bag- fitted with a large plain or star tip. (make sure there are no lumps- because seriously- i busted my bag wide open because i tried to make those potatoes submit to my will) pipe the potato onto the top of the little meat loafs as you would frosting. at this point you can stick them under the broiler for a minute or 2 for a little fancy, or just sprinkle on a little chopped chives, or a little fancy colored salt like i did- looked just like sprinkles! i used some fancy pink salt my older sister got me a while back.

serve and smile

Marble Cake with Cheater icing
I adapted the Joy of cooking's Buttermilk Layer cake for this.

a little extra butter and flour is needed for greasing pans
2 1/3 cups cake flour
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp--- if your butter isn't at room temp-- just mix it with the paddle in the mixer for a couple extra minutes- starting on low- and moving to high for a couple minutes.
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup semi sweet morsels
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and set aside. On top of some parchment paper (for easy mixing) Sift together the cake flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, skim milk, vanilla and almond extract.

Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium/high speed , beat the butter until creamy- adding a 1/3 cup of sugar at a time until the mixture is light yellow and really fluffy. once its all fluffy, alternate 1/3 of the liquid with 1/3 dry until well incorporated, but don't over mix!

Remove about 1/3 of the batter, and put in a medium bowl. in a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips 10 seconds at a time and stirring in between until smooth. whisk in the chocolate into one of the bowls, and mix well.

Add vanilla batter to the pans 1/2 in each, an smooth over the batter in the pans. add chocolate in dollops over the top of the batter. using a butter knife, swirl in the chocolate batter with the vanilla batter, but don't over mix. you just want a marbled pattern.

Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a rack and stick in the fridge to cool completely before frosting.

Cheater frosting
1 stick room temp butter (see above if cold)
1/3 cup unflavored Crisco (your guests will never know- and don't need to either)
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop almond extract
1-2 tablespoon/s milk
3/4 pound confectioners sugar

beat the butter and crisco together with a paddle attachment until smooth. replace paddle with the whisk attachment, and beat until fluffy. Add salt, vanilla and almond and mix well. turn the mixer to low, and add in confectioners sugar. add in milk until the mixture is smooth and pliable. turn the mixer to high, and beat for 2-4 minutes, or until the mixture is really fluffy. ice cake immediately.

Friday, October 2, 2009

quick pasta for friends

Woah- its been a while since i posted! No-- i didn't stop cooking, and i have no excuses! i just don't spend a killer amount of time online like some bloggers.... but i vow to do better!

this pasta was so good, i just had to share. the sauce was creamy, the pasta was perfect, and the little pearl onions added excellent flavor and texture to the dish. the sensation of these perfectly cooked onions popping in your mouth with the flavors of the pasta was divine. the celery-which seems out of place, was a last minute addition-and provided some more texture, and reminded me of really good chowder. This simple pasta, with a few great ingredients is in contention for being my favorite pasta... ever.

Linguine with caramelized pearl onions, shrimp and a white wine cream sauce.

1 pound linguine
1 pound cleaned shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced finely (about a tbl)
1 cup good, dry white wine- good enough to drink
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded asiago cheese
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 stalk celery, cleaned and diced finely
1 yellow pepper, cleaned and diced finely
2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
olive oil
salt and pepper
(a couple tablespoons water or dry sherry/white wine)

caramelized pearl onions
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt and pepper
olive oil to coat pan
(1 or 2 tablespoons water, or sherry/white wine if you're feeling fancy)

In a (not non stick- for the love of god- use a stainless- you'll want the extra flavor of the bits that stick for the sauce-but nothing burned) large pan heated over medium heat, add oil, and when oil is shimmering- saute frozen pearl onions for 5-6 minutes. when the onions start to show some color, add salt and pepper. saute for another couple minutes- the salt will help pull some juices from the onions, and help them caramelize. add sugar, and keep cooking. when the onions are a beautiful brown caramel color, and soft all the way through, remove the onions from the pan and set aside. If you have some sticking happen- don't add more oil- add a little water, or even a little sherry to the pan and scrape the bottom. you only want to add enough to prevent burning- and keep the integrity of the onions. this process can take some time- so i usually like to do some dishes, or clean up the kitchen a little while they're cooking-- but don't worry, it'll be worth it in the end.

in the same pan, heat a little more oil, and saute diced yellow pepper and celery. when they are about 1/2 way cooked, add minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. at this point, you should have a nice amount of coloring (called fond) in the bottom of the pan- good work!

make sure that your shrimp has been peeled completely, and is clean and washed. pat the shrimp dry and add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds od pepper. take the dried herbes de Provence in your hand and rub the herbes to release their flavor. add a drizzle of oil to the shrimp, and toss the shrimp with your hands, coating each with a little of the oil, salt, pepper and herbes.

cook the shrimp on medium in the same pan you've been using, and remove from the pan and set aside just before they're done- pink with a little grey- only about 1-3 minutes. We'll be cooking them a little more in the sauce (following).

in the pan with all the yummy bits, deglaze with white wine- scraping up the bits. once the wine has reduced by half, add your cream and simmer for 10-15 minutes-- just the right amount of time to cook your pasta. you'll want to cook your pasta in boiling water with a good amount of salt- but no oil. cook the pasta to your liking (al dente, or with just a little bite left for me and my friends) and drain- saving about a cup of the cooking liquid before you drain.

at this point- your sauce should the thick and creamy. add your cheese, and stir until melted. add your cooked veggies and shrimp- and any juices. stir, and season with salt and pepper if needed. add your pasta back to the pot, and pour the sauce over the pasta. mix well. if the pasta sauce seems too thick- add a little pasta water- about a quarter cup to thin it out. the starch in the water will help bind it together.

serve immediately, and enjoy, because i know you will.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vegan triplet pasta feast

This weekend was the celebration of Best Friends Day 8. To ring it in right, one of my best friends came to town and as we always do when she visits me, i made a huge dinner for her and all our friends. It was hot, and at one point i was using all burners, the oven, a fan and a food processor at once-- and blew a fuse! a first in my kitchen- and a slight badge of honor. Thank goodness for my pizzalicious sister and her friend for coming to my rescue as impromptu sous chefs- and for letting me bark orders at them as i cooked myself in the heat of my kitchen, fried my blender motor, blew fuses, and ran out of counter and sink space so fast i contemplated using the floor.

I love nothing more than to cook for a crowd. I love to cook for my friends and family, and it is one of the rare instances when i am social and friendly- completely natural and in my element. it lately seems like its pretty often that dinner for four turns into dinner for 8 in a few short texts.

I'm flattered by the fact that people think a seat at my table is a good bet- and it seems like I've never got a shortage of neighbors the minute that garlic hits the pan, and that familiar smell wafts through the house and neighborhood. This is normally true--except for last night, when i had so much leftover food i used just about every tupperwear container i had. I still had about 16 people in attendance- but it was clear that i had over cooked- even by my standards, and coming from my background, i was embarrassed by this showing of yummy vegan excess. But in the end- my friends and my friends friends' were seemingly happy and well fed, and no one ever complains about eating too little right?

My friend whom we were celebrating is vegan, and as is our tradition, whenever she visits i cook for her and our friends. I knew i wanted to do pasta, and i thought it'd be great to figure out how to veganize something really comforting, and cheesy. I had been quizzing all my chef friends, and foodie buds alike on how to best make a vegan alfredo sauce. i kid you not, i probably got 9 separate answers on how to make it best-- and was so overwhelmed in the grocery store, that i scratched the whole thing, and decided to play it safe and make something i know, and let the grocery store produce section inspire me. Sorry i forgot to take pictures- there was much eating and drinking involved.

Pasta Triplets
Butternut squash "Cheddar" shells
Penne with Popeye Pesto
Bow Tie Pasta with Dueling Vegetable Marinara

Butternut Squash "Cheddar" Shells
The butternut squash cavatappi, featured earlier this year on this blog was a perfect candidate for veganizing a dish, and it is something i love to make and eat. the orange of the roasted squash really looks like cheddar cheese, and the sweet and garlicky sauce is a real crowd pleaser.

I substituted 4 ounces of tofutti vegan sour cream, and 4 ounces of vegan cream cheese for the goat cheese listed in the original recipe. The roasted butternut squash sauce was quite a bit thicker than usual for some reason ( i guess the vegan cream cheese and sour cream really seized the mixture) i added about 4 times the normal amount of pasta water to the mixture than usual to thin it out, and used traditional medium sized shells - since i had a coupon.

Penne with Popeye Pesto
This deliciously green dish, usually served with a hard Italian cheese is equally good when the lemon and almond mixture steps up to the plate. Pesto to me screams summer-- when you just have to use all that basil before it turns. The sweet yet full flavor of the almond butter against the licoricey and grassy flavor of the spinach and basil is bright and light with just a hint of sharpness from the garlic and lemon. Perfect hot or cold, this dish would be an excellent side, and the pesto is great on boiled potatoes, as a sandwich spread when mixed with a little veganaise, grilled with tofu, in eggs, or on just about anything. I always make a little extra, and freeze some of my larger batches so I'll have a little summer-- even in the winter time.

3 cups baby spinach (packed)
1 cup basil, cleaned (packed)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook pasta in salted boiling water until aldente.
in a dry pan over medium heat, toast the nuts (separately). once the almonds have toasted lightly, add them to a food process er with a tablespoon of oil and a little salt. Process the almonds until they are smooth like peanut butter. Remove the almond butter from processor and set aside. In the same processor add the basil, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, zest and toasted walnut pieces, pulse while drizzling in oil slowly, until the mixture is thick. Stir in almond butter, and salt and pepper to taste.

add the pesto to hot pasta, and serve immediately. if the mixture is too thick, you can add pasta water, or a little extra oil, but i like to add a little vegan margarine for some extra flavor and some shine.

Bow Tie Pasta with Dueling Vegetable Marinara
The two kinds of mushrooms provide beefy texture and an excellent counterpart to the tender and slightly crisp white and green asparagus. This dish makes for such a hearty bowl of pasta, you won't miss the cheese, and you won't be able to decide which asparagus or mushroom wins.

1 bunch thick green asparagus- peeled, and re bundled
1 bunch white asparagus- peeled, and re bundled
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
6 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned
6 ounces oyster mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped roughly
1 large jar of premium quality marinara sauce- i used trader joe's tomato basil pasta sauce
Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook pasta in salted boiling water until aldente. reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the asparagus for about 4 minutes. shock the asparagus in and ice bath, and slice each bunch into thirds.
Slice shallots thinly, mince garlic. In a large pan over medium high heat, drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. heat the olive oil, and saute the shallots and garlic. once they have turned golden brown, set aside. Slice mushrooms finely, and in the same pan you cooked the shallots and garlic in, add more oil to coat the bottom of the pan and bring to medium high heat. saute the mushrooms and keep stirring. don't salt the mushrooms yet, or they'll sweat. when the mushrooms are golden brown, add the sherry and deglaze the pan. once the alcohol has cooked off, add the roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms, blanched asparagus, and marinara sauce. stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. bring the sauce to a simmer, then add to hot bow tie pasta and toss well. add some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed

Sunday, August 9, 2009

channeling julia

So my sister and a friend went to see Julie & Julia on Saturday. I was supposed to have them over for my waffles, but realized that i didn't have any flour, and lacked the amount of enthusiasm that it takes to put on clothes and leave the house, so we settled for a movie instead. It was great. I've read the blog years back, and then read the book, and was pretty stoked to see a movie based off of 2 great books, directed by the totally hilarious Nora Ephron. I had high hopes, and they were met and exceeded.

I cried The. Whole. Time. Like many foodies, Julia Child has a special place in my heart. JC (i can call her that because we're buds in my head) reminds me of everything i loved as a kid, and everything i love as an adult. She makes me miss my grandma, and makes me want to be better, try harder and work smarter.

When i was young, my mom was busy working, and going to school, and so relied on school to occupy us kids. So during the summer we'd take turns spending some time with our grandparents, help my mom out with the burden of single parenthood, and also help keep us out of trouble- at least for a little while. For a whole glorious month every summer, i would get dropped off at my favorite place on the planet to act like a single child- even just for a little while.

My grandpa and i would take long morning walks around the neighborhood, play checkers and watch Price is Right. My Grandma and i would cook every meal for him together, go to the library and read, watch Julia Child and ballroom dancing competitions on PBS. I have watched Julia Child on PBS since i can remember it seems like. I remember a particular episode where she showed us all the various sizes of lobsters. I must have been 12 or 13, just before i turned into a sulky and petulant pre teen, and before i thought i was too cool to watch PBS. I thought she was incredible. Fearless. Touching these angry, waving and snapping lobsters like they were mere bunnies. Throwing them around the cutting board, and muscling them into place. I wanted to be like that and i wanted to be her.

I have a distinct memory of sitting on my grandpa's shoulders on a vinyl couch with a zebra print cushion, and fashioning his white hair into a mohawk while learning the intricacies of pate choux. I remember my grandma's 70s mushroom wallpaper in the kitchen, and the smell the stove would make when we went to light the pilot with a match.

Grandma slept in rollers, smelled like powder, and was the very picture of a 50s housewife. She was the prettiest thing i had ever seen, and her bureau was a wonderland filled with jewelry, trinkets, and a big pink piggy bank that she let me count on her bed. Together every day, we made typical southern American food, fried chicken.... biscuits... cakes and pies. It was like magic watching her cook, and i loved that she always asked grandpa to open all the jars.

Watching Julia Child being so masterfully portrayed by the amazing Meryl Streep made me want to cook and love and celebrate all that I am. Because so much of what and who I am today are because of 3 incredible women, my mom, my grandma, and Julia Child.

Tarragon Rotisserie Chicken in the style of Poulet a la Broche, page 242 in Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, edition 21.
A very good friend of mine spotted a *set it and forget it* style rotisserie cooker for $10 at a yard sale, and like the very good friend that she is, she bought it for me and set it beside my car door. My friends know me well. This chicken would be perfect for company, or just a couple friends. Perfectly moist, with a crisp brown skin, it sure hits the spot.

1 packet fresh tarragon- 1/2 packet chopped roughly
2 lemons, 1 zested and cut in half, other just cut in half
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons room temp butter
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 5 pound organic chicken

In a bowl, mix together the chopped tarragon, lemon zest, salt, butter, pepper, and herbes de Provence with a fork until well combined. set aside
wash and dry the chicken, and loosen the skin from the meat of the breast, legs/thighs and back. massage the chicken all over with the butter mixture, inside the cavity, under the skin, etc and put tarragon stalks and cut lemons inside. Truss the chicken well(page 237 in MTAFC). Put the chicken on the spit, and set your rotisserie for the size of your bird-- generally about 12-15 minutes per pound, or tested with an instant read thermometer to 160 (temp will reach at least 165 after 10 minutes of resting).

after you let the bird rest for 10 minutes- carve this way making sure to carve off a little of the breast meat with the wings-- "the way the French do" according to JC.

Pommes de terre de persil (Parsley Potatoes)
Simple and comforting, its hard to resist this simple side dish.

1 bag baby yukon gold potatoes- or yukons cut into quarters, scrubbed, skins left on
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
4 tablespoons butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste

in a large pot, fill with cold water and add potatoes. bring to a boil, and boil until done. potatoes are done when the tip of a paring knife inserted into a potato comes out with little resistance. drain potatoes well, and add back to hot pot. pour over melted butter, add parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Les Haricots Verts Indiens ("Indian" Green Beans)
I've been making a variation of these green beans with different curries and spices over the years, and garam masalla has been my favorite. these crisp little green beans are easy to make, and magically, taste better the next day, so i like to make extras, and add to salads, put on sandwiches, or just snack on them cold.

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 shallots, sliced thin
2 teaspoons garam masalla spice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1o grinds fresh pepper
extra virgin olive oil to coat

pre heat an oven to 400. on a large heavy cookie sheet (if you've got the flimsy sort-- you may want to use a roasting pan so it doesn't warp in the oven) add green beans, garam masalla, salt and pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil. using your hands, toss the beans well, and add more oil if you need to. the beans should just be lightly coated. roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Beans should be just lightly browned, and still have a nice crispness to them.

Pepper is "helping" in the kitchen

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

something worthwhile to post

Hey all my fans out there! man- its been a couple months since i posted anything! i guess the feeling struck me today, when i started reading about tomatoes.

Those who know me know that i am food obsessed and every summer I get giddy at the smell of tomato flowers/vines. For those of you who know that smell- know that there is nothing else like it in the world.

As a kid, my mom planted a ton of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers and various beans every year. In addition to our seasonal garden, we had peach trees (3) for making homemade peach ice cream and collecting bee stings, an apple tree, an enormous blackberry bush where our foster box turtles always escaped to, a giant mulberry bush that continuously dotted the yard, the roof and my face with purple spots, wild strawberries and some “volunteers” as my mom called them—or things that started growing from the compost- melons and the like. Mom was dedicated to this urban hippy garden, and I recall once when the neighborhood kids started stealing our crop- mostly our favorite, ripe blackberries- which she usually saved to make jam. Mom was livid when she noticed that things started going missing. I remember that she and I walked down to the creek, gloves in hand, and retrieved poison ivy, which she planted on the outside of the fence to ward off unwanted guests.

Yes, reader- I know this sounds like I grew up deep in the country, far down a dirt road, and you’re probably imagining me as a little girl wearing denim overalls and my fuzzy tangled hair up in pig tales and covered in dirt like a little rascal. But I’m talking about Southside Richmond- near George Wythe high school. In a not so nice area back then, where gun shots were common, and poverty even more so. We were poor, and we knew it, but until I was in college- I thought everyone grew up this way, and ate vegetables all the time. As an adult, I started meeting friends who had never tasted asparagus, snapped fresh green beans, or knew the pleasures of a really truly fresh tomato- not the water logged, pre refrigerated forced ripened tomatoes anyone can get from any store.

Because we grew a lot of our own food, I ate so much squash and zucchini, I can’t stand to look at the stuff, and the taste still sort of revolts me. But Unlike Zucchini/ Squash, i did not have a tomato overdose as a child- even though they were probably as abundant, if not more so at least in variety.

There is just something so right about a perfectly perky red cherry tomato plucked right off the vine and popped into your mouth, exploding with flavor and texture... a beefy Hanover tomato dusted with a little salt and pepper on a BLT or just T sandwich, a zesty roma sliced thick and placed on top of cream cheese and bread, or my all time favorite- ultimate grilled cheese (recipe below).
While I only wrote one of these recipes the rest made me think of my childhood, and everything that I’ve become and love because of the food we grew, and the dishes I learned to make as a result. Never underestimate the power of a ripe tomato.

Maya’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese (makes one)The special ingredient in this is the honey- sounds odd, but it works. Balanced and sweet- it really pulls together that licorice-y flavor of the basil, cuts some of the sharpness of the cheddar and pulls in the sour flavors from the bread. 2 slices sour dough bread2 slices fontina cheese2 slices cheddar cheese2 basil leaves2 slices Hanover tomato- dusted lightly w salt and pepperDijon mustardhoney2 tablespoons butter
In a medium non stick sauté pan, heat pan on medium for 3-4 minutes. Assemble sandwichOn one slice of bread, smear mustard – as much as you like. Place the cheddar cheese on top. Put the tomato slices, and basil leaves on top, and drizzle with honey. Place fontina cheese on top, and 2nd slice of bread. Melt butter in pan, and grill on both sides on medium until cheese is melted. Cut in quarters and serve with carrot sticks.

All other recipes taken from (a trade magazine)

Chef Jeff Gaetjen
Bob Kinkead's Colvin Run Tavern - Vienna, Va., USA
Yield: 6 servings

Red tomatoes (Brandywine, Cherokee purple or other), large, ripe 3 each
Yellow tomatoes, large, ripe 3 each
French lentils 1 C
Vegetable oil 1 TBS
Celery, finely diced 1/3 C
Yellow onion, finely diced 1/3 C
Carrot, finely diced 1/3 C
Chicken or vegetable stock 3 C
Red lentils 1 C
Garlic cloves, minced 2 each
Extra virgin olive oil 6 TBS
Red wine vinegar 4 TBS
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade 9 each
Red onion, thinly sliced 1 each
Sugar 1/2 tsp
Fresh goat cheese, 9-Oz log
Walnuts, toasted, finely chopped 1/4 C
Fresh basil sprigs 6 each
Aïoli 3 TBS
1. Bring 8 cups salted water to a boil in a large saucepot. Core the tomatoes and score the bottoms with a paring knife. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 minute, and then shock in an ice-water bath. When cool, peel the tomatoes, cut into wedges and reserve, discarding skins.

2. Bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil in a saucepot and add the French lentils. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain. Combine the vegetable oil and the diced vegetables in a saucepot over medium heat and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the French lentils, 1 cup of the stock and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and place in a stainless steel bowl.

3. Bring the remaining 2 cups stock to a boil and pour over the red lentils. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and add to the French lentils. Stir in the garlic, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and half of the basil chiffonade. Add the tomato wedges, red onion, sugar and salt and pepper to taste and toss. Let marinate for about 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the goat cheese log in the walnuts and cut into 6 1- to 1 1/2-ounce rounds, each about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. To serve, divide the lentil salad onto 6 chilled salad plates and top with alternating red and yellow tomato wedges in overlapping circles. Top each with some of the remaining basil chiffonade and a round of warm goat cheese. Garnish with a basil sprig and drizzle with the aïoli.

Chef-Owner John Ash
John Ash & Co. Restaurant - Santa Rosa, Calif., USA

Yield: 4 servings
Halloumi cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 Oz
Peasant-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 each
Red onion, small, cut into 12 wedges, root end left on 1 each
Cherry tomatoes Extra virgin olive oil 1/4 C
Garlic, roasted or finely minced 2 tsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Arugula leaves, young, tender, lightly packed 5 C
Honey lemon vinaigrette as needed

1. Thread the cheese, bread, onions and tomatoes alternately on 4 skewers. Whisk the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and brush onto skewers. Season generously with salt and pepper and grill over a multi-level fire, turning once until the bread is toasty, the vegetables and tender and lightly caramelized, and the cheese is lightly browned.
2. Toss arugula with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and divide among 4 plates. Gently push the cheese, bread, onions and tomatoes off the skewer onto each plate and serve immediately with additional vinaigrette, if desired.

Executive Chef Timothy Magee
South City Kitchen - Atlanta, Ga., USA

Yield: 4 servings
Cider vinegar 3 TBS
Vegetable oil 1/4 C
Shallot, minced 1 each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dijon mustard 1 tsp
Country ham, jullienned 1 Oz
Yellow tomato, thin slices of 12 each
Asparagus spears, thin 16 each
Vidalia onion, sliced 1 TBS
Tomato, chopped 2 TBS
Chives, cut as needed

1. In a stainless steel mixing bowl, combine the cider vinegar, vegetable oil, shallot, salt and pepper and Dijon mustard and mix thoroughly. Reserve.
2. Divide evenly and lay 3 yellow tomato slices onto each of 4 salad plates.
3. In a frying pan over low to medium heat, gently warm the ham. Add the asparagus, onion and chopped tomato; gently warm. Add the reserved vinaigrette and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Divide and arrange the mixture atop sliced tomatoes and garnish with cut chives.

Chef-Owner Carol Watson
Milk & Honey Café - Chicago, Ill., USA

Yield: 4 servings

Chicken breast, whole, marinated 2 each
Ciabatta, loaf of 1 each
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
Bleu cheese spread 1 TBS
Plum tomatoes, roasted, halves 4 each
Bacon strips 8 each
Romaine leaves 4 each

1. Grill chicken on a char or outdoor grill.
2. Cut each chicken breast in half.
3. Slice ciabatta loaf into 8 slices. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and toast either on grill or in a sauté pan.
4. Spread about 1 tablespoon of bleu cheese on each of 4 slices of toasted bread.
5. Place 1 piece of chicken on bread and top with a tomato half. Top with 2 pieces bacon and a romaine leaf and finish with other piece of bread. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Minty Buffalo Burgers

Last night i finally went grocery shopping. As I'm prone to do, i bought lots of odd things. I've been so busy that the grocery store had changed completely since the last time I had been. I bought lots of strange sauces, a couple vegetable oddities, and some buffalo meat. I've bought buffalo before, so that wasn't the strangest thing by far. I had recently seen on the travel channel a hamburger paradise episode where they steam their burgers instead of grill them. I decided to make some Greek inspired burgers-and steam them low and slow to see if that would help prevent toughening of the super lean buffalo meat.

Minty Buffalo Burgers- makes 4 burgers
1 pound of ground buffalo meat
2 tablespoons dried spearmint
2 teaspoons garlic Powder
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 slices muenster cheese
1 tablespoon basil oil

4 potato buns toasted, with a little Dijon mustard spread on each piece.

Remove buffalo meat from the fridge- and let it come to room temperature. preheat a non stick skillet over medium low and heat up basil oil. in a bowl, add ground buffalo meat, mint, garlic powder and about a teaspoon of pepper and a pinch of salt. mix the meat well- but don't over mix. divide into 4 quarters, and flatten out the meat in the palm of your hand. place a tablespoon of butter in the center of the meat, and fold the meat over the butter until you have a patty. repeat with the rest of the meat. cook the burgers in the skillet turning once after about 6 minutes. and cooking on the other side with a slice of muenster cheese you don't want a lot of browning- just making sure the meat is medium well. assemble your burgers and enjoy.

I served this burger with steamed green and yellow beans, and i poured some leftover hambuger juices/fat over the beans and tossed well.

French Roasted Chicken

A friend of mine charged me with the task of teaching her how to make a whole chicken. My mom had recently taken a trip to Provence, and brought me back authentic Herbes de Provence. One of the strongest flavors was the lavender, and I had never cooked with it before. When I was a kid, my mom used to make “chicken with and an egg” which was a whole roasted chicken stuffed with a whole lemon. I mixed the idea of this dish, and used a new ingredient that I had procured, and the results were memorable. This is by far, the best roast chicken I’ve ever had, and I think you’ll agree too.

French Roast Chicken feeds 5 comfortably
1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 garlic cloves chopped roughly
5 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon dried mint
2 teaspoons white pepper
3 tablespoons sea salt
5 tablespoons cold butter
1 lemon cut into quarters
6 tablespoons fresh lavender
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450
Wash the chicken and pat very dry. Set aside. You’ll want the chicken to be room temperature, and the butter ice cold. Using the back of a fork, mash together lemon zest, garlic, herbs, white pepper, salt and butter. Once you have a paste, separate the skin from the chicken breast and legs. Rub the herbed butter mixture all over the bird- inside and outside of the skin and inside of the cavity. Place on a roasting pan and stuff the chicken with the quartered lemons. Turn the chicken wings under and tuck the tips into the side of the chicken. Secure the wings and the legs/back with a piece of twine.
Roast the chicken breast side up for 10-15 minutes at 450 or until the breast is a light golden brown. Turn the heat down to 350 and roast for 45 minutes to one hour or until the internal temperature is at 165 at the thickest part on the chicken—in a leg or through the breast, making sure not to touch bone. Baste with any juices as needed- but don't for the last 15 minutes- you'll want the skin to be crispy. As you’re checking on your bird, if you start to notice that the skin is getting to dark, cover with foil, taking care not to keep the oven open too long.

Remove the chicken and tent for 10-15 minutes to let it rest. Carve the chicken and serve with your favorite sides. I like to serve this dish with roasted parsnips and beets or make it ahead of time for the best chicken salad you’ve ever had. Save me a leg!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

thin mints

One of the best things about working where i work is that i have constant access to really interesting food stuffs. BUT only once a year, Girl Scout Cookies make their way into my kitchen.

this year- i have a glut of thin mints, and i want to do something with them. What do you think i should make? got any suggestions?

Chocolate silk pie with a thin mint crust?
mini ice cream sandwiches made with thin mints?
thin mint coated cheese ball?
mint chess pie with thin mint topping?
some sort of tiramisu?

I've cured my itch for girl scout cookies.. now i've got to do something about this cooking rash.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A match made in heaven.

From the people who bring you the Onion- the Onion AV club's taste testing section featuring, well-- just about the things that i would probably buy, look at or gross my friends out with. The Onion AV Club Taste Test section satisfies my darkest foodie desires-- semi edible gross packaged food with a focus on bacon/pig themed items from all over the world being forced upon friends and neighbors in a the hopes for a good story. Not only does it feature reviews of items like canned bacon, Pizza flavored beer, "Snack Impostors" and tons of crazy Asian inspired wacky beverages and foodstuffs, but a personal favorite of mine, batter blaster aerosol pancake/waffle batter.

Yes- the forgetful chef does love a really fancy meal here and there, but lets just say that my love of all food is multi faceted- a little light and a little dark, with a hint of humor and the seriousness of a french chef all rolled into one.

You out there- bloggers and friends- you don't know me very well yet- but let me tell you this... This blog was made for me, it is like the funner and grosser version of mcsweeneys, and it is possibly written by some sort of doppelganger forgetful chef-- designed to either destroy or partner up with me to create the most perfect and terrifying union ever known to man.

More than half of the items in here are items I've brought home to confused room mates, tortured boyfriends and forced friends and siblings to share in the gross excitement of some sort of oddly flavored candy or treat. Because of my "real job" and my foodie nature- i can't seem to resist these odd food sensations- be it good or bad. Food is necessary. Unlike expensive shoes, clothes, cars, or electronics- we actually need food to survive. Be it luxury or trashy or odd, i never feel the guilt of buyers remorse when i buy food.

I challenge you all this week to get a friend go to your local ethnic foods market and try something weird together. You don't have to like it- but you gotta try it. Hey- you may even love it, or at least you'll get a good story out of it.

Cucumber flavored Pepsi??!? Get me some!
Bacon Flavored Mayonnaise? We're making loaded potato salad tonight.
Tomato Vodka? Pass the Bloody Marys please!
Chocolate covered dried shrimp? Perfect for PMS because of the salty sweet combo.

I think Andrew Zimmern would be proud.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mushroomania 2009

To celebrate Booty Queen's birthday and visit to Richmond, i decided to create a menu centered around her favorite food, mushrooms.

Mushroomania 2009
Mushroom ravioli with balsamic brown butter sauce
Stuffed button mushrooms with basil oil
Champignon German Brie with water crackers
Black Bottom Ricotta Cupcakes with Chocolate blood orange butter cream
(cupcakes look like mushrooms- and lets face it- we love them)
(potlucked- Garlic Knots, Tuscan white bean stew, guacamole, and grape and orange soda.... somehow i think they missed the concept of mushroomania- but it was delicious all the same)

(These pictures were taken with my cellphone.. so hopefully I'll get a nicer camera eventually.. )

I had some really great helpers with this feast, Coco Carnage, an awesome pivot with a deadly behind, member of the Poe's Punishers team on River City and a general foodie, and Scarriet Tubman my derby wifey, captain of the Uncivil Warriors team on River City, up and coming jammer and a better cook than she thinks.

Mushroom Ravioli

They started out as triangles, moved to whole squares as we got lazy (stuffing ravioli takes time!), and then we started cutting shapes out of the dough-- this here is a flower ravioli- which impressively stayed together in the boil.

i doubled this recipe to feed a crowd

1/2 pound fresh mixed mushrooms-not button
1 small package of dried woodland/Forrest blend mixed mushrooms
1 package of small won ton wrappers
1/2 medium white onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic
10 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces shredded asiago or Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling over top of finished pasta
olive oil

1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for topping

1 stick butter
1/4-1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Reconstitute dried mushrooms with 1/2 cup of boiling water. drain mushrooms after they have plumped, and chop roughly chop mushrooms roughly, mince onion and garlic.

In a stainless pain, heat pan over medium heat, add olive oil to coat bottom, and once the oil smokes a little and add 1/2 of the mushroom onion garlic mixture. cook well- tossing frequently, until cooked. I like my mushrooms to have a little bite left- and since they'll be cooking briefly in the boiling pasta water- leave them a little chewy. Leave mushrooms in pan and deglaze with a scant 1/4 cup of good sherry. once sherry has been cooked out or absorbed, remove mushroom mixture and place in a large bowl. repeat this process with 1/2 half of mushroom mixture.

once all of you your mushroom mixture have been cooked, add ricotta, asiago (or parm) and salt and pepper to taste. mix well and set aside.

set out a large baking sheet- and clear out some room in your freezer! place one whole won ton wrapper on a cutting board, and brush edges with beaten egg. add one heaping teaspoon of the mushroom mixture to the center,and add another won ton wrapper over top, directly lining up the edges. using the back of a fork, press the edges together to make a tight seal. set on baking sheet and repeat. once you've filled up your sheet- you can place some parchment paper over the top and do another layer. i don't recommend doing more than 2 layers per sheet as won ton wrappers can tear- and contents will empty themselves in the boiling pasta water- which is very sad after all that work.

you can also take a large simple shaped cookie cutter- like a flower, sun, moon or plain circle, and cut out shaped- taking care to ensure that the edges are still pressed together. We also did some triangle raviolis- using less filling and folding 1 ravioli corner to corner.

set a large pot of water on the stove top and turn on high. once its almost at a simmer- start your sauce. when it boils- add a couple good pinches of kosher salt.


Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce
in an extra large pan (the largest frying pan you have) melt a stick of butter on medium/medium low heat. once the butter is melted- brown the butter just by heating it. the milk solids in the butter will take on a darker hue- and the color will be similar to a caramel color. be careful though-- you don't want burnt butter- just once that has been achieved add 1/4-1/3 cup balsamic vinegar and reduce.

Once raviolis float on the surface of the water- you know they're done. toss the raviolis in the sauce and serve immediately. If the sauce seems too thin-- add just a dash of the pasta water to it and toss well, or leave raviolis in there to cook some more- tossing gently. top with a chiffonade of basil and asiago cheese.

Stuffed Button Mushrooms
1 package of large button mushrooms
1 cup of mix from the olive bar-- can be just olives- but i used marinated onions, garlic, 4 types of olives, italian sweet peppers, and a dash of everything else on there. just make sure to pit the olives- and stay away from anything with stuffed almonds. yuck.

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
basil oil

preheat oven to 400

clean the mushrooms using a damp towel- don't rinse them- they become all water logged and slimey. just take the time- and wipe them off. remove the stems carefully- and throw away- or save for later- a great topping for pizza. set aside caps.

chop finely anything you got from the olive bar at the grocery store. if your grocery store doesn't have a good olive bar-- get an olive medly jar instead. mix with grated cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste. on a large baking sheet, fill mushroom caps with as much mixture as will fit and drizzle with basil oil. cook 15-25 minutes or until done. mushrooms will have reduced in size, cheese will be melted.

Black Bottom Ricotta Cupcakes with Chocolate blood orange butter cream

We didn't have any cream cheese, but since i had the ricotta on hand for the ravioli, we just substituted it out. I was planning on making plain ol chocolate butter cream, after some debating with Co Co on what sort of icing we should make, we settled on this unique combination. I had the blood oranges on hand- and they were so ripe they were screaming to be used. I thought of those chocolate oranges you get around Christmas- and thought what a great combination orange and chocolate can be. the blood orange made it seem more deluxe than regular orange, and the icing was simultaneously sweet and tart- with just enough sweetness to make you feel decadent and just enough tart to surprise you. the blood orange was significantly more tart than a regular orange- and the color of the orange mixed with the chocolate was a lovely mauvey brown color that perfectly accented the black and white cupcakes.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
8 ounces ricotta
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, beat the ricotta, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Chocolate Blood Orange Butter Cream
2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 pound powdered sugar
dash salt
2-3 tbl blood orange syrup

1 tsp blood orange rind

1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips- melted and smooth.

if you can't find blood orange-- use a mandarin or clementine. red grapefruit would be nice too. you'll need less sugar because of the tartness of the blood orange. I haven't tried this with lime or lemon yet-- but i suspect that the results are just as good...
Blood orange surup

squeeze the juice of 1-2 blood oranges. you'll need about a third of a cup of blood orange juice. in a small sauce pan. reduce the blood orange juice to a thick syrup slowly- do not add sugar. set the pan in an ice bath and stir until cooled.

using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat the butter until it is smooth and fluffy. if your butter is cold- start with a paddle attachment- and then switch over to a whisk once your butter is sticking to the sides of the bowl. Whisk the butter on high- and scrape sides as needed. alternating with tablespoons of chocolate and the blood orange sauce, beat the mixture together. once all of the chocolate and blood orange has been incorporated, slowly add powdered sugar and beat on low. when you've added 2/4 a pound of powdered sugar- taste for sweetness. add more if desired. add orange rind and whip well.

a note. use immediately-and store in the fridge. or you can leave the icing in the mixer and beat on high ocassionally-- since fats and liquids don't really like eachother- there's definitely a possibility for seperation here- and it's always a shame to have to waste icing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

butternut squash cavatappi with shrimp

I created this recipe on accident, when I was trying to make filling for a ravioli. The filling was too thin- but it was really tasty, so I made it a sauce instead. The sauce itself is a brilliant shade of neon orange pumpkin, which is exciting for adults and children alike.

Sometimes- when I'm feeling really crazy- I use roasted beets instead! The sauce turns the most ridiculous shade of pinky creamy purple and it delights me to serve this to people who have never eaten my cooking before. they look at this purply, coiled mess of pasta and look at me quizzically, and then look at their bowl, as I look at them with a huge eyes and an excited smile- watching them take that first bite only to be surprised that it actually tastes great. The fact that nature can make anything that orange or that purple still fills me with wonderment and hope for brave new dishes.

For a change like to add sauteed mushrooms and leek-- or even just a sprinkling of peas for a nice contrast. As a kid, when mom and I would go to the grocery store, I was obsessed with "peas and carrots" pea and carrot shaped gumballs that were a quarter for a giant hand full. I still have a special place in my heart for the vegetable combination, and my brain has been wired to see "peas and carrots" every time I see orange and green together.

Butternut Squash with Cavatappi and Sauteed Shrimp

1 medium sized butternut squash
1/2 a white onion, sliced into thin strips
3 cloves peeled garlic- whole
2 tsp rubbed thyme
1 small package unflavored goat cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 pound cavatappi or fun shaped pasta-- penne rigate works well too
1-1.5 pounds shrimp, peeled, de-vained, & tails removed
1 lemon cut unto wedges
salt and pepper
olive oil

preheat oven to 400
Peel the butternut squash, and chop into about 1 inch cubes. Place squash with peeled garlic on a baking tray, and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and rubbed thyme- bake at 400- shaking and tossing veggies-- they are done when the tip of a knife inserted into a larger piece of squash comes out clean and easy-- like a baked potato. You don't want much resistance- we're looking for done through - so the sauce will be velvety smooth.

In a blender or food processor, add squash/onion/garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan, goat cheese. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper, add if needed. If mixture is too thick- add 1/2 to 1 cup pasta water to thin it out. While pasta is cooking-- preheat a non stick pan to medium with a little olive oil- and saute the shrimp until pink. Do not over cook-- take them off with just a shade of grey left in them- and cover with foil off of the heat. Combine cooked pasta, butternut squash puree, shrimp and toss well-- add pasta water if needed, and toss well. Serve with hot fresh bread, a sprinkling of cheese, and a lemon wedge one the side.

Great with basil or oregano-- or Italian seasoning on the squash. Good also with chicken cutlets, as a side to pot roast, or as a hearty vegetarian meal. Make it Vegan by subbing out vegan low fat cream cheese and nutritional yeast for Parmesan.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

v day icing overload

In honor of valentine's day, me and a couple friends went over to play Wii and experience the loving feelings of competition (wii boxing) and embarrassment over the game Boogie. Not unlike real, bonified, cupid -inspired love, the beginning parts were nervous and polite but ended up resulting in various members of the party pairing up and trash talking others.

Since it was a friend's birthday as well, i made some snacks to keep up our energy. Because i'm really weird- i didn't like the way the first icing turned out. the butter was slightly too cold- and it was grainy textured.... so i started over and ate some of the reject icing- which felt really great later when i was drinking off the v-day haze with friends and new friends. Note to self- do not mix sparks and reject icing. Let your roommates lick the beater.

Chocolate Cupcake Surprise with milk chocolate butter cream (2.0)
i used the joy of cooking recipe- with some changes in green. I think the caramel truffle addition really added something special to the cupcake. Even though it was valentines day, i only received 1 marriage proposal because of the cupcakes. significantly lower than my usual number, but I'll chalk it up to their nervousness from my extreme wii skills.

Cocoa Devil's Food Cake, from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary edition © 2006
2 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda ( i used an extra 1/2 a teaspoon-- because I've had that box for a while. i don't really know if that's what you're supposed to do-- but i figured what harm could it do)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 c sugar
1 c buttermilk or yogurt (I used buttermilk powder- and instead of 2 tbl to 1 c water- i used 3 tbl to 1 c water for an extra creaminess)
1/2 c non alkalized cocoa powder ( I used dutch process cocoa)
1 tsp vanilla ( i used 2 tsp vanilla)
1/2 c unsalted butter
2 large eggs ( i used organic eggs)
28 frozen caramel truffles or your favorite candy

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together in small bowl: cake flour, baking soda, and salt.
Whisk together in a separate bowl: 1 cup of sugar, buttermilk or yogurt, cocoa powder, and vanilla.
Beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 30 seconds.Gradually add the other cup of sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 parts, beating until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Spoon into baking cups. Insert 1 frozen truffle into each cupcake and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Makes about 28 cupcakes.

Milk Chocolate Frosting
3 ounces melted good quality milk chocolate chips at room temp
2 sticks room temp butter
2 tsp vanilla- but i bet a nice liquor would be tasty too.
2 tbl whole milk
about 3/4 of a pound of powdered sugar
pinch salt

in a mixing bowl, whip the butter until its creamy and smooth. add melted chocolate, milk, salt and whip. With the beater on low, slowly add the powdered sugar. taste the icing frequently. depending on the kind of chocolate you use- it could go from yummy to cloying in an instant.

Easy white bean and garlic dip for a crowd
2 cans white cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon- zest ed and juiced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 tbl dried mint or 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped finely chopped
salt and pepper
bag of your favorite corn chips or unseasoned pita chips-- i like the lightly salted variety.

put everything in a blender or food processor (except the chips) and blend. taste- adjust flavor if needed and serve. if it gets too thick- add a little water. This dip is equally nice with the addition of goat cheese, avocado, hot sauce, artichoke, peas or even roasted red peppers.

happy cooking. don't forget the bread.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

things i can't live without. kitchen edition

I love grocery shopping. those who know me know that i can spend literally hours touching, sniffing, squeezing, thumping, tapping, shaking and weighing just about everything in the grocery store. My grocery store habbits have been poked fun of more times than i can remember, boyfriends have threatned break ups if i didn't leave the cheese section immediately, and people often mistake me for a worker- because i guess i carry that vibe of "I know what i'm doing here, stand back!"

Here in Richmond, we're lucky to have MANY great small stores and a couple big or fancy ones so you can get anything and everything you could ever think of in the realm of culinary arts. From Ellwoods, toHappy Mart to Tan A-- if a recipe calls for it, you can find it-and i'm here to help. We may not have little Jamaica like NYC or Chinatown like DC or San Fran or even the French Quarter in Nola, but man-- if you know where to look- Richmond is covered in things to eat, and people trying to get you to eat it.

this entry is going to change and update as i see fit- or as i find more and more interesting things in our fair city.

Part 1, things i always keep on hand- for quick meals or special ocassions. regardless of the season- these are the things that keep me cooking and keep my friends showing up for dinner every week.

roasted red peppers
goat cheese
unsalted butter
olive oil
penne pasta
organic/free range eggs
frozen corn
unsalted almonds
chocolate bars or gourmet chips
cans of white beans
cous cous
low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
espresso powder
really nice mustard ( i have quite a thing for mustard)
white 2 buck chuck
dried herbs de provence
fresh herbs
egg replacer
sea salt
soy sauce
paremesan cheese
chedar cheese
hot sauce
cans of crushed tomatoes
tons of dried herbs

On top of that is an ever rotating list of seasonal vegetables and fruit- and whatever protein strikes me. I don't believe in making lists to go to the grocery store. The grocery store is a cornucopia of seasonality and freshness, i start in the produce section, and use what's in season or looks good to inspire my meal. It is really important to talk to produce managers and butchers- if you want something, tell them! It will surprise you how much they appreciate requests.

Part 2 Places i Love to shop
Ellwood Thompsons-- local and scenesterific- It's where to go to score a missed connection, propose to the cheese guys, buy local seasonal produce, buy bulk seasonings and spices, spot local musicians and play "count the emo glasses". Entirely too close to where i live-for my walet's sake- the soups are good, the grilled asparagus is legendary, and did i mention billy bread? I hear they're opening a DC location- they've recently expanded through the end of the block- and there's a new cafe open. Will report back soon on the cafe.
Tan A Superstore-- everything asian, from food to woks, no credit- cash or checks only. and a smell that is aquired. Possibly the most overwhelmingly smelly and loud grocery store in the state- it is great for cheap ingredients and a walk on the wild side. Vegans appreciate the formed tofu section- and if PETA ever got a look at the live fish "aquarium" they'd die on the spot. Like walking off the plane in korea- the attendants yell at you, no one wants to help you, and nothing is in english- but all this adds to the mystey and excitement and makes for a fun mini adventure.
Willow Lawn Kroger- generally better produce than the rest- surprisingly good beer/wine section
Forest Hill Market-- seasonal, saturdays, go early- good coffee
Whole Foods.... Drooool. lobster mushrooms. and seafood to die for. Cheeeeeeeeese... friendly meat and dairy!
Fresh Market-- for when i like to pretend i'm rich and have all the money in the world.
Bodega Latina- guava paste. quince preserves. pineapple sorbet. banana leaves!
Indo Pak Grocery store-- bulk indian seasonings, way cool stuff
European Market-- truffle oil, gourmet picknick offerings, knowledgeable staff
The Yellow Umbrella. Family joint-- really friendly people- very knowledgeable- best place for seafood in town- where all the chefs go. they know their fish- and can get in just about anything.