Thursday, May 6, 2010
It's official: I've hit the culinary jackpot. After months of devouring weekly bowls of vietnamese pho soup in a cozy central London eatery, I decided to attempt to recreate the incredibly well seasoned, fully satiating dish.
This soup represents the Vietnamese equivalent of chicken noodle, but it's so much better on every level. To begin, the base is composed of a rich broth that is seasoned with cloves, cardamom pods, star of anise, cinnamon, and a hint of sugar. To be honest, I was skeptical about the taste combination of such spices in an asian dish, but I was obviously proved wrong. Large chunks of beef (chicken, seafood, or even tofu) are added give it some serious substance. But what makes pho different from any other soup I've ever eaten are the fresh herbs that are added seconds before eating. I literally can't enough of this stuff. It's that good.
So, while feeling more confident than usual this afternoon, I ventured to Chinatown to pick up ingredients. However, you don't need an asian grocer to do so... For me, making pho was more so an excuse to peruse the shelves of rice noodles, chilli pastes, and dried mushrooms. Any Sainsburys, Dierbergs, or Provigo most likely carries everything you need (perhaps with an exception for flat rice noodles).
So, for a magical pot of Pho Bo (beef soup), gather the following:
Beef cubes that dissolve in water (I used five, but it went into a proper stock pot)
1/2 lb beef brisket
1 package of asian flat rice noodles
1 large bag of bean sprouts
1 package of baby button mushrooms (or any other mild mushrooms. no portobello!)
Handfuls of fresh mint, coriander (cilantro), and spring onions
A few small red chilies
Asian chili sauce (I prefer the chilli/garlic combination)
1/3 cup whole cloves, cardamom pods, and star of anise
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
First, soak the rice noodles in large bowl of lukewarm water for 15 minutes. While the noodles are soaking, begin the broth by dissolving beef stock cubes in boiling water. When they dissolve completely, taste the broth to make sure it's strong enough. If it's not, add more cubes. If it is too strong, add water.
Next, add all the spices to the broth and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a large chopping knife (so that each clove is fractured) and add it to the broth at the same time. After 10 minutes, remove the spices and garlic using a strainer-ladel. Make sure to get all the cloves, star of anise, and cardamom pods out, otherwise you'll bite down on them later and I promise it won't be pleasant.
Thinly slice the brisket and add it to the broth. Add the mushrooms, whole or chopped at the same time. Let this simmer for another 5-10 minutes. While the soup is simmering, roughly chop the mint, spring onions, red chillies, and coriander and put them aside.
Give the soup a taste. It should be mostly beefy, with a slight hint of clove and cinnamon. You can also add the chilli paste at this point, but be careful to only do so in 1/2 teaspoon increments. As you all know, I'm all about following an improvised, taste-driven recipe, so feel free to add bits of more flavor to see what happens.
By now, the rice noodles should be soft. Drain them and spoon them into a large bowl. Next, do the same with the fresh bean sprouts. Top them with ladel-fulls of hot soup. Lastly, sprinkle the herb mixture. I like to add a bit of soy sauce, fresh red chillies, and a squeeze of lime juice at the very end.
Et voila! Vietnamese for dinner!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
When you break the eggs with your fork, warm yolk should ooze onto the bread and salmon...
Chili is divine. I'm actually quite surprised that in the two years forgottheeggs has existed, a chili recipe hasn't been posted. It's one of my favorite dishes to make, not only because it is a wonderful melange of flavors and super easy to make, but because it keeps well... very well. I've been eating chili for the past three weeks, and everytime I make it (approximately once a week), I divy the stock pot contents into tupperwares for the refridgerator and freezer and eat for days. Amazing. Especially if you're a busy student with a strict budget.
Monday, August 17, 2009
A few months ago, I ventured into a lovely french bistro in Montreal's Mile End neighborhood and had the opportunity to eat beef tartare [a french dish of raw meat marinated in acid that originated in Central Asia with the Tatar people]. The only other tartare I had come across during my time in Montreal was at the famous Au Pied de Cochon, where chef Martin Picard prepared a refreshing venison tartare.
Picard published a cookbook back in 2006, and lucky for me, the New York Times published his venison tartare recipe months later. So when this afternoon, I was feeling a bit risque, I became obsessed with the idea of preparing Picard's dish.
Now, Picard's recipe calls for venison, but let's be honest, beef is just as great. Please please please be sure to get the freshest meat possible. This dish is not cooked. It sits in an acidic marinade for some time, but not long enough to keep you from feeling the effects of old, bacteria-infested meat. If you live near a butcher, I recommend going there and asking for a lean top sirloin, and it's probably best that you mention you'll be serving it raw. I went to Whole Foods, and the butcher cut 1.5 pounds of top sirloin, instead of picking pieces from the case. He was pretty confident that I wouldn't get sick. It made me happy.
1 - 1.5 lbs lean top sirloin
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large egg yolks, as fresh as possible (and organic -- salmonella less prevalent in cage free birds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
a handful of fresh italian parsley, roughly chopped
at least 1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup of dijon mustard (maybe more)
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika
for garnish: arugula, frisee, or any other bitter greens; baby toasts or baguette
It's recommended that you mince/chop the meat as the very last step in the process. Therefore, I prepared my marinade first.
I chopped the garlic, shallots, and parsley and put them in a bowl. Then I added 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Next came the dijon, worchestershire, 2 tablespoons of cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of paprika. I gave it a taste, but honestly, until it was combined with the beef, I really couldn't gauge whether it was the right concentration of taste or not.
After completing the marinade, I used a food processor to chop the meat. Oh boy. It was quick, easy, clean, and the pieces were chopped into perfect sizes. A word of caution: avoid pureeing your meat. Tartare is known for its texture.
I added the egg yolks to the meat, mixed well (with a fork-- it keeps the integrity of the texture intact), and then added the marinade.
The next important step is tasting your creation and determining what is missing. I was hoping for a tartare that had a hint of dijon and a kick at the end. So I added extra mustard and cayenne pepper. Some people prefer their tartare a bit more salty. You can always add what you feel is missing.
When you feel you've achieved the right balance of flavors, stick the tartare in the fridge for a few minutes and start on your garnish. Now, in my opinion, tartare is most delicious when paired with a crispy toast and some bitter greens. My go-to is usually arugula, but I was lucky to find some frisee on sale. The combination was fantastic.
I added a bit of the leftover marinade to the greens, to give them some extra flavor. You can also dress them with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon to really bring the dish together.
Lastly, I arranged my creation so that the tartare could be easily mixed with the greens and spread onto the toasts.
This dish is a bit risque, but absolutely lovely.
I highly recommend it!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
When I think of a traditional veggie burger, I think of those frozen patties of soy sold in the grocery store. Well, this bulgur burger is nothing like that. It's grainy, full of flavor, and quite satisfying.
The original recipe was found by my friend Ben, who decided to make these burgers about a year ago for a birthday party. A few weeks later, I followed suit, except they fell apart, so I quickly stuffed them into a pita bread and no one could tell the difference.
I made them again last night, but with a few minor changes to the recipe.
It is as follows:
1/2 cup bulgur wheat, cooked in 1/2 cup of water until soft
1/2 yellow onion, chopped and sauteed in oil and salt until translucent
3 cloves of garlic (raw), chopped
1/2 cup walnuts (the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
1 cup canned pinto beans, washed and drained
cilantro as you see fit
salt, cayenne pepper to taste
1 part mayonnaise
1 part lime juice (as well as some rind)
Cook the bulgur and onions while preparing the rest of the ingredients. You will need a food processer for this! Unfortunately, it's impossible to make the burgers without one.
When the bulgur is ready, make sure to remove any extra water (although there really shouldn't be any). Combine all of the ingredients, with the exception of mayonnaise and lime juice, and pulse in a food processer until it's the texture of ground meat. Luckily, this isn't meat, so you can taste the mixture before cooking it. Too bland? Add some salt and cayenne. Too spicy? Sorry! I'm sure you'll deal. ;)
You can either fry the burgers in a pan with a touch of hot olive oil, or you can grill them. However, it might be a good idea to add some not stick spray or oil, whichever method you decide to use.
When I pan-fry these babies, I like to fry them until they're dark brown on each side. The inside won't really cook through, but that's okay! Even preferable.
When you're done, combine mayonnaise and lime juice. If it's not sour enough for your taste, add more lime. I also like to add a dash of cayenne, some cilantro, and lime rinds.
A perfect summer treat! (Healthy too!)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
While garlic reigns supreme on my list of “Food Royalty”, the members of its court cannot be discussed without giving a special respect for the sweet potato. My affinity for southern culture and cuisine has allowed me several opportunities to taste the orange tuber of love in a variety of conditions. I’ve tried it mashed with butter and salt, baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, and the occasional roasting affair with its King, garlic. It’s a chameleon, the sweet potato, and begs to be challenged to be concocted into the most delicious of dishes.
My recent sweet potato adventure was inspired by my mothers, Terri, trip to Michigan. Michigan is known for blueberries, so Terri thought it fitting to bring back 15 lbs. of them, which I deem entirely appropriate. The thought of making pies, ICE CREAM, sauces, jams, coffee cakes….I had to change my underwear. Terri had bagged up most of the berries to give away to people which sparked me to make the ultimate gifting food; a quick bread. Quick breads are just that, quick, and people love them. If a man was threatening to pull the trigger of a gun held to his head, all one would have to do is offer up a mini-loaf of homemade banana bread, outfitted with saran wrap and simple colorful ribbon. So where does the sweet potato come in?
Well, take this simple banana bread recipe:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup chopped dates or raisins
1 cup mashed over-ripe banana
The flavorings here are cinnamon, pecans, raisins, and…banana. All the other ingredients are necessary for what I consider a “blank canvas”. After that, you can add whatever you want, as long as it’s roughly the same measurements of the other flavoring ingredients in the original recipe. Now, if you a savvy baker, like myself, and feel comfortable enough substituting like a madwoman, you could end up with a recipe like THIS one…
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon PURE VANILLA EXTRACT
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato
¼ cup brown sugar
½-1 cup blueberries
Topping: spoonful flour, 2 spoonfuls sugar, ½ stick softened butter, some nuts.
Now, I edited this quite a bit. For starters, goodbye butter. I’m a big fan of butter when it’s got a starring role, but I felt the fat here had a mere walk on role. I omitted it knowing the sweet potato, starchier than a banana, would add a similar texture and depth to the bread. So butter? Add it to a piece once the bread is baked. I added PURE VANILLA EXTRACT and it is very important that it be PURE VANILLA EXTRACT. Fake stuff is worthless. Next change was the nutmeg. It’s a bit spicy, which I think is perfect for this bread because the vanilla really heightens the sweetness. I switched the pecans for walnuts because I had walnuts, not pecans. Use whatever nutmeat you like. Sweet potatoes are sweet when you are considering it to be a savory food, but in this case the sweetness is nothing like a banana. So, before I mashed the cooked sweet potato, I added just a bit of brown sugar to help it out. You wouldn’t really have to do that, but I did. Actually, I added a ½ cup when I really made this bread and it was WAY too sweet. I think ¼ cup is just fine. Blueberries? Add them until you like how many there are. I love love LOVE having things in my bread, so I added a good cup. The topping? A makeshift crumb topping.
So, what you do… Boil a quart of water. Cube a large sweet potato into 1” cubes and dump in boiling water for 10 min.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and set to the side.
Beat the eggs, adding the vanilla and milk as you go. Once beaten, dump that white sugar in.
Check potatoes. Done? They will be once fork tender. Mash them up with brown sugar. Cool in the fridge for 3 minutes or so. Adding them into the egg mixture hot will cook the eggs and ruin your life.
Mix sweet potato with eggs. Add flour mixture. Then, add nuts and blueberries, folding gently so you don’t let the berries burst.
Pour into a 9”x5”x3” bread pan.
Fork together topping ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour on top of batter once in pan. Note, if you want more topping, just make more. It’s pretty easy stuff.
Bake at 325 for an hour and 10 minutes. You can use mini bread pans or even muffin tins. Bake at 325 until you can stick a knife in and it comes out clean. Mini bread pans…about 40 min, muffin tins (depending on size) 20-30 min.
Please note the infinite variations of a quick bread….zucchini, pumpkin, regular potato, apple, strawberry, orange date, lemon-the possibilities are endless! The flexibility and forgiveness of any quick bread recipe makes experimentation a MUST. Enjoy!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
My recent trip to Panama allowed me to eat ceviche (raw fish marinated in acid such as lime juice) for as little as one dollar per bowl. This was ridiculously cheap, even for Panama. I tried to recreate the refreshing dish this evening, however, upon inspect of my filet of cod, I found a roundworm (Gross!).
A word of caution: Be careful when choosing fish for ceviche. The older it gets, the fishier it starts to smell. I recommend getting a filet from a fish market, and not the grovery shelf where fish can sit for days on end.
Although my ceviche wasn't completed, here's the method I planned on using. I expect you'll find it delightful.
1 filet of your favorite light fish (cod, scallops, shrimp, tilapia)
enough lime juice to fully submerge your fish
2 tomatoes, chopped medium
1/2 red onion, chopped small
TONS of fresh cilanto
Fill a large bowl with lime juice, chopped red onion, tomato, and cilantro. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Thoroughly wash your fish filet and chop it into bite size pieces. Add it to the lime mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes, covered.
You can then drain some of the liquid, but leave the veggies!
Eat on a toast or tortilla chip.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I ventured in for a pint of hefeweizen just the other night. A piping hot glass of calamari and lime mayo accompanied my beer, and to be honest, after I finished the calamari, I wanted to order more snacks.
Reservoir is also open for brunch of Sundays. My last morning visit consisted of a perfectly concocted allonge, poached eggs on top of wild atlantic lox, and sweet biscuits topped with blueberry jam.
This bar is a foodie's dream come true. I'm going back tomorrow.
9 Duluth Est
Friday, January 16, 2009
4 small tortillas
2 cups of shredded cheddar
1 giant and perfectly ripe avocado
1/2 can black beans
1 medium tomato
3 cloves of garlic
In a food processor, combine the garlic, tomato, and black beans until they are pureed. Heat them on low until the mixture is warm. You don't want it to cook... Otherwise the garlic will lose its potency.
In a lightly buttered pan, heat both sides of each tortilla. Then add the cheese and avocado, fold the tortilla over and cook on medium until the cheese melts. Repeat for each tortilla.
In a separate frying pan, cook the eggs sunny-side up. I like them runny, but they're your eggs, so cook them however you like.
Put the eggs on top of the quesadilla, and top the eggs with the black bean puree. You can always add tabasco (my personal fave!), ketchup, or lime juice.
SOOOOO tasty. I promise. The two dudes I currently live with were in awe of the flavor explosion that occurred after the first bite.
Friday, January 9, 2009
4 large yellow onions, sliced lengthwise
4 (or more!) gloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups beef broth (this can be substituted by vegetable broth, however, stay away from chicken broth. trust me!)
some salt and pepper
Cook the onions and garlic in butter and olive oil on medium-high heat until they start to brown. Make sure they first become translucent and soft though, because if they brown too quickly, you'll have burnt soup. And please please please do not substitute the butter. Here's the deal: butter adds intense flavor, especially to french dishes. In the end, you'll only be consuming 1/4 tablespoon of butter, so just enjoy the taste of the butter and don't feel guilty about it.
When you feel the onions are at the perfect texture and color, add the broth. I recommend allowing the soup to simmer for 45 minutes (at least!), before turning the heat down. The longer the soup cooks, the more intense the flavor of the onions will be. This is lovely.
If by the end of cooktime, your soup feel too thin/liquid, you can add a teaspoon of flour. Please make sure to sift the flour in slowly though, as it's imperative to avoid flour clumps.
Serve hot with some toasted bread and cheese.
Monday, June 23, 2008
And the chosen snack: SJJ's homemade black kernel popcorn. Delicious.
So here's the recipe.
a plentiful pour of olive oil
half as much vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
1/3 cup of black kernel corn for popping
coarse sea salt
any other seasoning
Heat the oil on medium/high heat in a deep pot. Olive oil has a high burning point, but vegetable/canola/peanut oils have more flavor. That's why it's best to use both.
Drop three kernels in the pot, and wait for one or two of them to pop. That's when you know the oil is hot enough. Then add the rest of the kernels. Make sure to coat them evenly in the oil. Cover the pot and wait for the sound/smell of popcorn to surround you.
You can add the seasoning when the popped corn is still in the pot, or you can wait for it to cool. Your choice.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
This soup is spicy and sour, like the typical southeast asian Tom Yum, but it also has very western qualities (such as the use of celery). It's light, refreshing, and perfect for a summer evening.
1 can (48 oz) nonfat chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp Asian chili sauce (or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (or more! depending on your tastes)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut in 8 slices
3/4 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin 3-inch-long strips
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms (or white button mushrooms)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the broth on medium-high heat and add the soy sauce, chili sauce, ginger, brown sugar, and lime juice. After 10 minutes, add the chicken and let cook covered for another 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and keep cooking until the chicken looks fully cooked. Then add the mushrooms and lime zest and lower the heat to low. Add the cilantro after taking the soup off the heat, and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve warm. You can add thin rice noodles if you'd like, but make sure to cook them separately and add them to the soup upon serving.
I added a bit of lemon juice at the end, but Ben did not. Once again, it's a matter of preference.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Let me give some background on Camembert...
It looks like brie, but tastes nothing like it. Brie has the same creamy quality as Camembert, but it also has a certain kick or aftertaste that is quite the acquired taste. Because of its creaminess, Camembert is most often served with a nice plump french baguette or some tangy dried fruit. Knowing this, I still decided to experiment with the use of Camembert in a pasta dish. According to Google, I'm the only person who has ever tried to complete such a feat. I find this unusual, considering the amazing dish the combination of pasta, camembert, and some tasty veggies produces.
This recipe makes enough for four people (or two really hungry students).
3/4 box of penne pasta (cooked al dente!)
1 can artichoke hearts in water
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1/2 red onion
1 large garlic clove
2 cups frozen peas (still frozen!)
700g Camembert Cheese, extra creamy, with the rind removed
salt and pepper to season
I cup of freshly grated parmesan (go for the block. it's worth it!)
Start off by slowly sauteeing the onions and garlic. When the onions become soft and translucent, add the mushrooms. You should be boiling your water right about now.
When the mushrooms appear 75% cooked, add artichokes (chopped roughly). I like to add salt at this point. Keep on medium heat for about 5 minutes and then turn it off.
Chop the cheese into cubes about the size of an inch. Add them to the pan and mix together well. The Camembert will turn into an oozy film that covers the veggies. This is delicious. Embrace it.
When the pasta is al dente, toss it in a large bowl with the veggie/cheese mixture. Make sure to mix well, coating each piece of penne with the cheesy goodness.
Add the frozen peas. They are so small that they will defrost almost immediately.
Serve warm with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I had the opportunity to try the most succulent lamb at a persian restuarant in Mile End this evening. I had a similar opportunity a few weeks ago at a nice little Afghan eatery. And after experiencing such a tender, sweet delicacy, I can honestly say it's my favorite meat.
Don't get me wrong... A good steak, juicy and still raw inside has the ability to provide weeks of gastronomical satisfaction, but lamb, especially spiced well (I prefer a bit of raisin, cumin, and nutmeg), cannot be compared to anything.
If you haven't had lamb before, find a good middle eastern restuarant and try it. There's nothing like it, I promise.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The past week has been all about studying, and not about being at home or eating. So I've been forced to eat "cafe food," which while at first was exciting and a treat, by now, I can't even look at.
So finally today, after the last exam, I went to the grocery store and bought some fresh vegetables. My goodness... how amazing! I was practically salivating in the produce isle as I touched the plums and tomatoes. And I realized afterwards, how delightful it is to have a bowl of colorful and crunchy vegetables every once in a while.
So yes, my recipe for the best green salad:
2 large handfuls of fresh arugula
2 mini cucumbers with peels
1 medium sized firm tomato
2 slices of ham (chopped or torn apart)
Annie's Green Goddess Dressing
Friday, March 7, 2008
Tomorrow a bunch of us are getting together to celebrate my roommate Mike's 23rd birthday. I've been feeling pretty domestic lately, so I decided to make a cake for the occasion. This cake was SUPER easy to make, and I'm not going to lie... the chocolate icing is divine. It's so chocolately and rich, and it has the absolute right amount of sugar. I could eat the icing out of the pot. I sort of did. Anyway, before I continue, I'd like to thank my friend Ben's mother, Mrs. Adler for the scrumptious icing recipe.
This cake actually has two layers. I baked this at a friend's house, so I didn't have traditional round baking pans, but two pyrex pie pans did the trick. Also, I should mention that the dough recipe comes from SJJ's earlier post, January Garnet Cake, but the filling and icing are completely different.
So here goes!
For the batter
1 stick of butter (.5 C.)
.5 C. shortening, unflavored
2 C. granulated sugar
1 C. buttermilk
5 egg yolks
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1.25 C. flaked coconut (UNSWEETENED)
1 C. chopped pecans or walnuts. I prefer walnuts; SJJ prefers pecans. It's up to you!
30 minutes before: separate eggs and leave butter out so it can come to room temperature.
With a paddle attachment or traditional egg-beating whisk, beat the warm (or almost melted) butter and shortening until whipped. Add the sugar.
Pour the vanilla into the buttermilk (make sure the buttermilk has not expired. This happened to me tonight, and well... I was not pleased.
Add yolks and buttermilk to the bowl, alternating between the two.
In another bowl, add flour and baking soda and mix lightly with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, beating lightly. once all is mixed thoroughly, fold in coconut and pecans or walnuts.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and distribute the batter between two cake pans evenly. Place it in the middle rack and time it for 30-40 minutes, depending on your elevation/type of oven/patience.
When the pans are out of the oven and cooling, begin the filling and icing.
2 tbsp butter
1 square of baker's unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
1-2 cups of frozen or fresh raspberries (make sure the frozen kind aren't in juice or syrup. flash frozen is best!)
.5 cup boiling water
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp corn starch
.5 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 square of baker's unsweetened chocolate
Ok, so for the filling... On VERY LOW HEAT, melt the butter and chocolate and add the sugar. Make sure to keep stirring, otherwise you'll end up with burnt chocolate. (GROSS!)
Taste it. If it's too bitter, add a bit more sugar. If it's too sweet, don't worry... The raspberries will add a hint of tartness delight. When the chocoloate is melted and perfectly sweetened, add the raspberries and mash them with your stirring utensil. It makes kind of a chocolate-raspberry puree/jam type thing. and it's DELICIOUS. Taste it. Seriously.
When the cakes have cooled and have been turned over onto a plate, spread the filling over the top of one of the cakes. There will be some left over, so you can eat it! Then lay the second cake on top of the filling.
Now onto the icing...
In a pan, combine sugar and cornstarch and add boiling water. Heat on low-medium heat and add the salt and chocolate. Keep stirring until it really thickens. Not just a little bit. It needs to be like pudding. As my friend Ben says, "the thicker it is, the easier it will spread."
When it's hot and thick, spread it over the top and sides of the cake. LAYER IT ON. and taste it.
You can top the cake with raspberries or coconuts, or candles. Whichever fits your cake style.
Birthday boy Mike's cake was topped with the letter "M" (it was made from the raspberry filling).
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Another reunion for SJJ and ILR took place this evening, thanks to nanny night off and McGill reading week. ILR's father Leo graced us with his presence, culinary talent, and wine collection.
The menu included:
-mixed greens with Leo's homemade cilantro-garlic vinaigrette
-beet and goat cheese sandwiches
-parmesan crusted white roughy (also known as vietnamese catfish)
As we drank our red wine and munched on the white roughy, Leo entertained us with his stories of growing up in communism, shaking Fidel Castro's hand, and raising children with cloth diapers.
All in all, a wonderful evening.
Addendum (Written by: Samantha Jane Jacobs)
Ok, this night was awesome. leo introduced me to trader joe's lemon sorbet. it was like eating the love child of a freshly picked sugar cane and a sun drenched summer lemon. i especially liked it paired with the wine that had apparently been opened and left on the counter for days. leo asked us to try, as his tastebuds were tainted with his "i'd drink it all anyway" attitude towards any sort of wine. of course, it was fine. although, i must say, i have a very similar perception.
as ILR stated before ,there was cilantro dressing served with the salad. i HATE cilantro. ya ya ya, i love good food and cooking and happiness and what have you, but i can't stand the stuff! it's like soap! ILR claims there is a genetic link towards one's taste for cilantro. that's fine either way, but i truly don't understand how anyone can eat it so liberally. however, leo's dressing was totally tolerable. he masked the cilantroness of it with a good bit of olive oil, lemon, and garlic (mmm).
leo also talked to us about sex. he told us not to have it casually. to that, i say this: i don't think casual sex is exactly written in the stars for me right now. speaking of which, thank you ILR for editing the picture so that i don't look as horrendously fat as usual. you really are such a great friend and i love you for it:)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I've been limiting my meat consumption in the past few months, so I decided to try to make the borsch with chicken thighs. Unfortunately, I forgot to buy the chicken. So this recipe is now vegetarian. You can always add chicken if you wish (In the very beginning).
2 large packages of chicken broth (beef or veggie are fine)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/3 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 small bag of baby carrots (or 1.5-2 cups carrots)
3 large potatoes, diced (russets are good for boiling)
1 large can diced tomatoes (drained!)
1 large can cooked beets (they can be marinated. mine were)
2 tbsp Vegeta
lots of fresh dill
a dollop of sour cream
Add the chopped onion to a medium hot pan with a bit of olive oil. Please don't let these burn! Let them become translucent. Add the garlic, and let it cook for a minute. Then add the broth. Immediately add the cabbage and carrots. Let them cook for 5 minutes and then add the diced potatoes. At this point I added the vegeta.
For those of you who don't know what vegeta is, it's a packet of seasoning that comes from Croatia. I grew up on this stuff, so I'm addicted to it. My mother used to add it to fried potatoes and chicken soup, and those are pretty much the only things I ate as a child. It just adds so much flavor! But you can substitute with some salt, or any other seasoning mix you have. Just taste it before you add a bunch to the pot of soup.
Ok, so let this soup simmer away for about 10 or 15 minutes, and when the potatoes and carrots feel soft, not mushy, add the drained tomatoes and beets. Let it simmer for another 5 to 10, and then taste it. If you feel it needs an extra kick, add whatever you wish. My father likes his borsch with olives. I'm not so much a fan of this. But it's your soup, so do what makes you happy.
When it's ready to be served, add a dollop of cold sour cream and some chopped fresh dill.
And you can call yourself a russian!
Thursday, February 7, 2008
In search of a scrumptious gift to send to the states for SJJ's birthday, I ventured through Montreal's Plateau neighborhood. It's well known for having adorable french boutiques and food shoppes filled with gourmet treats such as eggplant caviar and cayenne pepper chocolat truffles. On this particular day in the plateau, I stumbled into Le Festin De Babette, a gourmet cafe/truffle shoppe that carries not just sweets, but loose tea, china, tapenade, and other various european food items.
This boutique/cafe/wonderland is incredible. There's an entire shelf devoted to homemade jams and honey, a room filled with colorful tea cups and plates for purchase, and counters full of chocolate candies and caramels. I find it difficult to leave this cafe, especially empty handed.
I'm going back tomorrow.
4085, rue St-Denis
Montréal (Québec) H2W 2M7
Tél : 514.849.0214
photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/young_toymaker/474069239/
Friday, January 25, 2008
3 cups of all purpose flour (plus some for later)
5 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
8 oz goatcheese
1 cup thawed spinach (drained and patted dry)
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
To start, thaw a package of frozen spinach in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. You'll only need a cup of it, but make sure its a tightly packed cup.
Finely chop the onion and put it in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Allow it to become translucent and then add the finely chopped garlic. After you can smell the wonderful aroma of garlic (2 minutes), add the artichoke hearts, plus a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Let it cook until the artichokes get warm. Remove from heat.
At this point, preheat the oven to 375 F.
In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Then add it to the dry ingredients. Mix them up, but don't mix too hard. It will make the dough tough.
Add the goat cheese in 1/2 inch pieces. Then add the artichokes and spinach. Mix together. If the dough becomes too wet, add a bit more flour. Make sure to mix the flour in before adding more.
Add flour to a large cutting board and then roll the dough into equal size spheres. Cut them in half, and then in half again, until you get triangle shaped scones.
Grease a large baking sheet and place the scones 1/2 inch apart. They won't expand sideways as they cook, but just to be safe, allow the half inch.
They should look puffy and doughy before you put them in the oven.
They should bake for about 30 minutes. Check them every 10 to 15 minutes. If the bottom looks brown, flip them over. (Unless you have a convection oven... then they will bake perfectly)
Let them cool for 10 minutes and then add a bit of goat cheese to the top.
These are best warm and fresh.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
1/3 cup pure apple juice (no sugar or water added. The brand I bought is called HUCK'S)
1/4 cup maple syrup or good quality honey (i like the honey)
1/6 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (if you like it sweet, you can do 1/3 cup instead)
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
a dash of salt to taste
2.5 cups rolled oats (make sure these aren't the instant or quick cooking oats, otherwise boooo)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (you can toast this on a fying pan, no oil, just heat for 2-3 minutes)
1/2 cup coarsely shopped raw almonds
1/4 cup coarsely chopped raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup flax seed
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a cookie sheet and set aside.
In a small/medium saucepan, heat the apple juice, syrup, olive oil, and brown sugar and let it simmer for a few minutes. It'll become a bit syrupy. That is when you know it is done. Just DO NOT let it burn. Add the cinammon when you remove the pan from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, and flax. Then add the syrupy mixture and mix well together. I like to add the syrup slowly, mixing everything together, before adding more. This is because I always worry about adding too much liquid and making goo.
After it is well mixed, distribute the granola very evenly on the cookie sheet and place it on the bottom rack. After 10 minutes, move the granola around a bit on the sheet so the unbaked pieces have a chance to bake. Check the mixture every 5-7 minutes after that. Total bake time ranges between 20-25 minutes.
Let cool and then store in an airtight container.
Now, I really should mention that although this granola is very heart and stomach healthy, it is not low fat or low calorie by any means. 1/2 cup of wheatgerm contains 410 calories, but it also contains 30 grams of protein and 43 grams of carbs. So be wise. If you're trying to lose weight, don't eat this as a snack. Eat it as part of a meal. I personally enjoy granola on top of a bowl of plain yogurt and berries every morning. This will fill you up and give you a major boost of protein (almonds, hazelnuts, wheatgerm).
(P.S.) My lovely South African roommate Sir Withers just tried the granola on top of his plain yogurt and said it was scrumptious!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
7-8 C. winter vegetables (sweet potato, onion, fennel, parsnips, turnips, carrots, rhutabega, etc.)
3 T. olive oil
salt/pepper, to taste
dice veggies into uniform, bite-size pieces. coat evenly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. lay on a parchment lined baking sheet and place into UN-heated oven. then, turn oven to 425 and roast until desired roasting is achieved, about 30 min. thennnnnn, take out of oven and place in a big ole' bowl. begin stage 2.
****DID YOU KNOW!!???.....you will obtain better carmalization and color when you roast veggies if you refrain from pre heating the oven? true story. i couldn't tell you why, but just trust me. i speak the truth.
4 oz. chevrie cheese, or goat cheese (same thing, i just wanted to show you my mad culinary vocabulary)
2 T. fresh thyme
mix these items in with veggies. cheese will no doubt melt and the thyme will make love to your nose. then, onto stage 3....
1 package of pre-made pie crust (the kind for a 2-crust pie)
cut the two circles of dough into 8 pieces. love on them until you get some variety of a circle or square or oval. you know, something even or uniform. STAGE 4!....
evenly distribute veggies on top of pie crusts, leaving a generous border. let's say, 2 T. on each one....? fold corners of crust in to create a more bulbous edge. place another dab of chevrie on top of each one and place in a pre-heated 425 oven until crust is golden brown, about 20 min. remove and voila!
hey, good news. while this recipe is full of cheese, olive oil, and CRUST, one serving is actually entirely reasonable. i don't like to ruin food by talking about how good/bad it is for you, but i can't help but let you all in on this. one serving (there are 8, duh) is about 375 calories and 12 g. of fat. and trust me, the flavor is so satisfying that you'll be great after one. pair with a vinegary salad and you're good!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
This lemon bar recipe has been experimented with quite a bit over the past month, and the best tasting batch was baked last night. The secret to amazing lemon bars in my opinion is the very sour lemon filling, sweet/creamy crust, and lots of confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top. Some people don't like inhaling the sugar as they eat the bar, but I think it's part of the fun. Especially when you are sharing the bars and everyone has a sugar 'stache to make fun of.
This recipe makes enough lemon bars to fill an 8x8 baking pan.
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered)
1/2 stick slightly warm butter
a pinch of salt
Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter in chunks or slices. Use a pastry cutter to break up the butter. It should be pebble size or a bit smaller.
Fill the bottom of a well buttered 8x8 baking pan with the mixture, and be sure to pat it down so it's well packed at the bottom of the pan.
Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, or until it is yellow-golden. If the bottom looks like its burning, switch to the broiler at 350 F for a few minutes, or until the top of the crust looks yellow-golden.
4 large eggs
4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (you can use up to 1/4 cup more if you want the bars to be thicker)
1/2 - 1 cup confectioner's sugar
a pinch of salt
While the crust is baking, mix together the juice, zest, eggs, and salt. be sure to beat the eggs well. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. Mix it in well before you add more. This is where your preference comes in. Some people prefer very sweet bars, others very tart. I like to add in 1/4 cup of sugar at a time, and dip my finger in the mixture to taste it. The batch I made yesterday evening consisted of 1/2 cup of sugar and it made my lips pucker quite a bit. But that's what I love about lemon bars. So use your judgement.
After mixing the custard well, add it to the crust. It's okay if it's very hot.
Bake again at 350 F until it looks set. It will look like it has a bit of a film over it. I wait until it starts to crack a tiny bit and then take it out of the oven.
Let cool and then sprinkle confectioner's sugar over it.
These lemon bars were enjoyed by Canadians and Americans alike, during a wild game of Taboo last night. They were later munched on by some more (drunk) Canadians and Americans at 3am after a large amount of gin was consumed rather quickly.
What a perfect midnight treat!
.5 C. shortening, unflavored
2 C. granulated sugar
1 C. buttermilk
5 egg yolks
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1.25 C. flaked coconut (bagged, not canned, if you ask me)
1 C. chopped PE-cans
30 minutes before: separate eggs and leave butter out. baking works best when these ingredients are brought to room temperature.
with a paddle attachment (or some big guns) beat butter and shortening until whipped. add sugar. keep whipping. pour the vanilla in the buttermilk. add yolks and vanilla buttermilk, alternating between the two. baking is about harmony! in another bowl, please add flour and baking soda and mix lightly with a fork. there is nothing more disgusting than taking a bite of a baked good only to find a clump of baking soda. nothing. gently, but confidently, add flour mixture to wet mixture, beating lightly. once all is mixed thoroughly, fold in coconut and PE-cans.
at this point, you have options. lots of them. but first, please go preheat your oven to 350 F.
-you may use ONE 13x9x2 inch baking pan and have a nice sheet cake. bake 40-45 or until it smells divine.
-you may use TWO 9 inch baking rounds. bake these about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it.
-you actually may use WHATEVER YOU WANT. for real. let's chat....
baking is not hard, as i have said before. let's say you choose to use a dora the explorer mold. it probably has some weird crevices, perhaps a few deep spots. use it! just stop cooking it somewhere between not done and over done. hang out in the kitchen, get some tea, do a sodoku. the key to baking is accurate ingredients and the temperature at which you bake them.
alright, whenever your cake situation is complete, take it out of the oven and wait 5 minutes. then, take it out of the pan and place it on a baking wrack where your dog can't eat it. this will prevent a soggy cake and a dead cake. after about a half hour, cover the cake with anything. kitchen towel works, cake cover, tin foil, whatever. this will prevent a dry cake. cakes have no brain so they can't figure this out for themselves.
for frosting, do what you want, but i think this is one is FABOO and i made it up myself, so that's cool.
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese block, softened
.25 C. beautiful butter, softened
2 C. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla...OH...never ever EVER use imitation. it's worth the extra $ to get the real stuff.
whip all that together. AND THEN...
whip about a half cup of whipping cream with just a spoonful of regular sugar. this makes whipped cream. duh. but stop whipping when it gets to the consistency of hair mousse.
fold those two bowls of heaven together. DONE.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
This recipe had its origins from a generic chocolate chip cookie. We used confectioner's sugar (powdered) instead of granulated white sugar, and honey was used as a substitute for eggs. What we thought might turn out disastrous turned out scrumptious. Lack of eggs and all.
This recipe makes 18 cookies.
1.75 cups all purpose flour
0.75 tsp baking soda
0.25 tsp salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
0.5 cups powdered confectioner's sugar
0.5 cups brown sugar
2-3 tbsp honey
6 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
3 oz chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Beat together the room temperature butter and sugars. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the dry ingredients and then add them to the butter mixture. Add the honey, and if the dough feels too flaky, add a bit more.
Add the chocolate chunks and the walnuts. Be sure to use the semisweet chunks because it might be too sweet if not.
Using your hands to roll them into golf balls (or ping pong), lay them on parchment paper and bake them for 8-11 minutes. Don't let them burn. But if you do, we'll forgive you. (Half of our first batch burned. Burn baby burn)
Addendum (By Samantha-Jane Jacobs)
This was a particularly entertaining experience; the baking of these DELICIOUS (really, really really really) cookies.
As I was chit chatting with ILR's adorable Russian father, Leo, ILR was mixing the butter and sugars in a large soup pot. While I would never doubt her rather eccentric culinary abilities, I have to admit I thought she might lightly heat these ingredients in order to mix them more easily. Of course, she did not (not that we had eggs to curdle or anything...)
Then, DILEMMA #1: no regular sugar, only powdered. Eh, It's sweet. In retrospect, this may be the most important aspect to these cookies. They are dense but flaky, like the perfect pie crust, which I gladly blame on the powdered sugar. After Leo made fun of us-OH, by the way, Leo was to receive a colonoscopy the next day so all he had consumed was chicken broth and clear liquids. Sad day for Leo. How we tortured him so.
Anyway, after Leo made fun of us DILEMMA #2 occurred. NO EGGS! The glue, the lifeblood of a good chocolate chip cookie was MIA. After running through our options, we opted for honey. It's sticky, right? We only needed it to hold the dough together in order to roll them into balls to back. I think since the cookies are indeed so similar to a pie crust, we could have slowly added tablespoons (4-7) of ice cold water but eh. The honey did prove to be an excellent binding material. Quite sweet, though. I would like to try this again using the ice water.
I think the moral of this cookie conundrum is that baking does NOT have to be science. It's not scary. It's quite easy. I suggest you bake and bake and BAKE and BAKE until you understand what all the ingredients do. Baking, then, will be a much more intuitive process and you will have more control over what you can do and what you think you couldn't do. Like, to this recipe, I'd definitely try adding some crispy cooked prosciutto or finely chopped pistachios. I'd consider omitting the chocolate chips, though. But hey, if chocolaty meat is your thing, then do it.
Happy Holidays from SJJ and ILR.
We've decided to start this blog to document our culinary excursions into the wild world of gourmet cooking and baking. We're currently working on a cookbook, so we'll keep you updated.
This blog is devoted to making food, tasting food, and living food.