Sunday, April 30, 2006

Elaine: Spanish Tortilla

Tapas tapas and more tapas. This rainy afternoon, we ran to Pastoral, a cute little cheese shop in my neighborhood, to pick up some tasty bits to compliment the tortilla espanola. I picked up some chorizo, and quince paste to go with my manchego cheese. Cath, I loved your recipe. Mike and I think its the best recipe yet for tortilla espanola. I usually make it with chunks vs slices of potato. i also like how the potatoes rested in the eggs. I did venture to flip the whimpy sliding it off the pan onto a plate and flipping it back into the pan. Worked like a charm. I then wrapped my dates in bacon, threw them in a 400 F oven and baked for 10-15 min until the bacon was crisp, drizzled some maple syrup on top. Made some shrimp with garlic and spicy red chilis. Found some of my favorite anchovy stuffed olives at the market. I wanted to eat the entire jar.

Ended with some satisfying rice pudding. Definitely a great meal Mike and I nibbled on while watching Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Kate: Spanish Tortilla

I have an Australian friend here in Brussels whos parents are Spanish. She advised me, passionately, as to how to flip a tortilla even down to how to stand, "knees bent, arms and shoulders relaxed" (Elaine this is Tonya). She also suggested some Tapas, the yellow peppers came from her.
I followed your recipe Cath, flipping with bent knees of course. The recipe was fine and as i've mentioned before Greg was sent out of the kitchen so I could concentrate, it was serious business. With my first flip I left half the tortilla stuck to the non stick pan(?). I quickly patched it up and added more oil which was crucial. I probably didnt have enough fat in the pan originally. The tortilla was reasonably forgiving and subsequent flips went perfectly. I probably did one too many but it was good to get the feel for it.
I am definatley converted to flipping. Mainly because mishaps are easily disguised and the difference in shape an the way it browns is well worth it.
Next time I would use a smaller pan for the same quantity as it wasnt as thick as I would have liked.

I went a bit crazy with the Tapas. Firstly we had Yellow Peppers in Vinegar and Parsley. These were so simple. Just roast and skin two peppers, slice, drizzle with white vinegar, olive oil a sprinkling of parsley and sea salt. I wasnt sure about the white vinegar but it worked perfectly. Next time I would roll them up and maybe secure with a tooth pic. this would make eating them eaier and also look a bit prettier.
Next were Thyme Roasted Almonds, again, so simple but very difficult to stop eating them once oyu start. Lay almonds on a baking sheet covered with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil to coat, throw over a T of fresh thyme leaves and a good pinch of sea salt. Turn to coat again and roast for 6-8mins in a hot oven. Cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Chorizo braised in Cider served with slices of Manchego cheese, (I dont know if the chorizo in cider is authentic but I discovered it about three years ago. The recipe is from an the Australian Gourmet Traveller and they've since featured at pretty much every party we've had. The Manchego cheese was my addition. I love it and was desperate to squeeze it in somewhere, between the sausages seemed the most appropriate spot. And it did work quite well) Pour 750 mls of dry cider over 6 chorizo bring to the boil then simmer for 25-30 mins until sausages are glossy and cider reduces by half. Cool, slice and serve warm or at room temp.
Finally (Sweet) Patatas Bravas. The first three were delicious and I would do all again but I should have stuck with tradition with the patatas bravas....this is evident in thier absence from the photo.
Great idea Cath!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Jer: Tortilla Espanola

There are certain techniques in the kitchen that, no matter how many times I try to perfect them, I will never master. Flipping a tortilla Espanola in its pan a few times is one of them. As Elaine will attest, I like being in control and doing things as well as I can. I am particularly neurotic in the kitchen and at work – two places where I really can’t stand error. So flipping these Spanish gems always drives my Type A personality crazy.

What am I doing wrong? In my ten plus tortilla Espanola attempts over the years, I’ve tried different sized pans, different sized spatulas and pancake flippers and I’ve worked at varying temperatures. But when I think I’m ready to flip, there is always still too much uncooked egg moisture which causes it to fall apart on the plate. I hesitate for fear of breaking the form. So I inevitably put it in the oven when it’s almost done and finish it off under a broiler (or in a very hot oven). This always does the job but mine are always a little compacted with a tougher texture on the top from the broiling. I dream of the day I can emerge from the kitchen with a soft and delicate pan of egg and potato.

Of all the recipes for tortilla Espanola I’ve tried, this was by far my favorite in terms of flavor and density. In previous attempts I had always cubed the potatoes and pan roasted them with the onions. In this case, I really liked the low temperature cooking of the potatoes and onion slices in the olive oil. The onion infused the oil which infused the potato in ever such a subtle way. I liked how the slow cooking didn’t brown or toughen the potatoes, which in turn created a softer inside than what I’m used to. In spite of my inability to get the flipping part right, the taste and texture was divine and I will stick with this recipe going forward as I try to master the technique portion of this dish.

I served these for lunch on Saturday to my friends Amyra and Nicole who were in town for the long weekend, both of whom really liked it. Served on the side was our standard salad – arugula and parmesan tossed with good olive oil and lemon juice and finished off with fresh ground pepper. We can make this salad in less than 2 minutes and enjoy it a few times a week for dinner. It is the perfect dinner salad for company as it can be dressed in seconds and really takes no effort to prepare (in particular if you buy pre-washed arugula and pre-grated parmesan).

We served the cheesecake for dessert later that evening and it was a hit. Thank you so much for all the recommendations. I went with Elaine’s Junior Recipe given that Amyra is really a fan of the classic cheesecake (although for a future dinner party I will definitely try the ricotta recipe). I did not make a crust and I layered sliced strawberries from a nearby farm along the edge of the cake using mascarpone as adhesive. I made a fresh strawberry puree and dressed each serving dish with it before adding the slice of cheesecake. It was not cakey and the texture was creamy and perfect. I had trouble with water seepage into the bottom rim of the cheesecake in spite of my lining with plastic wrap and foil. This is another technique that I have always struggled with - I always have some water spilling in no matter how well I try to protect the bottom lining. Regardless, it was delicious and we loved every bit of it.

To finish off the weekend, I came home from the gym last night to a beautifully set dinner table. Peter, was serving fresh fruit with a side of our favorite cottage cheese and apple sauce (a lovely combination, in particular if you have children). As I might have mentioned in previous posts, Pete does not cook, but he cleans up my mess better than anyone and makes a mean fruit smoothie and grilled cheese sandwich. The table was dressed beautifully and when I asked him why the special spread, he smiled and said “I’m working on my plating skills.” The hostess and cook in me melted and smiled. One thing is for certain, he is clearly further along with his plating than I am with my tortilla Espanola flipping!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Recipe 7: Spanish Tortilla

So one of the things I've been trying to do before this baby gets here is organize my recipes. (Terribly important stuff, I know--but something that I suspect will drop WAY down the priority list once this little one arrives!) I have so many recipes on my computer alone and have been trying to at least get them grouped into categories. At any rate, I recently ran across this recipe for Spanish tortilla and was thinking it might be fun if our group tried a Tapas-y theme. I was thinking we could each take a stab at the tortilla and then do whatever other companion dishes struck our fancy. Curious to see what everyone comes up with!

1 cup olive oil
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
Coarse salt
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs

1. Heat the oil in an 8- or 9-inch skillet and add the potato slices one at a time to prevent sticking. Alternate potato layers with the onion slices and salt the layers lightly. Cook slowly, over a medium flame, lifting and turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are tender but not brown.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat the eggs with a fork until they are slightly foamy. Salt to taste. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and drain them in a colander, reserving about 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the potatoes to the beaten eggs, pressing the potatoes down so that they are completely covered by the egg. Let the mixture stand 15 minutes.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the potato and egg mixture, rapidly spreading it out in the skillet with the aid of a pancake turner. Lower the heat to medium-high and shake the pan often to prevent sticking. When the potatoes begin to brown underneath, invert a plate of the same size over the skillet. Flip the omelet onto the plate. Add about 1 tablespoon more oil to the pan, then slide the omelet back onto the skillet to brown the other side.

4. Lower the heat to medium. Flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give it a good shape) cooking briefly on each side. It should be slightly juicy within. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Okay, adding this recipe just to get the juices flowing! It's from the same person who gave me the tortilla recipe and apparently goes really well with it. But feel free to do whatever you'd like!

Gambas al Ajillo


4 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 pounds small or medium shrimp
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons dry sherry
4 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
Paprika, to taste
1 dried red chili, cut in three pieces
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add the shrimp and garlic and sauté over high heat about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, sherry, paprika, chili pepper, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, preferably in the cooking dish.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cath: French Macaroons

Hi guys...I went with the pistachio recipe which sounded so good and Nigella even calls the recipe she's "most proud of" in her Domestic Goddess book. I'm a big fan of hers so I had high hopes! Two tries later I am macarooned-out! The buttercream was amazing--it's almost worth making for the color alone--"pale waxy jade" I think she calls it. Very pretty and very tasty. The macaroon part of the recipe is what got me in trouble. I followed her instructions to a tee last night and just couldn't get the consistency right--mine ended up being flat little pancakes...nothing like the ones in the picture. Plus, and maybe this is because I'm a novice piper and made them too big...I simply could not get them to cook! Oven was at 350 as she suggested but even after TWENTY minutes (as opposed to her recommended 10 to 12) they were over-browned on the outside and a sticky mess on the inside. Here's a pic of them going into the oven:

Other problem was the yield. According to the recipe, I should have had 20 sandwiches. I ended up with 6! And really only three that were photograph-worthy after trying to pry them from the parchment paper...

So I tried again this afternoon thinking I could make some good modifications. I used 6 egg whites this time (as opposed to 2) and a pinch of cream of tartar (in an effort to make them less weepy). They were even more of a disaster than last nights' batch! The main culprit (I think) was the oven temperature. Shouldn't they be more meringue-like and done at a lower temperature? The combination of them browning too quickly but being totally undercooked was really irritating!

I wish I could say they'd been more of a success. They look so pretty in the picture and the buttercream was delish! : (

Friday, April 14, 2006

Jer: French Macaroons

I’ve never really fancied myself as much of a girl’s girl. I didn’t play with dolls. In fact, I think I might have hated them. I’ve never really liked the color pink. In college, I hung out with Julie, and a group of five or so guys. In New York, I lived with Elaine and, at one point, five or so guys. I love my girlfriends very much. But I love them for the human beings they are, and I connect with them in the same way I connect with my closest male friends. Admittedly, I’m just not that big on doing “girly” things.

So I was at a bit of a loss when I found myself feeling like a true girly girl while making these French macaroons.

Maybe it was the mere act of piping (I mean really, can you picture a guy piping delicate macaroons onto parchment paper). Or the three bowls I had splayed out, each hosting vanilla buttercream in shades of lime green, tangerine orange, and yes, even a bright rosy pink (colors more likely to be seen in a Lily store than anywhere else). Or maybe it was because I had a frilly a-line skirt on with a bright white apron tied June Cleaver style around my waist. Whatever it was, I felt like a girl’s girl when preparing these Easter treats, so girly that I packaged the cookies in plastic bags and tied them neatly with a bright pink bow. Perhaps most surprisingly, I enjoyed my girly self very much, so thank you dear Elaine for the impetus. Also, with all the food coloring spread on the table, I really felt like it was days before Easter, and it’s been a while since I actually “felt” a holiday.

I used a very simple, four ingredient macaroon recipe (almond meal, powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, egg whites) and an even more simple, four ingredient buttercream recipe (butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla). The process was easy and fun and brought out a side of me that I don’t get to see that often.

We had friends over for dinner a few nights ago and we placed a macaroon package at everyone’s place setting as a guest gift. They were a hit!

Part Deux: Ashley's Coconut Macaroons with Lemon Curd

Ashley, you are right, these coconut macaroons with lemon curd have a wonderful flavor. What a combination. Plus I love how the curd uses four egg yolks and the macaroons used four egg whites (no waste!) I enjoyed making this second batch as it allowed me to appreciate the difference between the chocolate macaroons with almond meal (which created a more cookie like macaroon given the meal's flour-like consistency) compared with the coconut macaroons with the toasted and ground coconuts (which created a more meringue like macaroon). I liked the meringue-like texture better for this cookie and the lemon curd was really a nice kicker for the macaroon.

The smell in our kitchen while toasting and grinding the coconut was absolutely out of this world. I think I am going to do another batch of the toasted coconut, grind it to a powder, and use it like panko for some lightly battered fish. I think that flavor will be unique and delicious. I've made coconut crusted shrimp and fish before using coconut flakes, but I think the toasting and grinding brings out an additional layer of flavor that is really special. I'm thinking a good meaty white fish lightly dipped in an egg wash and the rolled around in the toasted, ground coconut then friend until golden brown. And then maybe top with a mango relish/chutney and served with a fragrant jasmine rice. Will let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ashley: French Macaroons

Wow...I'm so impressed with all the Macaroons. I wanted to do a trial run before easter so I decided to try my little Macaroons. I went with a plain almond macaroon that just used ground almond slices. My recipe also had part confectioner's sugar/part granulated sugar. The swiss buttercream was nice and I added a little pink to the color just for a cuteness factor.

Even though I didn't like my little almond specs you can see in the cookies....these little gems are SO TASTY!! I didn't have high expectations. I thought they would be too sweet for me....I was wrong. I'll definitely make them again.....not that difficult at all.

I have some coconut that I would like to use up before our move. Any suggestions as to a coconut macaroon. I'm a macaroon novice, so what's the difference of those 'haystack' looking coconut macaroons and the french ones? I also have a gazillion egg yolks sitting around from a failed angel food cake over the weekend and these macaroons - any suggestions for those? I was thinking maybe some lemon curd filling?

Kate: French Macaroons

I used a recipe from this little book I have called Simple French Desserts by Jill O'Connor. She used Almond meal instead of paste with a little almond extract.
So I did two versions to start. Chocolate with orange buttercream and almond with the same orange buttercream. I used the same base mixture then for the chocolate added cocoa to half the dry mixture before I combined it with the egg whites. I piped (I used just the opening of the bag without an attachment on) the plain almond ones first and found that I liked the texture but they spread very easily, it was a little too fluid. I let far too much come out and ended up with almond pancakes. So for the chocolate ones I went easier on the egg white mixture and these were better to pipe but the texture was too thick and they ended up being quite fata and cakey looking as you can see.....

The orange buttercream was delightful. I put a few drops of Bojan Orange Oil in my buttercream and that ws it.
I was a little disappointed with my overall results and felt with my now experience I could come up with something better. So I tried again.

I decided to stick to almond. I read somewhere ( I think on the link that you sent round Ashley) that the mixture should resemble molten lava so with this in mind I combined the dry with the egg whites having more egg white if necessary. I ended up adding another 1/2 cup or so of egg white than the originial recipe asked for. I tried to pipe slowly and they were better but still, I think, too big. I dont know what is wrong with me when I get that filled piping bag in my hand I just want to squeeze.

The other thing to mention with the almond ones that its very easy to over colour them whilst cooking. So adding some sort of colour be it choc or dye makes sense to avoid them looking over cooked.

Overall I think they are pretty simple to make once you get the consistency right. To eat, they are to die for and I suspect thats whatever combination of flavours you choose. Good call Elaine!

Just before I go check out what happend to my favourite Global paring knife...that was cutting cheese. Shouldnt these have a lifetime guarantee?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Elaine: French Macaroons

So I decided to make the Chocolate Macaroons because I realized that the pistachio and most of the other macaroon recipes had ingredients that wouldn't be kosher for passover. For example, anything with corn is a no-no. No corn syrup, no cornstarch. And if no cornstarch then no icing/powdered sugar. I ran all over the place looking for blanched almonds but could only find slivered blanched. I decided to just use almond meal/flour which is just finely ground blanched almonds. I know all of you already know that but I don't know why I ran around town when I had almond flour sitting in my pantry.

So I forgot a major ingredient....the vanilla extract. Big Oops! I didn't care because I just wanted to get to the piping. Since I didn't have tips large enough, I skipped adding the tip to the plastic coupler and just used the coupler as my circular tip. They came out teeny tiny but super cute that way. I ended up with 48 cookies. I wet the tip of my finger with water so I could push down the peaks in the middle after I finished piping. Before I sandwiched the little morsels together with ganache, I paired the macaroons up to eachother so they were beside their perfect sized partner in crime. Once I organized my macaroons by size and shape, I began to sandwich. I tried to sneak in a couple drops of vanilla into the ganache filling since the cookie was lacking some. Then I ran out of ganache filling so I filled the rest with raspberry jam which I personally like better. I'm more of a fruit gal than a chocolate gal.

All in all, I'd make this recipe again. Super fast, easy and fancy looking. I'm definitely just going to use almond flour next time. And if I have some extra vanilla buttercream in the freezer next time, I'd love to flavor some with raspberry jam and color with the faintest shade of pink. I love brown and pink together. Don't you think a mini dollop of pink raspberry buttercream would look and taste so gorgeous between two chocolate brown pillows? Happy Passover/Easter and happy cooking too.

A Birthday Bash

Californian’s have a real love affair with Mexican food. So what better way to celebrate our good friend Nelson’s birthday than with a Mexican feast of chili rellenos, Spanish rice and black beans. I had never made chili rellenos at home before, but Cath’s tomato sauce recipe inspired me. They turned out perfectly. The texture of the chilis was exactly what I hoped for and the flavor of the sauce was so good. If you like Mexican food but have never tried making these at home before, you might want to give these a shot. I found them to be easy, fun and so delicious. I can’t wait to make these for my sisters and parents, who like me, have been ordering chili rellenos at Mexican restaurants for as long as I can remember.

For birthday cake, we made a classic here in our house – Betto’s Carrot Cake. Betto is one of Pete’s aunts and is famous in the McAniff family for this cake. We don’t know where she found this recipe, but it’s far and away the best carrot cake recipe we have ever tried. It’s our standard birthday cake - so incredibly moist you’ll be sneaking bites out of your icebox through the week. Enjoy!

Chili Rellenos

3-4 small to medium sizes fresh tomatoes
1 can San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
3T butter
Red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper

Core the fresh tomatoes (but don’t remove skin).
Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer 30-40 minutes.
Transfer to Cuisineart and process until smooth.
Transfer to wide bottom pot and adjust seasonings.
Take out any chunks and let simmer on low for as long as you have time for.

Chilis (although this sounds like alot of work, it’s fun and so good)
5-8 green pasilla or poblano chilis
5 eggs
Flour for dusting
Cheese for filling: any flavor you like that will melt, Monterey jack, queso fresco, goat …

Turn gas stove on and place 1-2 chilis directly on fire.
You want the outside skin of the chilis to char black.
Turn them over and on their side to char all sides of the chili.
When fully charred place in a plastic bag and close bag to steam.

When you’re done charring all the chilis, take a spoon to peel off black charred skin.
Smell. Oh my, the smoky chilis will smell so good you’ll want to eat them right then.
Peel off all black skin with the spoon and then make a slit in one side of the chili.
Use the spoon to scrape out all the seeds and vein.
Drop in a bowl of water for just a second and this allows all the seeds to fall out.
Fill the chilis with cheese or whatever else you might want to put in there.
Shrimp, scallops and crab are often used in chili rellenos (be sure to cook them first).
Put the chilis in the fridge until 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve.

To serve
Heat vegetable oil for frying in a wide pan.
Reheat sauce and keep on low while preparing chilis.
Separate egg whites from yolks.
Beat whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold in yolks and salt.
(I found this technique strange when I read about it but found it created exactly the texture you find when ordering these in a Mexican restaurant)

Put some flour in a dish and add salt/pepper/red pepper flakes.
Dust chili in flour and then cover generously in egg mixture.
Fry until both sides are golden brown.
Drain on paper towels for just a few seconds.
Then transfer to sauce and cover completely with sauce.

When done with all chilies, transfer to festive serving platter.
Be generous with the sauce.
I sprinkled some queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

Betto's Carrot Cake
4 eggs
2C sugar
1 1/2C Crisco oil
2t baking soda
1t salt
3T cinnamon
2C flour
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
3C finely grated carrots (about 1#)
1C chopped walnuts
Raisins and coconut if you like, we don’t add them

Cream eggs and sugar
Add oil, baking soda, salt, cinnamon
Stir in flour and pineapple (alternating)
Fold in carrots and walnuts
Bake at 325 in two cake rounds 30-45 minutes, until done in center

Frosting (I make two batches of this and frost very generously)
1 large Philly cream cheese box (please don’t try fat free)
1 box powdered sugar
1 stick sweet butter
1t – 1T vanilla (I’ve also used lemon extract and this is nice too)

Cream the cheese and butter.
Add in powdered sugar and vanilla.
Beat until consistency is just the way you like it.
Lick the bowl after you’re done frosting the cake.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Taste of Brussels

I feel so lucky to have these markets on my doorstep. They have been a little less colourful over the winter months which is not suprising but these past few weeks have seen a reall change. I have to admit to being most taken with the flowers at the moment. They are just incredible, tulips and roses are in abundance and ridiculously cheap. I bought sixty tulips the other day for 11 euros.

The markets are in our local square three times a week and in another one twenty mins walk away once a week so there is no excuse to eat supermaket battery stuff. There are regular stalls and ones that are much smaller and are there less frequent.

This is one of the more cottagey stalls. It has really unusual dried meats. These smaller stall holders take such pride in their produce.

Another meaty one, not a stall but a shop on the sqaure.

This olive guy is a regular. he is very generous with his tastings and I come away totally olived out with no idea what I have just bought. He does the best pickled chillies that i can eat out of the bag on after the other.

I wasnt happy with any of the fresh produce pics. I will do another round but I wanted to get these posted as it feels like I promised them ages ago.
Anyway the last mention is not a stall but a chocolate shop ( of course). Pierre Marcolini, Elaine may have mentioned Pierre as he is something else. He does desserts aswell as his infamous chocolates which are lined up in his window and are works of art. I thought these were cute and probably pretty easy to replicate.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ashley: Pizza

In order to stay true to my main mission these days (cleaning out the pantry for the move), I decide to attack my stash of whole wheat flour for my pizza dough. A few months agod I picked up an old copy of "Laurel's Kitchen" from my neighborhood book co-op. It seems this was one of the first vegetarian/healthy cookbooks published. She has some great whole-grain bread recipes so I decided to try out her Pizza dough recipe as follows:
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
pinch brown sugar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
3 or more cups of whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in water with sugar. When it bubbles to the surface, add olive oil, pepper and salt. Add flour by the half cup (I didn't need all the flour, but things tend to dry out quickly in Denver). Knead well and set to rise, covered, in a warm place. Let the dough rise once only, about 1 1/2 hours.

For toppings I chose green peppers, mushrooms, and a hot italian sausage. The whole wheat crust turned out great - little more dense than using regular flour and a slight nutty taste! It was great with the heavier/meatier toppings. I'm slightly partial to the brown dough :) !

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What I'm reading....

I'm almost finished reading "The Real Food Revival" and I thought I would share my thoughts and some of the resources that it provides. It has been an interesting read for me. If you are into the 'eat local', 'fresh', 'non-processed' movement that seems to be all the craze these days, I think this book is excellent. It goes into detail on why we should eat organic, non-processed foods and more importantly educates the reader on how to read labels and what those labels mean. Here are some links that it provides that I found to be interesting:

Environmental Working Group:
Good list of produce that we should strive to eat organic and others that don't really matter.

Local Harvest:
Search engine for local produce sources.

Eat Well Guide:
Search engine for sustainably raised animal products

Hope you guys find it interesting! Sorry Kate, these websites probably don't cover Belgium!


Sorry I've been a bit absent lately - I will get to the pizza soon (hopefully tonight!). We are busy with the move as we are only 16 days out from the big day! We were invited over to some friends house last weekend for a spanish/tapas dinner and I was asked to bring dessert. After some inspiration from Elaine, I decided to try my luck with Churros. I fried up these little gems and offered them with chocolate sauce and some whipped cream. I have to say that they were much easier than I expected, though the frying is a bit tricky. The dough is a bit like pate choux from a methods perspective. I piped them with a medium size star tip into the oil (that's the part that is tricky).

8 cups vegetable or olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

Hot Chocolate:
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan to 360 degrees F.
To make the churro dough, heat the water, margarine, and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, approximately 1 minute and remove from heat. Beat eggs until smooth and add to the saucepan while stirring the mixture.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip. Squeeze 4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil. Fry 3 or 4 strips at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and roll the churros in the sugar mixture. Set aside until ready to serve.
To prepare the hot chocolate for dipping, place the chocolate and half the milk in a saucepan over very low heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook on low heat, whisking constantly until the chocolate thickens, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate into cups and serve with churros.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Recipe 6: French Macaroons

Passover and Easter are coming around the corner. I thought French Macaroons would be the perfect sweet nibble. Hopefully they'll come close to Laduree in Paris but doubtful. I've been meaning to make macaroons for the longest time. While researching for the perfect recipe, I came across too many great flavors: I tried to find a recipe that didn't use almond paste or corn syrup because I know how hard it was to find those ingredients in Brussels. Unless, I just didn't know what it was called in French. So I narrowed it down to the chocolate or pistachio. I still can't decide so here's the recipe for both. Feel free to make your favorite french macaroon: coffee with a ganache filling, coconut with a lemon curd filling, hazelnut chocolate, orange blossom water, caramel, raspberry, or just plain old almond. The options are endless. I'm going to put a couple in a little glassine bag for everyone to take home after one of our Passover dinners. Looking forward to seeing which macaroon you decide to make.

Chocolate Macaroons
from The Food Lover's Guide to Paris
by Patricia Wells

1 c (140 g) almonds
3 1/2 oz (110 g) bittersweet chocolate
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 oz (80 g) egg whites
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. (15 g) unsalted butter, for baking sheet

1 3/4 oz (50 g) bittersweet chocolate
2 T. creme fraiche or heavy cream

Preheat oven to 275 F (135 C)
Toast the almonds until browned, about 5 min. Remove and cool. Grind the almonds to a fine powder in a food processor. Melt the chocolate with the vanilla.
Mix egg whites, almonds and sugar until well blended. Continue blending while adding the melted chocolate mixture.
Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Pipe or spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter for each macaroon. Bake until the macaroons are set, 15-18 min (slightly firm but not dry). Transfer to rack to cool. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Melt the chocolate. Add the cream. Set aside to cool. When the macaroons and filling have cooled, spread a heaping tablespoon of the filling on half of the macaroon. Cover each with a second macaroon, making a sandwich. They can be served immediately though they are best if they sit for a few hours.
*I've read the trick to peeling the macaroons off the parchment is to flip over the sheet of cookies and peel back the parchment from the cookies vs the cookie from the parchment. If the cookie is still sticking to the paper, brush water onto the paper(make sure the brush is not dripping wet, just damp enough to put moisture on the paper) or wipe the paper with a damp cloth and the cookies should release from the paper.
*I might try spreading some raspberry jam on half of the batch or mix some orange peel pieces into the ganache. Macaroons last a long time in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you wanted to make them before the holidays.

Pistachio Macaroons
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess
by Nigella Lawson

1/3 c. (3 oz) pistachios
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar
2 large egg whites
1 T. sugar

Buttercream filling:
1/4 c. (2 oz) pistachios
1 2/3 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 F
Grind the pistachios in a food processor along with the confectioners' sugar until as fine as dust. Whisk egg whites until stiff, sprinkle sugar and whisk until very stiff. Fold the whites into the pistachi-sugar dust. Pipe small rounds onto your parchment lined baking sheets. Let them sit for 10 min to form a skin. Bake for 10-12 min until set not dried out.
Remove from oven and cool on their sheets while you make the filling. Grind the nuts and confectioners' sugar in the food processor. Cream the butter and add the nut dust. Sandwich the macaroons together with the pistachio buttercream.
*The bakery would add a little green food coloring into the macaroon batter to create the faintest color of pistachio green.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Panna cotta & ravioli

My friend Kaoru is in town for the weekend and so we decided to have a little italian feast last night. Everything came out so lovely that we wanted to share. The panna cotta was so light, fresh and pretty. The contrast against the bright red rasberries was really nice and the flavors would do great with almost any fruit. Everyone at the table loved it and we will make it again tonight with some fresh strawberries. We made the raviolis with a traditional pork/veal/mortadella filling and mixed the meat mixture with homemade ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese recipe was in last month's Gourmet magazine and we found it so easy to make and absolutely delicious - unlike any ricotta cheese I've had before. I definitely suggest trying this ricotta cheese recipe. We dressed the raviolis with Cath's tomatoe sauce, using San Marzano canned plum tomatoes and fresh oregano from our garden. The roasted turnips are from Chino Family Farms. They were delicious and we loved the bright colors.

Panna Cotta

3/4 C whole milk
1 C heavy cream
2 T + 1t sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 t almond extract
1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin

Mix 3/4 C whole milk and 1/2 C heavy cream with 2 T + 1t sugar and a pinch of salt.
Simmer in pot (do not let boil). Add 1 t each of almond and vanilla extract.
Remove from heat.

Separately sprinkle 1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin into 2 T water and let sit for a few minutes.

Reheat milk mixture until hot to touch and pour into gelatin mixture through sieve.
Stir and add another 1/2 C heavy cream.

Pour into ramekins and let sit in the icebox for 4-12 hours.

Ricotta Cheese

2 quarts whole milk
1 C heavy cream
1/2 t salt
3 T lemon juice

Slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a soft roiling boil (be sure to watch so it doesn't boil over).
Reduce heat and add lemon juice.
Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until it curdles.
Drain through cheese cloth and let sit in the icebox for a few hours (while draining).

Filling for stuffed pasta (canneloni, ravioli, tortoleni)

1/2 # ground pork
1/2 # ground veal
1/2 # italian sausage
1/4 # prosciotto
1/4 # mortadella
1/2 - 3/4 C grated parm
1-2 eggs
1/2 - 1 C ricotta cheese
Handful of chopped italian parsley
Fresh nutmeg

Cook meat then transfer to Cuisineart
Add all other indgredients (except ricotta) and pulse
Transfer to another bowl and fold ricotta in
Season to taste

Pasta: eggs, flour, olive oil and salt.