Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rainy Days, Diet Changes and Illness

It's been awhile between postings.  I don't have much of an excuse except that I have had some major stuff going on in my life so haven't really been online.  I am, however, spending my days in the kitchen - more now than ever.  

Statguy had to make a radical diet change and being the supportive person I am I started it with him.  I am having problems from the new changes and soon will have to go back to my regular food but I wanted to get him up and running on his new eating plan.  

Prior to all this I made a beautiful sour cream sponge cake.  Here's a pic:
 And then there was the banana coconut loaf that I thought sounded bizarre but was the best banana bread I have ever eaten.  Seriously.  

 Since then it's been a whole lot of vegetable dishes and new things some good, some great.  This morning I made a batch of waffles with an outrageous blueberry sauce.  Just what I really needed on a dark, rainy day.  

Change is hard but necessary.  For me change has to include cake - luckily there is a flourless chocolate cake that scratches that itch for me.  

But I will always miss these...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Saturday Night and Dinner at Sel De La Terre

A beautiful spring evening this past Saturday and I was out for dinner with Statguy.  Even though the Red Sox were at Fenway I was still able to make it to Copley Square in about 40 minutes and therefore I was able to take a moment to enjoy the Tulips outside of Trinity Church.  

After seeing these glorious flowers I headed to The Westin to meet Statguy.  We had reservations to dine at Sel De La Terre using a Groupon that we had purchased and I know that we were both looking forward to the evening.  

We arrived about 15 minutes early for our reservation and after some tense moments with the hostess we were sat at a wonderful table with a great server named Ashley.  The menu has a nice selection and we spent some time picking our entrees, making plans to share everything with each other.  

We started out with two Arnold Palmers - that lovely concoction of half iced tea and half lemonade.  Boston is woefully remiss in not offering iced tea year round and finding an Arnold Palmer here is not easy.  Since neither of us were  drinking this evening these made us very happy as they were perfectly balanced, not too sweet and a good size.  

Our appetizer course began with the Duck Liver Mousse which was served on a board with pressed baguette slices, house made pickles, pickled onions and a spoonful of jam.  Here is a picture of my piece of baguette with the mousse, along side is a cucumber pickle and a piece of citrus.

After this we shared a house made burrata which came with a nice drizzle of honey on top and a crostini. I was unable to get a picture of it before Statguy began eating it so here is half of it...

We were pleasantly surprised when our server brought out the warm rolls.  Usually the bread is not the highlight of the meal but these rolls had a spectacular chewy texture and were served just out of the oven with a whipped honey butter that made them one of the best parts of the meal.  
Our entrees were next to arrive and I will be honest that at this point I was pretty much done with eating, full from the pate, burrata and rolls so I ate next to nothing of these next two dishes.  I was saving myself for dessert which I had no intention of skipping. 

Statguy ordered the Roast Chicken that was served with a Lemon Taleggio Risotto, Pinenuts, and Grilled Asparagus.  It had a lovely jus over the chicken as well.  I tried the risotto and while it had an intense lemon flavor when it was combined with the jus it was phenomenal.  
I ordered as my entree a starter called Pat's Clams.  I mainly ordered this for Statguy because he loves seafood and I knew that I would not be able to eat an entree.  The dish consisted of fresh littleneck clams, mussels, grilled baby octopus and chorizo in a saffron broth and served with a crouton on top.  It was a very nice portion and smelled fantastic.  

After all this food you would think that we'd be passing on dessert but no chance that is going to happen.  I have a sweet tooth that is legendary so we took some time to make sure we chose wisely, involved our wonderful server in the decision and chose her two favorite desserts.  I decided to have the Warm Chocolate Fondant Cake with homemade toasted marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream and Statguy went with the Milk Chocolate Brown Butter Ice Cream topped with a salted caramel sauce, chantilly cream and pecan crumbles.  Both were amazing.  

 A good cup of coffee - Sel De La Terre did not disappoint.  It was fresh, hot and served with a good quality cream.  Perfect.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fog Filled Days and Baking

It's been fogged in on the coast for days - for me that means migraines and a general malaise of spirit that doesn't lend itself to the kitchen normally.  Yesterday DH (Statguy) was home and I needed to feed him something other than a bag of chips so I spent the day reading recipes and creating some of the best food I've had in a long time.  

I started by creating a Bacon and Cheese Souffle.  I found this recipe in a glorious cookbook called The Illustrated Good Housekeeping Cookbook given to me by my best girlfriend after I remarked to her that I couldn't find a decent gingerbread recipe.  This book has her favorite recipe which is truly a wonderful gingerbread but gingerbread wasn't what I wanted to make for breakfast so the Bacon and Cheese Souffle was chosen.  I made this choice based on the fact that I am a serious lover of souffles and happen to have dozens of eggs on hand due to a fantastic sale price, the ease of the recipe as written and a need to conquer my fear of making a souffle.  

I started making the base of the recipe on the stove which came together easily and consisted of butter, flour, evaporated milk, salt, pepper.  This thickened beautifully and I added the egg yolks after tempering them and cooking more, adding shredded cheddar.  The egg whites whipped up to nice stiff peaks and the bacon smelled great (I used a thick cut applewood smoked bacon free of nitrites from Whole Foods - expensive but great to eat).  I knew this dish was going to be a winner.  I carefully folded cheese mixture into whites, tossed bacon through and put in souffle dish.  Into the oven for 30 minutes and sadly it didn't not puff up into a glorious hat of perfection - it did rise but not to the heights that I expected and my only conclusion is that my souffle dish was much larger than the one called for causing the souffle to spread and not rise.  It tasted wonderful - glorious comfort food. 

In the afternoon after we had digested the egg/bacon/cheese manna I wandered into the kitchen to make some clam chowder - not as daunting a task as it seems to be and I love the recipe from Jasper White's book called 50 Chowders.  It's perfection in a pot and made a fantastic afternoon meal.  And I followed this up by whipping up Buttermilk Scones which I topped with Devonshire Clotted Cream and Crofters Organic Strawberry Jam - my version of heaven on earth. 

Dinner was late and relatively easy.  Roasted Chicken Breasts, Scalloped Potatoes and Zucchini cooked with onions, garlic, oregano and San Marzano Tomatoes.  I cooked the chicken at a seriously high temperature - 450* so the skin was crisp and perfectly golden.  A food processor, copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the Scalloped Potato (or Gratin Dauphinois if you prefer) recipe and that was together and in the oven in no time.  The zucchini is a side dish I grew up on - I am pretty sure Mom used a can of stewed tomatoes in hers - it's quick and easy. 

You would think that by this point I would finished with cooking for the day, stuffed and unable to move but this was one of those days where my soul cried out for something comforting, reminiscent of childhood and chocolate.  For that there can only be one recipe - Mom's Old Fashioned Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  
This is the cake that my mom made for every birthday, usually topped with a fudge frosting that is a royal pain to make (30 minutes of stirring and corn syrup - no thank you) and for which I was just not up to last night so I made Ina Garten's Chocolate Frosting from her recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  

The cake recipe is as follows:

Melt together:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate - I used Callebaut
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 c)

then add:
1/2 cup of boiling water
Let cool and then add:
1 c sugar
1 egg, beaten

Mix together:
1 c plus 2 T flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Add the flour and milk/vanilla to the chocolate egg mixture, mix until just combined - do not overmix this batter or you will get a tough cake.  Put in an 8x8 square pan which you have buttered and floured or lined with buttered parchment paper.  Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Cool completely and then frost with your frosting of choice.  


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Love

I have a new cappuccino maker -it's a Bialetti Mukka Express.

As you can see it's sleek, it's stylish, it's fueling my days into a caffeine high.  I love this little pot - so easy to use - maybe too easy to use. 

Here's a typical day - I get up, measure the water and coffee and put the Mukka on the stove, make breakfast.  In about 4 minutes I hear that comforting pop and whoosh of the Mukka which lets me know that the coffee is mixing with the steamed milk and I go to pour into cup to enjoy.  A few hours pass and I find myself making another cup.  If I had decaffeinated espresso I would be doing this in the afternoon and evening too.

I wonder if there is a 12 step program for Mukka Cappuccino addiction? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Afternoon

A few weeks go by and I haven't been blogging much due to this illness that has laid me low.  I haven't been eating much either, making me feel as though I am missing an old friend.  Cooking and enjoying good food are my solace, my link to happiness and when I am unable to get into the kitchen due to illness then I am miserable.  

Today I decided that I needed to find something that appeals to me to eat so I put a tray of Lemon Sponge Custards in the oven as citrus sounds like a good thing right now.  I made a big batch of Chicken Coconut Curry with Basmati Rice and although I have not eaten any of it the house smells fantastic.  Tonight I will bread some Chicken Breasts with a mixture of panko, parmesan, lemon zest, garlic and fresh rosemary, saute them in olive oil, finished off with a squirt of fresh lemon juice which I will serve along a garlic parmesan risotto.  

All this will buy me more time to heal from my infection, will feed my husband and will bring me back to a state of calm contentment.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Day Spent with Food Magazines

I subscribe to so many food magazines it's embarassing.  I still miss my beloved Gourmet magazine and received Bon Appetit in it's place when it folded.  I, generally, am unhappy with Bon Appetit, not finding much that I want to cook from the pages and finding the food essays to be lacking - until this month when I opened the latest magazine.

On it's pages I read a fantastic article about hunting Wild Boar on the Big Island of Hawaii and I found a recipe for Brown Butter Brownies.  I read the recipe and decided that this recipe had to be made today so off to the kitchen I went.  Turned on some music, measured my ingredients out (mise en place) and started to melt the butter to it's nutty brown goodness.  Start to finish I think this recipe took me 15 minutes total of prep time (and I might be being generous here) before I popped them into a preheated oven.  I did have to add about 15 minutes onto the total baking time but the end result is a pan of fabulous, life changing brownies.

Not wanting to get into trouble for posting a recipe without permission I will point you towards the latest copy of Bon Appetit - a picture of the brownies is on the front cover.  You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner

Roasted Chicken tonight - easy and true comfort food on a bitterly cold Sunday evening.  

Sun is shining but it is not warming anything up.  Ocean is a beautiful color.  I am reading cookbooks in a rocking chair by the window, listening to music.  Recipes options for the coming week - Mushroom Barley Soup, baking some bread, Classic Beef Stroganoff.  I also am thinking of trying a Mushroom Moussaka out of the original Moosewood Cookbook - just looks like a good comforting dish on a cold night.  

I love days spent cooking and reading - good days. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tarte Flambee - Easy Recipe

You will need:

Olive Oil
Active Dry Yeast
Dried Thyme (Fresh is great if you can get it - adjust the amount)
Fromage Blanc 
Salt, Pepper, Sugar/Honey

You have options with this recipe - either use a pre-made pizza dough (I like the one WFM makes) or make your own:

1 c warm water (110*)
1 T Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar or honey
3 c bread flour (all purpose can be used if all you have)
2 tsp active yeast

Sprinkle yeast over water with sugar and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add flour and salt to bowl of mixer (or old school in big bowl), add yeast to it and mix until combined.  Use the dough hook when doing this and once a ball is formed let it run for about 5 minutes to made the dough elastic.  Take out onto lightly floured board, knead into a ball that is springy and elastic.  Place in oiled bowl and cover with kitchen towel.  Let rise for about an hour (or do a slow rise in the refrigerator for 24 hours - if you do this you must let it sit at room temp for an hour after removing from refrigerator), punch down and knead again.  Roll out as thin as possible and place on oiled baking sheet.  Let stand for 30 minutes. 

Tarte Flambee Topping

2 c sliced onions - I like to use sweet onions.
1-2 T Olive Oil
1 T butter

Cook onions over very low heat until carmelized.  Stir often.  This can take up to an hour. 

Add to the onions:
1 tsp or more to taste dried thyme, crushed in palm of hand
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Spread on top of the dough:

1 c Fromage Blanc (more or less to taste)

Top with onions

Take 1-2 slices of high quality bacon, snip into small pieces and place on top. 

Bake in a preheated 500* oven (on a pizza stone if you have one) for approximately 10 minutes - check it often so it doesn't burn and to make sure it cooks completely.  Slice and enjoy with a nice glass of wine. 

Saturday Afternoon

A cold winter Saturday - full house of food following a major shop at WFM.  I am spending the day reading cookbooks and planning my recipes to try this week.  I am going to make a cake this afternoon - a ridiculously easy cake with pineapple and topped with a coconut pecan frosting.  Dinner tonight will be a nice NY Strip Steak cooked in cast iron and topped with sauteed mushrooms, a big baked potato with sour cream along side.  

It is forecast to be very cold the next few days and I am thinking that I will be making a big pot of soup soon.  Beef barley is the current top contender - a long slow simmering pot and I am planning to make some bread to go along side the soup.  

I love having cooking days ahead.