Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tofu Salad is Yum


This is another not-Bento post. Ages ago, I used to bake tofu cubes on Sunday in hopes of getting 2-3 meals out of it during the week, but then we would just eat them all up right out of the oven. But, then I read the tofu crouton recipe from Flexitarian Menu. I decided tofu salad would be mine. I took a whole block of tofu, tossed it with turmeric and ras el hanout. After spreading them evenly onto a silpat, and giving them a quick spritz with olive oil, they went into the oven for an unspecified amount of time. (A couple segments of useless television at least.) During the same period, I diced some celery, carrots, red onions, steamed sunchokes. For the dressing, we used some grape seed veganaise, rice wine vinegar, and plenty of cilantro. I served it with cherry tomatoes and pita. Oh, was this so delicious. . . I wished I had some right now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Filbert Gateau OR as we called him, Strawberry Cinnamon Almond Cake with Pumpkin Seed Swiss Buttercream

This post should have really been titled: my manifesto for procrastination. I have begun to think of the last weekend of the month as Daring Baker weekend. Whatever is planned, I expect a few late nights or more likely very early mornings accomplishing the assignment.

Even though procrastination got me in hot water last month (lets say June didn't end until July 7th at our house), I really believe Daring Bakering is more fun at the last minute. The reveal feels like part of the whirlwind of baking. The post mortum write up seems like you were just back from fighting a war. (Battle Opera Cake anyone?)

But, full of guilt from missing the June reveal, I decided this month, I was not going to be stuck baking at that last minute. I was going to be the embodiment of proactive. (Just call me that baking super hero, Proactiva. Oh, wait, now I sound like that brand of yoghurt. Nevermind.)

So, one week after making the Danish Braid, my husband and I spent three odd hours making our cake. We decided to split responsibility for the cake in half so that we could get most of the cake accomplished during Belle's afternoon nap. With some babysitting courtesy my mom, the gateau was accomplished. And, what were the pitfalls? What were our successes? Ummm, can't really remember. My brain is inherently prone to forgetfulness about certain minutae of life, and the making of my Gateau is one of those things.

From the DB forum, I know that there are hilarious, sad, uplifting, etc stories abounding today. I have the barest sketch of the making the Le Gateau in my head. Chris from Mele Cotte was kind enough to allow a 1/2 recipe and we obliged her. I had a vague desire to make 2-3 mini-cakes, but Maybelle's Dad vetoed me. (Lesson learned from the labor of mini-cakes in the Opera episode.) We decided to use one cake pan and slice it with dental floss into cross-sections. Most of the recipe worked out AOKAY, excluding the nut brittle. We used almonds and pumpkin seeds and I think that we got the sugar to nut ratio a little off. Also, we used no liquer (due to expense) but we added cinnamon to the frosting, sugar syrup, and the ganache; and strawberries between the buttercream and whipped cream.

I must say the directions were quite long and even after two read throughs I didn't read the part about not including fruit in between the layers. I just figured in out after many comments about me breaking the rules. What kind of rule breaker are you if you don't realize you are doing it.

I enjoyed the cake--it was moister than the opera cake from a few months ago. It was a crowd pleaser to boot. Thanks DB and Chris.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Handmade Pasta with Asparagus Alfredo


Oh, aren't those noodles lovely? Look at them just sitting there, teasing like. Semolina formed into tooth-pleasing strands all gathered up and waiting. Waiting for that pot of water (oiled or not.) Waiting for that sauce or no sauce.

With this one, we went with Asparagus Alfredo. When first proposed, the combo seemed so cruel, summer greeness hidden in a thick white. But, we decided to trust the Hazan clan, specifically Guiliano Hazan and his Fettuccine al Prosciutto e Asapargi, though we did not use the proscuitto, because unlike The Cage Free Tomato we don't have a volume of proscut sitting in our freezer. (Sad to be us...) We added a bit of lemon rind and turned out a dish that was a combination of rich decadence and light brightness (all without being schizophrenic).

The resulting Asparagus and Homemade Fettuccini in Lemon Cream sauce is our entry Pasta Presto this week Ruth of Once Upon a Feast for another round of Presto Pasta Nights.


Monday, July 28, 2008

tea and globalization

Recently, i was reading a great deal about the history of tea. it made me think a little more about my caffeine habit. in the previous weeks, i have been drinking many cups. and, i was thinking about the carbon that has been expended.

Mango Power Girl is doing a good job of adding more vegan meals to her diet. We have tried this as well, and have good and bad days. recently, i jokingly commented on Mango Power Girl's blog that veganism is hard to do when you have dairy dreams as I do. though really, i think caffeine would be much, much harder to give up. of course, the carbon imprint of caffeine is greater because most of us pair it with milk and sugar. Then there are those disposable cups (if you do that.) I don't know. Some rational part of me wants to cut down, but some romantic part of me loves everything about tea drinking--the steeping (or even better the boiling of milk with leaves), the flavor, the smell, the lightest after taste on the tongue. When I think about it, nothing gives me quite that feeling; it is beyond mouth-feel, full-ness, taste. It is essential an experience, a pure moment. And, having coupled this consumption with such strong emotion, how do I break this? Especially when it enabled me through most of my procrastination....

this is also my entry to click the photo event by jugalbandi.


Market Sense


The farmer's market brings out the primordial huntress within me. (I know that I am not alone in this confession.) Around 9 AM on a Saturday, japanese asparagus, sorrel, currants, and nettles all strike me as ideal prey. That afternoon, with the baby napping, I use a small about of my purchase for a salad or soup. If I somehow slept very well the previous night, I might even make a small batch of cupcakes.

And, then, the baby wakes up and the whirlwind of life returns. In its wake, I forget my prey and the excitement of my purchase. By Monday, I have planned how I shall use this delicacy for 10 meals (Lunches and Dinners). By Tuesday, guilt sets in. I should have turned these prizes into something that involves the word confit, frisee, sugo, trio, etc. By Wednesday, I have returned home from work, hungry, and tired. That sorrel, nettles, etc, looks like everything else in the fridge--not mystical but instead useful. And, that is the sweet moment, when I create something perfectly delcious, simple and perfect.
These concoction usually involve what ever is left in the fridge. Cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, 1/2 cans of legumes. And, as hunger is the best chef, or whatever, the results have always struck me as perfect. Take for example, sorrel. I purchased it because I had read something about it at Modern Beet. From it I created the most lovely salad. One, that I am actually still thinking about. I took left over cellophane noodles and tossed them with a spicy roasted pepper viniagrette, sauteed julienned vegetables, quick wilted sorrel and then placed that upon raw sorrel. The result was delicious.
And, then there was a sorrel soup. Create a faux stock by combining hummous and warm water. Simmer and add veggies and sorrel. Blend with an immersion blender. To this velvety soup, add canned beans (in this case three bean mix). If desired, top with a chiffonade of raw sorrel. (I did not.)

From this one bag of sorrel, I also made a sorrel omlette and another more mundane salad (or lettuce, sorrel and cucumbers.) So, while it is not quite like eating a wild boar from snout to tail, one bag of veg from the market can offer the chef some interesting prompts to the imagination. And if somehow you made it to Friday night having forgotten it, hell, there is always the compost bin.


It has been a quick summer. Most of June was focused on various family events (good and bad.) And, now July has come and gone and I am not quite sure what I did. Adulthood can really be like that; time disappears. But, after the spring, I realized that I need to hold onto a few minutes and to feel summer. So, here are some such moments--I know they are not food related, but they were such nice times and each of these moments were when my belly was full of food.




Sunchoke and White Bean Soup

Lunch at work had been sort of dismal of late. Stress has reached havoc on my eating habits, my cooking, my health. But, as always, I am trying to get it back. I have been trying to prepare a quick lunch for all three of us in the evening as I am decompressing and watching TV. The plan is 15-20 minutes/ low prep to healthy and yummy. And, while I have Bento Box dreams and aspirations, the actuality is not quite so kawaii. Hell, you can’t have everything.

The first such meal was an easy sunchoke white bean soup. The soup was roasted sunchokes, roasted garlic, roasted carrots, vegetable stock, white beans, and spinach. Basically, roast the vegetables as you veg in front of the TV. When everything cools, peel and add to beans that have been heated in stock. At the last minute, add washed spinach.

The spinach was a lovely, lovely offering from my CSA basket. (Thank you Maple Valley Sugarbush.) Oh, was it yum. I paired the vegan soup lunch with pita. It could have been paired parmesan on grilled rye.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taste and Create: Black Devil's Food Cake Cure's What Ails You

If you have wondered where I have been, I adore you. If not, no harm no foul. I have been trying to accomplish something at work that was well overdue. (How long you ask? Don’t.) For this assignment, my goal was to compress centuries and centuries of history into very few words while keeping enough interesting details to make the drier ones palatable. To make the activity more difficult, I had a wonderful case of writer’s block and a realization that placing three words together appropriately was bringing me damn near physical pain. Picture me (I realize you don’t know me) sitting at my desk, spending hours drinking homemade Thai Iced coffee (yes, still have too much condensed milk at home), just staring at my computer screen. Fear of deadlines were well beyond me that this point. Luckily You Tube seems to have more Smiths videos than I ever thought existed, and thanks to Morrissey and Marr, the writer’s block slowly ebbed. By slowly, I mean, I felt like words were coming out of my brain in an angry trickle like crystallized honey from that cute little honey-bear’s head. Alas—they came out and the assignment has been turned in. Editting, retribution, recrimination could be ahead, but writer’s block seems over, and the blogging embargo is lifted.

Did I eat in my absence? Of course. I didn’t cook much, but Maybelle’s Dad stepped in. I did cook a little in hopes that food would be the panacea my writer’s brain needed. And, I believe I found it in High on the Hog’s Devil’s Food Cake. I made two half batches of her cake as cupcakes, and ate most of the lot myself. For the first, I followed her recipe faithfully. They were dense but moist. I topped them with vanilla, almond, pumpkin seed Swiss buttercream, because I had it kicking around. (Oh, yes, I have become someone who has buttercream hanging around in the fridge.)

For the second batch, I subbed very strong roiboos (red bush) tea for the water, decreased the chocolate slightly, and added cinnamon. I topped them with whipped cream frosting with white chocolate, curry powder, cinnamon, and a smidge of cocoa powder. These were definitely an exercise in gilding the lily because Temper’s were already delicious; but they didn’t not differ so much from the original recipe as to be unrecognizable. And, most importantly, they now top my list as being the breakfast of champions.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pasta Salad, I mean Salad with Pasta

The other day, I was eating egg noodles, and I had this revelation that a cool salad could be very nice with addition of pasta. I was sort of thinking about the different courses that you get at an Italian restaurant--iceberg lettuce salad, an entree (like eggplant parmigiana) and a side of pasta.

What if all those elements are combined? Typing this now, I know it sounds like some sort of stoner fantasy. But I mean instead, what if you tipped all those proportions into a more healthy proportion?

For the first incarnation, I made a salad of watercress, arugula, parley and oregano leaves topped with tomatoes and oregano flowers. Having dressed it with lime and grapeseed oil, I topped it with warm tortellini, using High on the Hog's egg noodle recipe, stuffed with Greek feta and Greek mizithra cheese. Finally, this got a deserving kiss of parmesan, and voila pasta salad.


Monday, July 14, 2008

TC: Homemade Egg Pasta with Fresh Pasta Sauce


On Saturday, at the market, Belle attempted to purchase every yellow zucchini available (by purchase I mean grabbed). After that fiasco, we ran a million errands. Finally, during naptime, I had a few minutes to myself.

I really wanted something warm and sunny for lunch. I had just read through my Taste and Create partner's site, and I noticed two posts about homemade egg noodles. I loved the idea of hand cut pasta. So, I made her recipe, but by cutting it in half. (In case you think how do you think how the heck do spit three yolks, I used 1 whole egg and 2 yolks). I cut the pasta into short shards, twisted them into ribbons. The pasta was tender and very flavorful thanks to the egg.

While homemade pasta is faster than you might think, hand rolling means it does take a bit of time. When it was time to boil the pasta, I was so hungry I almost just ate the lid to the enamel pot. (Mmm, metal?) So, to the mix, I added a heavy handful of parsley, fresh cherry tomatoes, oregano, oregano flowers, grape seed oil, lots of diced banana pepper, and plenty of parm. During the height of veg season, I adore fresh dressings for pasta. They take no time and really highlight seasonal produce. Take very seasonable items (tomatoes, cucumbers, tiny zucchini, green garlic) and let the heat of the pasta warm through everything.

The fresh pasta sauce is also my entry to Pasta Presto this week Ruth of Once Upon a Feast for another round of Presto Pasta Nights


Strawberry Rhubarb Champagne Cocktail


When I was looking up something of another, I came across Sugarlaws recipe for rhubarb jam. One of the comments was from Marc of No Recipes, who mentioned if strained the jam could make a lovely cocktail. And, indeed it did. With strawberry infused vodka and champagne, it was very tasty. It was also good as a non-alcoholic cocktail rhubarb cocktail with rhubarb jam juice and fizzy water.

Rhubarb Jam

Sugarlaws had a lovely rhubarb jam on their site, so with the last of the rhubarb for the year, I decided to make jam. I followed her lead, but I added some strawberries. (Hence the much deeper color.)

I was good enough that I just ate it out of the jar. I should also say, I halved the recipe--how much jam can one family eat?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Croque Shrimati (well, an updated Croque Monsieur)

I have never been a fan of French toast. It is too sweet a start for breakfast and too much of a single note for dinner. But, the egg-dipped sandwich is quite another thing. Rather than a croque monsieur, I have Indianified it, removed the ham and added mango jam or else very ripe mango. The result has enough protein to make a very filling breakfast with just the right amount of sweet to make it worthwhile. And, in case you are a real stickler, without the egg that is characteristic of the Croque Madame, using parallel structure, this should be called Croque Shri (Mr.) but as I am a Mrs. it became a Croque Shrimati.

Take some lovely bread. We used homemade brioche (oh, I love making brioche.) Line one side with a very sharp cheddar. Spread very ripe mango or mango marmalade on the other side. Put the sandwich together, and press slightly. (I put a cast-iron skillet upon it.)

In a bowl large enough to hold your sandwich, crack one egg. Whip the egg well. Add a few tablespoons of milk until the mixture is the color of a spring chick (well, light yellow.) To this mixture add a little hot chili and a little amchur (green mango powder.)

Soak your sandwich in the egg.

Grill your sandwich on each side while weighing it down. Again, I used a skillet, but with a can to add extra weight. Turn and repeat.

Serve with mango pickle and/ or mango chutney.

And, if you love a mango, as OhioMom very astutely said about me, here's more:
Mango Feta Salad
Mango, Cream Cheese, and Basil Brioche Pockets
Mango Madeleines

I thought I would send this recipe on to the Mango Mania, the current Monthly Mingle by Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey? (MMMM, kind of a tongue twister, huh.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Peaches and Cream Cupcakes

peaches and cream cupcake
I got to work today to find out the electricity was out. Many times of the year, I would have died for a snow day, but this week, I really needed to work. So, how did i decide to alleviate the stress? Lazy cupcake. There was no creaming of butter, no separating of eggs and only one bowl. And, they were full of stone fruit (1 nectarine, 1 plum and 1 apricot), so they weren't totally unhealthy.

For the recipe, go to 52 cupcakes. And, when they suggest add the wet to a bowl and then adding that in parts to the stand mixer, don't listen. After the butter is mixed in, just dump in the eggs and blend and then the milk and blend. Voila, one bowl.

peaches and cream cupcakes

Watermelon "Open" Raviolo

watermelon raviolo

I was so excited by the rabbit "open" raviolo at We are Never Full. My husband's Nonna, who was from Abruzzi, used to make something similar but called in Lasagna Pats. I have never heard this term anywhere else, so we have come to the conclusion it is either Abruzziese.

On this bright sunny day, I decided to make a summer "open" raviolo or lasagna pats. I topped the warm flat sheets of pasta with olive oil and hierloom tomatos, thai basil, red onion, watermelon and Greek mizithra cheese.


Pasta Primavera with Handmade Pasta

pasta primavera

With time at a premium this evening, I am tempted to write my entry as haiku. But, counting syllables takes even longer than blattering on....

This is a simple homemade pasta privamera with zucchini, asparagus, and carrots. I topped it with ricotta salata and parmigiano. the homemade pasta made Belle super happy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arugula and Mango Salad with White Chocolate and Sriracha Vinaigrette with Habenero Pecorino


You know that old game telephone where you whisper jack sprat ate no fat in your friend's ear and she says bacon fat is not bad to her friend and then when it comes back to you the phrase is turkey bacon is evil.

Well, that is how blog recipes are. You read one recipe and tweak it. Recently, I read a crazy recipe that involved white chocolate in salad dressing at cook eat FRET that she got from The Culinary Sherpas (love that name). The promised butteriness of the dressing was there.

However, unlike ceF, i was not pairing this with luscious duck, so I wanted to make a meal of this salad. I added adzuki sauteed with coriander, diced onion, diced carrot, chili shrimp, and habenero pecorino. This crazy salad was delcious paired with a beer. I hope both parties don't mind my bastardization.

Malaysian Chicken Curry Pockets

Many years ago, I used to live near Malaysian dive. The aroma that wafted out was amazing. When I finally entered the restaurant, I was treated to rich flavors; to my very untrained palate it was a sort of cross between Indian food and Thai food. On that first night, I bought a take out curry which was served with a buttery, flaky roti. When I read the Daring Baker Challenge (Danish Braids), I really wanted to make a curried braid in homage to this meal. Instead, I decided to make sort of pasties filled with the curry. For the curry, I used many recipes, but this is the closest to what I did.

Its June, Really... Danish Braids

I know that you haven't read enough about danish braids, but here at feeding maybelle more is more. While there is no particular difficulty in the recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking that was chosen by Kelly at "Sass & Veracity" and Ben at "What’s Cookin’?", the time involved made me (and my friend M--) come to the conclusions that a.) laminated pastry is a cruel mistress and b.) it should no longer be classfied as a breakfast bread, unless you mean, breakfast the next day.

From my pastry, I wanted something neutral so I could try a variety of filling experiments and so I omitted the cardamom and used lemon rind instead of orange.

The braiding process was very easy and satisfying, though I felt a little like I was swaddling something. And, each time I did it, I got a slightly different look.

The most successful was a braid filled with cherry preserves and cream cheese. It was very nice.

Then, I went mad scientist and made an Asparagus, Scape and Cream Cheese braid. When warm, this was nice; it would have been perfect with goat cheese and black pepper.

After the two braids, I made danish:
Apricot and Ginger (because the RFJ habit is tough to kick) Needed icing but good.


Spicy Balsamic Cream Cheese Claws. Kimchi Powder in a Danish, oh kimchi everywhere.

Fig, Balsamic and Cream Cheese Danishes. Fancy and very nice.

Raspberry and cream cheese. Normal but tasty.

Fava bean, dill, and scape with cream cheese. Springy and nice though they look like little tacos.


Gooseberry and (yes, you guessed it) cream cheese. Okay but it needed something.

Sugar and cinnamon Donkeys. Bray, bray.


And then a very tiny braid.... because mini rules.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pasta with Warm Egg and Pea Shoots

Pea Shoot Pasta
Wait is it spring still? No, but this recipe is easy to make seasonal. Here is how we have done it here:
warm egg with asparagus
warm egg with scapes and parley
warm egg with sauteed radish greens, shredded radish, and dill
warm egg with beet greens and diced beets

Point being, boil some pasta, add it to a pan that just sauteed something green in butter and olive oil. Add a bit of pepper and parmesan. Top with a very nice egg that has been poached but remains soft. Have the diner break the yolk and stir while still very hot. Heavenly supper.

So this is not a recipe but instead a call to arms. Unless you have some sort of health concern or fear that keep you away from a raw egg, they add a wonderful creaminess to a veggie pasta and really make the meal stick to the ribs.

Recipe or not, I think it is very pasta-centered, so I thought I would send it on to Pasta Presto started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and hosted by Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen