Archive for April, 2010

The other evening, my friend came over to make a cake. We made a genoise cake with a lavender and lemon simple syrup brushed on each layer and a vanilla cream filling. We garnished it with whipped cream and lavender flowers. “What could possibly make this any better?” you might ask. Well the answer is lilacs, a big bouquet of fragrant lilacs (freshly gleaned from the neighborhood.)

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About a month ago I was gifted a rather large bag of hand-picked, frozen black raspberries. On Tuesday, I decided to put the berries to use. I was going to my bi-monthly book club meeting so  I made, one of my favorite Italian desserts, a crostata. (I like to think of a crostata as a giant jam tart.) I learned how to make this crostata while I was living in Italy a few years ago. The crust is a pretty soft dough, made of: flour, sugar, salt, butter, citrus zest, an egg and a splash of milk. I used lime zest for this one…

I cooked the black raspberries down with some sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. Since I normally use jam, I cooked the berries down until they were quite thick.

I poured the berries into the dough shell, folded down the edges, and baked it for about 45 minutes. When I pulled it out the crust was golden, and the juices bubbly.

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I really wanted to make a cake for my friend for her birthday! Since she lives in California and I in Michigan, I decided to bake her some cookies. (They are much easier to transport!) I couldn’t settle on just one type so I made three different kinds of cookies.

The first were lemon sugar cookies. For the first batch I rolled half of them in sugar…

The cookies that were sugar-coated didn’t spread as much and looked better overall so, after that I rolled them all in sugar.

The second type was Lime Cornmeal Shortbread…

I creamed together the butter and sugar, and then added the lime zest. I used the zest of one lime, next time I think I will use the zest of two.

Next,  I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, and finished with a very crumbly pile. I turned the dough out into a tart pan, packed it in, pricked it several times with a fork, and scored it into wedges. When it was done baking, the shortbread was nice and golden around the outside. The edges were a lot more crumbly than the inner part. Next time I think I will let it get a little darker and, hopefully, flakier.

The last, but definitely not least, were black and white sugar cookies, for these I followed a recipe from Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard. These cookies were another first for me and really fun! They dough was very simple with a little lemon zest and cocoa powder.

After I mixed the dough,  I separated it in two. The smaller portion was for the “white”. I rolled it into 4 logs and put them in the freezer. Meanwhile, I added the cocoa powder to the rest of the mixture, rolled out 4 more logs and a couple of sheets. After everything was chilled, it was time to assemble. I glued the logs together with egg whites and wrapped them in a sheet of chocolate dough.

After the assembly, I had two large checkered logs. These logs went back into the fridge for another chilling before being sliced into discs and baked.

When all of the cookies were baked and cool, I bundled them up in waxed paper and ribbons and sent them off to be devoured!

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About a week ago, we got some canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in at the deli. I have always loved the flavor of chipotle peppers and these smokey little morsels are no exception. One of my favorite things right now, they are really spicy and have a great flavor!

In honor of the peppers, I had a couple of friends over for dinner. I made some black beans, garnished with fresh cilantro, sour cream, lime juice, and the chipotle’s in adobo. Sarah made some tortilla’s to go along with the beans. We also had a fennel salad and some sweet citrus on the side. It was a perfect impromptu meal to showcase the new peppers.

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Tunisian tidbits

Thanks to my good friend Sarah, I have been introduced to the wondrous world of Tunisian cuisine. She just got back from a trip to Tunisia and consequently has been doing a lot of Tunisian cooking and baking. Last week I went over to her house for some lunch and cookie making. For lunch, Sarah made chorba, a tomato and bulgur wheat stew with chickpeas, pickled lemon and fresh mint.

After lunch she taught me how to make makrouth, a Tunisian pastry made with semolina, dates, oranges, and sesame seeds.

The recipe that we used was more of a vague outline than an actual recipe, so we improvised to get the consistency of the dough to what seemed right. Luckily, it worked well for us.

The dough is made with semolina and wheat flours, olive oil, and salt. It ends up being very soft and moist.

The filling is a thick paste of dates, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, and olive oil. This mixture is rolled out into logs and placed in a trench in the center of the dough which is then pinched closed…

Next, we cut the cookies into little diamonds and fried them in some olive oil until they were golden…

There are a few different ways to finish them off, you can eat them as is, simmer them in an orange blossom or geranium syrup, roll them in sesame seeds, or any combination of these. We couldn’t find orange blossom or geranium water so we used rose water for the syrup and then rolled some in sesame seeds and left some plain. I like them with the seeds on. They are best eaten when they are still a little warm.

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Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a great cookbook. It has been my mom’s favorite for years so it only seemed natural to add it, as my first Indian cookbook, to my collection. Growing up, I loved when mom made things like fresh panir, dosa’s and coriander chutney! Last week I had some milk that was about to expire so I decided to make some panir. When I pulled out my cookbook I was quickly enraptured by all of the things I just had to make, so I spent a lovely day in the kitchen chopping and mixing and cooking away.

Making fresh panir is one of those things that intimidates most people until you try it (I know I was a little scared) and then you can’t make it enough! All you need to do is…bring some milk to a boil, take it off the heat and add some lemon juice.

Once the curds and whey have separated in the pot, pour them through some cheese cloth to catch the curds…

I let the panir hang from the faucet of my kitchen sink, catching any excess whey. If you use the whey to cook rice, it makes it extra rich and delicious.

I also made some dosa’s with a spicy potato filling. I am still trying to perfect the art of spreading/frying dosa’s but I think I at least have the filling down…

To accompany the panir and dosa’s I also made a simple cucumber  raita- with fresh homemade yogurt, coriander chutney, date and almond halva and of course some basmati rice that was “whey rich.” I love that Indian cooking incorporates all of the flavors, leaving you perfectly satisfied.

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more cornmeal…

I was recently introduced to food52, which is a wonderful blog filled with inspiring recipes and photos. Friday afternoon I made some lime cornmeal biscotti using a recipe that was featured on the blog last month. The dough was very different from ones I have made in the past, it had butter in it and was therefore quite a bit more moist. They turned out to be quite tasty, though perhaps a little shy on the lime zest for my liking. I finished them off with a simple lime glaze and took them into work to share with my friends.

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My friend and I have been doing a lot of crepe making recently. Our latest trial was a batch of cornmeal orange-butter crepes from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. I had to work a mini shift early in the morning so I made the batter the night before and let it rest in the fridge until we were ready for it. The recipe was for a orange-butter sauce with a little rum, we also made a savory filling.

Vanessa picked up some cremini mushrooms, leeks, and rosemary on her way over. We sauteed the veggies and seasoned them with some salt, lots of black pepper. To finish them off, we added a bit of cream.

We tend to prepare our crepes in phases, giving us time to digest the previous course of crepes…

The orange-butter sauce was very simple to make, we just melted some butter in a pan with orange juice and zest, added a pinch of nutmeg, some sugar and a splash of rum. The sauce thickened up a little, perfect to lay the crepes in and absorb the juicy goodness…

I gently folded the crepes in quarters as I lifted them out of the pan allowing some of the excess sauce to run off. We served them with some stewed wild black raspberries that a friend had picked and frozen last summer…

I can’t wait to try more variations of these glistening cornmeal crepes! And when I do, I will definitely report on them too!

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This morning I took a book to the deli and sat outside with it, to enjoy the sunshine and eat some breakfast. For me, it is hard to beat a good cookbook in terms of reading material… Today’s recipe is brought to you by The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern written by Claudia Fleming and Melissa Clark. There isn’t a single recipe that I can’t wait to make! The only problem now is that I can’t get all of the fresh fruits like figs, berries and stone fruits. I decided on trying out the recipe for Caramelized-Apple Blini. Blini are a type of yeasted pancake, they are very moist and fluffy. I don’t know why but I started this project in the early afternoon with no one around to eat them, but I figured I could come up with some mouths to feed by dinner. The batter needed to rise for an hour and a half so I mixed it up and set it aside while I made the caramelized apples. The first step was to caramelize the sugar…

…while the sugar was melting in the hot pan, I prepped the apples and slit and scraped out a vanilla bean which I added when almost all of the sugar had melted.

I spread the apple pieces on top of the caramelized sugar and let them stew for a few minutes. And then set it aside.

The batter had doubled in size so I folded in the stiff egg white and started frying away. As they cooked, I piled them on a plate in the warm oven and kept them covered. It was late afternoon and I still didn’t have anyone to help me eat them so I went for a walk and found some friends at the ice cream shop. I lured them back to my apartment for dinner where we decided to make a savory topping as well as the sweet apples. We sauteed some onions and zucchini and dressed them with a little olive oil and chestnut-honey vinegar. We also made a spinach salad to lighten things up a little bit.

Both toppings were accompanied by an optional dollop of creme fraiche. All in all a good way to spend an afternoon off and a tasty dinner to-boot!

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lime tart

So I know I just made a version of this tart last week but it was so good, I had to make it again! I did make a few adjustments this time, the most significant being that I switched from using lemons to limes. Because the limes were a lot smaller than the lemons that I used, I upped the number from three to four.

Last time, when I pre-baked the tart shell, it pulled away and sunk down more than normal. In order to remedy this, I let the dough relax, in the tart pan in the fridge before trimming the excess dough off the edges. After it had chilled, I gently pressed the dough into the corners again and then I trimmed the edges just above the brim of the pan. The tart shell held its height and shape better this time.While the shell was cooking, I made the filling. The zest and juice were a vibrant green, at least until I added some farm fresh eggs.

The end result was beautiful and I immediately took a picture. This turned out to be a very good thing because on my way out the door my perfect lime tart did a face dive, I managed to salvage it and it was quickly devoured but, it was missing some crust and some garnish. Note to self: don’t reach up into the closet when you have a tart on a platter in your other hand.

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