Saturday, March 31, 2007

Notes from the Pantry: Cheese and Bees

Hold this up to your mirror for a secret message!

The last 48 hours have been decadence.

Thursday:

5:30pm met with Christina, Aaron, and Bryn

5:35-7:00pm debated dinner locales

7:00pm called Osteria for reservation

7:02pm learned earliest reservation for four is 8:30

7:04pm walked to Whole Foods for "pre-mealing" bread, wine (PeachyCanyon Zinfindel 2005), and cheese (D'Affinois brie, and a salty truffled Italian soft cheese I adore).

8:30pm Osteria. Bryn and Aaron's gnocci were perfectly textured, although the marinara sauce lacked something. Christina's salmon was delicious, as was my spinach-ricotta ravioli. Osteria is my choice Italian restaurant in Palo Alto; I admit their dishes never leave me enchanted, but food quality is reliably solid.

Friday:

7:00am alarm goes off

7:01am hit alarm

7:09am hit alarm

7:18am hit alarm

7:27am get up, make espresso

8:30am Caltrain to SF

9:20am SF to Point Reyes

11:00am Cowgirl Creamery cheese tour! Learned about the history of the creamery, their basic methods and philosophies, and nibbled on delicious, delicious dairy products. Like an alcoholic in a bar, I was powerless against the lure of their cheese shop. For the next seven days, I eat only dairy.

1:00pm Picnic: fresh baguette, fresh chevre, fresh Cowgirl Creamery St. Pat, organic local strawberries, dates, organic carrots, organic local apples (note: Enophiles describe wine as having a flavor trajectory, each sip imparting layers of tastes for the palate to unpack. These apples had layers. Without hyperbole, these were the most amazing apples I have ever eaten. Will described them as tasting like "fall in Massachusetts.")

1:30-3:00pm post-picnic snooze in the grass

3:30pm-7:00pm Point Reyes hike, wherein we see an amazing view of the ocean, forest, and rolling hills, and where Eva and I discover a herd of fauns led by two white adult deer. Life is beautiful!

7:30pm-9:00pm commute south for rest and disgestion

Food, beauty, and a soft bed. Could life be better?

Oh, right, the bees.

I have a quirky obsession with bees-- communal insects facinate me. I am also terrified of bee swarms, but that's another issue. Anyway, I had attended a beekeeping class in Gilroy last year and remain on their mailing list, which has recently been "abuzz" about Spontaneous Colony Collapse. Beekeepers open up once flourishing hives to find no one is home, with a few disoriented, dying bees scattered nearby. No one seems clear on what is happening -- the dying bees seem to have several common bee viruses and fungal infections, not one particular plague, as if their entire immune system has been compromised. Their sense of direction, a hallmark within the insect world, appears lost. This is happening worldwide. If you care about bees, this is one yikes, but if you care about food and know bees do most of the pollenating for our produce industry, your yikes gets much bigger.

I witnessed a glut of peculiar bees on a walk last week -- a third had died and were in a pile, and a third clustered around the pile, milling about confused and aimless. The last third wandered around in circles within a few feet of the heap. The bees could fly -- which I discovered after prodding one. But they just didn't want to, or didn't know where to go, or something. I had noticed a similar phenomena this fall with a couple confused individual bees -- this was before SCC was all over the news -- and I just assumed that this is how bees behaved when they were ready to die.

Insecticides? Global warming? The Apocalypse? All I know is, I like my honey, I like my produce, and I hope this gets sorted out soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"BYO Coffee" Cake

I love coffee, I love cake, and these two words in proximity seem cause for salivation. But brace yourself: the truth is, there is no coffee in coffee cake. Scandel! When I first learned of the hoax, I was crestfallen.

I have sinced learned to love coffee cake for what it is: butter, thinly disguised as nutritious breakfast food.

"BYO Coffee" Cake

For the cake:
1 c milk, whole
2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar, white
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (have you bought some yet?)

For strudel:
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar, brown
1/2 c. butter
1-2 tsp. cinnamon, to taste

Sift dry ingredients, mix in egg, milk, butter, and vanilla. Pour into parchment-lined 9" cake pans. Cream sugar and flour into butter, fold in cinnamon, and sprinkle strudel atop cake.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. Seriously. It will be soft and moist at the cake base and delicately-crisp on top. Serve with coffee!



Tuesday, March 27, 2007

San Francisco Values Banana Bread

And so good for you!

There is no secret that my culinary rapport has a hippie streak. Five years drinking soymilk out of a co-op kitchen has it's effect. Anyway, after my pasta-n-porkfat gorgefest, I felt like attempting something nutritious.

San Francisco Values Banana Bread

2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
2 Tbs. flax seed, freshly ground
2 eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted (no, Dharma, put the earthbalance expeller pressed oil down, we're using cow fat)
1 1/2 - 2 cups mashed banana (4-5 unmashed bananas)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla bean extract
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
Big-crystal brown sugar, for sprinklin'

Stir together mashed banana, butter, honey, vanilla, flax, and egg. Sift dry ingredients, and mix together. Throw in nut of choice. Pour into a bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Or until your knife comes out clean.

I had used the spice grinder on cardamom before grinding the flax, so there was a very, very slight tinge of cardamom in the bread which was a pleasant surprise. Next time I may add a couple pods of crushed cardomom seeds and some cinnamon, for that East-meets-West fusion so popular with bourgeois Bay Area white people. Hey, you know it's true.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pasta Carbonera

Yay for high-fat, high-carb diets!

Today was one extended foodgasm.

Morning: dropped by Synergy (butter), Safeway (hey! no one else carries Nutella), Trader Joes (balsamic, olive oil), and the Menlo Park farmers market (French carrots, baby beets, strawberries, garlic). Had a cappuccino and a bowl of berries with creme fraiche before heading to Oakland. Discussed whether food blogging is a useful medium for critique with Will on the drive north.

Afternoon: met up with Aaron and Christina, my two core partners-in-foodsnobbery from college. Lunched at Gregoire off Shattuck (pulled pork loin with date chutney and greens on baguette, potato puffs, and tomato soup; all divine). Coffee at Cafe Guerilla, a funky joint on Shattuck that featured a live hip-hop DJ, fantastic photography, and a lively staff. First time at Berkeley Bowl, where I spent an hour wandering around the store, cradling a pepino melon and oogling their diverse bounty of foodstuffs (they carry chestnut spread! joy!). Back to Aaron's house for wine, cheese, berries, and sunshine. Brainstormed a delicious tart recipe we may try later this week. Hopped back on the 101 to Palo Alto.

Evening: decided to try a new recipe that necessitated the day's sixth trip to a food distributor (ninth if we count restaurants). Got a call from John on my way over to Whole Foods, decided to combine gustatory forces. Stuffed selves silly.

Life is bliss. Also, I should buy some elastic-band pants.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

3 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2/3 lb. pancetta, sliced into 1/2 in. strips
2/3 c. white wine
1 lb. spaghetti
1/4 c. pecorino romano, freshly grated
2/3 c. parmesan reggiano, freshly grated
2 Tbs. parsley, minced
2 eggs

Heat oil with garlic cloves, allow to brown (~ 1 min). Remove garlic. Add pancetta, cook until crisp (5-6 min). Add wine, simmer until thickened (2-3 min). Remove from heat. In pot of salted water, bring pasta to boil and cook until al dente. In separate bowl, combine cheeses, parsley, egg, and whisk in 1/4 c water from boiled pasta. Toss in pasta and pancetta mixture. Pepper generously.

Oh god. I'm going to be up front with you, I licked my plate clean after this meal. Seriously. Manners be damned.

Also, I chopped and steamed two of the fat French carrots from the farmer's market, tossing them with parsley and olive oil. These carrots were fantastic -- full of depth, sweetness, and earthy flavor conspicuously absent in standard carrots, even organic varieties. The baby beets, on the other hand, were insipid. I nibbled one before preparing them and decided against serving them to others. I think it is still too early in the season. Sigh.

Oh man, the wine John picked out was fantastic as well, and I am not much of a white wine girl. Fruity and complex without sickly sweetness that puts me off other whites. Not that I know diddly about wine -- but I do know this is the first white wine I've finished a glass of and went for seconds. Noblio Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, a paltry $9.99.

Oh dear, time for sleeping! My second favorite bedroom activity (mmm, breakfast in bed).


Monica

Chestnut-Pancetta Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

In case you were wondering, yes, this is pretty much the best dish ever.

Chestnut-Pancetta Ravioli in Sage Butter Sauce

For filling:

1 cup roasted, shelled, and skinned chestnuts
2 oz sliced pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup water
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook pancetta in 3 tablespoons butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp on edges, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is softened. Add chestnuts and water and simmer, stirring, until liquid is reduced by half. Discard garlic.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and mash to a coarse paste with a fork. Peel half of apple and cut enough of peeled half into 1/4-inch dice to measure 3 tablespoons. Reserve remaining (unpeeled) apple. Stir diced peeled apple into chestnut mixture with parmesan, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

For fresh pasta:
Semolina flour
Eggs
Olive oil
Water

Yeah, I don't exactly follow a recipe. I pour out a mound of semolina, probably 2-3 cups, and make a little volcano in the center where I put 1-2 eggs and perhaps a tablespoon of oil. Then I add water or flour as necessary until the dough feels soft but is not sticky. Then I knead the bejeezus out of that dough until it is supple, a forearm-taxing 10-15 minutes. But oh ho ho, it is worth it. Then I let the dough rest 30-60 minutes before running it through my pasta machine, usually to #2-#3 thickness. If you don't have a pasta roller on hand, you can try rolling out the pasta dough with a pin, but may the gods be with you, because you're going to want that dough thin. When I pulled the original recipe off epicurious.com, they suggested using won-ton wrappers, but those rice-flour noodles felt too slippery and lacked the toothsomeness of italian pasta.

For Sage-Butter Sauce:

8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sage, coarsely chopped

Heat 8 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides and butter begins to turn brown. Stir in sage and cook, stirring, until sage is crisp and butter is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.


To prepare ravioli:
Here I use a ravioli cutter to parse the pasta, spooning a heaping teaspoon of filling into one side before sealing the package. Set aside but do not stack, until you are ready to boil the ravioli. Prepare a saucepan of salty boiling water and boil ravioli in batches for 3-5 minutes per batch. Drain with slotted spoon. Douse with sauce, extra parmasan, and garnish with remaining apple slices. Serve immediately.

When you make this, your eyes will roll back in your head and you will feel a greater sense of connectedness to the universe. Anyone sitting within your proximity will immediately be overcome with a maddening desire to make love to you. Birds will sing. Flowers will bloom. It is pretty freakin' good.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Notes from the Pantry: Cookbooks of Yore

today allergies rendered my palate dull. poo. kaiser needs to refill my allegra Rx pronto.

even with diminished senses, the world is rife with culinary adventure. chris proctor and i sauntered over to what we thought would be the first farmer's market of the season...only to find an empty parking lot. curses! however, a reconfiguration of the day's plans landed us in bell's bookstore, where i perused ancient (1920) cookbooks suggesting how to prepare roast mutton and how to properly rebuke one's serventry.

also: savory jello dishes? huge in the 50s, but some trends were meant to die.


Friday, March 23, 2007

CrepeWatch: Strawberries, Creme Fraiche, and Brown Sugar

Fresh strawberries, creme fraiche, and brown sugar are the most sumptuous combination. I want to make love to this crepe.

Notes from the Pantry: Ice Breaking News

Olive oil ice cream + strawberries + balsamic reduction = tasty! I also sprinkled on some heavy duty sea salt crystals -- I swoon for sweet/salty combos, and this mix of flavors lends itself to the addition particularly. I also chopped a little mint for garnish, although I expect sweet basil would go well too. Avocado ice cream is next on the list...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

CrepeWatch: Asparagus and Herbed Creme Fraiche

Pleasure! Bliss! Sensuality! Be mine!

Dinner tonight was wicked tasty. Here's what we whipped up:

Best Crepes Ever Batter

1c flour
1c milk
1/3c water
3 eggs
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. butter, melted

Blend or whip all ingredients except eggs until smooth. Add eggs, stir till integrated but do not overbeat. Let chill in fridge for 20 minutes.

Filling:

Asparagus, trimmed
1c creme fraiche
2-3 Tbs. fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
freshly ground pepper
salt

Steam asparagus, toss in ice bath to stop cooking, set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl, adding lemon juice, sugar, and pepper to taste.

Heat crepe pan, greasing surface with butter. Add extra water to batter if too thick. Pour batter and swirl around pan to distribute evenly; cook in medium heat, taking care not to peel up crepe until outer edges curl away from pan. Cook both sides evenly, then set aside. Assemble crepes with warm asparagus and dollop of sauce.

Salad

Spring mix
Shaved parmasan
Sherry vinegar
Olive oil
Shallot, minced

Add vinegar and oil into a bowl at a 1:3 ratio. Whisk to emulsify. Add 1 tsp. minced shallot, pepper, salt to taste. Toss with green, parmasan.

Mustard New Potatoes

Red new potatoes
Stoneground mustard (dijon? I forget)
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh pepper

Boil whole red new potatoes until just cooked through. Toss in ice bath, allow to cool. Cut into quarters. Whisk mustard and oil together, add pepper and salt to taste. Toss with potatoes.

This potato dish is among my favorites. I also lust unrepentantly for crepes of all sorts. The lack of Nutella in our house tonight is criminal. But, I do have some extra creme fraiche, fresh organic strawberries, sugar, lemon, and lavendar buds. I imagine epic dessert crepes will soon follow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Notes from the Pantry: Food Fight!



Did you miss the Food Fight between Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dillemma") and John Mackey (CEO, Whole Foods)? check it: Food Fight 1

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Unorthodox Ice Cream Returns: Olive Oil


Olive Oil Ice Cream

Materials

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. vanilla bean paste or 1 bean
1 cup (250ml) milk
3 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 1/4 cup cream
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

METHOD

Combine oil, scraped vanilla bean and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Stand 15-30 minutes.

Combine yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Strain infused oil and milk mixture over the egg yolks and whisk until combined. Return mixture to the heat and stir continuously until mixture thickens enough to just coat the back of the wooden spoon.

Once mixture has thickened, remove from heart and chill completely.

Beat cream to soft peaks with cinnamon. Fold into chilled olive oil mixture and freeze in ice-cream machine following manufacturer's instructions.

Pop quiz: what flavor is this?
Unsuspecting housemate: "Cookie dough? No, it's richer than that...butter? Hmmm...it's delicious."

Next time: served with balsamic vinegar reduction? And a subtly-sweet biscotti? Oh how I love food.

Unorthodox Ice Cream: Cardamom
















Sunday morning breakfast.


Cardamom Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. vanilla bean paste (I -love- this stuff), or 1 vanilla bean
6 whole cardamom pods, smashed
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

Put the milk, or light cream, vanilla bean paste and crushed cardamom pods into a heavy pan and bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for 20 minutes. Take out the vanilla bean and scape the seeds into the liquid. Strain out cardamom pods.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Gently reheat the milk or cream and beat a little of it into the egg yolks. Pour the egg mixture into the cream and return the pan to a low heat. Stir until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; it will take several minutes. Do not let it boil, or you'll get pieces of scrambled egg.

Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until it has almost cooled. Whip the whipping cream lightly and fold it into the custard. Add the 1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom. Freeze in an ice cream maker.

I originally made this ice cream with 8 smashed cardamom pods and 3/4 a cup sugar. It was delicious. However, it was as sweet as typical store-bought icecream, and I generally prefer desserts more nuanced. Tweak as you please!

The texture of this custard-based ice cream was everything I'd dreamed. The yolk rendered the final product exceptionally smooth and rich.

So what next? I've had spectacular rose- or lavendar-flavored ice creams; a jasmine green or black tea ice cream would be divine; and I've heard intriguingly positive feedback about avocado or olive oil ice cream. So much room to play! Thank goodness the weather is getting warm and a constant supply of (deviant) flavors is prerequisite.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ginger Pea Samosa with Mint-Cilantro Chutney

Samosas may be the perfect food. These samosas in particular. Flakey crusts encase exquisitely spiced pea-potato filling, drizzled in chutney of perfectly balanced sweet-savory-heat. Even my dad was impressed.

Ginger Pea Samosa with Mint-Cilantro Chutney

Pastry:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter, at room temperature

Filling:
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/2 c. shelled peas (fresh or thawed)
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small fresh hot green chile, stemmed seeded and minced
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaves, minced
2 medium waxy potatoes, boiled, drained, cooled, peeled, and cut into 1/4" cubes
salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds, toasted and crushed into powder
cayanne (a pinch)
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice mixed with 1 1/2 tsp. anchoor (dried mango powder, found in indian markets); or else 1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground anardana (dried pomegranate seeds, also found in indian markets; optional)

Mint Chutney:
3 1/2 c. firmly packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 c. firmly packed mint leaves
1-2 small fresh green chiles, stemmed
3 Tbs. lemon juice
3/4 c. plain full-fat yogurt
salt (to taste)

Vegetable oil (for deep frying)

1. For pastry: sift flour and salt, rub butter into flour until it resembles bread cumbs. Sprinkle in ~6 Tbs. warm water (1 Tb. at a time), mixing until dough ball forms, Transfer to floured surface, knead until supple (10-15 min). This will feel like a long time, but by kneading extensively, you develop the glutens in the pastry, rendering a flakey, tender crust. Oh god yes it is worth it. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour, up to 24.

2. For the filling: Saute onions in oil until browned and fragrant (~8 min). Add peas, ginger, cilantro, chile, and 1 1/2 Tbs. water. Saute on medium for 4-5 min, adding extra water if mixture looks dry. Add spices, diced potato, and lemon-anchoor paste. Cook another 3-4 min. Salt to taste, set aside, and cool.

3. To fill pastries: break pastry into 12 round balls. Roll each ball into a circle, as thinly as possible. Cut circle into two half-moons. Wet cut edge of semicircle and fold two ends together, creating an ice cream cone shape. Spoon in filling and close third edge. Take care to make sure edges are sealed so they don't come open during frying.

4. For the chutney: Blend yogurt, lemon juice, mint, cilantro, and chile. Salt to taste.

5. To fry: pour oil in wok or frying pan to 2"-3" deep. Heat on high until a drop of water sputters on contact (~350 degrees?). Slide samosa in and fry in batches till browned on both sides. Let drain on paper towels 3-5 minutes before eating. Serve warm.

Proceed to food coma and subsequent bliss.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Notes from the Pantry: Freakish Food

I have a personal policy of buying one "weird" food item whenever I go to the grocery store. Of course, I grocery shop recreationally, so my shelves are filled with hits and misses.




1.) Goat Milk Ice Cream. Fig -- hit! Deep Chocolate -- miss.
2.) Miso paste. Yellow -- hit! Red -- miss.
3.) Fig spread -- hit! Especially with blue cheese.
4.) Sweet chestnut puree -- orgasmic hit. In crepes. With butter. Oh god...
5.) Shirataki noodles -- strange, but a hit.
6.) Beet liquid sweetener -- not tested, from "Sweden" (i.e. IKEA foodmart)
7.) Salmon roe spread -- miss, also from "Sweden." A country of such attractive people produces this? I don't understand.
8.) Agave sweetener -- not tested, but recommended in my cupcake cookbook.
9.) Organic Oreas -- sweetened with brown rice syrup. Like regular oreos, without a trans-fatty crunch. I'm their market demographic, but I fear this was a miss.
10.) Quail eggs -- boiled, served with steamed asparagus. I'm in love.

Also -- it's finally hot enough to enjoy iced coffee again! Oh snap!

Mmm, only seven hours until breakfast...

Monica

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad Nicoise
















These are a few of my favorite things.

Salad Nicoise with Seared Ahi Tuna

INGREDIENTS

ripe avocado

boiled egg
nicoise olives
ahi tuna
red new potatoes
haricot vers
ripe cherry tomatoes
spring green mix
good olive oil
balsamic vinegar
dijon mustard
coarse sea salt
fresh pepper

Mix two parts olive oil to one part dijon mustard, add freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Place tuna in marinade, coating evenly. Set aside. Begin heating cast-iron grill pan (15 min on high). Boil potatoes whole till just tender. Set aside to cool. Steam haricot vers, douse in ice bath. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Mix three parts oil to one part vinegar, whisk until emulsified. Toss with greens. Mix three parts oil to one part mustard, add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooled potatoes, cut into quarters. When skillet is hot, sear tuna, about a minute each side. Remove, let sit three minutes, then slice 1/8 in. thick against muscle grain. Assemble potatoes, sliced avocado, haricot vers, tomatos, olives, greens, sliced egg, and tuna on plate. Savor like you are god's favorite child.

Raw Vegan Carrot Cake


















My friend Vas wished for a raw vegan cake for his birthday. I love a culinary challenge,
so this was a great excuse to play!

Raw Vegan Carrot Cake

CAKE
5c shredded carrot
1 1/2c shredded coconut
1c pine nuts
1/2-1c dates (to taste. i like sweeter, but then again, im planning to die from diabetes)
1/4c raisins
grated peel of one lemon
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tablespoons psyllium powder (plant husk used as fiber supplement, helps bind and set raw vegan "baked" goods)
1/4 c coconut oil

Using a food processor and an S blade, blend the carrots until finely pureed. Set aside.

Process pine nuts, raisins and dates until creamy, adding water if needed. Mix in carrots, Add coconut, spices, lemon grating, and psyllium.

Push "batter" into cake pan (springform highly recommended). Let chill for two hours or until set.

FROSTING
coconut oil
powdered sugar (i used regular but id like to try date sugar)
maple syrup
walnuts (optional)

I didn't measure anything for thus, but it's the best part so make a lot. ;-)
I worked powdered sugar into the coconut oil until the mix was more like crumbs than powder. Then I added maple syrup until the goo was sufficiently maple-iscious. Coconut oil goes soft at room temp, so I let the frosting resolidify (10-15min) in the fridge before spreading. After frosting the cake, I coated it with whole or ground walnuts, and then put the whole shebang back in the fridge another 15 min for the frosting to harden.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Triple Aphrodisiac Cookies

See how these cookies are locked in passionate embrace? This is what will happen when you unleash this recipe upon unsuspecting victims. Most requested recipe ever. Use with care.

Maximum Strength for Extra Smooch-Inducing Power!


Triple Aphrodisiac Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/8 cup flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
1/2 cup cocoa (not dutch processed)
1/2 to 1 tsp cayanne (as comfort levels dictate)
2 tsp finely ground coffee
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips

Sift all dry ingredients, cream in butter, egg, vanilla. Stir in
chocolate chips. Roll into 1.5-2" balls and place on greased/floured
or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven (375ºF) for
10-12 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Black Magic Cake with Lemon Velvet Frosting


BLACK MAGIC CAKE

Cake base:

1 3/4 cups flour (pastry flour if possible)

1 3/4 cups sugar (superfine if possible)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup brewed coffee

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together; fold in oil, coffee, yogurt and vanilla. Blend (by hand, or in a food processor) until smooth (no powder clumps). Last, fold in the eggs. Line a cake pan with parchment paper or grease and flour the sides. Pour in batter and bake for 40 minutes. Let cake rest in the pan in a cool place for 5 minutes before turning out to cool. Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Velvet Frosting:


I don't use exact amounts for this, but here's the ingredient list
and some general guidelines.

Butter (~1 cup, softened but not melted)

Powdered sugar

Fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons worth, more if you want it extra lemony)

Grated lemon rind

Vanilla extract (1/2 to 1 teaspoon), optional

1 egg, optional

Cream the butter, vanilla, lemon juice until smooth. Add powdered
sugar until it develops a paste-like consistency. Add the egg. Add more powdered sugar, butter, or lemon juice until smooth. Firm in fridge before frosting cake. Decorate with fresh fruit and mint.

The history of this cake is thus: I once lived with this kickass duo, DJS and J.Cundiff. DJS's mother has been making this cake for his birthday since his wee years, but somewhere along the line, J.Cundiff got a hold of the recipe and it became a staple in her culinary rapport. After one bite, I knew it must be mine.

I tweaked the recipe somewhat; the original frosting has less butter, no egg, and the consistancy of icing. I wanted a thick, almost custard-like icing, so I tinkered until I found a frosting with heft. Either way, this cake is sensuous.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Taming the Wild Yeast

The edible lovechild of wild yeast and my unbridled lust for baked goods.

This bread calls for wild yeast sponge. You cannot buy this in a store. Thus your options are: ask a friend to borrow a cup of their personal starter, or make your own! To catch wild yeast, mix a cup of flour and a cup of water in a bowl and leave out. Each day, "feed" the starter by stirring in another cup of flour and water. After a couple days, you'll see bubbles, but it won't smell like yeast, but rather, sour milk. This is okay-- the first thing you "catch" is bacteria -- incidentally, the same bacteria that is used in cheese and yogurt. Keep feeding the starter, and after a couple days, the bacteria will die off, leaving behind a bunch of lactic acid that makes the starter most attractive to wild yeast. When your starter bubbles next, it will smell sweet and delicious as your favorite bakery. Feed the starter every day, or cover and store in the fridge, feeding once a week. And of course, bake yourself some bread.

Simple Homemade Bread


2 cups wild yeast sponge
1 T sugar
1 T oil
1 tsp salt
"enough" flour to make a soft dough (earlobe test!)

Place dough onto parchment lined or floured baking sheet. Let rise in warmth till double. Slash with knife. Let rise till doubled again. Spritz oven with water to humidify crust. Bake in preheated oven at 350 till golden (about 40 minutes).


A sponge coaxes the flour glutens to develop, rendering a bread as supple and tender as luxury linen. I want to encase myself in this bread. Life is beautiful.

Confessions of an Unrepentant Foodie

I like food. A lot. You may like food too, or perhaps you simply like me, and in either case, your taste is impeccable. Welcome to my blog.

As a narcissist and technophile, the blogification of my culinary life was inevitable. Instant access to my ever-growing recipe collection? Compelling. Seductive. Irresistable. Moreover, I love *projects,* and a chronicle of culinary adventures, reckless kitchen experiments, food lit, and all things chowpolitik sounds like the best thing since artisanal bread.

I'm a recent convert into the fold of food snobbery. Margarine, processed cheese product, and condensed soups stocked the pantries of my childhood (in fairness, real tuna cassarole begins with Campbells). By the end of high school, I had never sampled sushi, Thai basil, or brie. But all was about to change.

A youth of both creative and scientific inclinations, I cycled through hobbies, and one bored summer evening before the start of college, I came upon an online recipe for pretzels. It would be interesting to know where pretzels come from, I thought. But it didn't stop at pretzels. This had been an awakening.

My freshman dining hall terrified me, and convinced I could do better, I holed up in the dorm kitchenette to tinker with my most recent allrecipes.com find. My dormmates were happy to enable this habit -- except when I set off the fire alarm making popcorn. The following year, I had the good fortune to be housed in a co-op, a mythic land of industrial appliances and perpetually-stocked ingredients. I began cooking constantly. Cooking for fun. Cooking to unwind. Cooking to socialize. Cooking to be alone. My grades tanked. My popularity soared. This has widely been regarded as a good move.

So what's my plan here? This garrish monument of self-glorification will serve purposes both practical and aesthetic.

1.) Recipes. Accessible anywhere. God yes.

2.) Experiments. I am prone to them. Previous food projects:
Coffee Home Roasting, which promptly ended when a friend availed me of my roaster. I may try this again soon. Meat of the Week, wherein I prepared different animals from the specialty grocer (e.g. deer, ostrich, squab, frog). Vegan Month, as a penence to my year as the Dairy (and militantly non-vegan) Kitchen Manager. Developed a delicious vegan cheesecake, experimented with seitan, and savored avocado-based-everything at Cafe Gratitude. Broken two days early (damn you, Tartine). Taming the Wild Yeast, currently domesticating in a bowl on my dresser.

3.) Adventures. Factory tours. Urban foraging. Mushroom hunts. Food writing classes. Geology of terroir. Knowledge is power. And power is delicious!

4.) Food literature. Because if I'm too full to eat (sad, but often true), I need to consume *something.*

5.) Poltical rants. Sustainability. Humanely-raised/free-range/grass-fed. Organic/Local/Fair Trade. Heritage. Fast food. Slow food. Obesity. Eating disorders. Nutrition labels. Food Pyramid. All that hippy-dippy yuppie-duppy stuff.

6.) Food porn. I love photographing food. I have no talent for it, but it makes my heart flutter.

So much to do, so much to do! Indeed, I am excited. But first, I need a cappuccino.

Monica