Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Missed Easter and Now it's May and a vegan chocolate cake is one of my favorites?

Easter Sunday came and went and I have been neglecting my blog for about 5 months. I cook on a daily basis and never deem my daily cooking worthy of my blog. I guess it's because it isn't complicated enough, or good looking enough for me to take pics.  I really need to work on that.

On Good Friday I made a fish dish that is one of TV chef Ingrid Hoffmann's.  It sounds very odd but I  simply had to try to make it because I am not a fish fan but am a bean fan.  The recipe calls for cooked rice, white or brown or any rice you prefer, 1 can of rinsed black beans, 1 small jar of prepared salsa (mild or hot), and about 1 cup of fresh pineapple cut into chunks.  This is the important part, canned pineapple would simply not work for me, but again, whatever you prefer should be fine. You mix all these ingredients and spread them into a 9x13 inch baking pan.  Then you simply season some (about 4 fillets fit perfectly) raw tilapia fillets with your desired seasonings and lay them over the top.  I like to season with the pineapple juice, some lime/lemon or orange juice, a little salt, pepper and fresh chopped garlic.  Then cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in a 325 to 350 degree oven until fish is done to your liking.

When I saw her make it I was kind of weirded out, but I really like beans and rice so I gave it a shot. It has become one my favorite fish dishes and I'm not exactly a fish dish kind of gal.  I'm not exactly a seafood kind of gal either. Although I made a very good Asian style salmon dish recently with a mango salsa. I really need to take some pics. The salmon dish was easy peasy and I just marinated some salmon steaks in soy sauce, fish sauce, bruised lemon grass, Thai basil (one of the perks of living in SoFlo I can grow all those exotic tropical plants), sugar and lime zest and juice. But only marinate for about 10 mins. Then throw into the oven.  My salsa was easy enough, 1 mango chopped into small cubes, red onion in a very small dice, juice of about 1 lime, chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), S&P to taste.  When your fish is done to your liking simply serve along with some jasmine rice (I like to add coriander leaves and lime zest while the rice is cooking), and scoop the salsa liberally over the fish.


Easter was a pretty productive day. I got a ham in the oven covered with mustard, bourbon and crushed gingersnap cookies. Plain buttermilk biscuits and chive & cheddar biscuits were made Easter morning, brownies just came out of the oven and a lemon pudding cake is rearing to go in.  I haven't made up my mind on a side dish for the ham just yet. I am thinking of some simply steamed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower...whatever I have on hand).  Just for the hell of it, I breaded and fried some chicken breasts and threw it between one of the chive/cheddar biscuits with a slice of cheese as I have been hankering for a cheddar-chicken biscuit that I saw on a food special that they serve in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina restaurant for years now.  I finally made it and it made for a very delicious lunch. Didn't get a pic of that lovely biscuit but this was what I got from my Easter dinner, some in the process of being made like that ham and the biscuits when they were done. I must say I preferred the plain rich delicious buttermilk biscuits to the flavored ones. Below are the plain biscuits, the ham before the heat, the lemon pudding cake and the cheddar/chive biscuit, in that order.



I must say the lemon pudding cake was superb and perfect for a spring desert.  It came out like one of those "magical' cakes where it comes out like a rich pudding covered in light airy cake.  Very good stuff.

As the days went on I wanted something made out of chocolate so I made some very normal brownies that came out well.  I always feel I have to explain my baking because it is not always a sure thing with me. I will make the same recipe and it won't always turn out a consistent product. I never seem to realize what the nuances are that made something turn out well in the first place. But then, I guess that would be the case when you are not a professional chef.
I think I under baked them and that gave them their rich fudge consistency.

Still thirsting for chocolate a few weeks later I wanted to try a recipe called "busy day chocolate cake". I saw this on Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry recipes and I was immediately thrown back into time to my 8th grade home ec class.  In the 8th grade in Home Ec we made a simple chocolate cake with Mrs. Morris.  It was great and I understand now why she made us bake this simple cake without dairy or eggs of any kind.  It turns out this is actually a vegan cake and has become my favorite chocolate cake!  You can find this recipe online at Martha Stewart Living just search for everyday chocolate cake.  It is so easy and is made right in the pan! I use an 8x8 non-stick 'brownie' pan.

Simply whisk :
1.5 c ap flour
1 c white granulated sugar
3 tbls unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp course salt
in an 8x8 nonstick pan and make sure it is well incorporated.  make a well in the center of this dry ingredient pile and add:
6 tbls canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 c of cold water

Mix well and make sure you get the dry mix out of the corners, I use a for for this. and that is it!  Just throw this in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Keep checking after 20 to ensure you do not over bake this otherwise it will be dry.  Just make sure you insert a toothpick and it comes out with a few crumbs.

To continue along with the vegan theme I made the following frosting.
3 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
2 tblsp. coconut oil ( to keep it vegan) or butter
1 c powdered or icing sugar, sifted
about 4 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips
3 tblsp. warm water
.5 tsp. vanilla

Melt the coconut oil or butter in a non-stick sauce pan. then just add the rest of your ingredients and stir like crazy until absolutely smooth and shiny.

I never thought I'd say this but this vegan cake is my absolute favorite and the easiest because I always have these ingredients on hand.  It is a keeper!




If you have leftovers, you should zap in the microwave for a few seconds because I keep it in the fridge and it gets quite firm.  I said it was vegan and no matter how good it is, remember that eggs and/or dairy keeps baked goods moist and provides a wonderful texture so this is best eaten the day its made.

Today is Sunday and I have braising and roasting on the brain because it is the kind of lazy day made for this type of cooking as far as I'm concerned.

Braised chicken? In a pot with potatoes? I might post my own recipe for this next.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Portuguese Sweet Bread (Masa) Or Is It Hawaiian Bread?

If you believe everything you read, Portuguese sweet bread called Masa is the origin of our Hawaiian sweet bread.  Now I ask, how and when did the Portuguese get to Hawaii? or their bread?  I can't find anything that will provide me with this information.  I would love to get to the bottom of this.

I saw a video on ChefSteps (excellent!) about this wonderful sweet bread.  I highly recommend that website, they have some awesome recipes and their Hawaiian bread recipe is amazing.  I fell in love with their crumb.  The texture of their Hawaiian bread is very bread-y and I got the recipe for my bread from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and I must say it turned out exceptionally well.  My only tweaking of the recipe is the addition of liquid.  Living here in South Florida I always have to adjust liquids to any recipe that includes flour.  It has been a real Christmas in July for us down here as the days have been hot and wet in true Florida form, YUCK!  But I digress, the bread has been a shining beacon for sunshine and cool days.

Here is my yeast foaming up in a sugar, water and flour mixture to create a sponge.  The sponge sits around at room temperature for about 60 to 90 minutes.


Add the sponge to sugar, salt powdered milk, unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, eggs, lemon extract, orange extract, vanilla extract and flour.  Then you add up to 6 tablespoons of water until it comes together into a soft but firm dough and then knead.  I veered from my usual hand kneading and used the machine for about 15 minutes.  Then removed it from the machine and did my traditional hand kneading for about 5 minutes and made sure it wasn't sticky and passed the "window pane test". I learned this from the book where you rip off a small bit of dough and pull it just so it becomes translucent and does not tear.  
My next step is the boring rising situation. Just the standard oiling of the bowl and rising for about 3 hours. I however, had started late in the day and let it slow rise in the fridge for about 9 hours.  This actually turned out very well and I made the same recipe the next day and did not notice any difference in the final product.

There is a short final rising in the actual baking tin.  Next came the shaping and I stuck with a traditional boule for my shape.  I was very tempted to make a large conglomerate of rolls but I did not want to take the time to weigh and shape the small rolls. Hey, it's Christmas and I didn't have time. I am still surprised I found time to make not 1 but 2 boules!  So as is the case with all these involved and time consuming baked goods the baking time is usually 350 for about 1/10th the time it took you to put it together.  In my case 40 to 55 minutes in the oven until very dark and mahogany brown.  The recipe states that the dark color is due to the sugar content.  It actually doesn't contain much sugar, go figure.


It turns out crusty but soft which is a very nice combination.  The crumb resembles a brioche type of bread even though there isn't the same high amount of butter, or in fact, fat of any kind in this bread.  I can totally see this bread taking the place of a babka or brioche bun in any way.  I made my version of bahn mi because I always use a sweet bread when I make my own version of bahn mi and I must say it turned out quite well.  So this has been my more complicated recipe this Christmas and I hope to get some more stuff together. I've got a prime rib roast in the fridge drying and that will make it to the oven sometime this evening.  Crossing my fingers!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here and I started my cooking yesterday.  I began with the pies.  I made pecan and pumpkin and my sister made not 1 but 2 sweet potato pies.  She is experimenting with crusts and made one with a graham cracker crust and one with a traditional crust.  I am not one for sweet potato pie or really in any form but since I consider myself someone who wants to give all foods a chance I always try to see if I can enjoy it in another way.  The menu this year is:

Roast Turkey with chicken apple, sausage stuffing
Green beans
roasted brussel sprouts
mashed potatoes
stuffing (not dressing)
Some kind of dish mother is contributing (hmmm)
canned cranberry jelly (yuck)
Colombian empanadas w/encurtido 
Dominican yucca empanadas
regular dough empanadas
Olive Cheese rustic loaf
2 sweet potato pies
1 pumpkin pie
1 pecan pie

My sister made the bird and stuffing. The turkey began brining the day before with vegetable broth, wine, sour oranges (from our tree!), onions, lots of salt, sage, thyme, rosemary, mustard seeds, celery seed, and garlic. Then you remove from brining liquid, rinse and dry. Then came the stuffing, organic herb stuffing bread cubes (mix from Whole Foods, yes a mix) chicken apple sausage (cooked), dried cranberries, golden raisins, celery, chopped apples, chicken broth and red onions.  The turkey will be basted with warmed brandy and apple jelly. Pictures to come. 

So I began yesterday with the olive cheese rustic bread. It is a very simple recipe from Martha Stewart and requires no kneading.  So I simply had to try that!  The recipe calls for an 18 hour rise and then an additional 2 hour rise after punching down.  Here he is resting for the next 18 hours.

Then I had to get the pies together. They are very simple! Traditional pecan pie, nothing out of this world, just corn syrup, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and pecans. The pumpkin is my fave, just 1 can pumpkin, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg. That's it!  It's great and the nutmeg is very subtle, it's really 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. I don't go for all those heavy spices in my pumpkin pie.

The bread snuck into the picture up there in the 3rd spot.


Then I made the meat filling for the empanadas. I decided to only make a beef filling and this will fill all the different shells because it's really the doughs that make them so unique. The only one with a little different filling are the Colombian corn empanadas because they require some mashed potato in with the beef and the outer corn dough gets so crispy that the encurtido provides a lovely acidic spicy tang to the whole thing. The beef filling is my own traditional recipe of picadillo.

1.5 lbs of ground sirloin
1 tblsp olive oil (or your choice of oil)
1 small white onion
1/2 green, red, yellow or orange bell pepper
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herb (coriander leaves (cilantro), or parsley, etc)
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 tbls tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 c wine of choice
3 tbls. capers (smaller the better or chop the big ones), optional
3 tbls. chopped green stuffed olives, optional
3 tbls. chopped raisins (golden or dark), optional
1 hard boiled egg, (optional)


Brown the ground beef in the olive oil until completely cooked and very small, make it as fine as possible because bulky filling will burst open anything you fill! Drain the fat.
Put onion, peppers garlic and vinegar into a small food processor until very finely ground. Add this to the beef and cook for about 5 mins, add all herbs and wine. Cook out alcohol make sure all your veg is soft and add your optional ingredients except egg.  Cook until raisins are soft.  After it's cooled add the chopped hard boiled egg.

I let this cool in the fridge over night to fill my stuff.


I separate the beef mixture (without egg) into 3 separate fillings for these empanadas. 1 is just beef, the other with egg and the third with just beef and some mashed potato.

The plain beef is for the yucca (manioc, cassava, tapioca) empanadas. The one with egg is for the regular wheat dough empanadas and the beef and potato is for the corn (Colombian) empanadas.

The encurtido, for the Colombian expanadas or on anything else!)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1.5  tsps sugar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves)
1/2 cup chopped curly or flat leaf parsley (your choice)
2 stalks of green onions (spring onions), chopped small
1 tbls. olive oil
1/4 small tomato, peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 of those tiny peppers that come in the Goya hot pickled peppers bottle (see pic) but the amount of peppers depends on the amount of heat you can tolerate! I'm a wuss.)

In that same little food processor ( I have a small 1-2 cup size that is great!), process water, vinegar, sugar, salt, tomato, and little peppers just until very small or even paste, depending on your preference. Then I mix in the herbs, but you can process everything if you so choose.  This is great with the Colombian corn empanadas. There is the finished sauce sitting in the fridge overnight to marry those flavors in an old pickle jar.

This was huge! I got caught up in eating and didn't take too many pics of the finished products but it was a lot!  The turkey turned out very flavorful and tender, the stuffing moist, the empanadas crisp, the mashed potatoes always my fave no matter I have to eat, cranberry jelly was not sampled by me, the pumpkin pie was good, the pecan had waaay too many nuts I don't know what I did, but all in all, I had a great feast.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

An Asian food kind of day

I happened to be watching a program of one of those TV chefs who is traveling through Southeast Asia and cooking all these fabulous meals.  This put me on a panAsian (is that the correct phrase?) course to cook an Asian food kind of Sunday.  I have to start with something I really enjoy and have some kind of recipe for.  So I made a bahn mi.  I don't have the patience or experience to make the proper pork belly for this scrumptious sandwich and besides, I have no pork belly anyway.  That may not be entirely true as my freezer is busting, but I digress.  I start with some lovely lean ground pork that I had ground for me at the butchers.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it while the mixture was raw.  The real misfortune is that you can't smell the lovely fragrance of all those wonderful aromatic ingredients.  Start with ground pork, chopped scallions, chopped garlic, Thai basil (very important! Thai basil is best but hard to find, I just started growing it, but sweet Italian will work even though it won't taste exactly the same), fish sauce, Sriracha chili sauce, sugar, pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours to come together.  Shape into meatballs, or meatspheres like I did, and you can either pan fry or roast in the oven like I did.

Make your pickled veg. Shred some carrots and daikon radish (I suppose a regular red radish would work as well but I've never tried), then just dump these puppies in a mixture of equal parts rice wine vinegar and sugar with a pinch of salt and a small amount of water.  Let this sit for at least 1/2 hour before consuming. I like to keep a jar in the fridge. Then mix your spicy mayo.  Just some good quality mayo spiked with Sriracha hot sauce, some sliced scallions, sprinkling of bright green coriander leaves (cilantro) and a drop of toasted sesame oil if you would like that extra warmth in the mayo.
You can make this as spicy or not as spicy as you like.  Ah we get to the bread.  This is a very important part of this whole operation because the bread is the vehicle that brings all these luscious, simple yet complicated flavors together.  The traditional French baguette is not my favorite for this. I find the French baguette a little too hard and crusty, then again, perhaps the crisp crustiness of the baguette is better for a traditional pork belly and pate bahn mi.  However, I find a soft, semi-sweet, eggy bread to be perfect. In SoFlo we are inundated with sweet-types of breads.
This is the bread for a "medianoche" and is very easy to find here, so use what you can get your hands on, a slightly sweet brioche would be marvelous as I think the sweetness in the bread is what complements the spicy heat in the meat and mayo. Cover with your pickled veg, that happens to be acidic and sweet and you have an outstanding sandwich!

Garnish with some coriander leaves and very skinny strips of scallions (green onions) and don't forget to provide a little sprinkling of that gorgeous pickling liquid very sparingly over the meatballs!  My recipe is a take on any bahn mi meatball recipe you can google and play around with, so go nuts.

And now for dinner! Dinner will come from the Kingdom of Cambodia, or what used to be called the Kingdom of Cambodia? Oh well, Cambodia. It is clay pot chicken, but not in a clay pot because I don't have one.  So it goes like this, 1 chicken dried well.  Then come the aromatics. I stuff the cavity with some bruised lemongrass stalks, 2 or 3 chopped shallots, galangal is traditional but I couldn't find any so I used some thickly sliced ginger, some kaffir lime leaves (my friend has a huge tree) and made my own addition of a garlic head sliced in half then I mixed all this together with some oyster sauce.  Stuffed this lovely mix into the chicken cavity and brushed the outside with some teriyaki sauce and poured about half a can of coke over the chicken. Like I said no clay pot, so all this was in a roasting pan and covered with aluminum foil.  Into a 350 oven for as long as it will take to cook this chicken.  No pictures, but trust me it was delicious!


For my side I made some steamed jasmine rice and studded it with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves. The smells are amazing. I think I shall finish this lovely chicken with a brushing of either hoisin or oyster sauce and place back in the oven for a few minutes and then serve!  I also have some of my spicy mayo concoction left over that will go beautifully with the chicken, not to mention some leftover pork bahn mi meatballs.  All this and some Alfred Hitchcock movies make for a perfect Sunday to complete a weekend that is just begging for my favorite time of the year. Autumn. This means baking for me so I should be busy updating my blog after my spring/summer hiatus. Keep cooking.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple pie is usually reserved for July 4th festivities. However, I had no festivities this year but that doesn't mean I can't make a pie.  So, I made an apple pie for B. We had discussions about my baking and how I love to make pies when she mentioned that her mother used to make an apple pie with a crumb topping and it was very delicious. So I took this as an opportunity to not miss my apple pie making for the summer and to make one of these pies.  I have always wanted to make a crumb topped apple pie and this was a great opportunity.  So here goes.

My usually crust recipe that is very basic and simple; just flour, ice water, some sort of fat (butter or shortening or a combo depending on what I have on hand), salt and sugar.  Stir together the flour, sugar and salt and then cut in the fat.  After you have a mix that resembles course sand, mix in the ice water until it is still dry not over mixed or over handled.  I finished this step about a week ago because crust keeps well in the freezer and my kitchen is so crazy hot sometimes I can only go one step at a time. :-)

 There are the lovely golden delicious apples that work so well in a pie because they stand up well to cooking and have a lovely tartness and pronounced apple flavor that works well with the simple ingredients.  Peel, core and slice the apples, just add lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and a touch of flour to thicken the juice as it bakes.
Pour this lovely concoction into the crust covered pie plate, mix my stand by crumb topping from a previous blog and voila!

A delicious apple crumb pie!
And here is the final product as B and her family get ready for what I hope they enjoyed very much!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Colombian Empanadas

I discovered Colombian empanadas about 3 years ago.  I went to a Colombian bakery and sampled various goodies.  They have a bread called "pan de bono", I have no idea how to translate this except that it is bono bread because I don't know what "bono" means in Spanish.  Therefore I will provide a description.  It is a gluten-free bread made of yucca flour and one of those bland homestyle fresh cheeses much like farmer's cheese or mozzarella.   Those are really the basic ingredients and I know because I have tried making these little buns and they are really good and very easy to make. Absolutely wonderful fresh from the oven and only about 20 minutes of prep time along with about 12 minutes in the oven.  I had one of their typical big breakfasts with sausage and salted potatoes and I think they call them mountaineers breakfasts, cause that is one big honkin' breakfast!

That was when I tried the empanadas.  They are very different from anyone else's, with the exception of the yucca ones I made before (still my favorite ones!).  These shells are made from cornmeal, water, salt, and oil.  That's it and then you let it rest for about 20 minutes and it comes together in a beautiful way!

While this lovely concoction sits, you make the filling.  This filling is a little different from the ones I usually make as you incorporate your choice of minced meat (I used pork and beef), with semi-mashed boiled potatoes.

You combine the potatoes and minced meat for your filling. The general Colombian spices are actually very simple and the recipes I found had only a little onion, garlic, cumin, tomato S&P. This simple seasoning in the filling paves the way for a spicy dipping sauce.

 The dough is very tender and should only be handled initially to form a ball then put between 2 sheets of plastic to pat out into a disk.  Ummm my pictures are kind of messed up so above is the disk, below is the meat and potato mixed together.
 Here is the ball of dough.  You rip off about 2 tablespoons and roll it between your palms then pat out under the cling film.
 Add about 1tablespoon of filling and use the cling film to fold over the other side.  Press to seal.
 That's it! Just fry fry fry in some oil. I use canola oil in a cast iron pan as my lovely pan has become my favorite tool in the kitchen. I must confess I only use it to fry but I really need to expand my repertoire and make a bunch of stuff in there!  One important note, the dough is VERY sensitive, so use a tool to drop the empanada in the hot oil.  I finally figured out that I could use a metal spatula.
 Here is one cut in half as you can see the potato chunks.  Now the sauce!
The sauce imparts a large amount of flavor and some spicy heat.  Just use a chili pepper, any one you want, habanero for the brave ones, jalapeno for those who want a little less pain, etc.  I remove the seeds and ribs because I don't want to die.  You combine this with a white vinegar to water ratio of 2 to 1 and add salt, little caster sugar.  In one of those tiny food processors (I have a 1 cup size), add bunch, coriander, parsley, green onions, your hot chili pepper of choice, and lime juice.  Blitz it and add to your liquids along with some veg or olive oil. I use olive oil.  You can spruce up with some dashes of your fave hot sauce and you are good!

This is very different from the empanadas you may be familiar with but you will not be disappointed. Give it a whirl if you enjoy these little meals in a package.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer is here...officially. It actually started yesterday. We have been having hot days for a few months now but the arrival of June 21st makes it so...official. I need to examine my masochistic tendencies because if it is in the upper 80's outside this means that my kitchen is actually in the mid to upper 90's. No kidding.  So why do I get a crazy desire to bake with weather like this? God only knows because I certainly have no answer.  But there it is. I have been yearning to bake.

I recently made a pineapple upside down cake and Martha Stewart's recipe for New York crumb cake.  They came out delicious.  I really love chocolate and other delicate but complicated recipes, but I have a very soft spot for a simple cake.  The New York crumb cake is a very simple cake that does not even contain butter in the batter but yields this lovely yellow cake with a tender fragrant crumb.  The top is bursting with buttery, cinnamon sugar crumbs that complement the tender crumb beautifully.  This is how I started:



Next came the mixing of the crumb that became very moist from the heat and humidity in my kitchen. Did I mention that the kitchen is unbearable?  I am constantly complaining about the heat but can't stay out of the kitchen.  Then came the crumbs, very simple mix then doused with butter to make them moist and clumpy.
Assembly!

 And final product!
It's not a good picture and my shadow is covering the crumb along with a liberal dusting of confectioner's sugar.
Turned out very well!  I highly recommend this simple and delicious cake.  It flew and there is nothing left and this is my proof that it turned out well.  I hope I don't disappear for another 6 months so I will try to keep this up.

Cheers!