Friday, November 6, 2015

Happy Friday!

I absolutely love this video, it conveys exactly how I feel about the end of the work week. YES!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cooking from a cookbook

I have been trawling through blogs lately.  Looking for recipes and checking out what people are cooking or baking out there.  As I wrote about before, I noticed a lot of people put up their "daily" recipes or at least I would classify those as daily meals so I decided to put up some myself.  My brother recently sent me Stanley Tucci's cookbook, "The Tucci Cookbook".   It's a great cookbook and I highly recommend it.  I can't wait to tackle lots of recipes!  He sent me the book and a special cooking vessel for one special recipe that we have been making for years every Christmas.  The timpano.  My sister and I saw this in the movie The Big Night and have done our best to re-create this wonderful dish.  After trial and error we came up with what we all enjoy thoroughly and has become a tradition for us.  My brother saw the recipe in The Tucci Cookbook and ordered a special vessels especially for this recipe and now I have a real recipe for this dish!  He was excited to try this for a special visit soon but have I mentioned that the temperature is in the 90's here in So Flo?? Oh yea, with a heat index of 105!! that's Farenheit!  I just can't stop complaining about this heat.

Anyway, the timpano will wait until December and cooler temps but I did go through the book and select something that I thought would be simple enough even for me.  Page 137 has a recipe for ziti with broccoli and I had these ingredients around the house!  well it turned out great!  very clean, simple and fresh that is perfect for this weather.   Here is a pic of my first attempt and I just say it looks just like the one in the book!

I am already going through the book looking for some recipes to make and have my eye on one that I hope to make soon.

Even though I consider these "everyday" recipes I think they are pretty great and now understand why people blog them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Yes, blueberry pancakes. I have always noticed how so many people put "everyday" recipes up on YouTube, their blogs, etc and have always wondered why anyone would put such a popular and common recipe up. I would always say to myself "what's so special about that?" or "really? a tuna sandwich?".  Well here I am putting up blueberry pancakes.

My odyssey of discovery started one week ago when I had a crazy hum for blueberry pancakes.  There is something to the power of persuasion. I was seeing blueberries all over the grocery stores. 2 for $5 here, 2 for $4 there.  Now I have always enjoyed blueberries, but in a more traditional sense. I just eat them right out of the container. In a fruit salad.  But then I saw a container of buttermilk and there it was. It hit me like a meteor. "I want pancakes."  I have always enjoyed buttermilk pancakes and the best are a very simple, straight forward recipe of home made buttermilk pancakes.  So here I was under the influence of summer fruit and buttermilk pancakes.  That's just a natural combination. "I want blueberry buttermilk pancakes." So I buy all my stuff last Saturday, August 9 and am very excited because Miami isn't exactly a hub for buttermilk sales and notice that the buttermilk does not expire until 8/16. So I am psyched.  I can have my blueberry buttermilk pancakes on Sunday morning. That's Sunday August 10th.  But Sunday August 10th comes along and did I make my blueberry buttermilk pancakes? No.  I was just lazy and thinking about a grueling work week and now I can't remember if I even ate breakfast.   But in the back of my mind, and fridge, there was a bottle of buttermilk just waiting to expire.  It came and went in my head several times and each time I pushed it away like a bad memory. "Don't think about the buttermilk!" I would scold myself. I'll find something else for it before he dies.  I'll make fried chicken! But that was just a fleeting thought, there was no way in hell I was going to stand in my 93 degree kitchen, before a bubbling cauldron of boiling oil looking like one of the witches from MacBeth and fry chicken. Oh hell no. It is just too hot for that.  This is a Florida August. It just can't be explained.

So in my mind, back crept the blueberry buttermilk pancakes.  That pesky buttermilk just waiting to turn into something blue and goopy in my fridge weighed heavily on my mind.  Saturday, August 16th, yesterday, came and went, but I was intent on my breakfast of champions. I woke this morning and was determined to make those damn blueberry buttermilk pancakes. So I trudged into the kitchen and boldly grabbed that expired buttermilk.  I looked at that bottle with fear and courage.  A strange mix to be sure but there it was.  I did the only thing a person could do in such a quandary.  I marched over to my sister and said, "taste this and smell this and tell me if it's still good."  Now she is the kind of person who believes that expiration dates are something of a lie.  I am the kind of person who goes by the rules and even though my buttermilk was about 8 hours expired, that was enough for me.  She looked, smelled and tasted and said it was fine, then noticed the date and smirked.  This is typical of her behavior, but I am very secure in her knowledge about expired foods.  She was even on to some bad milk that went bad before the expiration date. Now that's a food detective.   But I digress going on about her food prowess.  Everything was ready.
baking powder,
baking soda,

sift this into a bowl and then,

melted butter

mix until just blended. plenty of lumps no smooth batter here.

pour your desired amount into your hot skillet and top with those plump blueberries.

And there they were, after at least 2 weeks of waiting I got my pancakes.

Now I don't know if they were absolutely the best pancakes I have ever had because I waited so long, because of all the obstacles we faced, or because they were just that damned good, but they were absolutely perfect!  A small smear of unsalted butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. How do I describe that bite? I can't. You just have to try it yourself.

I only thought of taking the picture after I started eating.

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.