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.